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T N offering to our readers the First Volume of The Cambridge History 
A of British Foreign Policy, from the beginning of Pitt's first Adminis- 
tration (1783) to the Peace of Versailles (1919), we have little to add 
to the announcement put forth by our University Press less than two 
years and a half ago. The work was designed as a connected narrative 
of the subject and a consecutive account of its bearing on the political 
history of this country and empire, and on that of the world at large. 
As such, it is intended to combine with a strict adherence to historical 
truth, wherever ascertainable, a national point of view in other 
words, an avowed regard for the interests, and above all for the 
honour, of Great Britain ; and the list of contributors to it has been 
confined to historical scholars who are British subjects by birth. 
Our work has accordingly not shrunk, and will not shrink as it pro- 
gresses, from seeking to vindicate for British Foreign Policy that 
claim to consistency which in certain respects has been denied to it 
by some of its censors, and in others allowed to it only in the way of 
sarcasm. Its relations to political aims or ideals not confined to a 
single nation, or to particular groups of thinkers and their followers 
within it, have been neither overlooked nor, we believe, prejudged 
whether or not these aims have in the past been submerged with 
efforts made to accomplish them, and whether or not on the fulfilment 
of these ideals depend the future peace and prosperity of the world. 
Our readers will understand that, in the several chapters of this 
History, military and naval events, as well as the progress of parlia- 
mentary legislation and administrative changes at home or in other 
parts of the empire, due to the influence of the Crown, of parties 
and movements in Church and State, and to the voice of public 
opinion and the Press, have been kept in constant view, without 
being themselves discussed. The successive stages of Indian and 
(British) Colonial history have in no instance been regarded as 
detached from that of Great Britain and Ireland. The narrative is 
throughout based on documentary evidence and has, so far as possible, 
been arranged in chronological sequence, though without any attempt, 
more especially in certain summarising sections of the later Volumes, 
to maintain a synchronistic system of dates. 

This History is divided into six Books, each consisting of a very 
small number of Chapters, which again are, in the large majority 
of cases, subdivided into sections of varying length, dealing with 


particular subjects, episodes or aspects of British Foreign Policy. The 
First of these Books is preceded by an Introduction, which attempts 
to summarise the course of English, or British, Foreign Policy, in the 
whole of the period to which these terms may be held applicable, and 
to indicate some of the threads lending coherence to its processes and 
tendencies. Though the narrative is continued till the Peace of 1919, 
our readers will be prepared to regard the sketch of the War of 1914- 
1918 and of the settlement in the character of an Epilogue. The narra- 
tive as a whole will be followed by a brief general survey, undertaken 
with the cognisance and approval of authoritative opinion, of the 
administrative system of the British Foreign Office, from 1793 (at 
which date an important change was introduced into it) to the present 

Both narrative and Introduction are accompanied by brief notes, 
chiefly references or of the nature of such, or reproductions of extracts 
from important documents, treaties, Instructions, despatches, or 
speeches. In the Appendices to vols. I and n, particular documents 
of this kind, hitherto either unpublished or inaccessible without 
difficulty, are printed in extenso or in extract. To each Volume is 
appended a short Bibliography, which in no instance pretends to be 
exhaustive or to do more than supply titles of some of the books and 
papers not mentioned in the Bibliographies to corresponding portions 
of The Cambridge Modern History, or to similar works, with the 
addition of those of a few specially used by the writers of Chapters or 
shorter sections of the present History. 

It has been thought well to find room for a brief general character- 
isation of the principles and achievements in Foreign Policy of the 
chief British statesmen and diplomatists engaged in it in the course 
of the period here surveyed. In the case of Castlereagh or Canning, 
Palmerston or Salisbury, whose foreign policy left its mark not only 
on its own age, and also in the case of Stratford Canning and a few 
other representatives of Great Britain at the contemporary centres 
of diplomatic activity, a summary estimate of the sort seems irre- 
sistibly called for. On the other hand, our narrative will abstain from 
attempting to influence a general judgment of the public services of 
the agents, at home or abroad, of our Foreign Policy by remarks or 
suggestions as to their personalities. 

In issuing the First Volume of this work, the Editors desire, on 
behalf of the Syndics of the Press as well as on their own, to express 
their thanks for the countenance and goodwill shown to their project 



by those to whom it was notified before being carried into execution. 
The Most Hon. the Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, K.G., H.M.'s 
Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, kindly permitted resort, 
under proper conditions, to the Archives of the Foreign Office, and 
Sir J. A. C. Tilley, K.C.M.G. (British Assistant Secretary for Foreign 
Affairs, and now His Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister 
Plenipotentiary in Brazil), and Mr S. Gaselee, C.B.E., Librarian, 
have already facilitated our proceedings in this direction 1 . We owe 
a similar debt to the Public Record Office, more especially to 
Mr Hubert Hall, Litt.D., Assistant Keeper of the Records and 
Literary Director of the Royal Historical Society, whose support is 
never denied to any endeavour for securing or widening the founda- 
tions of historical knowledge. The Editors are, also, particularly 
indebted to the advice and encouragement of the Right Hon. Lord 
Sanderson, G.C.B., whose great experience as Permanent Under 
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the Right Hon. Lord 
Fitzmaurice whose public services as Under Secretary of State, 
together with his eminence as a political historian, gave high value 
to their counsel. They desire to add their thanks for similar suggestive 
aid to the Right Hon. Viscount Bryce, O.M., who at an early period 
in his public career (1886) held the office of Under Secretary of 
State for Foreign Affairs, and was, as we all know and rejoice, our 
Ambassador to the United States from 1907 to 1913 ; to the Right 
Hon. Sir Ernest Satow, G.C.M.G., late His Majesty's Minister at 
Tokyo and Pekin and author of the invaluable Guide to Diplomatic 
Practice-, to Sir G. W. Prothero, Litt.D., F.B.A., who knows how 
gladly they would have welcomed him as a collaborator ; to Professor 
C. H. Firth, LL.D., Litt.D., F.B.A., and other friends. Special 
instances of assistance will be duly acknowledged as the work pro- 
gresses ; but the Editors are anxious to take the first opportunity of 
recording their deep sense of the generous confidence with which 
the Rev. J. Wallace Kidston and the other Executors of the late Sir 
Donald Mackenzie Wallace, K.C.I.E., K.C.V.O., have placed in their 
hands a very large collection of MSS. designed by him as materials 
for a History of European Policy. They consist mainly of classified 
extracts and notes concerning the Foreign Policy of the chief European 
States from the i6th century onwards Russia of course occupying 

1 To the latter we owe the permission to print, at the head of the successive 
Books of this History, the list of Secretaries and Under Secretaries of State for 
Foreign Affairs from 1873, published in the Foreign Office List. 



the most prominent place among them. This varied collection was 
carried on by Sir D. M. Wallace in connexion with his lifelong study 
of modern politics and history and his services from 1891 to 1898 as 
Director of the Foreign Department of The Times. It is obvious that, 
as the lines on which Sir D. M. Wallace's contemplated History would 
have been constructed differed from those followed by the present 
work, so our references to his MSS., could not but be, in the main, 
incidental. As such, should any particular use be made of his MSS., it 
will be duly acknowledged in the course of these volumes ; but, in the 
meantime, the Editors are desirous on behalf of the Syndics and of 
themselves of acknowledging the obligation under which they have 
been generously laid by his Executors. 

The Editors have to thank the officials and staff of the University 
Press for the care they have bestowed upon the production of the 
present volume, and Miss M. Pate for her indefatigable assistance in 
preparing its contents for the Press. They are also much obliged to 
Miss A. D. Greenwood for undertaking, at an inevitably short notice, 
to supply the Index. 

A. W. W. 

G. P. G. 

December, 1921. 

Since the above Preface was in print, Lord Bryce, whose interest 
in our scheme is noted there, has died seemingly in the very midst 
of his long and unwearied labours. In him has passed away a scholar, 
who, just sixty years ago, by a University prize essay illuminated a 
path of historical enquiry hitherto rarely trodden among ourselves, and 
whose contributions to political history as a whole cover a uniquely 
wide range of observation, research and deduction in the fields suc- 
cessively surveyed by him. And there has also passed away a statesman 
whose services, especially in the sphere of foreign policy and diplomatic 
action, have found their consummation in helping, more directly than 
those of any of his contemporaries, to draw closer the bonds of friend- 
ship, based on mutual understanding, between a great kindred nation 
and our own. The relations thus established, largely through his insight 
and influence, will we believe constitute one of the firmest foundations 
of a world's union of peace, and will, in any event, transcend in their 
intrinsic strength any of the alliances, compacts and concerts dis- 
cussed in these pages. 

February, 1922. 



By SIR A. W. WARD, Lirr.D., F.B.A. 
Master of Peterhouse 

I. England's insularity before the Norman Conquest. Political and military 
relations with France, and commercial with Flemish and Low- German 
towns, under the Norman and the Plantagenet Kings. Foreign policy of 
Edward III, and of Henry VII and VIII. The Balance of Power. The 
vicissitudes of the Reformation period and the development of Elizabethan 
policy. Pacificism of James I. Beginnings of English Colonisation PAGE I 

II. The Civil War and the Peace of Westphalia. Foreign policy of the 
Commonwealth and the Protectorate. Spain and the United Provinces. 
Treaty with France (1655). Sum of the foreign policy of Cromwell. Be- 
ginnings of Charles II. Aix-la-Chapelle, Dover and Westminster. Isolation 
of English policy of Charles II .13 

III. William III and his purpose. The Partition Treaties and the Grand 
Alliance Treaty. The War of the Spanish Succession and the Utrecht 
Settlement. British interests at Utrecht. The Barrier Treaties . .39 

IV. George I and the Personal Union. The Hanoverian Junta. Great 
Britain and the Northern War. Hanoverian acquisition of Bremen and 
Verden. Stanhope and the Quadruple Alliance. Carteret and the Swedish 
Settlement. Peace of Nystad. Pacific policy of Walpole. The Alliance of 
Hanover. The Congress of Soissons and the Second Treaty of Vienna. 
Great Britain and the Bourbon Family Compact. Great Britain and the War 
of the Austrian Succession and the Second Silesian War. Foreign policy 
of the Pelhams, and the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. Continued rivalry between 
France and Great Britain . . . . . . . . .58 

V. The Reversion of Alliances. 'Treaty of Westminster' (1756). Great 
Britain and the Austro-French Alliance. The Seven Years' War. Pitt's first 
Ministry, and the Foreign and Colonial policy of Great Britain. The Russo- 
Austrian Alliance. Prussian victories in 1757. Convention of Kloster-Zeven. 
British successes in Bengal and Canada (1757-8). Virtual establishment of 
naval supremacy of Great Britain. Failure of Pitt's Italian scheme. De- 
claration of Ryswyk. French peace overtures refused. The Schouvaloff 
Treaties. Death of George II. Resignation of Pitt and War with Spain. 
British maritime and colonial successes (1762). Peace negotiations with 
France and Spain. The Peace of Paris. Conclusion of the Seven Years' 
War 97 

VI. Ministerial changes: the Grenville and Rockingham Governments. The 
North American Colonies and the Repeal of the Stamp Act. Ministry of 
Grafton, with Pitt. The Tea Duty. Ministry of North. The Falkland Islands 


incident. The American War of Independence. France and the American 
Governments. Restricted British proposals. Armed Neutrality. Declaration 
of Catharine II. Peace negotiations (1782) and definitive signature of 
Treaties (1783). Results of 1763 and of 1783 127 



By J. H. CLAPHAM, Lrrr.D., C.B.E. 
Fellow and Tutor of King's College 

The international situation after the Peace of 1783. British isolation. The 
Family Compact. Austro-Russian cooperation. Pitt nursing British re- 
sources. Ireland. India . . . . . . . . .143 

The American desire for a ' Family Compact.' Difficulties in carrying out 
the Treaty of 1 783 . Failure to arrange a commercial treaty. Anglo-American 
diplomatic relations 1783-97. The Jay Treaty . . . .149 

British Ambassadors and British policy. Harris. The problem of the 
United Provinces. The Franco-Dutch treaty of 1785. Decline of British 
influence . . . . . . . . . . . .157 

Vergennes' policy and the commercial treaty of 1786 . . .164 

Great Britain, Prussia and the United Provinces. The Prussian invasion of 
Holland. Hertzberg's diplomatic projects. British policy in Poland. The 
Triple Alliance of 1788 170 

Wars in Eastern and Northern Europe. British intervention between 
Denmark and Sweden, 1788. Reform in Poland . . . .181 

Troubles in the Habsburg dominions, 1789. The Revolution of Brabant. 
Pitt's Memorandum of August 1788. France supposed to be crippled, 
'789 186 

Prussia's forward policy against Austria. Death of Joseph II, Feb. 1790. The 
policy of Leopold. Great Britain and the Convention of Reichenbach . 190 

The affair of Nootka Sound. Its relation to Britain's policy towards France 
in 1790 197 

The Congress of Sistova. Oczakoff. Great Britain again isolated. She with- 
draws into herself 202 

Great Britain and France in 1792. Resolute neutrality. Talleyrand's 
abortive Missions. The mistaken confidence of 1792 212 






Late Fellow of Christ's College 
Vere Harmsworth Professor of Naval History 

I. Non-intervention policy of the Pitt Cabinet. The situation in Europe. 
The French Decrees of Nov. Dec. 1792. Attitude of Catharine II. 
Declaration of War by France . . . . . . . .216 

II. Great Britain and her Allies. The Polish Question. Tension with Spain. 
Vacillations of Prussia. Malmesbury's Mission. Loss of Belgium. A 
Weakening of the First Coalition. The Triple Alliance (1795). Hostility of 
the Dutch Republic and Defection of Spain. Rupture with Spain. British 
peace overtures (1795, 1796) . . 236 

III. Opposed Aims of Pitt and Burke. Failure of the Peace Overture. 
Austria's Aloofness. The Peace Proposals of 1797. Results of their Failure. 
Frederick William III. Effects of Bonaparte's Eastern Expedition . 265 

IV. Preliminaries to a Second Coalition. The fiasco at Naples. Anglo- 
Russian Alliance. Friction with Austria. Collapse of the Second Coalition. 
British Mediterranean policy. Action against the Armed Neutrals. The 
Compromise of June 17, 1801. Egypt. Preliminaries of Peace. The Treaty 
of Amiens ........... 286 




I. Problems of the Peace. Complaisance of Addington towards Napoleon's 
Encroachments. Egypt and the Maltese Question. Negotiations with France. 
Rupture of the Peace of Amiens. Responsibilities for this event. The Whig 
Opposition. Pitt's Return to Office ...... 309 

II. Anglo-Russian rapprochement. Rupture with Spain. Aims of Alexander I 
and Czartoryski. Attitude of Pitt. Negotiations with Russia. The Third 
Coalition and its Collapse. Death of Pitt 331 

III. The Ministry of All the Talents. Sicily and N.W. Germany. Fox and 
the Negotations with France. Their Breakdown. Death of Fox. Napoleon's 
'Coast System' and the British retort. The Berlin Decree. Failure of 
British military policy. The Portland Cabinet. Canning and the Copenhagen 
Expedition. Arrangements with Portugal. The Orders in Council and 
friction with the United States. Great Britain and the Spanish National 
Rising. The Convention of Cintra 348 


IV Great Britain and Austria. Unsuccessful coastal Expeditions. Collapse of 
Austria and Sweden. Wellesley and French Peace Proposals. The Sea Power 
and the Land Power. Castlereagh's overtures to Sweden. Stratford Canning 
and the Russo-Turkish Peace. Beginnings of a new Coalition . . 371 





Late Fellow of King's College; Professor of Modern History 
in the University of Liverpool 


The New Coalition and the New Cabinet. Castlereagh and his subordinates. 
Main lines of British policy. Maintenance of colonial and maritime supremacy, 
obligations to Allies, erection of ' Barrier ' against France, Abolition of the 
Slave Trade. Cathcart and Lord Stewart. Instructions of April 9th, 1813. 
Treaties of Reichenbach (June i4th). Austrian intervention and the Ar- 
mistice. Instructions of July 5th, and July i3th, 1813. Renewal of the 
struggle. Mission of Aberdeen. Instructions of September i8th, 1813. 
A new kind of Alliance desired : Aberdeen and Metternich. Castlereagh's 
attitude towards Austria. The 'Frankfort Proposals.' Aberdeen and the 
negotiations with St Aignan. Stewart's protests. Failure of the Alliance nego- 
tiations. Friction between Austria and Russia. British policy and Holland. 
Castlereagh and the 'Frankfort Proposals.' Castlereagh and the Alliance. 
Resolve of the Cabinet to send Castlereagh to the Continent . . 392 


Castlereagh's Instructions of December 26th, 1813. The 'Memorandum on 
a Maritime Peace.' Castlereagh's r61e. The question of the Bourbons. 
Castlereagh and Metternich. The meeting at Langres. The negotiations at 
Chatillon. The discussions at Troyes. Castlereagh and the Armistice 
Proposal. The Treaty of Chaumont. Rupture of the Chatillon negotiations. 
The Cabinet and the Bourbons. Castlereagh and Metternich agree to their 
Restoration. The Allies at Paris. The Treaty of Fontainebleau. Castlereagh 
and the Peace. The Slave Trade. The Treaty of Paris. Failure to decide 
the reconstruction of the Continent. Castlereagh and Spain. Castlereagh, 
Bentinck and Murat. Castlereagh and Constitutional liberty . . 429 


The Allies visit to England. Preliminary negotiations. Castlereagh and 
Talleyrand. The British Staff at Vienna. The Cabinet and the Negotiations. 
Castlereagh's plans. The ' Balance of Power.' Preliminary Discussions. The 
Polish-Saxon Question. Castlereagh and Alexander. Castlereagh's plan of 
an Austro-Prussian alliance. Its failure. Dissatisfaction of the Cabinet. 
Castlereagh's new plan. Castlereagh and Talleyrand. Crisis of the negotia- 
tions. The Treaty of January 3 rd, 1815. Castlereagh's r61e of Mediator in 


the final settlement. Castlereagh and the Poles. The Italian questions. 
Castlereagh and Murat. Negotiations leading to the Restoration of the 
Sicilian Bourbons. Castlereagh's 'Project of Guarantee.' Wellington at 
Vienna. British policy on minor Questions. The Abolition of the Slave 
Trade. Negotiations with France, Spain and Portugal. The 'Declaration* 
at Vienna 459 


Great Britain and Elba. Attitude of the Cabinet to Napoleon on his return. 
The surrender of Napoleon and St Helena. Castlereagh and the 'Traitors.' 
Castlereagh and France. Differences with the Cabinet. The proposal of 
Temporary Occupation. The proposals of the Allies. Castlereagh and 
dismemberment. The Cabinet and the Allies won over. The terms offered 
to France. Treaties of November zoth, 1815. The 'Holy Alliance.' The 
'Quadruple Alliance.' Castlereagh's position as a Foreign Minister. His 
' European ' policy. His weaknesses ....... 500 





I. Causes of the American War. Impressment and the British Right of 
Search. The Orders in Council. Difficulties of the American Government. 
The rupture. Attempts to obtain peace. Armistice offered. Russian Media- 
tion. American acceptance and British refusal. Castlereagh's offer of direct 
negotiations accepted. The American and the British Commissions . 522 

II. British and American Instructions. Importance of Gallatin. Far- 
reaching British demands. Skilful American diplomacy. Gradual growth 
of British desire for peace. Wellington's opinion. American Counter-project. 
Both sides abandon claims. Signature of the Treaty. Reception by public 
opinion in England and America 535 


A. The Causes of the Rupture with France . . . . 543 

B. British War Policy (February 1793 to April 1795) . . . 549 

C. The Spanish Crisis (April 1795 to September 1796) . . . 561 

D. Anglo- Austrian Relations (November 1795 to November 1797) 564 

E. Attempts to form the Second Coalition (1798) . . . 578 

F. Letters of Lord Mulgrave to Pitt . . . . . . 587 

G. Negotiations with Sweden and Russia (1811-1812) . . . 589 

H. Extracts from Stratford Canning's Despatches from Constanti- 
nople (1812) ......... 599 


INDEX 6 10 


THIS work proposes to treat, within definite chronological limits, 
the history of British Foreign Policy in other words, to discuss 
the relations in that period of the British Empire to Foreign Powers, 
the conditions at home and abroad which governed the conduct of 
those relations, the principles more or less consistently followed in 
the conduct of them, and the personal influence of the principal 
British agents responsible for it. However interesting, it cannot be 
imperative, in setting forth upon such an undertaking, to go back at 
length into a past which, as a matter of course, contained in it in- 
numerable germs of the future, but which differed essentially from 
the period marked out for present treatment in many of the con- 
ditions of its public as well as of its private life. 

A brief sketch indicating some at least of the threads connecting 
earlier with later epochs of our Foreign Policy as a State and as an 
Empire is, therefore, all that can be attempted here by way of intro- 
duction to the narrative that is to follow. 

Whether or not a people is only to be held happy when its rulers 
are without a foreign policy, none can assuredly afford to dispense 
with such unless it has no foreign affairs. In our own records, an era 
of the kind could hardly be found from the time onwards when, 
under Egbert, the English nation first achieved political unity, and 
the kingdom, as a polity moulded by its great monarchs Alfred and 
Edgar, after in turn resisting and accepting Danish sway, became 
the prize of what was no longer a dynastic, but a national struggle, 
to be apparently settled by the Norman Conquest in its own 
favour. But England still remained merely the extreme Western home 
of civilisation an ultima Thule, it has been grandly said, as of old; 
and her insularity was a chief determining element in the early course 
of her historical life making her exceptionally strong in unity long 
before the seas engirdling her carried her into the world of modern 
life and assigned to her a controlling place in it. 

Meanwhile, William the Conqueror had not only prepared, but 
throughout his reign maintained and developed, his great achievement 
w. &G. i, i 


by a system of foreign alliances, of which the most signally 
important was that with the Papacy in the Hildebrandine age in 
particular. With his active and efficient diplomacy began that long 
chapter of medieval history which is concerned with the political 
and military relations to France of England and her ruling dynasty. 
Little more than a century after the Conquest, Henry II (the first 
conqueror of Ireland) might be described as a greater potentate in 
France than his French suzerain; but his power was feudal, and, even 
of this, most was lost in the reign of John. Yet this unhappy King, 
too, followed a foreign policy of his own. His quarrel with Pope 
Innocent III, though not especially of the King's making, rendered 
Magna Carta possible ; but the victory of the Barons did not suffice 
to overthrow his Throne. Soon after his death, Lewis of France was 
driven from England ; and, after John's successor had come of age, he 
and his dynasty, encouraged by a continuous growth of national con- 
sciousness, showed every desire to revive the aggressive foreign policy 
of their predecessors. Henry III accepted the Crown of Sicily for 
his son Edmund, and his brother Richard of Cornwall was elected 
German King. The interests of the Papacy, together with those of 
the dynasty, lay heavy upon all classes of the subjects of the Crown ; 
and, while Pope Alexander IV duly declared the Provisions of Oxford 
void, their immediate sequel was the expulsion of foreigners from 
the realm. Notwithstanding the catastrophe of Simon de Montfort, 
England's first great Protector, a memorable constitutional change 
borough representation was finally established under Edward I, 
reflecting what, like all sound reforms, was already a historical fact 
viz. the importance of the towns (from London downwards) in 
the public life of the nation. English foreign policy, moreover, had 
ceased to be absorbed in dynastic enterprises or designs, or satisfied 
with the advantages to be gained by the landed magnates, no longer 
isolated as these were by their nationality from the rest of the popu- 
lation. On the other hand, a different kind of foreign connexion had 
steadily advanced. Flemish and Low-German towns not sea-ports 
only, but towns in the interior of the Empire also had maintained 
trade relations with this country already before the Norman Con- 
quest. Henry II had confirmed the privileges of the Cologne "fac- 
tory" in London, before its parent association had been outrivalled 
by a body of Lower-Saxon towns, headed by Lubeck, which, in the 
course of the thirteenth century, appropriated to itself the once 
generic name of the Hansa. The progress of this intercourse, and of 


that with the Flemish towns, which reached its height at a later date, 
could not otherwise than directly affect the continental relations of 
England and her Government and shape the beginnings of a com- 
mercial, which became an integral element in her foreign, policy. 

But as yet the sword was the determining factor. The great reign 
of Edward I, who came out of the midst of a crusade to enter upon 
the mighty task awaiting him nearer home, was one of widespread 
foreign conquest, though at the same time of the firm planting of 
domestic reforms. He mastered both Wales and Scotland, though 
the principality was not incorporated in the English State till the 
reign of the second Tudor King, while Scotland retained her re- 
covered autonomy even after the personal union under our first 
Stewart. Edward Fs relations with France had become embittered 
before he entered upon his first conquest of .Scotland, and had led 
to his conclusion of a futile alliance with the German King Adolphus ; 
on the other hand, the defensive alliance concluded with France by 
John Balliol before his deposition, established the tradition of a 
Scoto- French league, which beset English foreign policy almost 
continuously down to the days of Elizabeth. But, if it was Scotland 
herself which at Bannockburn undid the English Conquest, that 
Conquest itself and the whole of Edward Ps overbearing policy could 
not have been carried out by the King without a nation at his back, 
or without the widespread resources of a singularly active commercial 
diplomacy 1 . When, under his grandson Edward III, after an unstable 
settlement with Scotland, the country resumed warlike action against 
France, which now remained, for a hundred years, its dominant 
passion, diplomatic transactions of a directly political kind were an 
inevitable necessity. The chain of foreign alliances concluded by 
Edward III with the German Princes along the Lower Rhine, and 
thence even with the potentates of the Palatinate, Wiirttemberg 
and Savoy, forms an early example of the series of subsidy treaties 
which is, perhaps, the most long-lived feature of British foreign 
policy; and (in 1337) the "system" was extended so as to include 
the Emperor, Lewis the Bavarian, himself. But the Peace of 
Bretigny (1360), which, by a drastic partition, was to have at last 
ended the struggle for the throne of France, held good for less 
than nine years; and the renewed War speedily led to disastrous 

1 When his supply of money fell short in consequence of his banishment of 
the Jews, Parliament came temporarily to the rescue, and he was able, with ad- 
vantage to the Crown, to fall back upon the banking guilds in the North Italian 

i 2 


results for the English dominion in France. Thus, in the tragic reign 
of Richard II, the efforts against France, following on that of 
England's Flemish ally, broke down in their turn, as did the attempted 
invasion of Scotland; and failure abroad, coupled with the effects of 
the social catastrophe at home, brought the national life to the state 
of despair which precedes dissolution. In the end, the unfortunate 
King, lured back to England from an expedition to Ireland, lost his 
English Crown. The kinsman who took it from him was a prince of 
wide foreign experience acquired by travel, and would have willingly 
entered into the inheritance of the foreign policy of Edward I. But 
the insecurity of his tenure at home deprived him of the power of 
action in France, though the distracted internal condition of that 
kingdom offered so favourable an opportunity for intervention in 
its affairs. 

The renewal of the French policy of Edward III, and the asser- 
tion of claims at once wider and weaker, fell to Henry V, in whose 
settlement, as after Agincourt it found expression in the Treaty of 
Troyes, the Alliance with Burgundy was a necessary factor. But 
it was not written in the book of fate that England should be per- 
manently burdened by the inheritance of a great foreign dominion, 
which, had she retained possession of it, must have strained beyond 
bearing the powers of the nation in the satisfaction of an unnatural 
ambition. The Wars of the Roses, while they went far towards de- 
stroying the ascendancy of the great Houses, left the economic con- 
dition of the people largely untouched ; so that, at the close of the 
struggle, the country stood face to face with the intelligent despotism 
(a phrase to which the Eighteenth Century has no prerogative claim) 
of the Tudors. At the same time (since foreign policy is a branch of 
government to which public opinion, accustomed as it is to judge 
mainly by results, is not wont to apply logical reasoning), there can 
be no doubt that the dissatisfaction caused by the loss of France 
sensibly contributed to the downfall of the rule of Henry VI; or 
that his rival, after seating himself on the Throne, had actually to 
seek a momentary refuge against French intrigue in the Netherlands. 
With their master, Charles the Bold, Edward IV was on friendly 
terms, though he could not depend on him as an ally against France, 
and death overtook him on the eve of a struggle with an adversary 
whose equal he had never proved himself. 

This counterplay of foreign rivalry and domestic plot still con- 
tinued, when, after the brief and bloody epilogue of the reign of 


Richard III, the long dynastic and baronial conflict had corne to an 
end with the accession of our first Tudor Sovereign. By far the most 
dangerous of the Pretenders who tried to oust Henry VII from the 
Throne of which he had, at the time of Buckingham's rebellion, 
sought to possess himself, was Perkin Warbeck, an adventurous 
Fleming whose first attempt was "financed" by the Roman King 
Maximilian. He was afterwards made welcome as the true heir to the 
English throne by King James IV of Scotland, whose goodwill King 
Henry VII more effectively secured by bestowing on him the hand 
of his daughter Margaret a step which ultimately led to the Union 
of the two kingdoms. 

The foreign policy of Henry VII for, in this age marriages were 
coming to constitute a very notable feature in the foreign policy of 
the European dynasties was a combination of circumspection, if not 
of foresight, with caution. Naturally enough, its beginnings display 
more of the latter, and its subsequent developments more of the 
former, characteristic; but they rarely fail to be blended with each 
other. The monarchical rule of the Tudors transmuted the land 
which had been the battle-field of a turbulent Baronage into a State 
peacefully united in itself and thus gradually grown fit to find its 
place in the group of rival European nations. And, so early as the 
beginning of the sixteenth century, England began, likewise, to pur- 
sue an economical policy of her own in lieu of one which merely 
suited itself, as best it might, to the interest of her customers. It 
took a century, more or less, to break the domination of the Hansa 
over English trade, and for English trade to assert itself in the North- 
ern Seas ; and the Tudor age was approaching its close, when England 
began to enter into the maritime life of the Atlantic, and thus at last 
to realise the true value of her insular position and to face the gradual 
unfolding of the possibilities of her imperial future. 

But the process was both slow and full of interruptions, and re- 
fuses to be detailed even in a chronological sequence of reigns. Before 
mounting the English Throne, the future King Henry VII had found 
a refuge in Brittany; and, soon after his accession, he assisted its 
ducal House in its struggle against the French Crown, though he 
could not prevent the incorporation, in the end, of the duchy in the 
monarchy. But he went out of his way in safeguarding the position 
of England in the event of future troubles between France and the 
Spanish monarchy, as is shown by his extreme caution in the method 
of the successive marriages of his sons Arthur and Henry to the 


Infanta Catharine. While it seems questionable whether Henry VII 
actually contemplated a decided resumption of the anti-French policy 
of the Plantagenets, he was certainly alive to the chances opening for 
a relatively weak country like England in the age of Discovery, and 
was, in different ways, interested in both Columbus and the Cabots, 
though unequal, afterwards, to the thought of disputing the Spanish- 
Portuguese control of the New World sanctioned by Papal Bulls. 
Before England could claim her place in the sun, the mercantile 
marine had to be fostered, and rendered capable of service to the 
royal navy, of which a beginning was once more made. 

With Henry VIII, the foreign policy of the English Crown once 
more, but under new conditions, enters into the main current of 
European affairs, and thus contributes to the beginning of a new 
period the Habsburg period, as it has been appropriately called, 
though this subdivides itself into several chapters of the international 
history of Europe. By acknowledging the Spanish Infanta as his 
legitimate consort, Henry seemed to have declared that he had 
definitively ranged himself on the side which had not yet come to 
be the "monstrous aggregate" of Spanish- Austrian power; and, in 
1512-14, he took part in a war with France which brought him no 
profit. The vagueness of his own political ambitions is illustrated by 
his posing, on the death of Maxmilian I in 1519, as a candidate for 
the succession to the Imperial Throne. But, in the great contest 
which ensued between the Emperor Charles and King Francis, he 
again chose his side, and proposed to his victorious ally a further 
enterprise which should restore to himself the French Crown worn 
by his predecessors. He was disappointed in his designs, and in the 
Emperor; and, by the advice of Cardinal Wolsey, he thereupon 
brought to pass one of the most notable renversements des alliances 
recorded in European diplomatic history. In general English his- 
tory, this political episode is above all noticeable as forming part of 
the transactions which ended in Henry's divorce from Catharine, 
followed though it was by a very different marriage from that originally 
contemplated by Wolsey. In the history of our foreign policy in 
particular, the significance of this episode lies in its having been the 
first application, in a critical connexion, of a conception which was 
afterwards to become, and to remain longer than is always allowed, 
the guiding principle of English, and subsequently, of British foreign 
policy. This principle was that of the Balance of Power. 

The Balance of Power is, as has been well pointed out, an idea 


practically inseparable from all policy properly so called nor in the 
domain of international relations or "foreign affairs" only. But, in 
this domain to pass by whatever precedent Italy, the mother of 
modern diplomacy, may have to offer in her sixteenth century his- 
tory the action or conduct of the English Government after the 
first great self-assertion of the united Habsburg Power may be de- 
scribed as the beginning of a new "system." To this system the 
political world of Europe was not to cease to have recourse in the 
succession of crises undergone by it from the times in question 
onward to those of the Thirty Years' War, of the War of the Spanish 
Succession, of the Napoleonic rule, and of the German design of 
overwhelming the world. So far as England is concerned, the English 
archer's motto Cut adhaereo praeest might seem to denote sufficiently 
the way in which this country has, by prescribing its remedy, been 
wont to apply the doctrine of the Balance of Power; and, for our 
present purpose, it is needless to enquire in what measure the changes 
in the attitude of the Papacy towards King Henry's divorce proposal 
was a cause, and in what a consequence, of the change in his general 
foreign policy. 

In any case, the English Reformation was long left by Charles V 
to proceed on its way, nor was it till after the critical dates of 1544 
and 1547 Crepy and Muhlberg that the head of the House of 
Habsburg brought the whole weight of his designs, political and 
religious, to bear on our national future. This was now that of a 
monarchy whose unity and independence seemed both to have been 
consolidated, like those of no other European kingdom, with the final 
aid of the Reformation. But the two reigns which followed brought 
with them the extreme of vicissitudes. Under Edward VI, Somerset 
planned the achievement of a union between England and Scotland 
this design, also, taking the form of a marriage-scheme, between 
the young King Edward and the still younger Queen Mary Stewart, 
which was to result in the hegemony of the united realms over Pro- 
testant Europe (whose refugees had already found a welcome on 
English soil). The plan came to nothing; nor was it even possible to 
maintain the good understanding with France which was a necessary 
preliminary condition for such an enterprise. Mary Tudor's re- 
ligious creed combined with the traditions of her descent in bring- 
ing about the return of England to the Spanish Alliance ; though it 
may savour of the Castilian style to magnify as "the Habsburg in- 
vasion of England" her marriage to the master of Spain and the 


champion of Rome, followed by the persecution of heresy and the 
humiliation inflicted on Queen and country by the loss of its naval 
outpost of more than two hundred years' standing. Under Elizabeth, 
English foreign policy slowly shook itself free, and thus gradually 
recovered an influence upon the political relations of the European 
States which Henry VII had tentatively striven to acquire by means 
of foreign alliances, and Henry VIII had exercised in action within 
restricted limits. As the aggressive strength of Spain and Rome 
combined we are now in the age of the so-called Counter-reforma- 
tion tne goodwill of European Protestantism (from which in form, 
and largely in spirit, the ecclesiastical system of England remained 
aloof) was a sure support against them. A special advantage, which 
might almost be called adventitious, was derived by Elizabeth from 
her encouragement of the Reformation in Scotland. For, as the deeply 
rooted contention between herself and the Scottish Mary merged 
into the European religious conflict at large (so early as 1562, Eng- 
lish aid was promised by Treaty to the French Huguenots, but the 
price demanded was not obtained), Elizabeth was at last driven by 
Spanish machinations and Roman arrogance into an attitude of con- 
sistent opposition, and the English Throne and its policy became 
identified with the resistance of Europe to the general undoing of 
her Peace. 

The English goodwill, at first permissive only, towards the Re- 
volt of the Netherlands; and the daring piracies of Drake, provoked 
the final despatch of the Armada the combined effort of Spanish 
southern Europe, undertaken with no less a design than that of se- 
curing to Philip Mary Stewart's bequest of the English Throne. The 
effort was, necessarily, made by sea, and by sea it was scattered. This 
one great victory comparable only to Salamis had at the same time 
placed England in the position of a Great Power, and shown that, 
unapproachable herself by sea, it was by sea that her national des- 
tinies were to be accomplished. But, both before and after the 
critical years 1586-8, the safety of England and that of her Sovereign 
depended on a resolute vigilance which, alike in the observation of 
European (more especially Spanish) policy in all its windings and in 
the use of an incomparable spy-intelligence system, called for the 
single-minded devotion of diplomatic statesmanship. This was the 
period of the Cecils, of whom the elder (Burleigh) served the Crown 
as Secretary of State (with a five years' interval) and Lord Treasurer 
for nearly half a century of indefatigable and unflinching labours. 


At the height of these, he had the assistance of Sir Francis Walsingham 
as Secretary of State (less fortunate than Burleigh in the requital oi 
his zeal), and, later, that of his second son. Sir Robert Cecil, after- 
wards Earl of Salisbury, was sworn Principal Secretary to the Queen 
in 1597, in which year he returned to England after a futile mission 
to Henry IV of France, in time to take his father's place in the con- 
duct of foreign (and not a few other) affairs. He gave the most un- 
equivocal proofs of his staunchness in the unhappy Essex episode, 
which followed soon after Burleigh's death in 1598, and remained in 
authority till his own decease. This took place in 1612, the year before 
the arrival in King James's Court of the most notable of Spanish 
diplomatists, Gondomar, under whose influence English policy once 
more swerved from its course, and began to lie low without really 
competent guidance. 

To go back, for a moment, to the beginning of James Fs reign. 
By land, the settlement of the English Crown and the consequent 
Personal Union with the northern kingdom, were effected without 
resistance. Great Britain was henceforth, as Lord Acton expresses it, 
politically as well as geographically an island, and no apprehensions 
of the designs of a warlike neighbour any longer entered into the 
foreign policy of its larger half. Moreover, the age into which King 
James was born was one of limitless conceptions of monarchical 
authority. These conceptions, as adopted by James I, included not 
only questions of religion (treated by him after a fashion which failed 
to commend itself to his subjects, Protestant or Catholic) but also 
questions, often mixed up with these, of foreign policy. He began as 
a peacemaker, proclaiming the blessedness of this task to the Spanish 
grandee who came over to conclude peace with him immediately 
after his accession 1 . And it was as a peacemaker that, though "on 
all hands he heard the call of battle/' the younger of the Cecils, in 
the words of his descendant and biographer, carried on "the tradi- 
tions of peace he had learnt from his father." But the forces at work 
against James Fs persistent desire to remain on friendly terms with 
Spain were too strong for him ; so that, before he died, the two coun- 
tries were again to all intents and purposes at war with one another, 
and an immediate French marriage was arranged for his successor. As 
for the Dutch, it is worth noticing that what in much later times was 

1 Beati Pacifici (the phrase put into King James's mouth by Scott) was the 
inscription in the apartment in Somerset House occupied by the Constable of 
Castile, who negotiated the Peace with Spain of 1604. 


to become an accepted maxim of British policy a strong and, in a 
wider sense, United Netherknds, both Protestant and Catholic only 
very slowly became even so much as a pious wish. While Salisbury, 
a true Conservative like his father before him, directed the foreign 
policy of James I, there was no fear of extravagances or paradoxes. 
After that (from 1612), the King reckoned altogether amiss when, 
though no longer guided by proved principle and matured experi- 
ence, he credited himself with the power of adjusting the scales 
swinging in the political atmosphere around him. The marriage of 
his daughter to the leader of German Calvinism, in other words of the 
actual opposition to the Habsburg designs for the future of the Em- 
pire and Western Europe, brought him a strong breeze of popularity 
at home; but the match was incompatible with the repeated proofs 
given by him of his desire to cement his friendship with Spain, who 
was still planning a revival of the Habsburg monarchy of Charles V 1 . 
Meanwhile, the fierce disillusionment experienced by James early in 
his reign as to Catholic goodwill towards himself at home by no means 
remained without effect, but led to no decisive move in the game. He 
seized the opportunity of a quarrel between Pope Paul V and the 
Signory of Venice (which culminated in 1606) to instruct his willing 
Ambassador there (Sir Henry Wotton) to denounce Pope and Papacy 
as "the chief authors of all the mischiefs of Christendom." And 
after, ten years later, the great Religious War had already begun in 
Bohemia, the same diplomatist was chosen (though Lord Doncaster 
was ultimately appointed in his place) to conduct the negotiations 
as to the acceptance of the Bohemian Crown by the King's son-in- 
law, in which the King himself played a part which it would be a 
euphemism to describe as ambiguous. So early as 1619, Wotton had 
entered into negotiations with the heads of the Protestant Union, which 
turned a deaf ear to his inglorious proposals for an anti-Papal propa- 
ganda, and while the star of the Emperor Ferdinand soon rose tri- 
umphant over that of the unfortunate Winter-king, the foreign policy 
of his father-in-law had to concentrate itself upon the attempted re- 
covery of the Palatinate for the Elector and his family, who had 
"lost it in Bohemia." But the efforts of English volunteers under 
Sir Horace Vere, Mansfeld and Christian of Brunswick were futile, 
and before, quite at the end of James's reign, Mansfeld's plan of 

1 Bourgeois (vol. i. p. 19) dwells on the successive attempts of Philip III to 
secure the Imperial Succession for himself or his son. The various Spanish mar- 
riage projects of King James for his children are well known. 


settling the claim with an imposing English force had, in the midst 
of Anglo-French misunderstandings, miserably collapsed (1625), 
James had fallen back upon the last and most ill-starred of his futile 
Spanish marriage schemes. But Charles, Prince of Wales, who, to 
bring it to an issue, had travelled to Spain with Buckingham, had 
come home free (1623); and, when he actually mounted his father's 
Throne, England was once more, in conjunction with the Dutch 
Republic, at war with Spain, and the alliance with France was con* 
firmed by the marriage of Charles to Henrietta Maria, the daughter 
of Henry IV. 

Meanwhile, and largely in consequence of the altered conditions 
of the relations between England and Spain under which Queen 
Elizabeth's reign had drawn to its close, the island Kingdom had 
definitively entered into the paths of overseas colonisation. The power 
of Spain, the dreaded adversary of rival transatlantic adventure, was 
shaken, though not annihilated ; and her acquisition of Portugal (1580), 
without adding to her political strength in Europe, had diverted enter- 
prise to the Portuguese settlements in Brazil and the East Indies, 
inevitably leading to angry jealousy between the English and the 
Dutch. The English attempts, in Elizabeth's days, upon Spanish 
possessions on land and sea, however conspicuously supported (on 
occasions by the Queen herself), cannot properly be described as 
measures of colonial policy, but are simply evidence of desire for 
gain, stimulated by jealousy and hatred; just as the charge of a 
broken promise to which Raleigh was (so late as 1617) sacrificed 
was a signal demonstration of accumulated Spanish wrath. But the 
early course of English Colonial history was consistently attended 
by the rivalry of other Powers. The English East India Company 
(more strictly, the East India Company of London) received its 
original Charter in 1600, nearly two years before the Dutch, and 
within the following decade the two were at open war. But the first 
settlement directly controlled by the English Crown, and therefore 
the actual beginning of our colonial system, dates from the grant to 
"Virginia" of her earliest Royal Charter in 1606, followed by the 
second in 1609, and later by the Charters secured by the several 
new English Colonies. The early history of these shows their safety 
in constant danger from Dutch, and more particularly from French, 
enterprise or ambition; while, to the north, France, after a struggle 
terminating, in 1632, with the Peace of St Germain, maintained her 
power in her province of Acadia (Nova Scotia). Hence, too, the 



earliest suggestions of a scheme of federation among the English 
North American Colonies, which might very possibly have earlier 
taken lasting shape, but for the Civil War at home. The action of the 
Crown towards the beginnings of our Colonial system cannot safely 
be criticised as closely connected with the turns and changes of our 
foreign policy; but the time was not far off when the two currents 
were effectively to unite. 

Under Charles I, so long as his Government was able to carry 
on any foreign policy at all, it may be regarded as having been chiefly 
actuated by the motive of gaining for the King and Buckingham 
some of the popularity which their method of government at home 
was rapidly forfeiting. The French marriage of Charles I had seemed 
likely to bring about friendly relations with the French Court and 
Government, and to favour an anti-Habsburg Alliance, as to which 
negotiations were in progress with both Sweden and Denmark so 
early as August 1624. Apart from other friction, Buckingham's 
failure at Cadiz (1625) promised ill for the Spanish War; and the 
French Government would have nothing to say to the agreement 
into which the English Government had actually entered with the 
States- General for the recovery of the Palatinate by a force under 
the command of Christian IV of Denmark, Mansfeld cooperating. 
But the English supplies failed; and the defeat of Christian IV at 
Lutter (1626) put an end to the whole design, as it did to England's 
futile participation in the Great War. Before long (1627), the tension 
between France and England had ended in the outbreak of hostilities ; 
and Buckingham, who two years earlier had been fain to lend English 
ships to Richelieu for the suppression of the Huguenots of Rochelle, 
now threw his French policy to the winds, taking command of the 
expedition for their relief. The attempt, the success of which was to 
have rejoiced the hearts of Protestant Englishmen, broke down; and, 
like an unlucky gambler, its author at once entered upon a vaster 
design against the adversaries of Protestantism, in which the relief 
of Rochelle was to be but the initial step. The assassin's dagger, 
however, settled his account with an angry Parliament; the last re- 
fuge of the Huguenots soon fell ; and the failure in France had been 
as complete as that in Germany (1628). The time was at hand when 
the domestic strife in which the second Stewart reign had opened 
was to end in the Civil War. 



The eminent historian of European Foreign Policy 1 may seem to 
go too far in saying that England, at the end of a half-century during 
which hardly more weight had attached to her in European politics 
than to Venice or Saxony, suddenly became the first Power of the 
world. But it is true, that few, if any, later generations have wit- 
nessed a transformation at once so astonishing in itself, and one so 
full of the promise of endurance. The period in question covered the 
Thirty Years' War, the great European struggle in which England 
interfered only after the fitful and insignificant fashion to which 
reference has been made; while the late but decisive intervention of 
France finally shaped the close of the War and the Pacification which 
ended it, thus, as has been well said, preparing her hegemony in 
Europe during the half-century that was to follow. In settling that 
Pacification, neither England nor Poland, nor the Grand-duke of 
Muscovy, had taken any part; but they were named in the Peace as 
Allies of the Allies of the Emperor and Sweden (the Grand- duke, 
of Sweden only), and thus became parties to the Peace, so that it 
bore the character of a fundamental act and international procedure 
of Christian Europe. And it is in this sense that the conditions of 
the Peace of Westphalia, as a whole, served to recast the State-system 
(societas gentium) of which England (or Great Britain) formed part, 
and essentially affected or modified, in accordance with their respec- 
tive circumstances and interests, the foreign policy of the several 
States (England with the rest) included in it. In the first place, from 
the Peace of Westphalia onwards, the Empire was no longer, as such, 
an organic factor in the European State-system in question, not- 
withstanding its own formal endurance and the glamour of tradition 
which still attached a lingering weight to its occasional self-asser- 
tion 2 . For the Estates of the Empire were now in possession of the 
rights of sovereignty expressly recognised in the Peace as theirs. 
Moreover, the Empire could now no longer lay claim to control, in 
any way, the foreign relations of the United Provinces or of Switzer- 
land. The independence of the former, which specially interests us 
here, was recognised in the Peace by Spain herself, who retained her 
direct or (since 1598) indirect control over the Belgic Provinces, till, 
in the Peace of Rastatt (1714), they became the Austrian, instead of the 

1 M. Smile Bourgeois. 

2 More especially, as the leader of Christendom in its resistance to the Turks. 


Spanish, Netherlands. Again, however absolutely the Vatican might, 
for this very reason, denounce the Westphalian Treaties, the re- 
ligious affairs of the Empire were henceforth definitely regulated by 
a recognition of the rights of the three Confessions for none besides 
these three were taken into account; and this provision took away 
(though, as it proved, not altogether) future occasions for religious 
conflicts within the Empire in which foreign Powers might seek to 
interfere 1 . 

Such were the chief general changes to which the European State- 
system was subjected by the Peace of Westphalia changes of high 
importance, but not such as to mark any signal advance towards 
international relations favourable to an enduring Peace of the World. 
So far as England in particular was concerned, the War had brought 
about, and the Peace established, relations between the Continental 
Powers which she could not possibly ignore and which, in one way 
or another, must, for a time at all events, greatly affect her foreign 
policy. The long-sustained military enterprise of Sweden, and the 
well-timed intervention of France, had enabled them to obtain, in 
the Peace, compensations (" satisfactions") which gave to the former 
a strong footing in northern, and provided France with continuous 
opportunities for action in western, Germany; while Sweden had ac- 
quired the command of the mouths of Oder, Elbe and Weser, and was 
placed in antagonism to Brandenburg, whose Elector held Ducal 
(Western) Poland as a fief of the Polish Crown. France had, by 
acquiring Breisach and the right of garrisoning Philippsburg, secured 
direct access to the German South-west, had taken the place of Austria 
in Alsace, and had secured sure opportunities for future intervention 
in the affairs of the Empire and its Estates at large. The acquisition 
of the Belgic Provinces themselves remained an unachieved project 
of French political ambition, as it had under Richelieu, and the 
"natural frontiers" of France were proclaimed by him in his last 
will (now accepted as genuine) as a legitimate claim of the France 
of the future 2 . As for the sea, though at the close of the Great War 
(which did not include peace between France and Spain) Mazarin's 

1 It is true that, although the idea of a United Christendom was thus, in Church 
as well as in State, abandoned, an attempt was made at Miinster to provide the 
settled system of States now adopted with a tentative guarantee, in the form of a 
"wish" that, in case of any dispute, three years would be allowed for securing a 
solution sanctioned by all the States not parties to that dispute. But the guarantee 
included no appeal to arms ; and no instance seems to be on record of its having 
ever been called into operation. 

2 Cf. Hanotaux, Melanges Historiques, vol. HI. (1880), pp. 705 ff. 


Italian policy had not achieved complete success, there was now 
every prospect that the Mediterranean would henceforth be under 
French rather than Spanish control. The command of the Baltic, 
on the other hand, ultimately a matter of far more importance to 
Great Britain than it was to the United Netherlands, the Suedo- 
French Alliance had assured to Sweden for the period immediately 
following on the conclusion of the Peace; whether it could be re- 
tained by her depended in the first instance on her relations with her 
neighbour and ancient rival, Denmark. 

From the settlement or discussion of all these questions, the Eng- 
lish Government and people, which, in the early stages of the Thirty 
Years' War, had shown so keen an interest in its progress, held aloof 
at its close. The country was on the very eve of the termination of 
the long struggle between Crown and Parliament, by the transfer of 
supreme authority to a section of the House of Commons. The foreign 
policy of the Commonwealth was at first out of touch with either of 
tne belligerents still in arms against each other (France and Spain) ; 
nor was it even clear what line the new Government would pursue 
towards the Power which was at the time in command of the carry- 
ing-trade of Europe at large. Would mercantile jealousy prevail, in 
this latter day, over the religious sympathies which, in Elizabeth's 
time, had induced England to take the side of the now Free Nether- 
lands in their long struggle with Spain ? 

Meanwhile, soon after Europe, as a whole, had accepted the 
Westphalian settlement designed to govern the future relations be- 
tween her States, England signified, as it were once for all, what was 
the part she proposed to play among them. This she accomplished by 
the assertion of her sea-power; which not only made possible the 
great Victory (Dunbar), but put an end to such resistance as was 
offered by Continental Europe to her new Commonwealth. French 
piracy was suppressed, and Lisbon was blockaded (1650) the capital 
of a nation which, a decade earlier, had secured its independence and 
had, without loss of time, concluded Treaties with France and the 
United Provinces, and another with the English Government (1642). 
The last of these was the precursor of the still more important Treaty 
with Portugal, negotiated in 1654 by the Rump and signed by Crom- 
well, and may thus be regarded as having laid the foundation of the 
most long-lived, as well as the oldest, of all European Alliances 1 . Its 

1 Cf, Guernsey Jones, Beginnings of the Oldest European Alliance (Washington, 


beginnings were, however, interrupted by the catastrophe of the 
Stewart Throne, of which, among contemporary Sovereigns, King 
John IV of Portugal alone took note by acts of overt hostility, though 
his Government was, also, the earliest to enter into diplomatic 
relations with that of "the Parliament of the Commonwealth of 
England." Before long, King John's cherished design of the marriage 
of the Prince of Wales to a Portuguese Infanta was to be resumed, 
and the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance to enter into a new stage of its 
long-protracted course. But, for the present, Prince Rupert, the 
stormy petrel of the Restoration, had fluttered away into Medi- 
terranean waters, and English foreign policy had been revolutionised. 
In order to achieve these results, Blake, one of the greatest of our 
naval heroes, had found it necessary to complete the creation of a 
permanent English navy of war and to secure its requisite bases of 
action. When, therefore, an English fleet entered the Mediterranean 
in 1651, it could not do so without the goodwill of some Power pos- 
sessed of harbours where English vessels could be refitted or re- 
victualled ; and this Power could be no other than Spain (by means of 
the Spanish ports in the Two Sicilies and Sardinia), so long the foe 
of England and sure to become such again. For the moment, political 
advantage had drawn the two nations nearer together ; how could the 
Government of Philip IV remain on unfriendly terms with a Power 
which had swept the seas clear of French and Portuguese ships ? Thus, 
so early as May 1650, the Spanish Government had recognised that of 
the Commonwealth; and a resident diplomatic agent had been sent 
to Madrid. But the murder of that agent (Ascham), on the day after 
his arrival, could not but lead to friction with Spain ; and the effect 
of this was a friendly turn in the relations between the Common- 
wealth and the French Government, more especially as the Hugue- 
not interest for a time made head in France against the sway of 
Mazarin. French commerce, however, continued to suffer from 
English naval activity, and the Commonwealth was now strong 
enough to pass an Act prohibiting trade with such of the American 
and West India Colonies as adhered to the Royalist cause (1650). 
By sea and land, the Commonwealth had resolved to be master 
where the Crown had been. 

As for the relations at this time between England and the Free 
Netherlands, they passed with most notable suddenness from extreme 
to extreme. At first, the States-General, under Orange influence, 
refused to enter into other than commercial negotiations with the 


Commonwealth. But the death (October, 1650) of the Stadholder 
William II (before the birth of his son, the future William III) led 
to a complete change in the conduct of the affairs of the Dutch Re- 
public, which now, with the exception of the two Provinces acknow- 
ledging the Orange Stadholdership, fell under the control of the 
Province of Holland. This change caused the Government of the 
Commonwealth to form the design of concluding as close as possible 
an Alliance with the United Provinces, and even to entertain, as a 
possible result of negotiations to this end, the notion of converting 
the Alliance into a political union between the two countries. But the 
Commonwealth leaders and their envoys (Chief Justice St John and 
Strickland) insufficiently understood the political organisation of the 
body politic with which they had to deal, and they made no allow- 
ance for the violent Orange predilections of the populace. Thus, 
after a protracted negotiation, at an early stage of which the Dutch 
had proposed as the basis of a treaty the Intercursus Magnus (agreed 
upon in 1495, at the time of the Perkin Warbeck scare), this far- 
reaching design was allowed to drop chiefly on the narrow ground 
that the English negotiators insisted on the strict exclusion of the 
English Royalists from the Netherlands. The immediate result of 
the attempt and its failure was a growth of illwill between the two 
communities stimulated, on the part of England, by the conscious- 
ness that her sea-power was no longer inferior to the Dutch, and by 
the acceptance of the Commonwealth Government (notwithstanding 
Prince Rupert) in the greater part of the English New World. 

Hereupon, the Parliament carried on, with increased determina- 
tion, the restrictive policy on which it had fallen back after the col- 
lapse of the Dutch Alliance or " Union" project, and of which the 
main end was to advance English commerce at the expense of that 
of the Provinces. Their legislation and diplomacy had been long, and 
at times unscrupulously, directed to the maintenance of their com- 
mercial ascendancy, north and east as well as west, at a height danger- 
ously near to monopoly; and the first Navigation Act, of October, 
165 1 , which practically annihilated Dutch trade with the English West 
Indies, though not intended to provoke war with the United Provinces, 
was very intelligibly looked upon as conceived in the spirit of 
retaliation 1 . Thus, when, in 1652, the first of the Wars between 

1 It was, at the same time, in thorough agreement with the economic ideas of 
the age. Gardiner points out that this was the one legislative achievement of the 
Commonwealth which not only found favour in the eyes of the Convention Parlia- 
ment, but was reenacted by it in a more stringent form (1660). 

W.&G.I. 2 


England and the Dutch Republic broke out, though not occasioned 
by the Navigation Act, it was largely due to the commercial tension 
which culminated in this memorable piece of legislation. 

Meanwhile, the turn taken by domestic affairs in France had in- 
evitably reacted upon the party in the Long Parliament by which 
that Parliament was itself to be overthrown, and of which Cromwell 
himself stood at the head. The rally round Conde of the Huguenot 
nobles .of the South, supported by Bordeaux and other southern 
towns, had aroused Cromwell's interest. He had dreamt of a Pro- 
testant and republican France; but, of course, it was only a dream, 
and the notion of persuading the French radical organisation called 
the Ormee to construct a Constitution on the Fifth Monarchy model 
(though the precursor of later political fancies) proved equally futile. 
On the other hand, Conde had taken the paradoxical step of applying 
for aid to both Spain and England ; and, for a time, Cromwell and his 
following, while desirous for the preservation, if possible, of peace, 
hesitated between two possible alliances. They were drawn to Spain 
by her recognition of the Commonwealth, which France had hitherto 
persistently refused, and to France by the possibility of her transfer 
of Dunkirk to England, as well as by the further possibility of her 
being induced to put an end to the persecution of the Huguenots. 
Early in 1652, Mazarin was once more at the helm, and though a 
proclamation of the young King Lewis XIV confirmed the Edict of 
Nantes and paid a tribute to the loyalty of his Huguenot subjects, 
the French recognition of the Commonwealth was still distant, and 
the transfer of Dunkirk quite out of the question. When, therefore, 
in the same year (against Cromwell's wish), hostilities began between 
the English and the Dutch, there was no little danger of a speedy 
declaration of war by England against France, and Blake lost no time 
in inflicting reprisals on French ships. But, the fall of Gravelines 
and the surrender of Dunkirk into Spanish hands notwithstanding, 
Mazarin was unwilling to hasten an open conflict with England ; where 
there was a corresponding wish not to break with France, unless an 
understanding should have been reached with Spain. Neither Power 
was, or could be, welcome as an ally to the Commonwealth, although, 
near the end of 1652, it had been (at first with a doubtful grace) recog- 
nised by the King of France. The Dutch War, which opened in 1652, 
at first, notwithstanding several well-contested battles, remained 
unattended by any decisive result. A period of uncertainty seemed 
to have befallen the foreign policy of England, and one which even 


the most expert diplomacy would have found it difficult to bring to 
a satisfactory close. Meanwhile, it was not to any question of foreign 
affairs that the dissolution of the Long Parliament was due ; and the 
day of the Lord- General was not yet quite at hand. When it came, 
the moving spirit in every branch of foreign as well as of home 
affairs was the same militant Protestantism that had, in turn, re- 
modelled the army and succeeded in transforming the State, and 
that was, also, more and more potently impressing itself upon the 
beginnings of English Colonial life. Thus, far more distinctly than 
the tentative efforts of Elizabeth's later years, Oliver's conduct of 
our foreign policy in the middle of the seventeenth century, while 
advancing the material interests of England, put her in the van of 
the process of reconstituting Europe. The problem of effecting this 
by securing her the command of the sea, and, incidentally, depressing 
the Papacy to a thing, or at least a Power, of the past, was not one 
for which even the genius of Oliver Cromwell could find an enduring 
solution ; but the attempt lit up the scene of the world for a brief and 
brilliant period of national action. After these years fewer even 
than those which sufficed Bismarck for establishing the new Ger- 
many as a dominating European Power English foreign policy soon 
sank back into a restricted sphere, but not without retaining the 
consciousness of impulses and traditions which it could not easily 
resist or lightly abandon. 

But Oliver's was a political genius, and as such dealt with 
political realities. The consummation was, therefore, not achieved 
suddenly or at once. In 1653, while the control of English govern- 
ment had been committed to a doctrinaire assembly, but when the 
public mind was already looking to the Lord- General for the direction 
of its foreign affairs, he continued for some time to lean towards the 
paradoxical combination which would have allied England with 
Spain and the French Dissidents. Although, in July, 1653, the city 
of Bordeaux surrendered to the King, and the Huguenot outlook 
darkened, Cromwell continued in this mood even beyond the be- 
ginning of the Protectorate, irritated by the plots hatched in France 
against the English Government, and notwithstanding the overtures 
of Mazarin early in 1654. 

He had, in fact, made up his mind that, before choosing between 
France and Spain, England must be at peace with the United Nether- 
lands. In carrying out this resolution he showed his greatness as a poli- 
tician ; but in the several stages of the process he displayed that other 

2 2 



quality of his mind its imaginative impetus which was in a different 
way, an essential element in his greatness. The Dutch War, after a 
series of grandly contested naval battles, had, by Tromp's defeat off 
Portland in February, 1653, left the command of the Channel in 
English hands, and the battle of the Gabbard (June) had proved the 
inability of the Dutch to recover it. The peace negotiations hitherto 
carried on between the belligerents had broken down through the 
severity of the terms demanded by the English Council of State, and 
the new negotiation proposed by the States- General at the instance of 
de Witt (before he was named Pensionary of Holland) had been re- 
jected by the new Council. But now, de Witt's insistence upon the 
necessities of the case, and the despair of the Dutch population, led 
to the appointment of four Dutch Peace Commissioners to England 
(June), and the moment had arrived for Cromwell's intervention. 
Whether or not (and it seems more than doubtful) he had been in 
favour of the War, he was now certainly in favour of peace, and the 
advantages of an intimate alliance in his mind outbalanced those of 
the abasement of England's chief mercantile naval and mercantile 
rival. As for the United Provinces, they must make their choice 
between a territorial sacrifice to France, and joining hands with 
England though not precisely falling into her arms. Peace must be 
made, but on a generous basis not of jealousy, but of amity, between 
two great Protestant nations. Thus, Cromwell first informally pro- 
posed, as the security of peace, the appointment of a small number 
of Dutchmen and Englishmen respectively to the English and Dutch 
Councils of State (or States- General). And, when the Dutch Com- 
missioners were unable to see their way to this, or to a fresh sug- 
gestion by Cromwell of a religious and commercial union only, to 
which the Council of State had added the demand of a complete 
political blending of political power and policy under one Supreme 
Head, Cromwell made one more effort the most astonishing, as it 
was the most characteristic, of all. There was no longer and with 
Cromwell there cannot be said to have been during the whole of this 
crisis any thought of a revival of St John's grandiose but impractic- 
able idea of a political union between the two peoples, which had 
broken down on a previous occasion. What was now informally asked 
for was at once less and more than this. Instead of political amalgama- 
tion a Perpetual Alliance was to be established between the two nations. 
This Alliance was, together with them, to include Denmark, Sweden, 
the Protestant Princes of the Empire and France but the last- 


named on condition that her Government should grant full liberty 
to the Huguenots. It was to be directed against all Princes and States 
who employed the services of the Inquisition and acknowledged the 
authority of the Pope. To this sufficiently vast scheme was added a 
particular plan for the partition of the New World England to be 
assigned America, with the exception of Brazil, and to be assisted 
by the United Provinces in accomplishing the. necessary conquest. 
Each of the two Allies was to establish a Commission consisting of 
four representatives of each. Finally, the Christian purpose of this 
strange League of Nations was to be attested by the sending of mis- 
sionaries to any people willing to receive them. 

Cromwell's design for, though not of his drafting, it seems cer- 
tainly to have commended itself to him as a basis for future action 
is invaluable as indicating the present state of his mind and the bent 
of his future policy. It is possible that the bitter hostility to Spain 
which marks the document may have been partly due to the refusal 
of the Spanish Government (at the dictation of the Inquisition) to 
entertain any proposal for the toleration of Protestants in its dominions, 
and by its natural efforts to obstruct the Anglo-Dutch Peace which 
Cromwell and his followers had at heart. In any case, the States- 
General deferred consideration of it, either in its first (both wider 
and cruder) or in a subsequently modified (narrower and less aggres- 
sive) form. Hereupon, after his installation as Protector, Cromwell 
suggested to the Dutch Commissioners, once more in London, a far 
less comprehensive scheme as a basis of peace. A Defensive League 
was to be concluded between the two Powers, binding each side alike 
to enter into no treaty without the consent of the other, and pro- 
claiming freedom of trade between them, but leaving their existing 
laws (the Navigation Act, of course, included) untouched. After not 
a few hitches, the Treaty of Peace was signed and ratified in April, 
1654, and the Act of Exclusion which barred the admission of any 
member of the House of Orange to civil or military office was, thanks 
to the management of de Witt, passed by the States- General in the 
same month. 

What Cromwell had obtained could hardly be considered as a 
diplomatic victory ; but the success of the War had not been used by 
him in vain ; for the eyes of France were once more bent on Flanders. 
As for the Protector's wider views, nothing might seem left of them 
but words; yet his ideas were not dead, and inspired fresh efforts on 
behalf of the combined interests which he had at heart. 


Whitelocke, on leaving for his Swedish embassy (at the end of 
1653), had been charged by Oliver himself to " bring us back a Pro- 
testant Alliance." This he was not likely to obtain from Queen 
Christina; but he brought back with him a Commercial Treaty, 
which, together with one concluded with Denmark (now at peace 
with Sweden), placed English commerce on the same footing as Dutch 
in the Baltic. While thus at least a good understanding was effected 
with the Protestant Powers of the North, the Protectorate had entered 
into similar relations with certain Protestant Princes and Cities of the 
Empire, and with the Swiss Protestant Cantons, aided no doubt by 
the negotiations of John Dury throughout Europe on behalf of 
Christian unity. And it may be added, in the same twofold con- 
nexion, that, about the same time (1657), a Treaty with Portugal 
secured to English trade with that country and its dependencies the 
intimate commercial relations which were to be consummated by the 
Treaty of 1661 between the two monarchies. The free intercourse, 
and the immunity from interference by the Inquisition, were the 
very concessions which it had been sought in vain to secure from 

In the meantime, the great changes effected by the Thirty Years' 
War in the general condition of European politics, together with the 
continuance of the contest between France and Spain in particular, 
favoured the realisation of, at least, part of the Protector's plans. 
Though his vision of a new European conflict on a religious basis 
seemed unlikely to take shape, yet England was rapidly assuming a 
position of decisive influence among the States of Europe. For 
different reasons, neither France nor, even more manifestly, Spain 
was strong enough to assert an undisputed predominance; while 
they were alike anxious to add to their respective weight in the scales 
by securing the alliance of England. For a time, as has been seen, 
Oliver inclined to a Spanish combination, and asked for Dunkirk as an 
eventual pledge for Calais. But secret preparations were, meanwhile, 
made for assailing the Spanish Power in the remote, but attractive 
quarter of the West Indies; and, moved as he always was, in the 
last resort, by religious convictions, Oliver, as he settled down firmly 
in the seat of supreme authority at home, proceeded to find his bear- 
ings in the sea of foreign policy. Thus, once more, the ship of State 
consciously and decisively pursued the course which it had followed 
in Elizabeth's unforgotten days. 

To weaken, if not to put an end to, Spain's hold upon the New 


World was, now as then, but under conditions already different from 
those obtaining when Drake singed King Philip's beard, a funda- 
mental part of the Protestant policy which England found herself 
carrying out. But the Protector had rated too low the difficulty of a 
West Indian conquest, when he deluded himself into the belief that 
he could make war upon Spain in America while remaining at peace 
with her in Europe. The attack on Hispaniola (San Domingo) was 
abandoned; but Jamaica, little esteemed in comparison by its first 
conquerors, was occupied (1655). Spanish pride, however, took fire; 
and Philip IV, who had more than countenanced the damage inflicted 
by Blake upon French Mediterranean commerce, now laid an em- 
bargo upon all English vessels and goods in his dominions. By the 
end of October, 1655, the breach was complete; and Oliver was left 
to defend in high-sounding words, which may have convinced him- 
self, a course of action irreconcilable with good faith, but seeming 
to be imposed on him by resistless forces. 

The effect of England's breach with Spain upon France was im- 
peded by the indignation aroused in the Protector, and assiduously 
spread by him through the country at large, at the news of the Duke 
of Savoy's persecution of the Vaudois Protestants. Neither in the 
remonstrance to the Duke (composed by Milton) nor in the appeal 
to the good offices of the King of France (erroneously rumoured to 
have taken part in the outrage) was there anything in the nature of 
a threat. But so far were these efforts from being mere demonstra- 
tions of sympathy, that the other Protestant Powers of Europe were 
called upon to join in seeking redress. The tone of Mazarin's reply 
reveals his anxiety that the incident should not thwart the conclusion 
of the expected Anglo-French Alliance; and, before the memor- 
able agitation in England on the subject had subsided, Duke Charles 
had promised an amnesty to his insurgent subjects, as a concession 
to England. The concession was mainly due to the policy of Mazarin, 
and to some fear of Swiss armed intervention; but the main credit 
of the whole transaction rested with "the World's Protector." 

The Treaty hereupon concluded with France was, as yet, only 
concerned with the establishment of friendly relations : the question 
of an Alliance could not be treated while England was ostensibly 
at peace with Spain. In the final negotiations preceding the con- 
clusion of the compact, the prohibition of the assistance of "rebels" 
to either party was limited to the case of rebels "now declared"; 
but a secret agreement was added banishing the Stewarts and their 


adherents from France and excluding Conde and his House from 
England. On October 21, 1655, the Treaty was at last signed. The 
mixture of motives which impelled Cromwell to conclude it lay at 
the root of a foreign policy in which a personal element cannot for a 
moment be ignored. Nevertheless, together with the actual Treaty 
of Alliance which followed a year later, it marks the beginning of an 
epoch of the utmost significance in the history of English foreign 
policy the epoch of a cooperation between English and French 
interests, which, though with certain interruptions, may be said to 
have lasted for the better part of a quarter of a century till the 
European Coalition of 1674 and the change in English policy con- 
sequent upon it. 

Now that Cromwell had declared for a policy which meant war 
with Spain whom he was soon to denounce (to his second Parlia- 
ment) as England's "natural enemy" he found himself involved in 
foreign complications hardly less difficult to meet than the designs 
of Royalists and Levellers at home. A war with Spain, as a naval 
war on many coasts, necessitated the constant use of the right of 
search against the Dutch, with whom it was most desirable to avoid 
a renewal of hostilities. Fortunately for England, the Dutch navy 
was at this time actively employed in the Baltic. When, in this year 
1655, the new King Charles Gustavus had taken up arms against 
Poland, he was, in accordance with the political canon now obtaining 
at Whitehall, regarded as a militant champion of Protestantism 
against Popery. (He was, in truth, anxious to add to the territorial 
gains of Sweden in the Peace of Westphalia, and to lower the ascend- 
ancy of the Dutch trade in the Baltic, where it then quadrupled that 
of the rest of the world.) 

In the face of Sweden's designs, and of the Counter-alliance of 
the Powers threatened by her advance, Oliver hesitated about re- 
sponding to the overtures made to him on either the one or the other 
side. He would have rejoiced to see Charles X's war against Poland 
extended into a general Protestant League against the supposed de- 
signs of the Emperor Ferdinand III and their supposed originator, 
Pope Alexander VII ; yet he could not but perceive that the ambition 
of the Swedish King constituted a serious menace to English as well 
as to Dutch trade in the Baltic. Thus (partly in consequence of the 
financial embarrassments of the Protectorate Government, and partly 
because, with the unprofitable war with Spain and the effort to hold 
Jamaica, it already had enough on its hands and must have left 


operations against the House of Austria mainly in those of its 
Allies) the sole result of the negotiations between the English and 
Swedish Governments amounted not even to a political alliance. 
The Treaty between them (July, 1656) merely permitted Charles X 
to levy a certain number of volunteers in England and placed this 
country on the footing of the most favoured nation with regard to 
Baltic ports actually in Swedish hands. Much the same terms as to 
duties were shortly afterwards secured for themselves and other 
nations by the Dutch, though at the cost of a naval demonstration, 
which England's good understanding with Sweden had saved her. 
But, if so far satisfactory, this was a tame ending of the whole of this 
episode in the foreign policy of the Protector; and the design of a 
League against Pope and Emperor had once more vanished into thin 

But the War with Spain and the definitive Alliance with France 
had to be pressed on. Mazarin had again wavered in the direction 
of peace, and there were rumours of a Papal mediation between the 
belligerents. Oliver's manifesto justifying the breach with Spain 
was published on the day after the earlier agreement with France, 
and Spain was (in accordance with diplomatic precedent) declared 
to have begun the War. In April, 1656, Charles II made his con- 
tribution to the conflict by concluding a compact with Spain; and 
the War now ran its course, at first indecisive. In November, the 
Treaty of Alliance between France and England against Spain was 
concluded, though not put into its final form till five months later 
(March, 1657). Mazarin had succeeded in preventing the extension 
of the Treaty into a general league of the Powers adverse to the House 
of Austria ; and Cromwell had obtained the substantial pledge of a 
transfer to England of Dunkirk, after it should have been jointly re- 
taken by the French and English forces. Then, at the time when the 
Protector seemed to have reached the height of his power at home, 
there came the news of Blake's great victory over the Spanish fleet 
at Vera Cruz (April, 1657) which crippled the resources of Spain, 
put a stop to her invasion of Portugal and seriously shook her general 
position. The fall of Dunkirk, however, did not take place till more 
than a year later (June, 1658); and before Cromwell could thus feel 
assured of the pledge he had exacted from France, his foreign policy 
had to face new difficulties. 

Though he could not call into being the Protestant League to 
which from religious motives he aspired, he persistently clung to the 


supreme necessity of maintaining peace between the Protestant 
Powers. Notwithstanding the seductive efforts of Sweden, which 
actually made him an offer of the duchy of Bremen as the price of 
his cooperation (November, 1657), he declined to join her in crush- 
ing Denmark, with whom she was now at war, into utter in- 
feriority; but neither could he see his way to the demand for a settle- 
ment by a Congress brought forward by Denmark under Dutch 
instigation. The process of Cromwell's attempted mediation between 
the Scandinavian Powers thus depended, with much else, upon the 
relations between England and the United Provinces. These relations 
were growing more and more strained mainly in consequence of 
the long-standing contention as to the right of search, heightened by 
the many occasions for friction offered by the Anglo- Spanish War, 
in whose aspect as a Protestant crusade the Dutch showed scant 
interest. (Moreover, they had picked a quarrel with England's ally 
Portugal about Brazil.) But, when Dutch goodwill to the Danes 
seemed not unlikely to take the form of actual naval aid against the 
Swedes, the Protector held to the way of peace. He determined to 
utilise the French alliance in this direction, and suggested to Mazarin 
joint diplomatic action on the part of England and France for the 
settlement of the Suedo-Danish, as well as the Portuguese- Spanish 
question. The Cardinal (without paying any formal attention to the 
accompanying, as it were indispensable, proposal of an offensive 
and defensive alliance against the House of Austria) entered into the 
suggestion, and the result was that the Danes found themselves able 
to accept the terms imposed by the victorious Charles X in the Peace 
of Roeskilde (February, 1658). The Treaty, by which each of the 
two Northern Powers renounced any alliance hostile to the other and 
closed the Sound to any fleet hostile to both, was a diplomatic vic- 
tory for Cromwell and his agent Meadowe, though followed neither 
by a Suedo-English treaty of alliance nor by any other approach to 
the idea of a Protestant League. The Dutch, who could not but re- 
gard it in the light of a discomfiture, and notwithstanding the efforts 
of de Witt, drew back from the conclusion of a defensive alliance 
with England and France (though they nominally accepted English 
mediation with Portugal about Brazil). 

When at last (June, 1658) after the brilliant victory on the Dunes, 
in which Cromwell's soldiery took part, Dunkirk capitulated and was 
placed by Mazarin in English hands, his policy was seen to have, at 
last, with England's aid prevailed over Spain. This was made mani- 


fest by the Elective Capitulation signed by the Head of the German 
Habsburgs before he assumed the Imperial Crown as Leopold I a 
Capitulation which marked the isolation of Spain. It was followed 
by the League of the Rhine (August, 1658), which, though, in the 
end, redounding to the advantage of France (against whom nearly all 
national feeling had died out), closed any prospect of a participation 
of the German Princes in a Protestant league against the House of 

Before the success of Mazarin's designs thus encouraged France 
and her King to look forward hopefully to the developments of the 
future, Oliver Cromwell died (September 2nd, 1658), with the high 
hopes and aspirations unfulfilled, of which his foreign policy at no 
time lost sight sometimes almost suddenly recurring to them. With 
the Dutch he had, largely owing to de Witt's single-minded efforts, 
kept the peace; but his patience was sorely tried, not only from first 
to last by the old trade grievances, but in the end also by the violent 
action of Charles X of Sweden, who had broken through the Treaty of 
Roeskilde and was manifestly intent on incorporating the Danish 
dominions into one great Scandinavian monarchy. The Dutch, here- 
upon, determined on the relief of Copenhagen; and it was widely 
believed in Europe that Cromwell was an accomplice in the present 
designs of "the King of the North" in expectancy. What is certain 
is that Cromwell's design of a twofold Northern Alliance was in 
ruins, and that the danger of a breach with the United Provinces, to 
avoid which was a more difficult, as well as a more important part of 
the same general policy, was greater than ever. The chief balance to 
this twofold political failure apart from the acquisition of Jamaica, 
and its maintenance in the teeth of the efforts of Spain and her ad- 
joining possessions was the success of the Anglo-French Alliance 
in Flanders, and the actual tenure of Dunkirk. Yet no survey of the 
Protector's foreign policy and its results could rest satisfied with a 
reference to its material gains; the power of the country was now 
acknowledged by friend and foe alike, and known, at home as well 
as abroad, in Colonies and in Motherland, to be largely the product of 
the religious zeal which, resting in the last resort upon his army, he 
had inspired in the Government personified in him. 

No change of principle or method in this foreign policy could be 
in question during the months of domestic faction and civil strife 
which ensued after the great Protector's death and brought the Puritan 
Revolution to a close. With the Restoration, the foreign policy of 


England, although no longer animated by the religious convictions 
and aspirations that held possession of Oliver's soul, underwent no 
such complete revulsion as might have a priori been supposed. In 
1659, the Peace of the Pyrenees was at last concluded between France 
and Spain; and, while any possibility of a future union between the 
Spanish and the French Crowns 1 was at present ignored by Spain, 
Spain was left so weak that her efforts to recover Portugal proved in 
vain. Nor could the Empire, under its new Habsburg Chief, revive 
any of its former pretensions to direct the course of European politics, 
wholly dependent as he was (except in his Turkish Wars) upon the 
resources of his own hereditary dominions. But, though the gains of 
France and the losses of Spain had been great, the policy of Lewis 
XIV, professedly conducted after Mazarin's death (1661) by the 
King himself, with the aid of Mazarin's pupil and successor, de 
Lionne, called for unremitting vigilance. On the death (in 1665) of 
Philip IV of Spain, Lewis XIV, on behalf of the Infanta his consort, 
pressed her claim to the Spanish Netherlands by "right of Devolu- 
tion," thus laying bare his desire for the acquisition of, at least, part 
of the Spanish inheritance. The attempt might be prevented by a 
combination of the other Powers against France, such as was advo- 
cated with extraordinary persistence and resource by the eminent 
Austrian diplomatist Lisola. But for the execution of this the time 
had not yet arrived; and, of the two Powers most directly con- 
cerned, the United Provinces and England, the former, though well 
aware of the French appetite for the Flemish coastline, remained 
under the guidance of de Witt in favour of a pacific attitude, and in 
1662 had concluded a defensive alliance with France. 

It may be that the fact of this Alliance was unknown to, as well 
as left unnoticed by, Charles II and Clarendon, still his Chief Minister, 
and himself generally well inclined to France. They were, at the 
time, much perturbed by the state of the British finances, and all 
the more ready to gratify French national feeling by the sale of 
Dunkirk (1662) a transaction which afterwards contributed to 
Clarendon's downfall. For the present, the acquiescence of England 
in the aggressive schemes of France might thus seem assured. The 

1 It can hardly be an error to regard the conditions under which King Philip IV 
accepted Lewis XIV's suit for the hand of the Infanta Maria Teresa her re- 
nunciation of her rights to the whole Spanish Succession as illusory, and intended 
to be such. The contention that, in consequence of the local laws of Brabant, this 
renunciation did not apply to the greater part of the Spanish Netherlands, was 
thus, actually or virtually, an afterthought. 


growth of political intimacy between the two Governments had been 
marked by the ominous marriage of King Charles IPs sister Henrietta 
to Philip Duke of Orleans. Soon afterwards (May, 1662), Charles JI's 
own marriage with the Infanta Catharine of Portugal, as placing 
England in direct antagonism to Spanish interests, and therefore in 
accord with those of France, amounted to a resumption, in its most 
important issue, of the foreign policy of Cromwell. The policy of 
Charles was in accordance with that of the Protector in conciliating 
the mercantile interest by showing hostility to Spain, with a view to 
keeping hold of Jamaica, while at the same time securing access to 
the East Indies by the proposed cession of Bombay as part of the 
Infanta's dowry. Thus, after some vacillation on the part of Charles II, 
the marriage was concluded which, in the end, brought to Portugal, 
with England's aid, the recognition of her independence by Spain 
and to England the beginnings of her Indian Empire. 

The adherence of England to the policy of France might now 
seem a working entente, while amicable relations had continued 
between the dominant party in the United Provinces and the French 
Government. But material interests and popular feeling combined, 
as of old, to keep asunder the two Maritime Powers, with both of 
whom France desired to remain on friendly terms. There had been 
acts of aggression on both sides, in America and in Africa; and in 
1664, notwithstanding the unwillingness of King Charles II, Eng- 
land and the United Provinces were again at war. For a time, it 
seemed as if the continuance of hostilities might be transitory; for 
the course of the War was favourable to England; and in Holland 
tne republican party continued to desire peace. But, before long, 
the catastrophic events of the years 1665-6, and the continuance of 
the contest at sea, made the situation one of greater danger and 
difficulty; and, at the same time, the problem of the impending 
action of France overshadowed the Anglo-Dutch War. The death 
of Philip IV of Spain (1665) had decided Lewis XIV to put forward 
the claims of the Infanta his consort to the Spanish Netherlands by 
"right of Devolution" ; and with this end in view, he, early in 1666, 
as bound by his defensive alliance with the States-General to take 
their side, declared war against England (January, 1666). But he 
had no intention of preventing either of the combatants, alike reduced 
in naval strength, from concluding a peace which would suit his own 
policy. In this sense, he entered into an agreement with Charles II 
(March, 1667), binding him to abstain from any interference with 


the action of France in the matter of the Spanish Netherlands, in return 
for an undertaking that France would abstain from further assistance 
to the Dutch. Safe as he thought himself against England and sure of 
her adversary, his way now seemed clear ; and shortly afterwards, he in- 
vaded the Spanish Netherlands, and the "War of Devolution " began. 

But, though Charles II wrote to the Queen-mother in France that 
he would not for a year enter into any contention against that country, 
de Witt had already perceived whither the situation was tending, and 
that the future of the United Provinces lay with the designs of Lisola. 
Thus a Peace, though not such a peace as Lewis XIV had had in 
view, was rapidly concluded between the English and the Dutch 
Governments at Breda (July, 1667), which, so far as their colonial 
rivalry was concerned, might perhaps be regarded as a fair com- 
promise. Its European significance consisted in the curb which it 
put upon French aggression, before a more comprehensive effort 
was made in the same direction. 

In January, 1668, when the hand of France lay heavy on the 
Spanish Netherlands, and her King was negotiating in grand style 
with the pacific Emperor (Leopold I) as to the future partition of the 
Spanish inheritance at large, the Treaty called par excellence the 
Triple Alliance was concluded at the Hague. De Witt had, a few 
years earlier, pointed out to Sir Willam Temple, the clear-sighted 
English Ambassador there, that the choice for the United Provinces 
lay between two alternatives a corrupt bargain with France, and 
a fair but effective pressure upon her, which would be impossible 
without the cooperation of England. Very unwillingly, but unable 
to resist the flow of home opinion, to which his policy always rd- 
mained sensitive, Charles II instructed Temple to offer a defensive 
alliance between England and the United Provinces, which should 
insist upon peace between France and Spain, on terms allowing 
France to retain what she had conquered in her campaign in the 
Spanish Netherlands, or an equivalent; with a secret proviso that 
the contracting Powers might in the pursuit of their object have re- 
sort to arms. The Triple Alliance, of which Sweden had become a 
member on the day after its conclusion (subsidies being promised 
her as a condition of her accession), was not, in any sense, a final 
settlement of the French design. It was a rebuff, and an exposure of 
the policy of France before the eyes of Europe ; but, even within these 
limits and with many reservations as to its effect upon the aggressor, 
it justifies the opinion of Lord Acton, that it was "the earliest of that 


series of coalitions which ended by getting the better of the power 
of Lewis XIV, and is therefore a landmark in History." But, as he 
continues, its extension into a wider European alliance was out of 
the question, and the jealousy between the two mercantile Powers 
concluding it was not one to be removed by politicians. Thus, the 
advance of the French Power (which was fain to outrival both on 
their own ground) was checked, not ended. For the rest, Charles II 
never ceased to remain in touch with Lewis XIV, and took care to 
minimise to him the significance of the Alliance jubilantly received 
in England. Thus, after some hesitation, Lewis decided to give way, 
and play before Europe the game of moderation (the actual terms of 
the Treaty consisting, indeed, of conditions previously offered by 
himself), which for himself meant a willingness to wait. 

The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle which followed (May, 1668), and 
which ended the first stage of the advance of France under Lewis XIV, 
may, therefore, be said to begin the second, which had for its primary 
purpose the isolation, and for its ultimate goal the absorption, of the 
United Provinces. To effect this, an intimate connexion and coopera- 
tion between France and England became imperatively necessary; 
and to subserving the policy of which this was the cardinal principle, 
Charles, primarily intent on the interests of his monarchical power 
and of his purse, now wholly lent himself. 

The Secret Treaty of Dover, successfully negotiated by Henrietta 
Duchess of Orleans in 1670, was, therefore, merely a successful 
manoeuvre for binding down Charles to a line of action after his own 
heart, in the prosecution of which he had sought to engage from the 
very day of the conclusion of the Triple Alliance. The new feature 
added to it the promised conversion, at his own time, of King Charles 
himself to Rome was, on the above condition, most attractive to 
him, but hardly of supreme consequence to Lewis XIV, who, like his 
predecessors, had shown little repugnance to Protestant Alliances. 
It was not mentioned or reckoned as an item on either side of the 
money bargain in the version of the Treaty brought home from Paris 
by Buckingham, which alone was signed by the Protestant members 
of the Cabal (le Traite simule). For the rest, the Treaty, in both its 
versions, bound Charles to the policy of his Ally both in the immediate 
and in the remoter future i.e. Lewis was to have the assistance of 
England both in making war upon the Dutch, and, eventually, in 
securing the whole of the Spanish inheritance. The partners in the 
Treaty were to endeavour to obtain the adherence to it of Sweden 


and Denmark, or of at least one of these States, and of the Elector of 
Brandenburg and other Princes. 

In the meantime, the Triple Alliance having, as a matter of course, 
fallen to pieces, though not till after its members had resolved on an 
agreement guaranteeing the subsequent Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, 
de Witt and Lisola drafted the hoped-for expansion of the Alliance 
into a wide European league. The proposal was inevitably rejected 
by Charles II, whose immediate efforts against the republican regime 
in the United Netherlands had been met by the nomination of Prince 
William III of Orange to the stadholderate of five of the Provinces, 
with the expectancy of that of Holland and Zeeland on the day of 
his coming of age. Before, however, that day arrived, the Secret 
Agreement with France had come into operation: the Declaration 
of Indulgence, into which the King's religious undertakings had for 
the present shrunk, had been proclaimed; and, a few days later 
(March, 1672), the English Declaration of War against the United 
Provinces appeared, outrunning, like a jackal, that of France. The 
foreign policy of Charles II, at once timid and treacherous, had at 
last come into the open. This and his home policy were not so much 
detached from each other as antithetically mixed. For he was anxious, 
above all things, for the retention of the Throne which, after so long 
an exile, he had secured ; and yet he was secretly averse from what was 
at bottom, though by no means consistently, the national policy to- 
wards foreign Powers whose motives he, unlike Cromwell, perfectly 
understood and whose action he was often personally disposed to 

Thus, in the War which from 1672 to 1674 they had to sustain 
against England as well as against France, the United Provinces were 
left without an Ally (except the Elector of Brandenburg, who soon 
found it necessary to secure himself by a separate Peace). Sweden, 
under its youthful King Charles XI, had been early detached from 
the Triple Alliance, and in April, 1673, when the French had already 
invaded the Free Netherlands, had concluded an Alliance with 
France, and another with England, promising her (in this strangely 
inverted triple compact) Swedish help in the case of any attack "for 
the sake of France." 

The French invasion of the United Provinces in 1672 had seemed 
to justify the self-confidence of Lewis XIV, till after the murder of 
the brothers de Witt, and the committal of the fortunes of the Pro- 
vinces to the guidance of their young Stadholder William III of 


Orange, the Dutch people had made a heroic stand behind their 
wall of waters. The bellicose English feeling against them, stimulated 
by factious invective such as Shaftesbury's, was dying out. Our share 
in the War had brought no laurels, and no East India fleet spoils, to 
our navy ; and public feeling was becoming strongly agitated against 
France. Meanwhile, the desire of the other European Powers to 
bring about the restoration of peace in Europe had led to the as- 
sembling of a Peace Congress at Cologne, from which England 
necessarily held aloof, and which came to nothing (1673). But diplo- 
matic activity continued; and, while France and England severally 
carried on their secret negotiations with the Dutch for a peace satis- 
factory to themselves, the Imperial agents were busily employed on 
the project of a wider combination against the aggression of France, 
whom it was hoped King Charles would, notwithstanding the in- 
fluences surrounding him and his own inclinations, be obliged to 

On the action of the English Government, hard pressed more 
especially by the Spanish (December, 1673), much depended; and 
Charles gave way so far as to indicate that he was prepared to treat 
as to peace with the Dutch on his own account, and without con- 
sulting his Ally. He threw himself on Parliament for the decision of 
a question which, by virtue of his prerogative, it really appertained 
to him to settle, and sought to conciliate parliamentary and popular 
feeling by denying the existence of any Treaty with France beyond 
the "simulated" one. (This suppression had seemed all the more 
desirable after the Test Act agitation and the Catholic marriage of 
the Duke of York, in the same year 1673.) Thus, he allowed himself 
to be detached from the obnoxious Alliance, and the result was the 
conclusion of the Peace of Westminster (February, 1674) between 
England and the United Provinces. 

The conditions of this Treaty were honourable to England as 
well as in other ways satisfactory, so far as her claims on the United 
Provinces were concerned ; but the Secret Article which prohibited 
either Power from allying itself with an adversary of the other bore 
ominously upon the events that were to follow. In the following 
August, the Coalition against France was formed, which included with 
the United Provinces, the Emperor, the King of Spain and the Duke 
of Lorraine, in the confident belief that, besides other Princes, 
England would soon come over to their side and a new era in the 
history of Europe actually began. In this, England at first took only 

W.&G.I. 3 


a tentative and, indeed, uncertain part. The Emperor Leopold now 
declared war upon Lewis ; and France (left with no support but that 
of Sweden, whose neighbour Brandenburg had joined the Coalition) 
resolved on evacuating the Low Countries and turning against 
Franche-Comte and the Palatinate. There, her arms were on the 
whole successful, and Charles II might feel that it was not the losing 
side from which he had been so strongly pressed to turn away. As 
a matter of fact, he had left auxiliary troops with the French army, 
who, by a strange irony of fate, took part in the devastation of the 
Palatinate; but neither this circumstance nor his known personal 
inclinations could incline the Emperor to accept the mediation 
proffered by Charles in the War against France. On the other hand, 
William of Orange, now Hereditary Stadholder and Cap tain- General 
of the United Provinces, would willingly have accepted such a media- 
tion, and suggested Nymegen for requisite negotiations. But, after 
a series of both parliamentary and diplomatic manoeuvres, the de- 
sign failed and with it, for the present, the attempt to establish a 
dynastic connexion between the English Throne and the Stadholder- 
ate by means of a marriage between William and the Princess 
Mary. But he could bide his time, and firmly stood out against 
Lewis XIV's endeavour to draw him over to the policy of a separate 
peace between France and the United Provinces. Meanwhile, in 
the same year (1676) Charles signed another Secret Treaty with 
Lewis, binding him by a yearly subsidy to adherence to the French 

Thus what has been well called the period of two foreign policies 
marked by an impotence due to this duality more than to any one 
other cause continued into the eventful year 1677 and the beginning 
of the following year. In spite or partly in consequence of the 
French successes in the field, the feeling against the Court and its in- 
clination towards France was stronger than ever ; in the spring of 1677, 
notwithstanding the corruption of the members of the Opposition by 
Lewis XIV, the House of Commons unanimously voted an address 
explicitly hostile to France, Lord-Treasurer Danby being in favour 
of the policy urged by the House. It then refused to grant supplies 
for the defence of the country, unless the King concluded an offensive 
and defensive alliance with the States-General against France and 
for the preservation of the Spanish Netherlands. While Charles now 
began to haggle with his Ally, public feeling rose higher and higher; 
in the end, Parliament was adjourned, and an addition was made by 


Lewis to the price he had agreed to pay for the English adhesion to 
his Alliance. 

Charles II, in the pursuit of the policy on which he was bent, had 
many resources ; but they did not include those of an inflexible will and 
of a deeply meditated statesmanship. William of Orange, by whom the 
great change in the foreign policy of England was to be brought 
about, and who was in possession of both these qualities, was, in the 
first instance, called upon to use all the tact and circumspection at 
his command. The proposal was unpopular in the United Provinces 
and suspected in England ; but, with some difficulty, he gained over, 
first the King, and then his brother the Duke, to consent to his mar- 
riage with Princess Mary a step which, as Charles calculated, would 
at least reassure the English people as to his own relations with 
France, without in any way subjecting him to the influence of the 

But the effect of the transaction was not long in showing itself. 
Lewis XIV had refused the terms of peace with the Coalition offered 
by Charles II as mediator and proffering the return of part of his 
conquests in the War, including Lorraine. Now, after the Orange 
marriage (November, 1677) the policy of Charles II took a turn 
which, if carried to its logical consequences, would imply that the 
last link in the European Coalition against Lewis XIV was to be sup- 
plied by the accession of England. The English auxiliary contingent 
in the French army was now actually recalled, and (in January, 1678) 
a Treaty was concluded with the United Provinces, defining the 
French retrocessions on which the Powers must insist. But, when 
Parliament assembled, it went even further in the conditions to be 
imposed on France, demanding that the Peace of the Pyrenees should 
be made the basis of the intended settlement, and that, in the mean- 
time, all trade with France should cease. King Charles, though called 
upon by Parliament to inform it of the state of his Alliances, this 
time held to his view of his prerogative, and ventured to enter into 
a private negotiation with Lewis XIV, offering in return for yet 
another subsidy to modify in his favour the peace terms demanded. 
They were accordingly presented to the Powers at Nymegen (April, 
1678), but rejected by them; and England found herself in the 
unfortunate position of standing definitely on neither side in the 

She had before her, on the other hand, the prospect of a new con- 
flict as to her foreign policy between Crown and Parliament, in which 



the latter went so far as to bid the King disband his army or break 
with France. He determined to settle the matter by promising 
Lewis XIV, in return for the consolidated subsidy, to preserve 
neutrality in case of the rejection by the Coalition of the French 
terms of peace. 

On August loth, 1678, Lewis XIV having at last signified his 
unconditional assent to the territorial arrangements demanded of 
him, the Peace of Nymegen was signed between France, Spain and 
the United Provinces. But Charles II, who was, through Temple, 
acting as Mediator at the Conference, declined to append his signature, 
or to enter into any further understanding with the Emperor and 
Spain. Thus, largely by the inaction (or double-faced action) of the 
English policy, Lewis had in the Peace obtained Franche-Comte and 
sixteen fortified places in the Spanish Netherlands, and (since no 
compromise could be mooted on this head) .kept Lorraine in his 
hands for the present. So far as English foreign policy was concerned, 
Lewis XIV replied to the congratulations of Sunderland on behalf 
of his master, and to his claim of a share in the result as due to the 
action of England, that he regarded himself no longer under any 
treaty obligation towards her. The great advance of France towards 
a complete predominance in the affairs of Europe, in which consists 
the real significance of the Treaties of Nymegen, had thus been 
effected neither against England nor through her aid. The ratification 
of the Treaties by the States- General and other Powers was long 
delayed, and (so strong was public feeling in England) Temple joined 
William of Orange in impeding it. But, in the end, the work of 
pacification was accomplished (1679); an< ^> by a series of agreements 
with which no one concerned in them was content, Europe had 
secured a breathing- time. It was within this breathing- time that 
English foreign policy at last freed itself from the duplicity which 
had beset it through the personal designs hesitating in the case of 
Charles II, but persistent in both him and his brother. A statesman 
had come to the front who viewed the course of European politics 
from an international as well as from a national point of view, yet 
who stood too near the Throne of England for his political future to 
admit of being dissociated from hers. 

The ink was hardly dry on the Nymegen Treaties when Lewis 
XIV's operations against the Empire began; and, in 1686, the Em- 
peror Leopold I, on behalf of the Empire, concluded with Spain and 
Sweden the League of Augsburg, countenanced by Pope Innocent XL 


This League forms another landmark in this age of coalitions. But 
England, notwithstanding the Orange marriage (November, 1677) 
was still out of the reckoning. Charles II, after being harassed by 
the exploitation of the Popish Plot, was even more nearly touched 
by the Exclusion Bill agitation (1679-81). His increased estrange- 
ment from Lewis XIV, after an attempt at an understanding on the 
old lines, actually led to an Anglo-Spanish Alliance (1680). While 
the tortuous diplomacy of the French King aimed at rendering the 
breach between Charles and his subjects impassable, the States- 
General (without the interference of William of Orange), urged him 
to relinquish his opposition to the Exclusion Bill. But he was en- 
couraged by the conservative reaction in Church and State of his 
last years to go his own way, trusting, in the last instance, to the 
support of Lewis XIV. As the Continental policy .of Lewis grew 
more and more aggressive, Charles gave repeated proofs of his reso- 
lution to persist in his non-intervention in European affairs, and 
turned a deaf ear to the appeal made to him to take part in the de- 
fence of Vienna against the Turk (1682). Thus, Charles II quitted 
the scene, without having changed the "system" of foreign policy 
ultimate dependence upon France and refusal to enter into a 
European combination against her to which, with the occasional 
semblance of divergences, he had adhered throughout his inglorious 

Near its close (in February, 1684) Charles II supported new pro- 
posals for peace made by Lewis XIV to the States- General, which 
were denounced by William of Orange and rejected by a majority in 
favour of continuing to aid Spain in the defence of the Spanish 
Netherlands. When, in the following August, the Truce of Ratisbon 
left France in possession for twenty years of her acquisitions (the 
so-called reunions) made up to 1681, and of Strassburg, as well as 
of Luxemburg, more recently captured, Charles II, in his desire for 
peace, promised the Imperial Ambassador to guarantee the agree- 
ment ; though Lewis XIV's intention of ultimately keeping what he 
had gained could be no secret to him. The importance of this double- 
faced course both for him and his successor is manifest. His own 
end, however, was close at hand (he died on February i6th, 1685). 
By receiving, at the last, the Sacraments of the Church of Rome, he 
had kept at least part of his bond with France. For the rest, he 
had, during the last ten years of his reign, preserved the peace of 
England, at the cost of refusing to throw such weight as she still 


possessed into the scale of the only policy by which tranquillity could 
be permanently restored to Europe. If his policy is viewed as a 
whole, it must be said to have found no other way of deferring the 
catastrophe of his dynasty, than that of depressing the English 
monarchy to the position of a vassal State. 

The event to which Lewis XIV had looked forward so hopefully 
the accession of the Catholic James II to the English Throne was 
to prove the final cause of the French ascendancy in Europe. At 
first, King James seemed not unwilling to come to an understanding 
with the Prince of Orange, and through him with the States- General. 
But the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which was judged very 
differently in different parts of the Catholic world, certainly had the 
effect of constituting the Prince, in the public eye, the representative 
of Protestant feeling against the King's Catholic sympathies and 
policy. Thus, though neither King James nor the nation paid much 
attention to the course of foreign affairs, the suspicions of an under- 
standing between him and the King of France soon spread, and 
William of Orange continued, to the best of his ability, to cement 
the defensive league of the other Powers. James IPs home policy 
blind from the point of view of the preservation of his Throne 
was, like his foreign policy, shortsighted, except on the supposition 
that he had made up his mind to follow France in any event. In 
April, 1687, he issued the fatal Declaration of Indulgence, and, in 
August of the same year, he declined the Emperor's request that he 
should guarantee the Truce of August, 1684. Yet, to make his iso- 
lation more complete, he incensed the States- General by attempting 
to recall his regiments in their service, while seeking to form a body 
of disbanded Catholic officers with the approval of Lewis XIV. The 
Dutch saw through the intrigue ; and William of Orange could thus 
lay before the States-General a plan for offensive operations against 
his father-in-law's Throne. 

Yet, while he was engaged in these manoeuvres, he had still dis- 
believed in war being made upon him by the United Provinces ; and 
had continued his course of government at home. The birth of the 
Prince of Wales (June loth, 1688) had only served to heighten the 
public distrust in the King. On the day of the acquittal of the Seven 
Bishops (June agth), the invitation to the Prince of Orange was issued, 
and the last stage in the catastrophe of the Stewart Throne began. 
From this moment till the assumption of the royal power by William 
and Mary, it is idle to speak of an English foreign policy. But though 


by his declaration to the States- General, on September Qth, 1688, the 
French Ambassador formally identified his Sovereign with the pre- 
servation of the Throne of James II, the latter declined King Lewis' 
proposal of a joint war on the part of England and France against the 
United Provinces; nor is there any reference to it in the Prince of 
Orange's famous Declaration. 


William of Orange, one of the most far-sighted of great statesmen, 
had, so far back as 1686, taken counsel with a contemporary Prince 
who, in this respect, most resembled him, the Elector Frederick 
William of Brandenburg (already the leading State of Protestant 
Germany), as to an invasion of England. In 1688, William had sent 
word to the Great Elector that the moment had come ; but Frederick 
William died in 1688, before the sailing of the expedition. His suc- 
cessor (afterwards King Frederick I in Prussia) undertook to cover 
the United Provinces on its departure; his brother-in-law, Land- 
grave Charles of Hesse-Cassel, followed suit; and, soon afterwards, 
the Liineburg Dukes (Duke Ernest Augustus only indirectly) took 
part in the enterprise. Prince George Frederick of Waldeck, whose 
masterly diplomacy had been invaluable to William of Orange in 
preparing the great stroke, was named by him his vicegerent in the 
Stadholderate during his absence. 

The object of William's invasion was the object of his life the 
preservation of the independence of the United Provinces, which, as 
their Stadholder only, and in uncertain relations with England, it 
had been beyond his power to guard effectively, but which, when in 
assured control of both countries, he felt confident of securing. The 
final warrant of success in the accomplishment of his life's task would 
be the formation of the Grand Alliance against France, at which 
William had long been aiming, and which was now consummated in 
fact (though in name not till near the close of his reign). The Declara- 
tion of War by England against France was the work of William ; for 
Lewis XIV, even after James II and his consort had found a refuge 
with him, preferred to avoid open war; and William's opportunity 
was the landing of James, with French support, in Ireland (April, 
1689). The Treaty of Offensive and Defensive Alliance between the 
Emperor and the Dutch Republic was concluded (May), after King 
William had announced to the Emperor his accession to the English 


Throne, and had declared his readiness to adhere to all the Treaties 
of Alliance in existence between the United Provinces and the Em- 
pire. Its object was stated to be the reestablishment of the Pacifica- 
tions of Westphalia and of the Pyrenees i.e. the retrocession by 
France of all her subsequent territorial acquisitions. In a Secret 
Article, the Contracting Powers eventually promised their armed 
support of the Imperial claims for the whole of the Spanish inheri- 
tance. The Treaty, also, provided for the adhesion to it of England. 
Though Spain, Duke Victor Amadeus of Savoy, and the Princes of 
the Empire afterwards joined the Alliance, they neither signed the 
Treaty nor, so far as we know, were aware of this Secret Article. In- 
asmuch, however, as it provided for the mutual support of those who 
joined in it against the Crown of France and its adherents, it implied 
a guarantee of the existing tenure of the English Throne. In a word, 
the Alliance of 1689 amounted to an anticipation of the Grand Alli- 
ance of 1701-2, and was by no means a mere repetition of the League 
of Augsburg of i686/The critical importance of the 1689 Alliance in 
the history of European politics can, therefore, hardly be exaggerated 1 . 
When (on September 9th) King William, without submitting the 
Treaty of Alliance of May i2th to Parliament, without even re- 
quiring the signature of it by any Minister of State, signed his own 
Act of Adhesion to it, he, in effect, guaranteed the restoration and 
the preservation of the Peace of Europe, and once more placed England 
in the forefront of those who barred the way to the assailant Power. 

Although, in the ensuing conflicts, Lewis XIV kept no ally stedfast 
to the end but the Ottoman Turk, and although the only member of 
the League whom, quite at the last (1696), he succeeded in buying off 
was Savoy, the Peace of Ryswyk (1697) could not be regarded with 
satisfaction by his leagued adversaries. Yet, although, by this Peace, 
he lost nothing that he had held at the time of the commencement 
of the struggle organised against him by William, the French advance 
had at that point been decisively arrested, and the recognition by 
Lewis XIV at Ryswyk of William's tenure of the English Throne 
proved which Power had taken the lead among those opposed to the 
* Grand Monarch's ' aggression. 

In the actual Ryswyk negotiations, no reference had been made 
to any secret undertaking as to the eventual treatment of the Spanish 

1 Nor must the fact, though incidental only, be overlooked, that it finally 
abandoned the recognition of difference of religious confession as a determining 
element in international agreements; albeit appeal continued, from time to time, to 
be made on the one side or the other to confessional sympathies and antipathies. 


inheritance. But Lewis XIV though historians differ as to whether 
he then had any serious design of adhering to the compact had, so 
far back as January, 1668, concluded an actual Treaty of Partition 
of the Spanish monarchy with the Emperor. Thus, the idea of a 
Partition was no novelty; it could hardly fail to come to the front 
in a period of European politics during which neither side was pre- 
pared to contemplate the appropriation of the whole inheritance by 
a single claimant; and it became a question of practical politics, so 
soon as King William's statesmanship addressed itself to this solu- 
tion. He had to use great caution, for he knew how slow English 
politicians are in "taking up" questions of the future, more especi- 
ally in the field of foreign policy; and he was, also, aware that public 
opinion in his English kingdom was far less interested in the em- 
ployment of its forces in foreign offensive warfare than in the reduc- 
tion of the standing army at home. To William III, the idea of a 
partition of the Spanish monarchy, i.e. of an arrangement whereby, 
on the extinction of the Spanish Habsburgs in the male line, the 
distribution of their inheritance should not unsettle the Balance of 
Power in Europe, and above all not unsettle it in favour of France, 
was of the essence of the result to be aimed at. To Lewis XIV, it 
was nothing but a pis oiler solution, when he found it impossible, at 
an earlier or later date, to secure the whole inheritance for France. 
The logical position, in view of the result contemplated by Lewis, 
was that of William ; but the policy which reckoned with arguments 
coming home to national feeling, and which, considering the possi- 
bility of unexpected incidents, had time on its side, was that of his 
adversary. This judgment seems borne out by the actual sequence 
of events, here only noticed in so far as they concern the history of 
English foreign policy in particular. 

What is usually called the First Partition Treaty the first, i.e. 
of which William III shared the responsibility was concluded by 
him with Lewis XIV in 1698. By it, the bulk of the Spanish in- 
heritance viz. Spain, the Spanish Netherlands, and the West Indies 
was, on the death of Charles II, to fall to his great-grand-nephew, 
the Electoral Prince Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria; but the Two 
Sicilies, with Guipuscoa, were to pass to the Dauphin Lewis of France, 
and the Milanese to the Archduke Charles, son of the Emperor 
Leopold by his third wife. This arrangement, though seeming to go 
some way towards meeting the principle of the Balance of Power, 
was, as a matter of fact, more in the French than in the Austrian 


interest, and would hardly have been favoured by William III, but 
for the critical condition of his own affairs at home. It was, how- 
ever, frustrated by the death of the Electoral Prince in January, 1699 ; 
and, about a year later, a second scheme was devised by Lewis and 
William, in which the Austrian claims were necessarily treated after 
a different fashion, but still so as to indicate the desire of Lewis to 
show regard for the principle of European policy upheld by William 
III. The Archduke Charles was now to receive Spain, while the 
Netherlands and all the Spanish Colonies, together with the Two 
Sicilies and the Milanese (to be ultimately exchanged for Lorraine) 
were to be the share of France not perhaps the lion's share, but 
something not altogether unlike it. The scheme was rejected by the 
Emperor from what motives, it is not quite easy to decide and 
was profoundly unpopular in Spain, where the indivisibility of the 
monarchy had become an article of popular faith. The ambition of 
Lewis XIV, hereupon, throwing over any further consideration of 
schemes of partition, exercised all possible pressure in the French 
interest on the Spanish Sovereign, now near the close of his days. 
He died (in November, 1700), shortly after signing a will, in which, 
in accordance with Spanish sentiment and with the approval of Rome, 
he left the whole Spanish monarchy to Philip Duke of Anjou, the 
second grandson of Lewis XIV. As such, he would not, in the 
ordinary course of events, succeed to the Throne of France ; should 
he, however, come to stand next in the French Succession, and accept 
that position, the Spanish monarchy was to pass to his younger 
brother, the Duke of Berry. To this testamentary disposition the 
King of France agreed in the teeth of the certain opposition of the 
House of Austria ; and there could be no doubt as to the action with 
regard to it of England and of the United Provinces so long as 
they were under the joint guidance of William III. 

Although religious motives cooperated, it had been the com- 
mercial interests of his country which had induced Oliver Cromwell 
to challenge the still unrelinquished claims of Spain to oceanic rule. 
Still more definite was the conviction of the King-Stadholder that 
England and the United Netherlands were alike menaced in the very 
foundations of their future prosperity by the prospect of the Power of 
Spain falling under the control of that of France. The fact that French 
aggressive ambition was now rising to its height had led William III 
to adopt irrevocably the policy carried on by him consistently since 
the Alliance of 1689. It had entered into no new phase when the 


Spanish Succession question came to the front. Public opinion in 
England had cared little for the Partition schemes, and might, as 
time went on, have rested content with a provision for the perpetual 
separation of the French and Spanish Crowns; and in Amsterdam 
the funds rose on Philip of Anjou's acceptance of Charles IPs in- 
heritance. But William's statesmanship was not to be checkmated 
in the midst of the game; and the action of Lewis XIV speedily 
justified the attitude maintained by him and Grand-pensionary 
Heinsius. While formally reserving the French rights of the Duke 
of Anjou, Lewis XIV ordered his troops to lay hands on the Barrier 
Towns and (1701) promised to the dying James II to recognise his 
son as his successor. 

The Emperor Leopold I, after at once protesting against the 
Will, entered into negotiations with William III, and began war in 
Italy on his own account in the summer of 1701. Early in the same 
year, an Alliance was contracted with Denmark. And, though the 
Empire did not formally declare war until a year later, the Coalition 
of 1689, of the direction of whose operations the lead was from the 
first assumed by England and the United Provinces, was renewed 
on September 7th, 1701. The limits to which the stipulations of this 
Treaty, the Grand Alliance Treaty proper, were restricted should be 
carefully noticed, if the policy of William III is to be rightly judged. 
It did not, like the Secret Article of the Treaty of 1689, insist on 
the right of the Austrian claimant to the whole Spanish inheritance ; 
it merely demanded for him, as a due satisfaction, the Spanish pos- 
sessions in Italy. On the other hand, while France was in no cir- 
cumstances to acquire any Spanish Colonies in America, the question 
of the addition of any of these to the English or Dutch Colonies was 
left to depend on the course of the War. No express reference was 
made to the future occupancy of the Spanish Throne; except that 
France and Spain were never to be under the same Sovereign. A 
clause was added to the effect that no peace should be concluded by 
the parties to the Alliance, till England had received satisfaction for 
the insulting recognition of the Stewart Pretender by the King of 
France. These conditions, to a large extent, coincide with those 
afterwards at the end of the great War of the Spanish Succession 
secured at the Peace of Utrecht. Thus, the statesmanship responsible 
for engaging England and the United Provinces in the great struggle 
was essentially of a piece with that of the Ministers who brought it 
to a conclusion. The "War of the Spanish Succession" was fought 


by the Maritime Powers, and by England in particular, for ends 
with which the actual satisfaction of the claims to that Succession 
was only in so far concerned, that France was to be prevented from 
succeeding to the Spanish dominions in the Netherlands, and be- 
coming the leading Mediterranean, and a great Colonial, Power. 
These latter were the interests ultimately at stake, and through its 
care for them the policy of William III itself takes its place within 
the general course of British foreign policy. 

The accession of Queen Anne was, in itself, favourable to the 
prospects of a War on the issues of which the whole foreign policy 
of her reign concentrated itself. The national support indispensable 
for its victorious prosecution was assured by her having inherited 
an ancestral Throne, and being both an Englishwoman by birth and 
(as now required by law) a Protestant. On the Act of Settlement 
(1701) rested, also, the nation's assurance against being involved with- 
out the consent of Parliament in any war on behalf of its sovereign's 
foreign possessions from which it desired to keep aloof. Thus, the 
conservatism of the nation rallied round her, and made legislation 
possible under her which her predecessor had in vain sought to bring 
about. It included the Act of Union with Scotland (1707), which, 
though it did not put an end to Jacobitism, was essential to the 
future of Great Britain as a European Power. And, at the very time 
when our national political life was definitively adopting the system 
of party government, a practical conjunction between the more 
moderate men of both the parties in the State enabled the Queen's 
Government, for a number of years, to carry on with extraordinary 
success the War actually in progress. 

A great war, extending over several years, almost inevitably be- 
comes an evolutionary process, testing, at each successive stage of it, 
the statesmanship which directs its course. The primary purpose of 
England and the United Provinces when, in 1701, setting on foot 
the Alliance, in which they had been successively joined by Denmark 
(1701), the Emperor (1701), the Empire (1702), Portugal (1703) and 
Savoy (1703), had been, as was seen, to prevent the union at any 
time of the French and Spanish monarchies, or the transfer of the 
kingdom of Spain itself, to the reigning House of France, without 
providing any suitable compensation for the House of Austria. In 
other words, the maintenance of Balance of Power had been the pri- 
mary object of the last great achievement of William Ill's foreign 
policy. But, so early as 1703, the Emperor Leopold I renounced 


with great solemnity his claims, and those of his elder son Joseph, to 
the Spanish inheritance, declaring that they scrupled to unite it with 
the hereditary dominions of their own line. The attempt, however, 
of the English Government, about the same time, to supplement the 
Grand Alliance Treaty by a declaration that no part of the Spanish 
monarchy should at any time come under the rule of any member of 
the House of Bourbon, failed, because of a difference on another point. 
Soon afterwards (1704), the Austrian claimant himself appeared on 
the scene, where he called himself Charles III ; but his progress was 
slow, though Gibraltar was soon taken by an English fleet. On the 
other hand, Marlborough 's great victory of Blenheim, in the same 
year, ended a long period of unbroken French military ascendancy ; 
and in 1705, though the English Government, on good terms with 
Marlborough and Godolphin, was vigorously prosecuting the War, 
the idea of Peace was mooted. In August, 1706, Lewis XIV made his 
first serious overtures to the States- General, offering them a good 
Barrier and suggesting the recognition of Archduke Charles' tenure 
of Spain proper, if he would agree to Philip's sovereignty over all her 
Italian dominions. But Heinsius ascertained from Marlborough that 
the English Government would not now listen to the thought of a 
Partition, and that, if desirous of a satisfactory Barrier, the Dutch 
must act with the rest of the Allies. On the other hand, the party 
now in entire control of British foreign policy, in December, 1707, 
passed in the House of Lords an (amended) resolution, that no Peace 
would be honourable or safe that allowed the House of Bourbon to 
retain possession of any part of the Spanish monarchy 1 . Thus in 1709 
after Oudenarde (1708), Lewis felt forced to assent to the peace 
terms of the Allies, so far as the surrender of the entire Spanish 
monarchy ; but he could not bring himself to give the required pro- 
mise of joining hands with the Allies, should it prove necessary, in 
enforcing their demand upon his grandson. It is, assuredly, to the 
credit of Marlborough 's good sense, that he regarded this condition 
as unreasonable ; but he allowed himself to be overruled by Heinsius 

1 Though they form a curious chapter in the history of our foreign policy in 
this period, it must suffice merely to refer to two among the diplomatic efforts 
made on both sides to extend the range of the War, so as to include Northern 
Europe in its complications. Marlborough was not successful in moving King 
Frederick I in Prussia out of his neutrality; but (at Altranstadt, in 1708) he per- 
suaded Charles XII of Sweden to abandon the idea of entering, with the aid of 
France, on the task of liberator of Protestant Germany, which had of old been 
taken upon himself by Gustavus Adolphus. (The Pretender's attempt, in the 
same year, at invading Scotland with a French force broke down.) 

4 6 


and Prince Eugene; and, in the absence of any other guarantee of 
the Peace satisfactory to the Allies, the negotiations broke down. 
After Malplaquet (fought in September, 1709), they recommenced 
(March, 1710), at Gertruydenberg, between the States- General and 
France, Great Britain and the Emperor alike at first taking no part 
in them. But, when he did so, it was as adhering to the refusal of 
any cession to France (that of Sicily was, also, opposed by Savoy). 
Thus, though Lewis XIV actually declared himself ready to pay a 
subsidy towards the execution of coercive measures against his 
grandson, the Conferences of Gertruydenberg ended, under French 
protest, in July, 1710. Inasmuch as there can be little doubt 
that Marlborough and Townshend (our Ambassador at the Hague), 
shared the wish of the Dutch to go back to the policy of a Partition 
of the Spanish inheritance to the policy, in other words, with which 
the War had been begun by this country the failure of the Con- 
ferences casts a shadow on the part played in these transactions by 
Great Britain. With the aid of the Dutch, with whom it had concluded 
the First Barrier Treaty (1709), thereby securing them the protected 
frontier they desired, the British Government could probably have 
succeeded in moderating the policy of the Allies, and of the Em- 
peror in particular. The chief responsibility for the failure, therefore, 
must lie with Marlborough and Godolphin. Aware of their imminent 
political downfall, they shrank from the responsibility of bringing 
about a peace unacceptable to their party at home, and to the Allies 
abroad, with whom they had so successfully cooperated in the prose- 
cution of the War. 

Be this as it may, before the end of 1710, Archduke Charles 
(Charles III) had lost his hold over any part of Spain except Cata- 
lonia; and, even before the news reached England, Harley and 
St John, without communicating with any of the Allies, opened secret 
negotiations with Lewis XIV, on the lines of the retention of Spain 
by King Philip V. On the main theatre of the War, no important 
change had taken place ; but the prospect of its continued vigorous 
conduct had been gravely affected by the change of Ministry in Eng- 
land, when a new element was introduced into the European situation 
at large by the death of the Emperor Joseph I (April i7th, 1711). 
The titular King Charles III of Spain had now become ruler of the 
whole of the dominions of the House of Austria. Should the entire 
Spanish monarchy be secured to him, the Balance of Power would 
be permanently unsettled by the union of all the possessions of the 


Emperor Charles V in the hands of his descendant and namesake. 
It is the great merit of the English Tory Government, of Harley 
(Oxford) and St John (Bolingbroke) the Lord Treasurer and the 
Secretary of State and of the latter in particular to have per- 
ceived at once, that the future of Europe must be protected against 
the new danger, as it had been from that of the union of France and 
Spain. Thus, Bolingbroke's name is, more than that of any other man, 
identified with the policy resulting in the Treaties which we call by 
the collective name of the Peace of Utrecht, and of which, whatever 
exceptions he may afterwards have taken to some of their provisions, 
he is known to have prided himself on being the real author. On 
this international settlement the Peace of Europe, for more than a 
generation shall we say from 1714 to 1746? virtually hinged; and, 
though within this period there are to be noted several Wars and several 
Congresses or Conferences by which they were successively brought 
to a conclusion these led to no important unsettlement or resettle- 
ment of the Utrecht Treaties 1 . Thus, the Utrecht pacification, more 
especially, sufficed to put a stop to the aggressive policy favoured by 
France during nearly the whole of the reign of Lewis XIV and not 
resumed by her, at least with any measure of consistency, till the 
Revolutionary War. It will hardly be asserted, per contra, that the 
Peace of Europe would have been more effectually secured by a 
Treaty or Treaties securing to the House of Austria the full fruits 
expected from the victories of Eugene and Marlborough, and that, 
in this case, the " gratitude" of that House would have been itself 
more notable in the long run than was its wont. And a candid review 
of the processes for preventing a possible future union between the 
French and the Spanish Crowns which, in the eyes of the British 
Government at all events, formed the nodus pads, will hardly con- 
demn the conclusion reached as lame and impotent. Philip of Anjou 
solemnly renounced his eventual rights to the French Throne (No- 
vember, 1712); and this renunciation was supplemented by those of 
the Dukes of Berry and Orleans of their contingent rights to the 
Spanish, which were confirmed by the Cortes and assented to by 
Lewis XIV (in the form of an Amendment of the Reservation of 
December, 1700). No doubt, it was the unexpected survival of the 
Prince afterwards crowned as Lewis XV which actually prevented 
the agreement from coming into operation; and no doubt, at one 

1 The most notable exception, with which we have no direct concern here, was 
the complicated (so-called Third) Treaty of Vienna (1738). 


time, Lewis XIV had himself regarded such an event as undesirable 
in the interests of France, so that Bolingbroke had accordingly been 
induced to revive an alternative plan (in favour of Savoy). But, in 
itself, the policy ultimately approved and accepted by Great Britain 
was, in the circumstances, definite and moderate, as well as consistent 
with the principles to vindicate which she had entered into the 

We must, however, pass from the special question of the Spanish 
Succession to the general results of the War to which it gave its 
historic name, as affecting the political future of the world, and of 
Great Britain in particular. France came forth from the struggle, no 
longer the arbitress of the destinies of Europe exhausted, though 
(as in later periods of seeming decline in her national life) not beyond 
recovery; but more closely connected than before with Spain, though 
not by a personal or institutional union. Spain herself was sinking 
into a European Power of the secondary order, though by no means 
without hopes of a partial recovery of her former external (Italian) 
possessions, as well as of a beneficial change in her administrative 
system. To the Empire, France would have to yield up some, but 
not all, of her spoils when the Emperor concluded his own Peace, 
which he preferred to postpone, and by which he would be left in 
possession of the now "Austrian" Netherlands the least-desired by 
him of his reextended dominions (Sicily falling to Savoy). The 
United Provinces, who had played their game with characteristic 
persistency, by the so-called Third Barrier Treaty in 1715 negotiated 
with the Imperial Government, and guaranteed by Great Britain, 
finally entered into possession of the full military security which had 
been their primary object in declaring and carrying on the War. 
Necessarily, their influence in the counsels of the Allies had sunk, 
in consequence of the change of Sovereign in England, and afterwards 
through the collapse of the Whig Government; but though they, 
afterwards, to some extent, recovered this influence, the time had 
passed for them to play a leading part in European politics; for, 
while their merchantmen still outnumbered those of any other 
country, they were certainly falling behind as a Naval Power. 

The inheritance of Charles II of Spain had included a Colonial 
dominion far more extensive than that which had, before the date of 
his decease, been acquired by the Dutch in India and by the English 
in the New World. Had France, unlimited as her aspirations were 
in this period, been allowed to annex this domain with the rest of the 


Spanish possessions, and to consolidate it with her own Colonial 
settlements, she might have laid the foundations of an empire far 
exceeding, in extent, that afterwards under the sway of Napoleon. 
In this regard, the Treaty of the Grand Alliance (1702) had provided 
that France should never be allowed to take possession of the West 
Indies, or to enjoy any rights of commerce and navigation not granted 
in precisely the same measure to Great Britain and the United 
Provinces. In the Utrecht Treaty with Great Britain, the King 
of France undertook, in even more comprehensive terms, never to 
accept, in favour of his own subjects, any advantage in the 
way of trade or navigation with regard to Spain or her American 
Colonies which should not also be conceded to subjects of other 

As for specifically British questions, we remember how, before 
the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession, British popular 
feeling had indignantly resented the French autocrat's arrogant inter- 
ference in the matter of the Succession to the Throne of these Islands. 
Thus it was significant as well as appropriate that the earliest article 
in the Anglo-French Treaty concluded at Utrecht should concern 
the difficult and delicate subject of this Succession. Much intrigue, 
more or less secret, in which " persons near the Queen" may or may 
not have had a hand, and of which the object no doubt was to di- 
minish the responsibility of Lewis XIV for the observance of the 
undertaking which he was about to accept, had preceded its inclusion 
in the Treaty. France recognised the order of Succession established 
by the Act of Settlement (1701) in favour of the issue of Queen Anne, 
or, in default of such, of the House of Hanover. At the same time, 
King Lewis XIV promised that the son of King James II ("the Old 
Pretender ") should not at any time return within the realm of France, 
whence he had "voluntarily" taken his departure. 

Among the territorial acquisitions accruing to Great Britain from 
the Peace of Utrecht a significance of its own attached to the so-called 
" Dunkirk Clause " ; for the control of the Narrow Seas had long been 
treated as a cardinal principle of English foreign policy. After Dun- 
kirk had been taken from Spain in 1658 by France and England, and 
placed in the hands of the latter Power, the sale of it to France in 
1662 had aroused great resentment against Charles IPs Government 
and more especially against Clarendon ; and additions to the fortifica- 
tions had, beyond doubt, made it a serious menace to the English 
command of the Narrow Seas. In the Treaty of Utrecht, it was 

W.&G.I. 4 


stipulated that the King of France should, at his own cost, in per- 
petuum, rase the fortifications of Dunkirk, and fill up its harbour 
within six months. Lewis XIV subsequently showed a palpable 
want of good faith in his manipulation of this clause, and great agi- 
tation was provoked in England by the construction at Mardyke of 
a harbour connected with Dunkirk by a canal and intended to be of 
greater depth than the previous Dunkirk harbour. The Mardyke 
works had to be suspended, and finally when, under the Regency, 
amicable relations obtained between the two Governments, the 
dimensions of the scheme were so reduced as to render it harmless 
(1717). The " Dunkirk Clause" continued to be regarded by British 
Governments as a security in need of careful watching, and the 
question of its observance caused trouble both in 1719 and later 1 . 
The clause reappears in the chief European Treaties till the 
Peace of Paris in 1783, when its abolition was, at last, obtained by 

Of far greater importance were the British acquisitions from 
France secured at Utrecht, although, from the nature of the case, 
this fact could only gradually come to be understood, more especially 
by the very Power about to enter on a half century's struggle for the 
preservation of her overseas dominion. After the temporary over- 
throw of French sovereignty in North America, the whole of the 
former province of Acadia was, in the Peace of St Germain (1632), 
restored to the French Crown, and the long contest between English 
and French enterprise (in Newfoundland and elsewhere) seemed to 
have come to an end. In the latter half of the seventeenth century, 
the Colonial ambition of France took a wider flight than it had pre- 
viously pursued, and she claimed, as her Colonial empire, the whole 
region from the mouth of the Mississippi to the Great Lakes and the 
St Lawrence. To this vast dominion was attached the familiar name 
of New France, though it was administered in full accordance with 
the political and ecclesiastical principles of the old country. 

It was, therefore, a notable step towards a transformation of the 
Colonial relations between the two Powers, when, in the Peace of 
Utrecht, Acadia (once more renamed Nova Scotia) was again trans- 
ferred to Great Britain. In a separate article of the Peace, France 
added the cession of Newfoundland and the adjacent islands (except 
Cape Breton and one or two others, which remained French and were 

1 See W. Michael, vol. n. pp. 236-9. In 1720, an English engineer was residing 
at Dunkirk to invigilate. 


left in possession of certain rights of fishery 1 ). At the same time, 
Great Britain's possession was recognised of the whole island of 
St Christopher's (St Kitt's), where the Peace of Ryswyk had restored 
a bipartite occupation with France. 

On the same day as the Utrecht Treaty of Peace between Great 
Britain and France was signed a Treaty of Navigation and Commerce 
between the two Powers which (besides placing them eventually on 
the footing of the most favoured nation) seemed to promise a more 
momentous change than actually ensued in a most important sphere 
of international maritime law 2 . Inasmuch as a Treaty of the same 
purport was signed a few weeks later, between France and the States- 
General, these agreements would have greatly benefitted maritime 
(neutral) commerce, had they but been duly observed. Such, how- 
ever, in spirit, at least, was not the case, certainly not on the part of 
Great Britain, who concluded no similar compact at Utrecht with 
any Power besides France, and the principle of the Anglo-French 
agreement had to await revival, half a century later, when the aspect 
of things had altogether changed. 

The Peace between Great Britain and Spain, though not con- 
cluded till July 1 3th, 1713, formed an integral part of the resettle- 
ment of the relations between the Western Powers of Europe. Hence 
it is in this, quasi-supplementary, Treaty that is to be found the 
earliest mention of the fundamental provisions for the prevention of a 
future union on the same head of the Spanish and the French Crowns ; 
while, in further Articles, the King of Spain agrees to the prohibition 
of the transfer to France or any other Power by Spain of any land or 

1 By the exercise of these rights, the French fishermen were enabled to carry 
on their trade on a large scale, so much so that, at the time of the Peace of Aix- 
la-Chapelle, it greatly exceeded the British. Hence the long-lived fishery disputes, 
which continued to be a source of mutual vexation, until the Peace of 1763 excluded 
the French altogether from the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Newfoundland waters ; 
and even this proved no permanent settlement. 

2 In 1 68 1, when the French navy had risen to a condition of unprecedented 
strength, and the pride of Lewis XIV as its head to a corresponding height of arro- 
gance, a royal ordinance had declared any vessel a fair prize in which should be 
found goods belonging to enemies of France. This ordinance directly controverted 
the principle of "free ship, free goods," which was so prized by the Dutch, and 
which had been acknowledged by this country in several Treaties including that 
with France of 1655, as well as by France herself in her Treaty with the Dutch of 
1646. To the practice which, accordingly, prevailed during the following period 
(including that of the War of the Spanish Succession), the Utrecht Treaty opposed, 
so far as Great Britain and France were concerned, the provision that all goods 
(except contraband of war) should be held, even in the case of a vessel proceeding 
to a port belonging to a belligerent, to be covered by the flag of the (neutral) State 
to which such vessels belonged. 

4 2 


lordship owned by her in America. (He, also, expressly approves the 
Succession in Great Britain as settled by Act of Parliament.) 

Among the remaining articles in the Anglo- Spanish Treaty stands 
forth that which confirmed the cession by Spain to Great Britain of 
the town, citadel and port of Gibraltar. Of this famous possession 
the retention or abandonment was at different times in the history 
of our foreign policy differently viewed by successive Governments, 
but never in more than one way by public opinion in this country. 
In Spain, the loss and humiliation suffered by the capture (almost 
accidental) of the Lion's Rock in 1704, led to the investment of 
Gibraltar, in the following winter, by a strong Spanish force, and 
then by a French under Marshal de Tesse. But the resistance was 
successful, and the British hold on the fortress was confirmed by the 
Peace of Utrecht, on condition that, should the British Government 
ever propose to sell or otherwise alienate Gibraltar, the Spanish 
should always have the first refusal of it. By another article of the 
same Treaty, Spain ceded Minorca, which had been taken from her 
by British arms in 1708. But this island, though at first more highly 
prized, from a naval point of view, than Gibraltar, was not destined 
to hold the same continuous place among British conquests. In the 
meantime, while the simultaneous possession of Minorca and Gib- 
raltar satisfactorily secured the future of British trade with the Levant, 
where the French were by far the most dangerous competitors, to 
Spain, in the words of Philip V, a British Gibraltar was "a thorn in the 
flesh" ; and the question of its removal could not be a transient one 1 . 

1 See, for an account of the attempts made in this direction, Michael, vol. II. 
part I. pp. 257-82. As the peaceable return of Gibraltar to Spain was not likely to 
be made without a quid pro quo (besides the saving of expense), it seems explicable 
why (apart from any personal reason) the thought for a time commended itself to 
the statesmanship of Stanhope if it did not originate with George I himself. 
Leaving aside the questionable story of Louville's secret mission, we cannot doubt 
that in 1717, when Stanhope was seeking to obtain the adhesion of Spain to this 
European Alliance, he secretly communicated the idea to Dubois, and that he 
returned to it in 1719-20, before he had definitively convinced himself of the re- 
ception with which it would meet in Parliament. He then resolved to identify 
himself with what he had recognised to be an irresistible current of public opinion, 
and made the position clear to the Regent Orleans (who was still inclined to 
harp on the idea of the cession), through the new French Ambassador Senne- 
terre, and was encouraged, naturally enough, by the Imperial Resident Hoffmann 
in his new attitude of non possumus. There was no question of the suggestion being 
discussed at the expected Congress; and as for public opinion in England, any 
return to the policy of a cession would have been utterly scouted. No reference 
need be made here to Richard Cumberland's futile secret mission to Spain in 1780, 
when he was instructed to abstain from any mention of the idea of a cession, though 
the question was, notwithstanding, the real crux in the endeavour to bring about a 
separate Peace between Great Britain and Spain. After the failure of the great siege, 


No further provisions or omissions in the Anglo- Spanish Treaty need 
be dwelt upon in the present connexion. The Article securing to 
Great Britain (through the South Sea Company) the Asiento mono- 
poly formerly enjoyed by France, and henceforth by her chief rival 
till she and Spain were once more at war, belongs to a happily 
transient phase of international trade relations ; the British abandon- 
ment of the Catalans, whom under cover of an amnesty by King 
Philip the Utrecht settlement left to their fate, was a breach of good 
faith over which a veil must be cast. 

Manifestly, the chief shortcoming of the Utrecht Treaties as se- 
curities of the Peace of Europe lay in the fact that they had been con- 
cluded without the Emperor Charles VI, on behalf and in conjunction 
with whose House the great War had been waged. Perhaps, had the 
campaign of Prince Eugene in 1712, continued by him after the 
Franco- British Armistice, not proved a failure, the Emperor might 
have, from the outset, refused to take any part in the Conferences. 
As it was, they duly opened in the presence of an Imperial Pleni- 
potentiary (Count Sinzendorf); but the capture of Denain further 
increased the confidence of the French negotiators ; and the interests 
of the Empire, notwithstanding the visit of Prince Eugene to London, 
became (as in some measure did the claims of the United Provinces) 
a matter of relative indifference to British statesmanship. On the 
evening of the very day of the signature of the Peace between France 
and Great Britain, the British Plenipotentiaries, the Earl of Strafford and 
the Bishop of Bristol (Robinson) handed to their Imperial colleagues 
the final offer of Lewis XIV, which proposed the Peace of Ryswyk as 
the basis of the present Treaty, and the Rhine as the frontier-line be- 
tween France and the Germanic Empire. These terms differed widely 
from what France might have proposed a very short time earlier; 
but, though British diplomacy contrived to bring about a few further 
conferences between the Imperial and the French Plenipotentiaries, 
by May, 1713, Sinzendorf and his colleague had quitted Utrecht. 
The bitterness of feeling which ensued might be illustrated from the 
party pamphlets published on both sides; but the Imperialist in- 
vective against the servile submissiveness of British public opinion 

the Peace of Versailles (1783), otherwise not unfavourable to the latter Power, left 
her face to face with an apparently unredeemable loss. Later proposals for making it 
good have been hardly more than speculation. Minorca was recaptured by the 
French in 1756, but restored to Great Britain in the Peace of Paris (1763). The 
island was again subjected to recapture and recovery, before, at Amiens (1802), it 
was definitively given up by Great Britain, to whom, in view of her continued 
occupation of Malta, it had come to be of secondary importance. 


to the wishes of the Crown missed fire. Continental statesmanship 
had been taught a lesson which it might, to its own advantage, have 
more readily rememberedthat British foreign policy was not, as a 
matter of course, under the imperative control either of established 
historical tradition or of supposed commercial interests. 

When, however, before long, the Emperor Charles VI, finding 
himself hemmed in by successive calamities, began to go back upon 
his unwillingness to fall in with the British policy, British diplomacy 
brought about the communications between the French and Imperial 
Commanders-in- Chief which led to the opening of Peace Confer- 
ences at Rastatt (November, 1713). The Peace of Baden (September, 
1714), which finally wound up these negotiations, was concluded 
without the mediation of either Great Britain or Spain being accepted 
by France or the Emperor, whose frontiers were settled on a plan of 
mutual compromise, while the Spanish Netherlands were now de- 
finitively acknowledged to be a possession of the House of Austria. 
British interests had no direct concern with this Peace. On the other 
hand, they were not unaffected by the Supplementary Pacifications 
concluded at Utrecht, in February, 1715, between Portugal and Spain. 
This Treaty had been long delayed by the unextinguishable hatred 
between the two neighbouring peoples, and, also, by the hopes of 
the Portuguese for better terms than Spain was willing to allow to 
them in requital of their faithful adherence to the Grand Alliance 
throughout the War (which the diplomatic skill of Sir Paul Methuen 
had induced them to join so early as 1703). Portugal, whose Alliance 
with England was but an extension of relations which had now lasted 
for half a century, had, apart from the subsidies paid to her during 
the War, owed much to this Alliance; in return, she had incurred 
considerable losses in its course, including the French capture of 
Rio, with much booty. Yet, as a matter of fact, she was in the Peace 
negotiations left very much to her own efforts, till, at a later stage of 
the negotiations, Great Britain's leverage was with some effect ap- 
plied on behalf of her faithful Ally. 

Finally, some reference must be made to the " Barrier Treaties," 
concluded in this period by the Power our Alliance with whom may 
be described as a fundamental part of our whole policy in the War 
and the Peace. Nature had done less than nothing for the Low Coun- 
tries in the way of Barrier; and the French invasion of 1672, which, 
but for the opening of the dykes, might have swept over Holland 
itself, was only stayed by the patriotic efforts of William of Orange, 


assisted in the following year by Spanish and Imperial troops. The 
clause in the Grand Alliance Treaty giving the United Provinces 
assurance of a Barrier against France, without naming the places 
which should constitute it, had, therefore, led to protracted discus- 
sions between the States-General and the Court of Vienna; and, 
when the latter became aware of the possibility of offers of a separate 
peace being made by France to the States, Sinzendorf was sent to 
the Hague (1706) to open negotiations, under the mediation of Marl- 
borough, on the subject of a Barrier Treaty. The Austrian point of 
view was that, if the Spanish Netherlands were definitively secured 
to the Austrian claimant, there was no necessity for a Barrier at all; 
while the Dutch had prepared a list of towns that were to form it, 
including Ostend, and at first even Antwerp. At this point, British 
interests came into play. A war between Great Britain and the 
United Netherlands could, as recent history showed, not be regarded 
as absolutely impossible ; how then, with such an event in view, could 
these places be permanently committed to Dutch custody? When, 
however, the peace negotiations of 1709 broke down, and cordial 
cooperation between the British and Dutch Governments became 
once more imperative, negotiations on the Barrier question were re- 
newed between the two Powers. In these Austria, though one of the 
Powers primarily interested, took no part; and the result was the 
First Barrier Treaty (1709), signed by Townshend. The British 
Government undertook to secure for the Dutch the right of garrisoning, 
at their own cost, nine strong places in the Spanish Netherlands, with 
two others if retaken from the enemy. This Barrier Treaty amounted, 
in point of fact, to a renewal, on conditions more favourable to the 
United Provinces, of the Offensive and Defensive Alliance between 
them and Great Britain. It was, accordingly, decried with much 
vehemence by the Tory party, soon to return to political power in 
England, where much jealousy and animosity against the Dutch still 
survived and were augmented by what seemed an undue morigeration 
to Dutch interests, so that, in the agitated period of British public life 
that followed, the First Barrier Treaty acted as a constant irritant. 
The Dutch, on their side, had little gratitude to spare for British 
promises; and when, in 1711, Marlborough was dismissed from his 
offices, the States-General, instead of entrusting the command of 
their troops to his successor, the Duke of Ormond, made it over to 
the Commander-in- Chief of the Imperial forces, Prince Eugene. 
Hereupon, in the course of the peace negotiations of 1711 and 


1712, in accordance with the general course of the relations between 
the Powers, the British Government was found prepared to revise 
its previous Barrier Treaty, after such a fashion as considerably to 
reduce its value for the States- General. Several of the Barrier-places 
enumerated in the First Treaty had now been marked out for cession 
to France; and it became necessary for Great Britain to conclude a 
Second Barrier Treaty with the States- General, which finally revoked 
the First. By this Second Treaty (January 3Oth, 1713) the United 
Provinces acquired the right of garrisoning eight places, four of 
those included in the First (Lille was one of them) being omitted in 
the Second. Military and naval contingents were promised on both 
sides for the maintenance of the Treaty; but the United Provinces 
lost Upper Gelders, which had now been disposed of to Prussia. 

At Utrecht, as well as afterwards at Rastatt and Baden, the House 
of Austria's possession of the once " Spanish" Netherlands was con- 
sistently treated as part of the settlement effected. Yet, in all these 
agreements, provision had been made that, until the States-General 
should have arrived at a satisfactory understanding with the Emperor 
in the matter of their Barrier, they should retain their hold over the 
Austrian Netherlands. To bring about such an understanding, an 
Austro-Dutch Conference was held at Antwerp, once more under 
British mediation. The task was no easy one, especially after the 
Dutch, whose influence among the Allies had been much depressed 
during the last four years of Queen Anne, found their position im- 
proved by her death (August ist) and the consequent Governmental 
changes in England. The death of Lewis XIV (September ist, 1715), 
and the accession to power of the Regent Orleans, who was consist- 
ently desirous of maintaining a good understanding with the United 
Provinces, likewise redounded to their advantage. 

The Third Barrier Treaty, concluded November i5th, 1715, 
proved a settlement with which, when it had been with great diffi- 
culty brought to paper, the Dutch had every reason to be satisfied. 
British policy, genuinely interested in the security of the Belgic Pro- 
vinces, in view of the always possible contingency of hostilities with 
France, was naturally inclined to meet the wishes of the Dutch, if 
only because of their guarantee of the now imperilled Protestant 
Succession. But it had been a very far from easy task for British 
statesmanship to seek to reconcile the claims of the United Pro- 
vinces with those of the House of Austria, which had never welcomed 
with any warmth the acquisition of the Catholic Netherlands, though, 


of course, unable to countenance the idea, soon afterwards started by 
France, of forming them into a neutral State. In November, 1714, 
Stanhope (whose personal influence already counted for much) had 
paid a visit to Vienna, but found no disposition there to yield; 
General (afterwards Earl) Cadogan, however, who followed, proved 
more successful, and, in the end, an arrangement was agreed upon to 
which the Emperor reluctantly gave his assent. The Barrier-places 
were now to number seven, including Namur,Tournay andYpres (with 
a joint garrison at Dendermonde) ; and Venloo, with a small further 
addition of Flemish territory, was to be transferred to the United Pro- 
vinces. Great Britain (while obtaining for herself certain commercial 
advantages) undertook as Guarantor of the Treaty in all its parts to 
provide a considerable force for the defence of the Barrier by both land 
and sea, and if necessary to declare war against any aggressor. Thus, 
the Dutch had succeeded in securing a well-protected frontier against 
France; while at the same time a relation, which was in a measure 
one of dependence upon them, had been established with the "Aus- 
trian" Provinces. It is therefore not difficult to understand that the 
ratifications of the Treaty had to undergo considerable delays, on the 
particular causes of which we need not dwell. The Dutch declined, 
as will be seen, to join the Quadruple Alliance till the Third Barrier 
Treaty should be complete, and, as a matter of fact, till their joining 
had ceased to matter. Moreover, as was asserted by their neighbours, 
they had at the same time acquired a practical control of the Belgic 
waterways and (since the Scheldt could at any time be closed) of 
every port in the country, except Ostend. The delimitation of the 
Netherlands was finally accomplished by a Supplementary Conven- 
tion signed at the Hague (December, 1718). As for the House of 
Austria, it had, for the sake (as will be seen) of British goodwill, 
consented that the fortresses of the territory acquired by it should 
be left, partly at its own cost, in the hands of another Power; so 
that, in course of time, it anxiously sought to exchange this for a less 
remote acquisition. 

The Treaties of Utrecht (to use the term, once more, in its widest 
sense) had thus, taken as a whole, carried out the policy of William 
III, as representing the interests of Great Britain, on the one hand, 
and those of the Netherlands on the other ; but had not carried it 
out in full. France had acquired for a member of her royal House, 
though he was no longer included in the Succession to it, part only 
of the inheritance of Charles II ; but this part included what William 


III had sought to withhold from the French candidate, viz. Spain 
herself. Furthermore, France was deprived of the new vantage- 
ground which she had seized in the Spanish, as against the United 
Netherlands, and which was now, though not without certain in- 
convenient liens, in Austrian hands. Finally, France had formally 
renounced any pretension to interfere with the stability of the British 
Constitutional settlement. So much for the results of the Treaties 
which ended the War of the Spanish Succession. 

What may be called the moral results of that War were due, 
above all, to its actual course, and to its effect on the material resources 
of the Powers engaged in it and upon the relations between them and 
the political system of which they formed part. For the attainment 
of these results, the policy which had originated the War and that 
which directed the Peace were primarily and jointly responsible. 
And more than this: the Peace of Utrecht, though negotiated and 
concluded by a statesmanship in most important respects out of 
harmony with that of the author of the Grand Alliance, was, not less 
than the War itself, in the main Great Britain's work; and, if it 
failed to gather in fully what the War seemed to have laid at her 
and her Allies' feet, to her credit was to be placed what, within limits 
deliberately chosen by herself, it achieved for Europe and her de- 
pendencies. In this, as in all but the rarest instances of similar 
magnitude, history is called upon to judge by other standards than 
those of person or party. 


George I, wise in his generation with a wisdom recalling, in its 
degree, that of the great politician in whose school he had been bred, 
had fully learnt a modern ruler's primary obligation of moving 
with his times and acting in accordance with their exigencies. Yet, 
although, in his kingdom, he discreetly forbore from interfering with 
the existing system of government, the influence exercised by him on 
British foreign policy was unmistakable. To a considerable extent, 
it subserved Hanoverian interests, and was guided by Hanoverian 
advice, though these, in their turn, in a large measure, coincided with 
the traditions that had come down from the age of the Grand 
Alliance. Thus, while his reign as a whole justified the national 
preference at first far from assured of the continued acceptance 
of the Revolutionary settlement to a "Restoration" of the Stewart 


Pretender, the doubts and jealousies of foreign Governments were 
successfully met by a policy blending national (British) and dynastic 
(Hanoverian) purposes ; and, although George I was neither an Eng- 
lishman nor a popular King, it was, on the whole, fortunate for Great 
Britain that he should have come from his well-beloved Hanover to 
ascend the Stewarts* uneasy Throne. 

It may be worth pointing out that the "Personal Union" brought 
about under George I is not quite correctly described as a union 
between a powerful monarchy and a small secondary State. The re- 
lations between England and the United Netherlands in the reign of 
William III, even after the death of his devoted Queen, furnished no 
sort of precedent, and had never come near to what had once been 
Cromwell's ideal; and the course of the War of the Spanish Suc- 
cession, and of the negotiations at its close, had shown how un- 
intermittently each of the two Maritime Powers kept its own par- 
ticular ends in view. Moreover, at the beginning of the Hanoverian 
period, the foundations of the British Empire were, after all, still in 
the laying ; and the Elector of Hanover, although hardly even among 
the foremost of the Princes of Germany, was entirely, in the words 
of a modern historian 1 , "a leading personage in Europe." The 
politics of the Brunswick- Wolf enbiittel branch of the Guelfs had 
been Imperialist before the days of the Thirty Years' War ; and the 
Liineburg-Celle branch had, six years before the conclusion of the 
Peace of Westphalia, signed with the Emperor a separate pacification 
favourable to themselves. Thenceforward, the Brunswick-Liine- 
burgers had remained on the best of terms with the Court of Vienna. 
The Elector George Lewis, in especial, had borne an active part in 
several campaigns against the Turks, including the rescue of Vienna 
a fact not forgotten when, at Carlowitz, in 1699, English mediation 
had secured to the Emperor Leopold the fruits of Austrian prowess 
against the Crescent, as, in substance, it again did, nineteen years 
later, at Passarowitz. In the W T est the Liineburg-Celle Princes had, 
in the main (though in the case of those ruling at Hanover, not from 
the first), supported the policy of William III and of the Grand 
Alliance, and had been rewarded by the Electoral investiture (1792) 
of the father of George Lewis, under whom the whole Liineburg- 
Celle dominions were reunited (1705). 

1 Mr J. F. Chance, in his most valuable monograph, George I and the Northern 
War (1909). As Mr Chance notes, " that George I might have succeeded Charles VI, 
on the Imperial Throne, was in 1714, a possibility not disregarded." 


The reign of George I, regarded from the point of view of its 
foreign policy, divides itself most conveniently into three periods, 
coinciding, more or less, with those of the ascendancy in this respect 
of Townshend (1714-7), of Stanhope (1717-21), and of Townshend 
and Walpole (not yet "Walpole and Townshend") (1721-7), respec- 
tively. In the earliest of these periods, the two statesmen chiefly 
concerned with the conduct of foreign affairs served side by side as 
First and Second Secretaries of State Townshend, who held the 
former post, being regarded as Head of the Government, but the 
disposal of business between them being left to their own discretion. 
The arrangement proved itself inconvenient, especially since both 
these Ministers were high-minded as well as able men. Stanhope's 
views were, to a far greater extent than his colleague's, in accordance 
with their Sovereign's; and, on the split in the Whig party declaring 
itself and Townshend giving up the Seals, Sunderland was associated 
with Stanhope. Among the Secretaries of State in this reign were 
the excellent Addison (a steady party-man) and the younger Craggs 
(Pope's Pollio, of whose capacity in or out of Parliament there is 
abundant evidence) 1 . 

While the chief operations of British foreign policy during the 
larger half of George Fs reign had the approval and were due to the 
suggestion of the King's Hanoverian advisers, it by no means follows 
that they should be held responsible for the conception, any more 
than for the execution, of that policy as a whole. Apart from the fact 
that few British Sovereigns have exercised so close and continuous a 
personal interest over the country's foreign affairs as George I, it 
should be remembered that the British statesmen entrusted with the 
management of these affairs in the earlier part of the reign and the 
Hanoverian advisers of the King were, from the nature of the case, 

1 The force and lucidity of Craggs' despatches might be illustrated without 
difficulty. Of Addison's, that to Count Gallas (the Imperial Ambassador at Rome) 
asking for his mediation with Pope Clement XI, who is required, in a conciliatory 
tone, to redress a series of British grievances of which the arrest of Peterborough 
at Bologna was the foremost (October, 1717), is notable as showing the absence of 
direct diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Court of St James. Cf. 
W. Michael, u. s. vol. n. part I. pp. 309 ff. Lord Stanhope (History of England, 
etc sth ed., 1858, vol. i. p. 202), notices that the House of Commons remained 
without its due share in appointments to high administrative offices, and therefore 
in the direction of the administration of the country itself, till after the passing of 
the Septennial Act (1716). The real change in the relative importance of the two 
Houses of Parliament in the public eye dates of course from the age of Walpole ; 
but the part taken by members of the House of Lords in the conduct of foreign 
affairs continued, for obvious reasons, to preponderate up to the days of the younger 


in substantial agreement. Townshend had been chosen as Principal 
Secretary of State with the approval, if not at the direct instance, of 
Bothmer (whose confidence, with that of the leading Dutch states- 
men, he had gained during his residence at the Hague); while the 
entire Whig Government with which George I began his reign had 
been recommended to him by Bernstorff (who accompanied him 
from Hanover to England on his journey for taking seisin). The 
approval of Bernstorff implied the assent of Robethon, the inevitable 
(and indispensable) Huguenot refugee, whose connexion with Eng- 
lish affairs dated from the days of his secretaryship to William III, 
at the end of his reign 1 . For the rest, we need say nothing further 
here as to Hanoverian influence on British political action, except in 
the instances adverted to below of the Bremen and Verden, and the 
Mecklenburg episodes. It may, however, be worth observing that 
the leading members of the "Junta" were by no means always at 
one with each other. Bothmer's star seems to have waned as Bern- 
storff 's rose to its height, which it reached while Stanhope's Govern- 
ment could still be, with any reason, popularly called the German 
Ministry. Of course, the Hanoverian influence was far more fully 
asserted in the affairs of Northern than in those of Southern Europe ; 
and Bernstorff 's political principles (as well as his personal interests) 
long obstructed these negotiations with Prussia, the success of which 
were, in 1720, followed by his downfall, the end of the Hanoverian 
era proper, and the reunion of the Whigs. 

At the time of the accession of George I to the British Throne, 
the Peace recently concluded was still virtually Great Britain's peace. 
The Emperor would have none of it, even after he had, a few weeks 
later, concluded his own at Baden. The Dutch had only assented 
conditionally on a satisfactory Barrier being granted them by the 
Emperor. In France, the Peace was regarded with a sense of mingled 
relief and distrust. At home, it was loudly condemned by the great body 
of the Whigs ; and, both here and across the water, the resumption 
of the War seemed for a time on the cards, even before King Lewis 
XIV's end had come (September ist, 1715). To Great Britain the 
old Alliances were of more value than ever ; and, so early as November, 

1 He had then entered the Celle service and had (if one may so say) become 
the dme dartmee of Bernstorff, having been appointed "Privy Councillor of Em- 
bassy" at Hanover, and continued to exercise the undefined functions of this office 
in England till his patron's fall. The personalities and history of the members of 
the "Hanoverian Junta" are briefly noticed in the Appendix to Lecture II of my 
Great Britain and Hanover (1899). 


1714, Stanhope, when, at Vienna, he sought to bring about the 
acceptance of a Barrier Treaty which would satisfy the United 
Provinces, confidentially propounded, in the first instance, to Prince 
Eugene the conclusion of a defensive alliance, to be afterwards 
joined by the United Provinces the germ of the later Triple Al- 
liance. But nothing came of the project so long as the Third Barrier 
Treaty remained unsigned. As has been seen, the jealousy between 
the Imperial and the Dutch Governments continued even after 
this; but, in the meantime, although the death of Lewis XIV had 
brought France under the rule of a Government favourable to Great 
Britain, the British Throne itself had been, though as it proved 
only transitorily, placed in a position of danger. Thus, while through 
the efforts of British diplomacy the Third Barrier Treaty had been 
brought to its conclusion under British guarantee (November, 1715), 
there remained behind the urgent expediency of securing to Great 
Britain the old Allies more closely tied to her by their own interests, 
and, it may be said without prejudice, more trustworthy than the 
existing French Government. 

The relations between these Allies the United Provinces and 
the Emperor were, however, even after the signature of the Barrier 
Treaty, the reverse of easy, and their dissensions about the time of the 
years 1715-6, owing to incidents connected with territorial transfers, 
rose to such a pitch that a joint alliance including both of them was for 
the present out of the question. The new Austrian Ambassador in 
London (no official of his rank had been accredited here since 1712), 
was a most unfortunate choice; and thus it came to pass that the 
first Treaty of Alliance signed by the British Government (February, 
1716) was with the States-General, and that a Treaty, of mutual terri- 
torial guarantee, with the Emperor was not formally signed at West- 
minster till the following May. To this second Treaty, though declared 
by the Emperor to be defensive only, the Dutch Government never 
formally signified their adhesion, though they gradually reconciled 
themselves to it, the more readily when it proved not to be incompat- 
ible with the Anglo-French undertaking that was, above all others, of 
value to their most important interests. It was concluded by George I, 
as King of Great Britain only, and therefore contained no guarantee 
of Hanoverian territories ; moreover, though his Hanoverian Ministers 
had taken part in the negotiations, their signatures were not added to 
the Treaty. But, though a joint alliance with both the Emperor and 
the United Provinces seemed for the moment impossible, there was 


no doubt of the friendly intentions of both her old Allies towards 
Great Britain. Of the two storm-points which, in the early years 
of the reign, seemed to threaten a continued disturbance of the Peace 
of Europe and a consequent interference with the Hanoverian Suc- 
cession included among its conditions at Utrecht, one had even now 
not yet reached its final stage. A considerable change had gradually 
come over Great Britain's relations with the Powers engaged in the 
still unfinished great Northern War, and in particular with the mili- 
tant Baltic Power to which she had long been drawn by strong re- 
ligious sympathies as well as by important commercial interests. 

So early in the reign of Charles XII as 1700, Sweden had con- 
cluded a Treaty of mutual defence with England for eighteen years ; 
and another immediately followed, in which the United Provinces of 
the Netherlands joined, and which, in a secret article, bound the 
Contracting Powers to use their best endeavours for preserving the 
endangered Peace of the North. By virtue of this compact, Sweden, 
in the same year, 1700, obliged Denmark to sign the Peace of Tra- 
vendal, which detached that Power from the league of the adver- 
saries of the young Swedish King. During the eventful years of his 
victorious advance that followed, Great Britain kept her hands free 
from engagements on either side, successfully foiling the efforts of 
Lewis XIV to gain over the Northern hero to the side of France in 
her own War. British trade with Sweden continued brisk, although 
its volume was probably not more than half that of the Dutch, the 
Swedish exports being, practically, confined to materials for ship- 
building. During the Northern War, Sweden treated neutral com- 
merce with a high hand, so that, on the plea that they had carried 
contraband of war into Russian ports of which Sweden had de- 
clared a blockade many British merchantmen were seized by 
Swedish men-of-war and privateers. On the other hand, it is notice- 
able as bearing upon the future, that the relations between Charles XII 
and the Elector George Lewis of Hanover had always been excellent, 
and had stood the Swedish King in good stead in the earlier part of 
his course. 

Accordingly, even after "Pultawa's day," when the counter- 
current of revanche gradually overflowed half Europe, Great Britain 
held her hand, and, in course of time, non-intervention in the North 
became part of her general policy of peace. Moreover, so long as the 
Spanish Succession War was still afoot, it was contrary to the interest 
of all the Allies, though of course to that of the Emperor and Empire 


in particular, to allow Germany to be set in a blaze with the aid of 
large forces still indispensable at the actual theatre of war. Accord- 
ingly, a Convention was signed at the Hague (March 3ist, 1710) 
declaring the neutrality of the German Provinces of Sweden, so as 
to protect them, if necessary, against attack, and at the same time to 
prevent their serving as bases of counter-attack. 

One of the most wholehearted supporters of this Convention was 
the Elector of Hanover, whose dominions were bordered in part by 
Swedish annexations which, in the day of Sweden's dire distress, 
were certain to become so many coveted prizes. Among these were 
the "duchies" of Bremen and Verden. Apart from the fact that, 
when succeeding to the insecure grandeur of the British Throne, 
George I had excellent reason for "cultivating" what he left behind 
him, the ownership of these lands was a matter of considerable con- 
sequence, as well as historic interest, to the Elector of Hanover. The 
duchy, formerly belonging to the archbishopric, of Bremen had, 
after the Reformation, been held by cadets of neighbouring princely 
Houses, including that of Brunswick-Liineburg, but in the Peace of 
Westphalia had passed as a secular duchy into the possession of the 
Swedish Crown. The bishopric of Verden, of old part of the domin- 
ions of Henry the Lion, had likewise been assigned to the Swedish 
Crown as a secular principality. The duchy of Bremen and the prin- 
cipality of Verden, respectively, commanded the course of the Weser 
from Bremen to its mouth and that of the Elbe to the sea from 
the vicinity of Hamburg, Holstein lying to the north-west of the 
river; above Harburg, the Elbe formed the north-eastern boundary 
of the Brunswick-Liineburg territories. In the days of William III 
and Anne, the vigilance of the Elector of Hanover had been directed 
less against Sweden, the actual mistress of Bremen and Verden, than 
against her inveterate foe Denmark, who, should she possess herself 
of these territories, might, because of their immediate vicinity to 
Holstein, prove far more unwilling at any time to relinquish them. 

Thus, before the question of the future of the Swedish monarchy 
and of its provinces had to be faced by Great Britain as a European 
Power, a very direct Hanoverian interest had become mixed up with 
it. Tsar Peter I, against whom about this time (end of 1709) Charles 
XII was seeking to induce the Sultan to declare war while he was, 
also, believed to be in communication with the French Government- 
was intent upon ousting Sweden from her control of the Baltic and from 
the territories still belonging to her in Germany. He was annoyed 


by Prussia's hesitation about asserting her dynasty's claims on Stettin 
and its district ; and assiduously worked upon the Elector of Hanover, 
through his able representative there, Prince Boris Kurakin, to press 
his interest in Bremen and Verden. But the first actual step towards 
the acquisition of the "duchies" was not taken by George Lewis till 
the year before his accession to the British Throne. When Frederick IV 
of Denmark, notwithstanding his rout in Scania (1710), made another 
attempt to carry out his part in the anti-Swedish league formed after 
Pultawa, and to this end, in 1713, after a severe struggle, occupied 
the duchy of Bremen, the fit conjuncture seemed to present itself 
for carrying out the long-harboured design. In the same year, 
George Lewis occupied Verden, with Ottersburg, just across the 
Bremen boundary and, though still at peace with the Swedish 
Government, announced his intention of continuing to hold the 
lesser territory, so long as the Danes held the larger. Though, even 
after the accession of George I and the arrival of Charles XII at 
Stralsund (November, 1714), cordial messages were exchanged be- 
tween them, there was no longer any mutual confidence; and, though 
the British ships sent in 1715 took no actual part in the Dano- 
Prussian siege of Stralsund, the continuance of eight of them in the 
Baltic implied the approval by Great Britain of the Treaty between 
Denmark and Hanover, finally ratified in July of this year. By this 
compact, the duchy of Bremen was (in return for a payment variously 
reckoned, but over 600,000 dollars) to be given up to the Elector. 
The transfer was accomplished by October, and the Elector's de- 
claration of war against Sweden immediately followed. On the other 
hand, Sir John Norris, while carrying out a demonstration on behalf 
of trade wrongs at the head of a fleet composed of British, Prussian 
and Danish ships, carefully kept out of the way of the transaction 
concerning the "duchies," and contributed only indirectly to the fall 
of Stralsund (December). As for the duchies, their Estates had at once 
done homage to their new ruler. The Danes, fearing that Charles XII 
might seek to purchase the friendship of the King of Great Britain 
by a voluntary cession of the duchies to the Elector of Hanover, had, 
without loss of time, safeguarded the transfer by means of Treaties 
with Hanover and Prussia; but the Hanoverian possession cf them 
was not formally recognised by Sweden till 1719 (in the Peace of 
Stockholm) when this complicated, and not altogether ingenuous, 
transaction was at last wound up. When the Hanoverian annexation 
of Bremen and Verden had actually been perpetrated, there could, of 
W.&G.I. 5 


course, no longer be any thought of friendly relations between 
George I and Charles XII. But this was not the time for the latter 
to think of a raid on any part of the British dominions on his own 
account, and the Jacobite insurrection of 1715-6 collapsed without 
a serious hope or fear of any such incident 1 . 

Meanwhile, a great design (if this historic term should be applied to 
a vast, but largely shadowy, web of intrigues such as " Gortz's Plot") 
was in preparation, which, while imperilling the continuance of the 
existing British Government and dynasty, had in view a complete 
change in the relations between Sweden and her most formidable 
enemy, Russia. The ultimate object of Gortz, now in the service of 
Sweden and loyally devoted to her interests, was a peace between 
the two Baltic Powers, which would have extinguished the anti- 
Swedish league, now, as has been seen, virtually including Great 
Britain. The political relations between George I and the Tsar Peter 
had, indeed, become friendly, as British grievances and Hanoverian 
cupidity jointly increased the tension with Sweden; and, in October, 
1715, a Treaty had been agreed upon between the Tsar and the 
Elector of Hanover at Greifswald mutually guaranteeing Bremen 
and Verden to the Elector of Hanover: and Esthonia, with Reval, 
to the Tsar. But to this Treaty the King of Great Britain could not 
give effect without the assent of his Parliament, and. since the British 
Ministers were not prepared for joint armed action against Sweden, 
Bernstorff informed Kurakin that the full purpose of the Treaty 
must be kept secret and only the commercial clauses made known 
at present. Meanwhile, Peter ruthlessly excited the violent wrath of 
George I by his high-handed interference in German affairs, and 
more especially by taking advantage of the marriage of his niece 
Catharine to Duke Charles Leopold of Mecklenburg Schwerin, to 
quarter among the nobility there, traditionally impatient of their 
Sovereign's rule, a large body of Russian troops intended to take 
part in the Danish invasion of Scania agreed upon between Peter and 
Frederick IV at Altona. Prussia (who had just expelled the Swedes 
from Wismar) held her hand ; but Russia could depend on her good- 
will, while Hanover and Prussia were as a matter of course at odds. 
The invasion was postponed, though Sir John Norris was in the 

1 It is, by the way, illustrative of the entire relations between England and 
Scotland after the Union, that, there being at the time no Treaty of Alliance be- 
tween Great Britain and Hanover, while a subsidiary treaty would no doubt have 
been deemed inadvisable, Stair's suggestion of shipping some Hanoverian bat- 
talions to Scotland at the time of the Insurrection was not carried out. 


Baltic, prepared to take part in it; and King George was with diffi- 
culty prevented from sending the Admiral orders to seize on the 
person of the Tsar in requital of his arbitrary ways. But although 
the British Ministry shared the desire to keep Peter and his designs 
in check, his violation of German territory could not be held to war- 
rant a coup de main by the British fleet against a Sovereign who was, 
virtually, an Ally 1 . 

Meanwhile, "Gortz's Plot," of which neither the genesis nor the 
ramifications can be traced here, had become known to British states- 
men, and at the end of January, 1717, was discussed in Council. In 
setting it in motion, the arch-intriguer Gortz had had the assistance 
of the Swedish envoys, Gyllenborg in London and Sparre at Paris, 
and had depended on the connivance of the scheming Alberoni at 
Madrid and of the Chevalier, still a disposition at Avignon. Nor was 
he altogether out of touch either with the Regent of France (in the 
earlier stages of the affair), or with the Tsar. The discovery, though it 
rendered the plot as such hopeless, with the arrests, and the intern- 
ment of Gortz in Holland, caused a sensation almost unparalleled in 
modern diplomatic annals, but exercised no decisive influence upon 
British policy. Charles XII kept silence, and the Regent Orleans' 
disclaimer of any aggressive intentions against Great Britain found 
willing credence. As for George I and the more resolute among his 
Ministers, they had already made up their minds to a more vigorous and 
far-reaching "system" of action, which would place Great Britain in 
a firm position of her own among the European Powers, unassailable 
by machinations such as those of either Gortz or Alberoni. 

In the summer of 1716, Stanhope had accompanied King George 
on the pathetic occasion of his first visit home. En route, the Minister 
contrived to manage the earliest of his celebrated "unbuttoned" 
conversations with the Abbe Dubois, the trusted intimate of the 
Regent Orleans, who was anxious to safeguard his personal future 
against the Spanish Bourbons and their (never wholly impossible) 
speculations as to the French Succession. With these speculations 
the designs of Alberoni, inspired, in the first instance, by the am- 
bition of Queen Elizabeth (Farnese) of Spain, were interwoven, and 
these naturally came to a head after the death of Lewis XIV. Their 

1 The Mecklenburg quarrel had an interesting sequel, which, however, had no 
direct connexion with British policy, though George I as Elector of Hanover was 
one of the Princes of the Empire charged with- its execution against Duke Charles 
Leopold in 1717, and though its results led to complications which engaged the 
attention of George II to so late a date as 1735. 

5 2 


aim was, should it prove impossible to secure the French Throne for 
the Spanish Bourbons, at all events to revive in Elizabeth's line the 
Spanish dominion in Italy. While the resistance of the Emperor 
would of course be the obstacle-in-chief, Great Britain's attention 
must be distracted by the overthrow of her new dynasty. For the 
moment, however, since the working out of such a scheme required 
time, Alberoni was in no hurry to break with Great Britain, and was, 
indeed, desirous of cultivating her goodwill, especially since that of 
the French Government was no longer at the service of the Spanish. 
Hence the Anglo-Spanish Commercial Treaty of December, 1715, 
highly favourable to British interests, negotiated by George Bubb 
(afterwards Lord Melcombe who, before entering on the later un- 
edifying part of his career had been Sir Paul Methuen's successor 
at Madrid) and Alberoni, though, on his part, neither sincere in 
conception nor effective in its results. Meanwhile, the British 
negotiations with France had been all but brought to a satisfactory 
conclusion. Instead of being conducted through the Earl of Stair 
at Paris (whose addiction to the pomps of diplomacy by no means 
rendered him averse from the use of its byeways), the business was, 
in August, 1716, transferred to the management of Stanhope and 
the ambitious and intriguing Sunderland, with the cooperation of 
Bernstorff, in the still surroundings of Hanover. Here it was brought 
to a successful issue by the signing of an agreement between 
France and Great Britain confirmatory of those portions of the 
Peace of Utrecht which concerned their respective interests, more 
especially the order of Succession in the two monarchies, and 
guaranteeing their territorial possessions in a form including the 
new acquisitions of the House of Hanover. The Pretender was 
excluded from France, and the Mardyke question was, with some 
difficulty, satisfactorily settled. The complementary assent of the 
Dutch Government had been assumed, to the righteous indignation 
of the British Minister at the Hague, Horace Walpole (the elder); 
but it arrived on January 4th following, and the " Triple Alliance " was 
now complete. It was the work of Bernstorff and Stanhope (to write 
their names in the order of sequence proposed by the same critic at 
the Hague). Townshend, the absence of whose countersignature had 
been suspiciously noted by Dubois, had sent it in time; but there 
could be no doubt that he had looked askance upon the Alliance and 
the policy of warlike operations in the North to which it seemed to 
him to point. The King, moved in his turn by angry jealousy of 


Russia, was wholly against Townshend. Hence, a split among the 
Whigs, and a reconstruction of the British Ministry, which was com- 
pleted when, in April, 1717, Stanhope became First Lord of the 
Treasury and Sunderland Secretary of State (1717), Townshend 
having accepted the Lord-Lieutenancy of Ireland, but being sub- 
sequently dismissed from this office also. (Stanhope and Sunder- 
land exchanged offices in the following year, 1718.) Finally, whether 
or not the treatment of the Pretender in the Triple Alliance offended 
the chivalrous spirit of the Swedish King, the British Government 
more directly defied him, in the following March, by prohibiting all 
trade with Sweden, and, in the same year (1718), sent another fleet 
into the Baltic. 

In the period of Stanhope's Ministerial ascendancy which ensued, 
the " Quadruple Alliance" (August, 1718) forms his most momentous 
achievement. It might, possibly, not have been carried through the 
difficulties besetting it, but for the active part played in the negotia- 
tions of the years 1717 and 1718 by Bernstorff and Bothmer 1 , whose 
main purpose was to strengthen the authority of the Emperor in 
Germany and to promote the intimate relations between him and the 
House of Hanover. Yet, however sorely these efforts vexed the souls 
of Sir Robert Walpole and the section of the Whigs with which he 
acted, the plan courageously and circumspectly formed by Stanhope 
for settling the affairs of Europe was successful, in the face of reckless 
ambition abroad as well as of intelligible distrust at home. The Triple 
Alliance, well-omened as had been the fact of its conclusion, stood 
on no firm footing, and could not prove an enduring safeguard of the 
Peace of Europe, should Spanish policy, urged on by dynastic and 
Ministerial ambition, venture to revive the quarrel with the House 
of Austria, and should that House seize the opportunity of renewing 
its pretensions to the Spanish Throne. Cardinal Alberoni, the em- 
bodiment of the new Spanish aspirations, was, accordingly, the 
second stormpoint on the European horizon, which, even before 
the Northern War had become extinct, threatened to overwhelm the 
European order of things established by the Utrecht and supple- 
mentary Treaties, and including the settlement in Great Britain. 

The storm broke, in this quarter, before the plan of action de- 
vised by Stanhope and Dubois could be applied as a prophylactic. 

1 Of the importance attached to their counsels, more especially by the able 
Austrian negotiator Penterriedter, we have ample evidence from Bothmer's own 
hand, in his Memoir e on the Quadruple Alliance. 


The Emperor was harassed by his Turkish War; and, influenced 
perhaps by this circumstance, Alberoni, though aware that the time 
was hardly ripe, yielded to his Sovereign's resentment of an accidental 
insult offered to Spain by Imperial officials, and seized Sardinia by a 
coup de main (August, 1717). Emboldened by his rapid success, he 
was preparing to seize Sicily (now under Savoy rule) when Stanhope 
intervened. In March, 1718, his kinsman Colonel William Stanhope 
(afterwards Earl of Harrington) appeared at Madrid to offer a pro- 
test, which was (not very strenuously) supported by France and the 
United Provinces. The British and the Spanish Governments were 
still on amicable terms, though Alberoni had already begun to dis- 
regard the recent Commercial Treaty with Great Britain, besides 
rejecting her offer of good offices with the Emperor. By July, how- 
ever, a British fleet was sent into the Mediterranean, to deal with 
Spanish naval operations which might conceivably have been fol- 
lowed up by a demonstration or a raid on the British shores. About 
this time, too, the Emperor's Turkish War was brought to a close, 
on terms satisfactory, so far as his interests in this quarter were con- 
cerned, by the Peace of Passarowitz (July, 1718) a Treaty to be 
placed mainly to the credit of British diplomacy, whose twofold 
object seems to have been to bring about an immediate close of 
hostilities between the Porte and the Emperor (so as to enable the 
latter to take part if necessary in the Western conflicts) and to 
make trouble between the Porte and the Tsar 1 . 

Thus, in the midst of this medley of East and West, the Anglo- 
French Convention, signed in July, 1718, received the adhesion of 
the Emperor, and in the following month the Quadruple Alliance 
was concluded with him in London. Its name to some extent a 
misnomer was due to the adhesion of the United Provinces, which 
was, after some delay, unwillingly given (February, 1719). That of 
Savoy had preceded it, though, as will be surmised from the bargain 
proposed to her, it had not been much more readily accorded. Victor 

1 The policy of the Peace of Passarowitz, as noted above, repeated under equally 
critical circumstances, that of Carlo witz (1699), concluded under the mediation 
of Great Britain at a time when William III was anxious to put an end to a War 
diverting the military forces of the Empire from the Western theatre of action. 
In the midst of the Passarowitz negotiations, Prince Eugene took Belgrade; and 
the Peace marks an epoch in the history of the Eastern question and especially of 
Austria's Eastern policy, besides showing the interest taken in these matters by 
Great Britain at this time, largely under Hanoverian inspiration. The fruits of the 
Peace of Passarowitz were largely sacrificed by Austria in that of Belgrade (1739), 
which Russia (then her Ally), though victorious, had to follow up by a pacification 
of her own. 


AmadeusII was suspected of playing a double game ; but the traditional 
friendship of Great Britain for the House of Savoy (which, however, 
failed to show the steadfastness of that of Braganza) prevailed over 
the wiles of the Cardinal at Madrid. The negotiations for the Alliance 
had been difficult and protracted; for both the French and the 
British-Hanoverian counsels lacked unity of purpose ; but, thanks to 
the energy of Stanhope, and the skill of his subordinates 1 , the scheme 
of which he was the primary author reached its consummation. 

The essential object of the Quadruple Alliance, which made a 
direct appeal to the principles of the Peace of Utrecht and the Grand 
Alliance, was to establish these agreements on an enduring basis, or, 
if the expression be preferred, to give to them their logical develop- 
ment. While the Emperor was to renounce definitively all pretensions 
to Spain and the Indies, Spain, in her turn, was to relinquish for 
the future any claim to any former Spanish province now under the 
rule of the Emperor. Sicily was to pass into his possession out of 
that of the House of Savoy, which was to receive, instead, the island 
of Sardinia, with the title of King. Finally, the Emperor was eventu- 
ally to invest Don Carlos (or another son of the Queen Elizabeth of 
Spain) with the duchies of Parma, Piacenza and the greater part of 
Tuscany, but on condition that none of these should in any case 
become part of the Spanish monarchy. 

Would Spain, under a guidance which wooed Fortune by teme- 
rity, now that her armada was at sea and the drift of her audacious 
designs becoming manifest to the world, dare to proceed, and to re- 
ject the compromise imposed upon her? Or would these designs, 
with the more or less vague hopes of support with which they were 
buoyed up, collapse in face of a mandate from the Powers united in 
the Quadruple Alliance? To decide this issue, Stanhope himself, 
immediately after the signature of that agreement, betook himself to 
Madrid, accompanied by Schaub. In one hand, he brought the offer 
of peace, with certain concessions, including (though with what ac- 
companying conditions, seems to remain unknown) a secret proposal 
for the cession of Gibraltar 2 in the other, war. Alberoni refused 
to give way, even when (after Stanhope's departure) the startling 

1 One of these was St Saphorin, who had passed from the Hanoverian into the 
British service and was British Minister-resident at Vienna. He was by birth a 
Swiss, like Sir Luke Schaub, who, after varied services, became Ambassador at 
Paris in 1721. The British diplomatic body, never more notably than in this period, 
recruited itself by the admission of natives of other countries. 

2 See Lord Stanhope, vol. I. p. 310. 


news had arrived of the destruction of all the Spanish ships by the 
British fleet off Cape Passaro on the Sicilian coast (August, 1718). 
But the die had been cast. Alberoni, more suo, now that his scheme 
of anticipating the Italian stipulations of the Quadruple Alliance had 
failed, and that it had been joined by Savoy, resorted to fresh offen- 
sive plans. In France, however, the discovery of the Cellamare plot 
against the Regent put an end to any elements of hesitation; and 
when, in December, 1718, the Government of Great Britain, of 
which Alberoni was planning both a Spanish and Swedish invasion, 
declared war against Spain, the French Government speedily fol- 
lowed suit (January, 1719). As will be seen, the Cardinal had also 
in mind a joint attack upon Hanover by Sweden and Russia, whose 
Governments were then discussing conditions of peace in the Aland 
Islands. The Spanish War or the War against Alberoni was un- 
popular in England, except for the losses in it of the Spanish navy; 
for no immediate British interests were involved in the Emperor's 
desire to make himself master of Sicily. 

Before, however, it began its course, the news had arrived of the 
death of Charles XII (December nth, 1718); and, though his in- 
tentions had remained uncertain to the last, a sudden end had come 
to the designs of Gortz, and a severe blow had been dealt to those 
of Alberoni. In April, 1719, the Spanish expedition under Ormond 
was scattered off the Irish coast, and, in the same month, the French 
began their invasion of Northern Spain , seconded by a British raid by 
sea. On the other hand, the Cardinal was encouraged by a gleam of 
success which had attended the Spanish arms at Franca Villa against 
the Austrian reinforcements sent to Naples (June), to hold out a 
little longer. The persistency of the British and French Govern- 
ments, however, prevailed. In December, with the aid of a series 
of intrigues, in which the self-proffered diplomacy of Peterborough 
made itself conspicuous, the Spanish Prime-minister's career as such, 
at last came to an end. Yet, even so, the tenacity of Philip V or, 
rather, that of his Consort once more necessitated the personal 
intervention of Stanhope. In January, 1720, he, at Paris, joined in 
a declaration on behalf of Great Britain, France and the Emperor, 
firmly upholding the "system" of the Quadruple Alliance. A week 
later, King Philip accepted that agreement, subject (secretly) to cer- 
tain points left over for the decision of a Congress, to be held at 
Cambray in 1722. The Spanish adhesion to the Quadruple Alliance 
was followed by two Treaties, between Spain and Great Britain, and 


between those Powers and France respectively (1721), intended, with 
a view to this Congress, as a sort of reinsurance against the under- 
standing by which France and Spain, distrustful of the intentions 
of the Emperor, had thought to safeguard themselves. But these 
Treaties were alike concluded after Stanhope's death. The political 
structure which he had raised into being cannot, in itself, be described 
as built on a rock; but his courage and resolution, brought home alike 
to foe and friend, had successfully trodden down the embers which the 
efforts of Spain and the daring enterprise of her master-politician had 
begun to rekindle into flame in Western and Southern Europe. 

About the same time , the Northern War , which , as a matter of course , 
had considerably affected British trade, but with which Hanoverian 
political interests had latterly become inextricably mixed up, had, 
at last, been ended by the Peace of Nystad (1721). Before the death 
of Charles XII (December nth, 1718), while the effects of Gortz's 
now patent designs had not yet quite died out, and the Swedish 
negotiations with Russia in the Aland Islands were, under the in- 
fluence of these projects, still pursuing their tortuous course, the re- 
lations between Sweden and Great Britain were more strained than 
ever, involving most of the discomfort, with much of the cost, of 
regular warfare. In the spring of this year, Norris had again sailed 
into the Baltic, ostensibly in order to redress the continued grievances 
of British trade and navigation, in conjunction with the Danes (still 
at war with Sweden), and with the less certain support of the Dutch. 
He had instructions to present himself at Petrograd, where he might 
still be able to thwart the proposed combination between Russia and 
Sweden. The Tsar Peter had never swerved from his purpose of 
extending his dominions along the Baltic. To this end, he had first 
joined the League against Charles XII, and there now seemed an 
opportunity of compassing it by treaty. But the Mecklenburg trouble 
was not yet over; and there was nothing really satisfactory in the 
assurances of the Russian Court. Thus, a reconciliation might, not 
without some French encouragement 1 , have, after all, taken place 
between Sweden and Russia, which would have furthered neither 

1 The Treaty of Amsterdam of the previous year (1717) was the work of the 
Regent's Government, anxious to play the part of Mediator ; Great Britain had no 
share in the Treaty, but Russia's proposed Concert against Sweden was counter- 
acted by the effects of Prince Eugene's victory at Belgrade and Stanhope's success 
in bringing about the Quadruple Alliance; and Prussia, whose policy was more 
suspect than before to Great Britain, had, for the moment, to fall back on a waiting 


British nor Hanoverian-Imperial interests but for the catastrophe 
which happened near the end of the year. 

The death of Charles XII before Frederikshald (December nth, 
1718) was one of those catastrophes which bring with them a sense 
of relief to half the world. The Swedish Crown descended to Charles's 
sister, Ulrica Eleanora, to the disappointment of his nephew, Duke 
Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp (afterwards son-in-law to the 
Tsar Peter) ; but its diminished authority was soon made over to her 
husband, King Frederick I (Prince Frederick of Hesse- Cassel), with 
whom George I was on the most friendly terms. After the death of 
Charles XII, Sweden had no policy left but one of peace. Among 
the many claims which that peace would have to meet, Hanover's 
were of the latest, Denmark's of the earliest, date ; Prussia (intent on 
the acquisition of Stettin) stood firmly by her Russian ally. 

The Emperor Charles VI, whose Congress of neutral German 
Princes had sat long and uselessly at Brunswick, still continued as 
friendly to Hanover as he was adverse to Prussia. In this sense he had, 
not long before the death of Charles XII became known, concluded 
with Augustus II of Poland (Frederick Augustus I of Saxony) and the 
Elector of Hanover (King George I) an agreement for the defence of 
their German territories. The Hanoverian counsellors of King George 
were anxious to secure the support of the British fleet in the execu- 
tion of this Treaty; and this was secured by a diplomatic ruse, which, 
as the Treaty never came to be carried out, only threw discredit upon 
them and him 1 . Since the French Government was likewise inclined 
to favour Swedish rights and disregard Prussian claims in Germany, 
a general combination adverse to Russia and Prussia might have been 
formed, which would have prevented the Tsar from acquiring the 
supreme control of the Baltic, in return for Sweden's cession of all 
German territories belonging to her by Treaty. But George I and 
Bernstorff, with whose policy Stanhope's was in partial agreement, 
were not to carry through their scheme. British relations with 
Prussia became friendlier, and the policy of the Tsar in the end 

Meanwhile, the efforts of British diplomacy at Stockholm had 

1 The story of these transactions has, for the first time, been clearly told by 
W. Michael (vol. 11. part i. pp. 461 ff.). It turns on the omission, in the copy of 
the Treaty of January 5th, 1719, sent for ratification to London, of the declaration 
binding King George to send a British fleet to protect Danzig and Elbing in case 
of a Prussian attack. The daring policy was the King's ; the peccant diplomatist was 
St Saphorin. 


not been wanting in vigour. A leading part in them was taken by 
Lord Carteret in June, 1719, at Stockholm, where he was actively 
assisted in the Hanoverian interest by the Mecklenburger Adolphus 
Frederick von Bassewitz. Carteret (afterwards Earl Granville and 
Secretary of State) was a statesman of extraordinary ability and per- 
sonal charm, and had, moreover, gained the personal confidence 
of his Sovereign by his knowledge of the German tongue an ac- 
complishment then unique among British Ministers. He was, also, 
supposed to exercise a potent influence over the counsels of the Abbe 
Dubois in France. But at the root of his successes lay his self- trust; 
for the opinion of others he had a contempt (by no means only in- 
spired by burgundy) which easily consoled him for his occasional 

At Stockholm, Carteret, with Norris's squadron in the back- 
ground, lost no time in bringing about, with the assistance of his 
Hanoverian colleague, an understanding with the Swedish Govern- 
ment, which, in the form of a Preliminary Convention (July, 1719), 
settled the matters at issue, including the cession of Bremen and 
Verden, in return for the payment of a million crowns. By the time 
when the ratifications of the Treaty which carried out this agree- 
ment in a modified form, and provided for a renewal of the old 
friendship and Alliance, were exchanged (February, 1720), Carteret at 
Stockholm and Sir Charles (afterwards Lord) Whitworth, a diplomatist 
of notable insight, at Berlin had succeeded in bringing about a Treaty 
between Sweden and Prussia, by which on payment of a large sum 
Stettin, with the Pomeranian region between Oder and Peene, was re- 
linquished by Sweden to Prussia. The network of Treaties was now 
nearly complete and the anti- Swedish League had been all but trans- 
formed into a protective combination against Russia. Of the former, 
there now only remained its earliest member Denmark. In this 
quarter, the efforts of British- Hanoverian and French diplomacy at 
last (in July, 1720) prevailed upon King Frederick IV (afraid lest the 
claims of the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp on parts of Schleswig should 
obtain the support of the Tsar) to agree on terms with Sweden, under 
a British and French guarantee of that duchy 1 . When, in this year, 
Sir John Norris arrived with instructions to notify to the Russian 
Government and its naval and military commanders Great Britain's 

1 In connexion with the Schleswig-Holstein question of later times, it is worth 
noting that this (Frederiksborg) guarantee in no wise affected the question of the 
Succession to the whole of Schleswig. 


willingness to initiate a peace with Sweden, but in any case to con- 
cert operations with the Swedish fleet, he found nothing in readiness 
at Stockholm. And, though there was a strong wish that Great 
Britain should exert her influence with the other Powers to bring 
about a Concert in opposition to Russia's Baltic policy, it proved 
impossible in face of the Emperor's non possumus, Prussia's caution, 
the religious difficulties in Germany which placed the Lutheran 
Elector of Hanover in a most unwelcome position between the two 
chief German Powers, and the uncertainty of the policy of France. 
Probably, the decisive element in the resolution ultimately taken 
to abandon the naval offensive (August, 1719) is to be found in 
considerations which could only be usefully discussed in a Naval 
History. But a great political opportunity had been missed. 

Norris sailed home again, and the British design of an active 
intervention in the settlement of the North had come to naught. 
This barren result of a long episode of British foreign policy was not, 
however, wholly due either to the European complexities of the time, 
or to the naval difficulties of the situation. With the moment, the 
spirit needed for using it was not to return. The end of 1720, in 
May of which year Norris had reappeared in the Baltic, dates the 
Bursting of the South Sea Bubble, which, in more ways than one, 
shook the stability of the British Cabinet. In the midst of these 
troubles, Stanhope died (February, 1721), and, in April, Walpole, who 
had rescued the country from the consequences of the crisis, succeeded 
him as Head of the Government. Townshend, from whom no con- 
tinuation of Stanhope's actively anti-Russian policy was to be ex- 
pected, had, on his death, been appointed to his Secretaryship of State. 

But Sweden had, before this, ceased to reckon any longer on the 
direct support of Great Britain. The idea of a British League with 
Prussia, Denmark and Hesse-Cassel on behalf of Sweden speedily 
collapsed, and the Russian ships devastated the Swedish coasts. But, 
when Norris appeared for the last time in the familiar waters, in 
April, 1721, it soon came to be understood that no aid, even in the 
form of further subsidies, was to be expected from his Government 
at all events for the present. The advice of Great Britain to 
Sweden was now simply cedere malts. In the following month, the 
Nystad Peace Conference opened, and the Tsar's Plenipotentiary, 
RumyantsefF, made it clear that if his Sovereign's conditions were 
accepted, he would leave the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp's pretensions 
to the Swedish Throne to take care of themselves. In the Peace of 


Nystad (May), the Tsar Peter was triumphant. Livonia, whose 
possession implied the virtual command of the Baltic trade 1 , was, 
with Esthonia and part of Carelia, yielded up by Sweden, on payment 
of a wholly inadequate money compensation. Finland was left to 
her, and a promise given that Russia would not interfere in her home 
(dynastic) affairs. Great Britain was not mentioned in the Treaty as 
mediator, guarantor or otherwise, except indirectly as an Ally of 
Sweden. The attempt to insert a clause for the protection of the 
Lower- Saxon Circle (of which Bremen and Verden formed part) had 
broken down; and the relations between the British and Austrian 
Courts and Governments had become so uneasy, that BernstorfF, 
who persistently adhered to the Emperor, lost his credit with his 
own Sovereign. The attempt to break the force of the Peace by a 
quadruple alliance or concert between the Contracting Powers 
(Russia and Sweden) and those who had not been accepted as 
Mediators (Great Britain and France), of course, remained a phan- 
tasm. The Tsar Peter, or as he now called himself, the Emperor of 
all the Russias, was master of a dominion comprising some of the 
fairest provinces of Sweden and clasping Poland in its deadly em- 
brace; and British policy, after coming into conflict with Russian, 
for the first time in the hitherto almost wholly secluded action of the 
latter, had undergone a most signal rebuff, which estranged the two 
Powers politically for the better part of a generation 2 . 

This signal discomfiture can, at least, not be imputed to want 
either of prescience or of activity. One of its causes was, no doubt, 
the coldness between the British and the Imperial Courts, due in 
part to the delays in the investiture of the Elector with Bremen and 
Verden, caused in its turn by the Emperor's jealous hesitation as to 
the parallel investiture of the King of Prussia with Stettin, and in 
part to the religious disputes in the Empire mentioned above. So 
strangely were political and religious difficulties still intertwined, that 
the blindness to its own future interests was in this instance on the 
side of the Empire. As for Great Britain, the Northern policy of 

1 Of this Riga, more and more distinctly, became the centre ; and it was Livonia 
which supplied the bulk of the war material exported from the Baltic to Great 

2 In 1742, during the Russo-Swedish War which ended with the Peace of Abo 
and the humiliation of Sweden, Great Britain concluded with Russia the Treaty 
of Moscow. This was the period of the ascendancy of Carteret and the so-called 
"Drunken Administration." Commercially, it may be noticed, the Baltic had 
become of less importance to Great Britain in the matter of naval materials, after 
these had begun to be imported in increasing quantities from America. 


George I and Stanhope, as it may be described without injustice 
being done to either, had failed, though not more conspicuously so 
than that of France. It would be futile to conjecture what use 
Cromwell, with the support of English Protestant feeling, would 
have made of the situation, the commercial aspects of which can 
hardly be said to be quite free from obscurity. In any case, the 
Emperor had not been induced by the authors of the Quadruple 
Alliance to play an effective part in it; but, though the Alliance 
had in so far proved a failure, the cause of its breakdown is not, 
in this case, to be sought in Hanoverian motives, which no longer 
dominated, though they had not ceased to influence, British foreign 

After Stanhope's death, the conduct of British affairs inevitably 
passed into the hands of Walpole and Townshend, the former having, 
as was seen, been appointed First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, and the latter one of the Secretaries of State. 
Walpole, whose thoughts were as entirely English as his ways, and 
who made no secret either of his personal dislike of the King's 
Hanoverian counsellors, or of his distrust of the House of Austria, 
could not pretend to any diplomatic training and at first affected an 
indifference to foreign policy, in the narrower sense of the word. 
Townshend's experience was therefore indispensable to him, and 
they were at one in resisting the self-assertion of Carteret, who was ap- 
pointed to the other (Southern) Secretaryship, on the death, hastened 
no doubt by his being implicated in the South Sea disaster, of the 
younger Craggs. For a time, the influence of Carteret over the King 
seemed paramount; but, before long (April, 1724), a dispute between 
him and Townshend (at Hanover 1 ) brought about the transfer of the 
Southern Secretary to the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland. Carteret 's 
successor, the Duke of Newcastle, was an adherent of the policy of 
Walpole, or at least preferred to support him as the leader of the 
most powerful party in Parliament. 

Walpole had, however, not yet taken to himself the chief direction 
of the foreign policy of Great Britain, when his Government was called 
upon to intervene in European affairs, which seemed to be experien- 
cing a strange metamorphosis. Early in 1720, on acceding to the Quad- 
ruple Alliance, Philip V of Spain had left over some of the perplexities 

1 The intrigue to which it had reference, and which involved both the French 
Court and the Hanoverian clique, led to the substitution at Paris of Horace Walpole 
the elder for Sir Luke Schaub. 


confronting him (including the perennial question of Gibraltar) to be 
settled by the Congress of Cambray, which however did not actually 
meet till four years later, and, largely because of the matters here 
noted, broke up without result. Marriage contracts had been ar- 
ranged between the heir to the Spanish Throne and his brother 
Charles and two daughters of the Duke of Orleans, and the Infanta 
Maria Anna had, at a very early age, been betrothed to the young 
King Lewis XV of France. But the ex- Regent had died, and had been 
succeeded in the control of French affairs by the Duke of Bourbon- 
Conde, his deadly enemy. A few months later (March, 1725) the 
Duke of Bourbon, by sending back the Infanta, offered an unpardon- 
able insult to Spanish pride. When it was found that the British 
Government would not abandon the French Alliance, the Congress of 
Cambray was broken up by the Spanish Court, and Ripperda, the chief 
instrument of its policy, set to work for the conclusion of a league 
with the Emperor against the original members of the Triple Alliance, 
while waiving all the points that had remained in dispute between 
the Spanish and Imperial Governments. 

Not only had the Emperor Charles VI been with great difficulty 
induced by Great Britain to join in the Quadruple Alliance, seeming 
thus to shut the door against any future revision of the Utrecht 
Settlement; but he had come very near to a quarrel with Great 
Britain herself and the United Provinces, on account of his project 
for the development of the commerce of the Austrian Netherlands 
by the establishment of an East India Company at Ostend. More- 
over and this was doubtless the main motive of his present line of 
action he was most anxious to take advantage of the present isola- 
tion of Spain by obtaining from her a guarantee of the Pragmatic 
Sanction of his daughter Maria Theresa's succession in all his 
dominions. The ambition of the Spanish Prime-minister, the newly 
created Duke of Ripperda an Alberoni of a very inferior type 
met the Emperor's cherished desire halfway; and, by April, 1725, 
the two Governments had come to an understanding which found 
expression in an open and a secret Treaty signed at Vienna. In the 
former, which, while accepting the conditions of the Quadruple 
Alliance and a Spanish guarantee of the Pragmatic Sanction, also 
contained an Imperial promise of good offices for the recovery of 
Gibraltar and Minorca by Spain, there was nothing directly pro- 
vocative to Great Britain; but the secret Treaty was, besides pro- 
mising armed assistance for their recovery and continued action on 


behalf of the Stewart Pretender, understood to provide for the 
cementing of what was thus converted into an offensive Alliance, 
by arranging for the marriage of the Infante Don Carlos and his 
brother with two Austrian Archduchesses. It was further hoped 
that the Tsarina Catharine, who had in this year succeeded Peter I, 
and who had inherited his hatred of the British Government, would 
join in the Alliance. Alberoni's network was being patched up again, 
though by a far less able hand; and once more England was rilled 
with alarm. Again, British interests, political and commercial, co- 
incided with the security of the Hanoverian dynasty, and prompt 
intervention seemed imperative. 

Thus the Alliance of Hanover, signed in September at Herren- 
hausen, though negotiated at the Hague, was a necessary and 
essentially defensive reply to the Alliance of Vienna; nor, though 
Parliament was not sitting at the time, could it be asserted, except by 
party spite, that this important transaction was under the control of 
Hanoverian influence; indeed, the King looked upon it as dangerous. 
The main credit of it was due to the courage of Townshend ; France 
and Prussia were partners in the Treaty, though the accession of 
the latter (who in the same year concluded the wellknown Treaty of 
Wusterhausen) was secured with some difficulty and contained a 
reservation of Prussia's relations with Russia, who, in her turn, soon 
joined the Austro- Spanish Alliance. The United Provinces, after 
vainly attempting to secure by negotiation a stoppage of the Ostend 
Company, also acceded to the Austrian Alliance. 

A European war seemed, in the circumstances, inevitable; and, 
in accordance with the obligations undertaken in the event of a 
declaration of war by the Emperor against France, the British 
Government concluded a Subsidy Treaty with Hesse- Cassel. The 
Spanish Government began preparations for the siege of Gibraltar; 
but, in the meantime, there had been signs of a change in the general 
aspect of things in Europe. In 1726 Ripperda had been dismissed 
in disgrace, and in the same year Cardinal Fleury became Prime- 
minister in France, whose ascendancy in conjunction with that of 
Walpole brought peace in its train. The death of Catharine I, who 
had so faithfully adhered to her great Consort's principles of rule, 
followed in 1727. 

Thus it is not surprising that the Emperor Charles should have 
given way to the new current, and have agreed to the signing of 
Preliminaries of Peace with Great Britain, France and the United 


Provinces at Paris (May 3ist, 1727). While all Treaties concluded 
before 1725 were confirmed, any particular questions for discussion 
were referred to a General Congress ; but and the exception shows, so 
far as Great Britain is concerned, what lay at the root of the so-called 
Alliance of Hanover the charter of the Ostend East India Company 
was suspended for seven years. Spain still held aloof, but her 
acceptance of the Preliminaries must sooner or later follow. Little 
more than a week after the signing of these Preliminaries, King 
George I died on his return journey from Hanover. The foreign 
policy of his reign was, at the moment, in a critical phase, but not 
in one foreboding the collapse of the principles it had followed, and 
the interests it had served with, on the whole, indisputable con- 
sistency. After the conclusion of the War of the Spanish Succession, 
Great Britain could not renounce the leading part she was called upon 
to play in general European politics. The Triple and the Quadruple 
Alliance made the Peace of Utrecht a reality, and the ambition of 
Spain, not once but twice, both when opposed to and when tem- 
porarily reconciled with the dynastic purposes of the House of 
Austria, broke down in face of the Alliance between Great Britain 
and France. The Alliance had not sunk very deeply into the soil ; but 
it seemed more likely than before to hold out, as, in its general 
tendency, the conduct of affairs in both countries, united in resist- 
ance to a disturbance of the existing settlement, became more clearly 
pacific. In the North, new relations between the Baltic Powers, of 
which Great Britain had in vain resisted the establishment, had taken 
the place of the old ; but towards the problems certain to arise from 
these and other more nearly imminent changes, the attitude of Great 
Britain could not yet be determined. 

The first decade, roughly speaking, of the reign of George II 
(1727-37) is the period in which Walpole, the friend of peace, 
remained, virtually, undisturbed in his Ministerial sway. While the 
country at large saw in him its ablest financier, who had rescued it 
from the South Sea debacle, his action in the Spanish-Austrian crisis 
of 1726-7, although he was inclined to blame Townshend for pre- 
cipitancy, had materially contributed to check the policy of Spain, 
which had already begun to lay siege to Gibraltar. For, without Walpole, 
Parliament, when it met in January, 1727, would not have shown, by 
voting supplies, that the nation was prepared. Peace had been thus 
preserved, though the eleventh hour might seem to have passed; the 
Emperor had drawn back; and the Spanish question had been 

w. &G.I. 6 


reduced to that of the time needed for soothing Spain's ruffled 
pride, and reconciling her to the Concert. 

The European position of Great Britain in these years was greatly 
strengthened by the cordial relations between her own and the French 
Government. Walpole's brother, the elder Horace, at that time 
British Ambassador in France, had, in ready deference to Fleury's wish, 
crossed the Channel to second Queen Caroline in impressing upon 
George II the necessity of keeping the Minister in power. This was 
done, though no serious danger would probably have, at least for 
the present, threatened the security of the Hanoverian dynasty, or 
that of the British interests bound up with it, had the King followed 
his first inclinations. The Jacobites were, as usual, quite alive to the 
chances of the situation, but really unprepared to take advantage of 
them, should an opportunity present itself. The Pretender hurried 
from Bologna to Nancy, whence he was formally expelled by the 
French Government, and had to take refuge at Avignon, and then 
at Rome. The Jacobite faction in the new Parliament (1728) was 
impotent for action, and, when the arch-intriguer Bolingbroke ap- 
peared on the scene, it was in the character of an independent 
supporter of the Hanoverian Throne, merely desirous that it should 
change its counsellors. 

Meanwhile, the pacification of Europe which had seemed so near 
at the time of the death of George I had been, though but slowly, 
accomplished. The mock siege of Gibraltar was reluctantly given up ; 
nor was the conduct of the Emperor, bound as he was by his Treaty 
with Prussia, altogether loyal. It was only by very vigorous proceed- 
ings on the part of the British Government (which by means of the 
subsidy Treaty of Wolfenbiittel with Brunswick kept that duchy 
open for occupation by British troops) that he was made tc under- 
stand the seriousness of the situation, and that Spain was obliged to 
relinquish her hope of a resumption of the Austro- Spanish Alliance. 
Philip V signified his acceptance of the Preliminaries of Paris in the 
Act of the Pardo (March, 1728), in which an ulterior settlement was 
referred to a Congress of the Powers. 

In this Congress, originally summoned to Aix-la-Chapelle, and 
thence transferred in the following June to Soissons, where it sat for 
several months, Great Britain's first Plenipotentiary was Colonel 
William Stanhope (subsequently Earl of Harrington, and after the 
dissolution of the Congress one of the Secretaries of State). The 
main question for settlement here was the satisfaction of Spain ; for 


the Emperor, intent upon using the opportunity for as general as 
possible a recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction, had given up both 
his resistance to the establishment of a Spanish Prince in the North- 
Italian duchies, and the maintenance of the Ostend Company. But 
it was the Pragmatic Sanction which Fleury, in accordance with the 
traditions of French policy, steadily declined to recognise, and which 
the Congress left where it found it. The Spanish Government, here- 
upon, after in vain seeking to exact the cession of Gibraltar which 
British public opinion showed itself determined to resist, passed over 
to the other side, and concluded, with Great Britain and France, the 
Treaty of Seville, the United Provinces, as was their custom, acceding 
later. This Treaty (November, 1730) which patched up the trade 
relations in America between Spain and Great Britain, but passed 
over the subject of Gibraltar in silence, was Townshend's last achieve- 
ment. It was much approved in the City, whose interests had been 
jeopardised by the previous attempt of the Spanish Government to 
transfer to Austria the concessions enjoyed (since Utrecht) by British 
trade ; and gratified the Court, annoyed by the recent Austrian rap- 
prochement to Prussia (for securing whose friendship Queen Caroline 
had already formed projects of her own). While, however, the Em- 
peror seemed the loser, he contrived to possess himself of the Italian 
duchies which the Treaty had intended to secure to Spain; where- 
upon it was denounced by the Spanish Government itself. The 
British now once more returned to the Imperial alliance, and, in the 
so-called Second Treaty of Vienna (March, 1731) guaranteed the 
Pragmatic Sanction, the Emperor in return abolishing the Ostend 
Company. When he further agreed to the succession of Don Carlos 
in the Italian duchies, Philip V of Spain, for his part, also acceded to 
the Treaty (July, 1731). Since it, also, received the adhesion of the 
Estates of the Empire and finally of the States- General (1732) a 
general Concert seemed to have been reached. In promoting this 
settlement, the conciliatory diplomacy of Earl Waldegrave, now 
British Ambassador at Paris, fully carried out Walpole's pacific 
policy. At the same time, Droysen, not without reason, regards the 
transaction as illustrating the "parliamentary" style of foreign policy 
characteristic of Walpole a policy which provides for the day and the 
morrow, and leaves the day after to take care of itself. While by this 
Treaty the real gainer was the Emperor (as his concessions in return 
suffice to show), it was concluded without the assent of France; and, 
at a time when the relations between her and her Ally were by no 



means altogether as easy as Fleury desired them to be, Great Britain 
had, in order that Europe should obtain peace for the present, yielded 
to the wishes of the House of Austria in a matter of vital importance 
for the European Balance in the future. France had taken no part in 
the Treaty. On the other side, it must be added that Great Britain 
and the United Provinces were afterwards accused of having failed 
to carry out the commercial concessions they had made to the Austrian 
Netherlands in return for the abandonment of the Ostend Company. 
With regard to the future, France, though under the genuinely pacific 
and conciliatory guidance of Fleury, had always been impatient of 
pacific Ministers, and to a generation not yet oblivious of the glories 
of Lewis XIV even to Fleury himself a realisation of the Pragmatic 
Sanction was intolerable. Thus, the disagreement on this head 
between France and Great Britain inevitably tended to bring about 
closer relations between the former Power and Spain, and to pro- 
mote the signing, so early as November, 1733, of the First Bourbon 
"Family Compact." On the other hand, the renewed good under- 
standing between Great Britain and the Emperor could, in the end, 
hardly fail to involve this country in the conflict between Austria 
and Prussia, which, although they had in 1729 concluded a Perpetual 
Alliance, could no longer be far distant. But, for the present, all 
seemed to promise well ; and Walpole's method of advancing national 
prosperity by assuring the continuance of peace, and leaving over 
remoter difficulties, commended itself to public opinion. Great 
Britain required peace after the long strain of the active foreign policy 
of the first Hanoverian reign ; nor is it easy to see how, without the 
material resources accumulated by her during the Walpolean age, she 
could have taken upon her the mighty responsibilities awaiting her. 
Thus, we have reached a chapter of modern history marked by 
a European War in which Great Britain took no part. Notwith- 
standing the efforts of the Emperor to draw her (and the United 
Provinces) into the War of the Polish Succession (1733-8), she had 
contented herself with offering her mediation, after (in November, 
J 733) the Government of Lewis XV had agreed to a Convention at 
the Hague, by which it undertook to refrain from invading the 
Austrian Netherlands. The War and the so-called Third Treaty of 
Vienna, which in 1738 definitively terminated it, exhibit the most 
turbid depths of eighteenth century diplomacy ; and it was only with 
the utmost difficulty that Walpole had succeeded in restraining King 
George IFs dynastic and military aspirations from casting a line into 


waters so troubled. Nor is it astonishing that the Courts of 
France and Spain which the latter on acknowledging the Pragmatic 
Sanction had been the territorial gainers in the issue, should have 
cherished the thought, developed in them by the course of the War, 
of turning their united strength against the Power whose neutrality 
had favoured an unprecedented growth of its commercial prosperity. 
They could not do so in secrecy ; for, as Seeley has pointed out, the 
Bourbon Family Compact of November, 1733, which showed that 
France was weary of a policy of peace, was known from the first to 
Walpole, whose own policy had seemed to be an element in its 
prospects of success. There can be no doubt that the purpose of this 
Compact, besides aiding in securing the position of Don Carlos in 
Italy, was to resist the advances of Great Britain by sea, and, while 
making joint war upon the Emperor, to keep Great Britain in check 
by naval armaments. At all events, the promise of French aid in the 
efforts of Spain to recover Gibraltar was included in the agreement. 
For the rest, the encroachments of British maritime trade offered a 
constant opportunity for Spanish grievances ; though it might better 
suit Walpole 's parliamentary adversaries to find effective opportunities 
of attacking him in the Spanish treatment of British traders oppor- 
tunities of which, in 1738, they availed themselves with relentless 
factiousness. If Walpole has been justly charged with moulding his 
foreign policy too closely upon the necessity of satisfying Parliament, 
it must be remembered that a bitter personal hostility to himself was 
the guiding motive of the whole Opposition against which he had 
long stood at bay. Carteret, after he had been replaced in his Secre- 
taryship by Newcastle, had returned to the Parliamentary arena in 
1730, and, an attempt at reconciliation with Walpole having failed, 
he, with the often invaluable aid of Chesterfield in the House of 
Lords, and that of Pulteney in the Commons, divided the conduct 
of the Opposition between them. The Jacobites under Wyndham, 
and the Boy Patriots clustered round Bolingbroke (William Pitt, 
from 1735, among them), treated foreign affairs as they treated 
domestic, from the same point of view the baiting of Walpole. In 
the face of such an Opposition, no harder task ever fell to the lot of 
a British Minister. To his honour, Walpole was animated by a sincere 
desire for peace ; though the spirit of the nation had been effectually 
roused against Spain, while the Spanish Court, with the Family 
Compact to fall back upon, was never indisposed to war. In the nego- 
tiations which occupied the autumn and winter of 1738, Spain showed 


herself willing to give satisfaction for past transgressions, but not 
prepared to relinquish the right of search ; " No Search " had become 
the demand of the British mercantile interest, and, owing to the per- 
sistence of the Opposition, the cry of British public opinion 1 . 

Quite early in 1739, a Convention was signed at the Pardo by 
the Spanish Minister de la Quadra and Sir Benjamin Keene, a 
diplomatist who represented Great Britain at Madrid with much 
ability both before and after the War 2 which broke out later in this 
year. This preliminary agreement stipulated that, before the execu- 
tion of the final Treaty, Spain should pay to Great Britain the amount 
by which the British claims exceeded the Spanish counter-claims. 
Into the accompanying reservations and protests it is the less requisite 
to enter here, since public opinion in England, led by the Opposition, 
would in no case have been satisfied with the Convention, which 
Walpole, in one of his Pyrrhic victories, only carried by small 
majorities (March, 1739). The Opposition hereupon seceded, thus 
enabling the Government to carry a Danish Subsidy Bill. Whether 
the object of this measure was to patch up a Hanoverian quarrel or 
to prevent a Danish alliance with Sweden and France and thus leave 
Great Britain without an ally in the imminent War, the incident at 
all events illustrated the inconvenience of mingling questions of 
foreign policy with party manoeuvres. Before long, it became evident 
that, though the Opposition was unable to oust Walpole from office by 
their onslaughts, they had created a situation involving the country 
in the War to the avoidance of which his policy had, above all, been 
directed. When the Spanish Government declared that negotiations 
could proceed on no other basis than one repudiated by British 
public opinion, and that, till a particular Spanish demand (the claim on 
the South Sea Company) had been satisfied, Spain would suspend 
the Asiento, the chances of peace had been reduced to nothing. The 
usual votes followed in Supply ; but Carteret's advice to conclude an 
alliance with Prussia was not followed. Keene 's ultimatum was 
declined by Spain, and war was declared (November, 1739). France 
protested her pacific intentions, but began to arm. 

The outbreak of the War found Great Britain without an ally 
(except Denmark). The Emperor Charles VI was sick to death. He 
had consented to the humiliating Peace of Belgrade, and was not to 

Pitt was, in course of time, to come to see the Spanish side of the argument. 

He was also commissioned at Madrid as South Sea Agent. It was Keene, 
who, in 1757, reluctantly obeyed Pitt's instructions to offer Spain the restoration 
of Gibraltar, if she would join Great Britain against France. 


be tempted by British suggestions as to the recovery of Naples and 
Sicily; the United Provinces, this time, stood altogether aloof; 
Frederick William I (whose death, like the Emperor's, followed in 
1740) would give no encouragement to British overtures, being, 
above all, anxious to preserve the goodwill of France. As for France, 
she would no doubt join Spain in the War at the moment most con- 
venient to herself; and, though it began with Admiral Vernon's naval 
exploit (celebrated at home as a party triumph), this was not success- 
fully followed up, and Anson's brilliant circuit had no influence on 
the course of the War: the conflict between two European Great 
Powers could not be decided in the Pacific. Thus the spirit of the 
Opposition was by no means quelled. In 1741, what Lord Stanhope 
hardly exaggerates in calling the "cry for the blood of Walpole" 
went up louder than ever. He successfully resisted a drastic censure 
on his entire foreign policy moved in the Lords by Carteret and in 
the Commons by Samuel (afterwards Lord) Sandys ; but, immediately 
before the dissolution of Parliament, he had felt obliged to follow 
public opinion, with which part of the Opposition identified itself, 
in carrying the grant of a subsidy to the Queen of Hungary (April). 
By this grant, Great Britain became a participant in the War of 
the Austrian Succession, for which Frederick II's invasion of Silesia 
in December, 1740, gave the signal, and which was destined to 
dominate the next epoch of European politics. Although Carteret, 
a consistent friend of the House of Austria, hoped from the first that 
Maria Theresa would come to terms with her determined assailant, 
the subsidy granted sufficed to make her believe that Great Britain 
would support her to the end ; and Walpole's plans for the preserva- 
tion of peace fell to the ground. Thus, the battle of Chotusitz (1742), 
which ended the First Silesian War, lost two provinces to her, and, 
while the Alliance of Great Britain had only helped her to conclude 
a humiliating peace, the result had still further increased the 
unpopularity of Walpole at home. Upon him too fell a share of the 
indignation aroused by the Treaty by which, in September, 1741, 
the Elector of Hanover agreed to remain neutral in the War, and even 
to abstain from voting for Maria Theresa's Consort in the approach- 
ing election to the Imperial Throne. The Prime-minister's position 
had become untenable 1 , as was shown by Newcastle's averted 

1 His desperate, or at least paradoxical, notions of recovering popularity by 
a separation of Hanover from Great Britain on the King's death, and of obtaining 
Jacobite support by overtures to the Pretender, had, practically, no connexion with 
his foreign policy. 


attitude; and though his was not the last instance of a peace Minister 
drifting into war, Walpole's sagacity failed him more signally in 
1741 if less ignobly, than it had in 1739. Carteret, as Secretary of 
State, guided the foreign policy of the new Administration; but it 
was only at sea (by forcing Don Carlos at Naples to remain neutral) 
that Great Britain interfered effectively in the European conflict. 

The Peace of Breslau (June, 1742), in which both Russia and 
Great Britain were included (the former continuing for the present 
to hold aloof from the struggle), was " mediated " by Lord Hyndford, 
,as representing Great Britain. Although in truth there was little to 
effect by mediation, the friendly spirit of Carteret 's policy had found 
occasion for manifesting itself; and, in the same year, an enlarged 
subsidy and a large vote in Supply testified to the nation's warlike 
enthusiasm, though as yet Great Britain and France, a direct contest 
between whom could not be far distant, were only in arms against 
each other on behalf, respectively, of the Queen of Hungary and of 
the Nymphenburg Alliance against her. At the beginning of 1743, 
a brighter prospect seemed opening for the Queen and her British 
sympathisers; and Carteret's spirited foreign policy steadily (the 
adverb is perhaps ill-chosen) advanced in its course. Prussia was 
satisfied, so long as she was left in possession of Silesia. The Tsarina 
Elizabeth had entered into an Alliance with Great Britain, though 
this was not to extend to any Russian action against Turkey, or to 
any British intervention against Spain in Italy, where the House of 
Savoy had come to an understanding with that of Austria. Thus, the 
time seemed to have arrived at last when the British nation, weary 
of a condition of things which was neither peace nor war, might take a 
leading part in a struggle which was now a far from hopeless one, 
and when King George II might satisfy both his political wishes and 
his military impulses by leading into battle a " Pragmatic " army, com- 
posed of both Englishmen and Germans, in British as well as (to do 
him justice) in Hanoverian pay. In the face of vehement opposition 
the vote was carried (December, 1742). The battle of Dettingen was 
fought (June, 1743), and, while the Nymphenburg Alliance was 
virtually dissolved, the Treaty of Worms (September) united, as the 
Allies of Maria Theresa, Great Britain, the United Provinces, Sar- 
dinia and Saxony, and promised an annual British subsidy "so long 
as the necessity of her affairs should require." But the Treaty was 
never ratified, and, though kept secret, confirmed the decision at 
which, though against his own wish, George II had arrived, to pass 


over Carteret in the choice of a new Prime-minister (August) ; for 
the unpopularity of the Crown and of the Hanoverian interest had 
reached its height, and Pitt's thunder already filled the sky. A term 
was thus set to a line of policy which was easily held up to scorn as 
subservient to Hanoverian ends or motives, but in truth signified a 
resumption of the Whig policy in Queen Anne's reign as opposed to 
the vague peace policy of Walpole, and exhibited, curiously enough, 
points cf resemblance to the ideas of Bolingbroke. Yet, as a matter 
of fact, Carteret's "system" would not fit in with the existing rela- 
tions between the European Powers chiefly concerned. On the one 
hand, the two principal German Powers were too much absorbed in 
their own quarrels to care for a close cooperation with Great Britain ; 
and her political action was more and more concentrating itself upon 
the protection of her own trade, whether lawful or illicit. She was, 
in fact, a Maritime Power before everything else, and, as such, 
unable to combine with any one other Power in an alliance like the 
Family Compact, which France and Spain were (still quite secretly) 
renewing on terms of the closest intimacy. 

The outbreak of the Second Silesian War (1744-5), m which 
George II encouraged Maria Theresa to engage ("ce qui est bon a 
prendre est bon a rendre"), found Great Britain firm in her support. 
Though Henry Pelham, the younger brother of the Duke of Newcastle, 
and himself a more timid statesman of Walpole 's school, was now at 
the Head of the Government, Carteret continued to conduct foreign 
affairs till the King was obliged to dismiss him (November, 1744), 
when the Earl of Harrington was appointed in his place 1 . Before 
this, France, no longer ruled by Fleury, had declared war against 
Great Britain, though not till after a vain attempt had been made to 
throw an army on her shores, promptly answered by a British block- 
ade of the French and Spanish ships at Toulon. There was no longer 
any pacifist opposition in England, while the open outbreak of war 
between Great Britain and France seemed once more, as in the greater 
days of the past, to promise that the consent of all loyal parties would 
enable the Crown to carry out its policy to the full. But the case was 
altered. Perhaps, had Maria Theresa's only Ally encouraged her to 
persevere, instead of concluding the Peace of Dresden (December, 
1745) she might have successfully prolonged her struggle; but public 
opinion in England, because it was now less under the influence 
of sentiment, had taken a turn less favourable to her cause and was 

1 Carteret (Granville)'s return to office in 1746 lasted only four days. 


certainly much preoccupied with the course of events nearer 

Maria Theresa's prospect of recovering Silesia depended, as a 
matter of fact, on the continuance of British subsidies; and in the 
end, she had, therefore, to content herself with the advice of George II 

if it was actually proffered to wait for a better day. In Italy, 

Austria was, notwithstanding the assistance of a British fleet, unable 
to establish her claims. But, for Great Britain, the significance of 
the War, into which a generous impulse had mainly caused her to 
enter, soon concentrated itself upon what came to be more and more 
clearly recognised as the beginning of a struggle with France for 
maritime, Colonial and East Indian supremacy. The ultimate break- 
down of the last and most formidable Jacobite Insurrection (1745-6) 
reacted but slightly on the conduct of the War (only in so far as 
British troops had to be transferred from Flanders). On the other 
hand, the British capture of Cape Breton, the "Dunkirk of the 
West" (1745), was a serious blow to France; and found no com- 
pensation in the surrender, in the following year, of Madras and its 
British settlement, which after a long and gallant contest was re- 
covered by the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. In 1747, two great British 
victories off Cape Finisterre and near the Isle of Aix placed the 
superiority of the British navy to the French beyond all doubt; and, 
in the following winter, peace negotiations began. The previous 
French attempt, in the Breda Conferences (1746), to cow the United 
Provinces, who had little stomach for joining in the aggressive policy 
of Great Britain, had failed; but the consequent French invasion 
having (notwithstanding the French victory of Lauffeldt) led to no 
decisive result, the British and Dutch Governments now entered 
jointly into these negotiations. 

In June, 1747, Great Britain had concluded a subsidy Treaty with 
Russia (who in the previous year had concluded a defensive Treaty 
with Austria, and whose troops were already on their march), and to 
this the United Provinces had acceded. With the view, no doubt, of 
putting a final pressure on France, the two Maritime Powers, at the 
beginning of 1748, signed a Convention at the Hague, in which 
Sardinia was included, declaring their alliance with Austria. Yet, by 
now negotiating for peace, in spite of the martial ardour of George II 
and the Duke of Cumberland, the British Ministry attested the fact, 
to which they could no longer shut their eyes, of the uselessness of 
the War, as undertaken in support of Maria Theresa. The essential 


condition of the Preliminaries insisted on by Great Britain and the 
United Provinces was the status quo ante helium the restitution, in 
other words, of the conquests made during the War, including the 
Barrier Towns recently taken by the French, and Madras. 

The Peace Conferences of Aix-la-Chapelle began in April, 1748, 
and, Maestricht having been taken early in their course, were pro- 
longed during the summer. On October i8th, the Peace was signed, 
its terms being virtually those of the Preliminaries and not more 
favourable either to Maria Theresa or to her Ally Great Britain than 
they would have been, had the winding-up of the peace negotiations 
with France, Spain and their Allies not been delayed, in deference to 
the personal wishes of George II, till public opinion in England had 
rendered it imperative. While the House of Austria was now assured 
of the European recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction, and Prussia 
(which had kept out of the Treaty, leaving the care of her interests 
to France) of the guaranteed possession of Silesia, Maria Theresa 
had, besides losing that Province, made definite cessions in Italy, 
and had been grievously disappointed by the War in which Great 
Britain had chivalrously undertaken to support her. Great Britain 
herself issued forth from the War with little clear gain. But she 
had well sustained her military repute, and stood before the world 
as the all but undisputed mistress of the seas. Thus, she had proved 
equal to staying the revived ambition of France, even when that 
Power commanded the allegiance of Spain and had in so far justified 
the fears of Fleury. 

The foreign policy of the Pelham Administration (1744-54) 
had, up to the conclusion of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, lacked 
the strength of which the true foundations lie in definite political 
principle, and not in a "broad bottom" of caution and craft, such as 
respectively marked the Prime-minister and his brother, the Duke of 
Newcastle. Neither of them had proved high-spirited enough to 
withstand the King's tenacious adherence to a policy of war, which 
Walpole had so long succeeded in restraining; and Chesterfield, the 
only member of the Government possessed of the required courage, 
had, in 1745, after the retirement in the previous year of Granville, to 
whom he was bitterly opposed, been, after a successful diplomatic 
mission to the Hague, transferred to Ireland. 

The Peace concluded at Aix-la-Chapelle had nearly been broken 
in the following year by the refusal of Spain to carry out a com- 
pensation clause for war losses contained in it, and to renew the 


Asiento; but Great Britain proved conciliatory, and the trade between 
the two countries was restored to the conditions which had pre- 
vailed in the reign of Charles II of Spain. In other respects, the 
Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, far from glorious as it was, had not been 
concluded too soon for British interests, considering the incom- 
petence of either the Government 1 or the utterly factious Opposition 
to rise to a policy alike definite and reasonable. The German question 
seemed to slumber ; though Hanoverian influence was at the bottom 
of the protracted manoeuvres for gaining the votes of the Electors 
for Archduke Joseph as Roman King 2 , and for obtaining grants of 
subsidies to them with that object from the British Parliament. 
French diplomacy, on the other hand, was still hampered by the 
reserve maintained by King Frederick II of Prussia in his relations 
with France. 

The Peace of Europe had now been restored ; but the question of 
its endurance was full of uncertainty. However much the soul of 
Maria Theresa had been vexed by the behaviour of Great Britain in 
the Aix-la-Chapelle negotiations, she found it necessary to follow the 
advice of the majority of her counsellors, and to adhere to the British 
(and Dutch) Alliance, with the additional security (such as it was) of 
the Defensive Treaty with Russia of 1746. But, already before the 
Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was actually signed, Kaunitz, the Austrian 
Plenipotentiary there, had, at a Secret Council held by the Empress, 
declared his view that the King of Prussia was her most dangerous foe ; 
but that, since the Maritime Powers would no longer come to her 
aid against him, the only policy left open to her was to invoke the 
assistance of France. In this counsel we have the germ of the Seven 
Years' War; but though, so early as 1750, Kaunitz went as Am- 
bassador to Paris, it was not till three years later that he was actually 
called to the conduct of Austria's foreign policy ; and even then no 
change was as yet made in its system. Thus, the idea of seeking to 
recover Silesia was not resumed as a practical political purpose till 
complications between Great Britain and France obliged the former 
Power to consider her attitude towards what might still be called the 
German question 3 . 

Although the most important issues decided at Aix-la-Chapelle 

1 Granville, after his return to office as President of the Council in 1751, no 
longer influenced the course of affairs, foreign or domestic. 

2 The election, however, did not actually take place till after the close of the 
Seven Years' War. 

3 Cf. A. von Arneth, Geschichte Maria Theresia's, vol. iv. (Vienna, 1870). 


had been those bearing upon the contention between France and 
Great Britain for the mastery of a great part of the known world, the 
settlement on this head reached in the Treaty could not possibly be 
regarded as definitive. Great Britain had deemed it so important to 
remove the French garrisons from the Dutch Barrier-fortresses that, 
by way of compensation, she had allowed the French to recover their 
possessions in North America a withdrawal which seemed in- 
tolerable to the British Colonists. In the East Indies, the warfare be- 
tween the Companies continued; while, on the West Coast of Africa 
and in the Levant, British trade was outstripped by that of its rival. 
In Russia, while the Baltic trade was chiefly in British hands, in the 
Black Sea region France consistently kept up intimate relations with 
her old friend the Turk, and her rivalry was, again, dangerous. In 
both directions, French diplomacy never more imaginatively active 
than at this season of internal decline sought to provide for the pos- 
sibilities of the future, keeping the Porte in hand as a check upon 
European operations of the Eastern Powers, and intriguing with the 
dominant party in Sweden (the * Caps ') for a defensive alliance against 
Great Britain 1 . In Poland, British and French influence were at 
issue on the burning question of the next Succession to the Throne. 
In Denmark, French, in Portugal, British influence predominated, 
and even in the United Provinces, where, after the death of the 
Stadholder William IV (1751) his widow, the British Princess Anne, 
carried on the functions of his office on behalf of her son, a French 
faction asserted itself, which here, of course, was in favour of peace. 
On the other hand as if to meet paradox by paradox in Spain, 
where internal prosperity was the chief care of King Ferdinand VI 
and his Minister Carvajal, there was now evident friendliness to 
Great Britain, partly due to a dispute as to the succession in the Two 
Sicilies between the Bourbon lines, which had in its turn led to a 
combination between Spain and Austria. 

It was thus inevitable that the conflict of interests between the 
two Powers which thus divided between them the good- and the ill- 
will of the rest of Europe should declare itself with peculiar strength 
in the affairs of the Germanic Empire, where the Sovereign of Great 
Britain had a legitimate standing as Elector of Hanover, while the 
intervention of France in them had for a century past at all events 

1 The British relations with the opposite party, the 'Hats,' were so close that a 
rumour actually attributed to George II the intention of bringing about the eleva- 
tion to the Swedish Throne of the Duke of Cumberland. 


been a regular element in her political action. Great Britain's sub- 
sidies had, as noted, continued, so late as 1752, to flow into the 
Austrian exchequer, and into the pockets of the Electors to the 
Roman Kingship, and, though disliked by Pelham, were defended 
in Parliament by his brother, who, at the close of the previous year, 
had succeeded in ousting from the other Secretaryship of State the 
Duke of Bedford and putting in his place the Earl of Holderness, a 
diplomatist not possessed of the Duke's parliamentary influence. 

But it was not in Europe, or in connexion with European dis- 
putes, that the rivalry which constitutes the chief political interest of 
the years following on the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle most signally 
declared itself. That Peace had failed sufficiently to define the 
boundaries between the Colonial dominions of France and Great 
Britain; more especially, the limits of the Colony of Nova Scotia 
(Acadia) were disputed, and the frontier between Canada and New 
England. On the peninsula connecting Nova Scotia with the main- 
land, both Powers had constructed forts against one another, while 
Virginia was up in arms to recover a fort on the Ohio captured by 
the French (1754). The War between the two Governments did not 
actually break out on this occasion ; for neither side was eager for a 
precipitate rupture. But there were other Colonial quarrels, and it 
was felt throughout the British dominions that the unbroken main- 
tenance of them along the whole line must be very soon definitively 
settled. At such seasons, the most competent diplomacy may find 
itself incapable of doing more than delay for a time or hasten, 
according as it may suit the purpose of its Government, the first 
unretraceable step. But Great Britain seems at this time to have 
been singularly ill-served in the most important quarter. The British 
Ambassador at Paris, as Lord Stanhope reminds us, was the Earl of 
Albemarle, whom Chesterfield held up to his son as an encouraging 
example of how to succeed without a single recommendation except 
good manners ; and his political secrets were carried from his embassy 
to the French Government. In 1754, the year in which this diplo- 
matist was removed by death, Newcastle succeeded his brother as 
Prime-minister, and entered upon the last decade of nearly half a 
century of public service. On his personality satire has, not always 
quite fairly, exhausted itself; though a consistent time-server, he 
was also loyal to the dynasty on the Throne, and, while he corrupted 
others, he, at least, took no thought of personal gains. 

In choosing a Leader of the House of Commons, Newcastle had 


been virtually reduced to the choice between Henry Fox and William 
Pitt, of whom the latter had entered that House in 1735. Since, 
however, neither of these politicians would submit to give up that 
side of the conduct of affairs which he most prized, Newcastle offered 
the Leadership, together with a Secretaryship of State, to Sir Thomas 
Robinson, who possessed diplomatic experience without parliament- 
ary ability, and who was welcome to the King because of his familiarity 
with German politics. For a time, Pitt (whom the King detested) 
and Fox hereupon joined hands against the new Leader and his 
master; Robinson retired to the Mastership of the Great Wardrobe, 
and Henry Fox, without Pitt, allied himself with Newcastle 1 . But 
even this makeshift was not to hold out for long. Already the storms 
were lowering, and the nation was looking towards its destined pilot. 
When Parliament met at the close of 1754, the King's wishes were 
met by an Address from the Commons undertaking to support him 
in defending his rights and dominions against all encroachments; a 
credit of a million was at once granted; and, had he not, with his 
customary want of tact, hereupon immediately set out for Hanover, 
this might have proved the season of his greatest popularity since he 
had ascended the Throne. On the following day, Admiral Boscawen 
sailed for Newfoundland, and soon afterwards came the news of 
General Braddock's catastrophe on the Ohio, which was speedily 
avenged. The brink of war had been reached 2 . 

Few wars, as statesmanship knows to its cost, are easily localised; 
but the difficulties besetting the process were nothing short of in- 
superable in the case of the present struggle between Great Britain 
and France. Apart from all questions of Treaties and Alliances, the 
Netherlands could not but be involved in a struggle with which they 
must be brought into contact by both sea and land; and, if so, 
Germany could not remain outside it. But there were of course now, 
as there have so often been, special considerations which would 
implicate severally or collectively the German States in a conflict 
between the Western Powers ; and who, at the close of the year 1754 
could have reckoned otherwise than that in the War now imminent 
Prussia would take the side of France, and Austria that of Great 

And yet, as indicated above, the Austro-British Alliance was, 

1 For these transactions cf. Earl of Ilchester, Henry Fox (2 vols. 1920) and the 
Earl of Rosebery, Chatham: His Early Life and Correspondence, 1910. 

8 As to what follows, cf . Ranke, Der Ursprung des Siebenjdhrigen Krieges (Leipzig, 


notwithstanding, on the eve of dissolution. Apart from lesser grounds 
of complaint, which British diplomacy was certainly not disposed to 
minimise, a difference of great historical significance seriously dis- 
turbed the relations between the United and the Austrian Nether- 
lands. Much importance attached to the view taken of these relations 
by Austria, which had grown weary of the conditions on which she 
held the Provinces now called by her name, while the British concep- 
tion of the proper function of the Low Countries in the political 
system of Europe necessitated as close as possible a connexion be- 
tween the Austrian and the United Provinces. Although the British, 
which was necessarily also the Dutch, view had prevailed at Aix-la- 
Chapelle, the Vienna Government had administered the Austrian 
Netherlands as possessing interests of their own and free from the 
control of their neighbours, who occupied the Barrier fortresses, and 
had actively promoted Belgic prosperity on these lines. When, in 
August, 1754, a provisional Treaty was proposed for the adjustment 
of these differences, it was rejected through the influence of Kaunitz 
against the strenuous efforts of the British Ambassador, Keith. A 
grievance of a different description is interesting, inasmuch as it illus- 
trates the part still occasionally played by the old religious disputes in 
the philosophical "eighteenth century," and the importance attached 
to them by the Hanoverian dynasty, whose tenure of the Throne, after 
all, depended primarily upon its Protestantism. In the complicated 
quarrel at the Germanic Diet in 1754 as to the guarantee demanded 
on behalf of the Hereditary Prince Frederick of Hesse-Cassel (whose 
Consort was the British Princess Mary), George II and the King of 
Prussia were alike opposed to the House of Austria. But these and 
other lesser quarrels apart, Austria would certainly not adhere to 
Great Britain, unless the latter would aid in the recovery of Silesia 
and could, even as an Ally, be of no assistance to her except by making 
war on Prussia, from whom Great Britain, in her turn, had nothing, 
and even Hanover, at this time, had not very much, to fear. In other 
words, the interests of the two Allied Powers were quite divergent, 
and while certainly much British treasure had been spent and not a 
little English blood spilt, purely for Austria's sake, Kaunitz might, 
on the other hand, speciously argue that the Alliance had only been 
carried on by Great Britain so long as it served her own purpose. 

Undeniably, the motives for maintaining the Austro-British Alli- 
ance had long prevailed, and Great Britain's differences with France 
continued to be regarded as the beginnings of a quarrel in which 


Austria's own part was marked out for her beforehand ; while, should 
France attack Great Britain by way of Hanover, Austria was doubly 
bound to contribute to the defence of the Electorate. No exception 
was taken in England, so late as 1755, either to the Subsidy Treaty 
with Hesse- Cassel (where there was an easy market for soldiers) or 
to a Russian Subsidy Treaty, in which the Austrian Government 
had interested itself. If Austria and Russia remained friendly, there 
seemed no reason why the present situation should not be prolonged, 
provided always that, as in the last year of the War of the Austrian 
Succession, Prussia remained neutral. Great Britain would not suffer, 
and, so far as the game of Alliances went, France would have gained 

But this calculation was absolutely intolerable to Kaunitz and to 
his Mistress, who had made up their minds that, after despoiling her 
monarchy, Prussia must not be suffered to hold by its side the position 
which she had acquired among the European Powers. Thus, the more 
surely that the outbreak of war between France and Great Britain 
announced itself, the more resolute was Kaunitz, in the first instance, 
to turn the force of the Austro-British Alliance against the "new 
Power," as he called Prussia, as well as against France. 

The British Government, for its part, had no intention of re- 
versing the general policy it had pursued up to Aix-la-Chapelle, or, 
on the other hand, of abandoning the guarantee of the tenure of 
Silesia by Prussia, in which it had joined. According to the view 
duly placed before the Austrian Government, the present task of 
Great Britain was to aid in the defence of the United Provinces and 
the Hanoverian Electorate; and Kaunitz promised to augment the 
Austrian forces in the Netherlands and to assume the offensive 
against Prussia, should her troops march against Hanover. But 
Great Britain had no reason for apprehending any Prussian attack 
of the kind upon the Electoral frontier. And, as the words of Holder- 
ness (whose intelligence has perhaps been underrated) show, the 
British Government was beginning to understand, that Kaunitz and 
the Empress meant to utilise for the recovery of Silesia the Alliance 
desired by the British Government for the purpose of its contest 
with France. When it became clear that Great Britain was not dis- 
posed to fall in with an extension of her plan of action, and that 
W.&G.I. 7 


Austria would therefore not find her account in joining in such a war, 
there remained for her only the choice between neutrality (hardly 
possible, in view of the situation of the Austrian Netherlands) and 
the radical change of policy long and explicitly recommended by 
Kaunitz 1 . An alliance with France would be the foundation of the 
new policy; the cooperation of Russia, and probably of Sweden, 
Saxony and the Palatinate, might be secured; and the division of the 
spoils after the overthrow of Prussia was already prospectively planned. 
France might have to be attracted to the projected alliance by a terri- 
torial cession either in Italy or in Flanders (the complicated details 
of which illustrate the imaginative force of the projector's diplomacy) 
and by the promise of Austrian support of the candidature of Prince 
Conti for the Polish Throne 2 . Such was (of course in barest outline) 
the great design of Kaunitz ; and the first move in the game was the 
audience vouchsafed to the Austrian Ambassador in Paris, Count 
Starhemberg, with Mme de Pompadour (September, 1755). At the 
present moment, when France was on the point of entering into an 
all-important war with Great Britain, there could be no question of 
the simple rejection, by Lewis XV's Government, of such a proposal 
on the part of Great Britain's historic Ally the House of Austria. 
The only difficulty in the way of its acceptance by the French 
Government but this, at first, seemed insuperable was the im- 
probability of the renunciation, by Frederick II, of the French in 
favour of a British Alliance ; for Austria could not carry on negotia- 
tions with France on any basis but that of the severance of her 
Alliance with Prussia. 

It was about this time (summer of 1755) that the American news 
already referred to arrived in France, where the remainder of the 
year was mainly consumed in armaments and taxation. An invasion 
of England was at least talked of; the hopes of the Jacobites simmered 
up, and the French Government resolved to fight out the struggle 
against Great Britain by every means in its power. True, it had other 
support in view; but it continued to think, as it had thought in 1741, 
friendly relations with Prussia, to whom, in her turn, the French Alli- 
ance must be indispensable, the basis of its system. Frederick II, on 
the contrary, even apart from any secret evidence he might possess on 
the subject, felt his position insecure, so long as Austria had the support 

1 See, for what follows, R. Waddington, Louis XV, et le Renversement des 
Alliances (Paris, 1896). 

* On this head, the wishes of Lewis XV soon began to cool. 


of her present Continental Allies, and so long as France was weakened 
by the maritime and colonial rivalry of Great Britain, as well as by the 
imsoundness of her own condition at home. Thus, for Frederick II 
of Prussia there was during these busy years (1748 to middle of 1755) 
but one way of staving off war namely, that of holding himself pre- 
pared for it. There seems, however, no reason for concluding that, 
at any time in this period, he intended either to renew the War with 
Austria, or to become implicated in that imminent between Great 
Britain and France. But, as we know, and as the French Govern- 
ment was not slow to point out to Frederick II, this latter War might 
bring with it a French attack upon Hanover, in which the cooperation 
of Prussia would be of very direct value to the French. Frederick II, 
though he kept his own counsel, could not close his eyes to the part, 
at once difficult and inglorious, which he might thus find himself 
called upon to play. 

British statesmanship, while loth to accept Kaunitz's view that a 
real concert with Austria required Great Britain to join in an attack 
upon Prussia, also perceived that Prussia could have no wish, for the 
sake of her friendship with France, to cooperate in an attack upon 
Hanover. The situation was critical; and George II's visit to his 
electoral dominions in the summer of 1755, with Holderness in 
attendance, accordingly proved the first step towards a change in 
the relations between Great Britain and Prussia of the utmost im- 
portance in its bearing on the impending European War. Taking 
advantage of the friendly relations between the Prussian Court and 
Duke Charles of Brunswick- Wolf enbiittel, Holderness contrived to 
elicit from Frederick II, in reply to the question whether he would 
refuse to prevent the defence of Hanover against a French invasion, 
the reply that he saw no objection to treaties concluded by Hanover 
with her neighbours for this purpose, but that the time had not yet 
arrived for a declaration on the subject. For some time Frederick II 
(whose present Defensive Alliance with France would naturally ter- 
minate in 1756) would go no further; but he finally made up his 
mind that, while he had not guaranteed to France her overseas pos- 
sessions, the relative smallness of his own military forces would not 
justify him in going to war against an Alliance which might bring the 
Russians into Germany. Hence, the only course open to him seemed 
to be to enter into the Treaty of Neutrality as to Hanover suggested to 
him by Great Britain, without on that account breaking with France. 

Thus it came to pass that, in the Treaty of Neutrality concluded 



between Great Britain and Prussia in January, 1756, and sometimes 
called the Treaty of Westminster, Frederick II and the British 
Government, directly instigated this time by the Hanoverian interests 
of King George II, met halfway. Henry Fox devised the expedient 
of adding this Prussian Treaty to a Russian (and a Hessian) Subsidy 
Treaty, which he carried in one of the most famous debates of the 
age ; Pitt, who had accepted the Paymastership of the Forces in the 
Government, being foremost among the opponents of the proposal. 
One object of the Anglo-Prussian Treaty was declared to be the preser- 
vation of the Peace of the Continent, and that of Germany in especial. 
Holderness introduced into it a concise guarantee of the Prussian 
tenure of Silesia; and the Prime-minister, Newcastle, proclaimed 
King George IPs personal anxiety to place himself on an amicable 
footing with King Frederick II. Henry Fox was, on the following day 
(November 25th, 1755), appointed Secretary of State, while Pitt was 
dismissed from office with other opponents of the Russian Subsidy 
Treaty, which the Prussian Neutrality deprived of its force. 

For the " Treaty of Westminster," drafted as proposed by 
Frederick II, went further than George II, and his Ministers could 
have at first anticipated. By it, Great Britain agreed not to permit 
the entry of a Russian army, or Prussia that of a French, into Ger- 
many 1 . Even so, the Treaty appears to have been generally approved 
in England, where it was regarded as preventive of any fear of trouble 
ensuing on account of Hanover, and the funds are stated to have 
risen on its conclusion. Whatever the history of its origin, its effect 
on the Court of Vienna was to leave no doubt that British aid in any 
attempt to recover Silesia was now altogether out of the question. 
But could Prussia, after arriving at this friendly understanding with 
Great Britain, remain on good terms with France? The Due de 
Nivernais, sent to Berlin to find out whether French interests were 
in any way prejudiced by the guarantees contained in the Anglo- 
Prussian Treaty (from which Gibraltar and Minorca were expressly 
excepted), made it clear to King Frederick, who had actually thought 
of patching up the quarrel between France and Great Britain, that 
this was now impossible. And, in fact, the French Government, 
while seeking (by way of justification or pretext) to multiply causes 

1 This term was substituted by Frederick II for 'The Germanic Empire,' after 
Podewils had pointed out that the wider term might have been interpreted by 
Great Britain to comprise the Austrian Netherlands, which the King of Prussia 
had certainly no wish to see included in it. 


of quarrel with Great Britain, declared itself unable to assent to the 
principle of a permanent neutrality for Hanover. Thus, at the be- 
ginning of 1756, it had, so far as Frederick IPs relations with France 
and Great Britain were concerned, become more than doubtful 
whether he could adhere to the policy, hitherto followed by him, of 
remaining on a friendly footing with both Powers. At Vienna, the 
Anglo-Prussian Treaty was at first received with tranquillity ; for an 
Imperial attack in conjunction with France upon Hanover seemed 
wholly out of the question, and Russia's only complaint against Great 
Britain was that she should have entered into such an agreement with- 
out informing her Allies. But so rooted were the jealousy of Prussia 
and the suspicion of the advantageous position secured by her, as 
between France and Great Britain, entertained by Kaunitz and his 
Sovereign, that they resolved on an effective counter-move to the 
Neutrality Treaty; and their overtures fell on receptive and well- 
prepared ground. France was unwilling, while carrying on a Naval 
War with Great Britain, to lay aside what had long been a primary 
part of her policy intervention in the internal affairs of Germany. 
The negotiations between the Austrian and French Governments 
(represented by Starhemberg and Bernis) at Versailles now (Febru- 
ary, 1756) treated the Prusso-French Alliance of 1741 as at an end, 
and passed on to the question whether, if France allowed her 
Alliance with Prussia to drop altogether, Austria would in turn 
consent to drop hers with Great Britain. 

Thus the advisers of Lewis XV, Bernis in particular, may be said 
to have inspired in him the idea of avenging upon George II his 
Treaty of Neutrality with Prussia ; while to the arguments by which 
Kaunitz persuaded Maria Theresa to put an end to the long-lived 
Alliance with Great Britain, was added the hope that the example of 
Austria would be followed by Russia. Austria, the Power so long 
identified with the guardianship of the Empire, allowed Prussia, of 
whose aggressiveness it stood in dread, to assume this time-honoured 
function, while, at this very time, itself entering into an Alliance with 
France. The Franco -Prussian Alliance was at an end ; the relations 
between Austria and Russia had, on the other hand, become friendlier, 
and though on BestuchefFs advice, the Tsarina Elizabeth had reluc- 
tantly agreed to the British Subsidy Treaty of September, 1755, they 
were, by April, 1756, shaping towards a closer Alliance. But the effects 
of such an Alliance, more especially for Great Britain, must depend on 
the decision of France as to her own action. One by one, the obstacles 


in the way of the actual conclusion of an Alliance between France, 
on the one hand, and Austria, with Russia, on the other, disappeared. 
The French negotiators would have been ready to conclude the busi- 
ness, on the twofold basis that Austria might make war upon Prussia, 
and France upon Great Britain, as they chose, without calling upon 
each other for offensive cooperation. But the Austrian Government 
wanted more than this viz., the offensive cooperation itself (more 
especially when there would be no more British subsidies forth- 
coming), and, in the event of success, a territorial repartition which 
would avenge the shameless league which, on the death of Maria 
Theresa's father, had proposed to divide among its members her 

The Austro- French negotiations were resumed in April, 1756; 
and, after a Ministerial Council had been held at Versailles, and on 
the ground chiefly that the Austrian Alliance was the only way by 
which the King of France could use his right of attacking Great 
Britain through the Hanoverian Electorate, the Ministry approved 
the conclusion of that Alliance. The Two Treaties, known as that 
of Versailles, were hereupon signed, on May ist, 1756. The first of 
these consisted of a Convention of Neutrality, whereby the Court of 
Vienna bound itself to take no part in the War with Great Britain ; 
i.e., the Imperial Power would not be used against a Sovereign who 
was Prince of the Empire ; while France promised not to attack either 
the Austrian Netherlands or any other part of the Austrian do- 
minions. This, then, was the Austro-French answer to the Anglo- 
Prussian Treaty of Westminster, which had been the motive cause 
of the Austro-French negotiations. Its effect would be to let the 
French into Germany, from which the Westminster Treaty had ex- 
cluded them, without any resistance on the part of the Head of the 
Empire. But the first of these Versailles Treaties was not in itself 
a Treaty of Alliance, and even the second, which purported to be a 
Treaty of Mutual Defence between the Contracting Powers, declared 
that it was not directed against any other Power ; and the number of 
troops to be furnished on both sides, if the casus foederis should arise, 
was very moderate accordingly. This second Treaty contained, how- 
ever, in addition, Secret Articles corresponding more closely to the 
motives with which the compact had been concluded. If, during the 
Anglo-French War, France or Austria was attacked by any other 
Power, the Contracting Power so attacked should be entitled to the 
support of the other Contracting Power. And, further, a revision of 


the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was taken into contemplation; so that, 
though the Treaties by no means amounted to an offensive alliance 
for the recovery of Silesia or any other purpose, they contained this 
ominous reference to the more remote future. The Treaties, more 
especially since Russia would assuredly be invited to adhere to them, 
could not but be looked upon without apprehension in England, 
though they by no means implied an offensive alliance against this 
country; and there can be no doubt but that the religious, or con- 
fessional, aspect of the combination exercised its effect now, as it did 
when Great Britain had made her choice, and when a large part of 
her population regarded Frederick the Great as "the Protestant 

It was not till May, 1756, that Maria Theresa, in giving audience 
to Sir Robert Keith, the British Minister at Vienna, who had been 
instructed to demand explanations of the Versailles Treaty or Treaties, 
threw the blame of her Alliance with France upon the combination 
between Great Britain and Prussia her only enemy in the world, as 
the Empress afterwards confidentially told him, besides the Turk. 
Undoubtedly, this attitude on the part of the Empress Maria Theresa, 
formerly the subject of so much admiring sympathy in England, 
taken together with the ratification which speedily followed of the 
Versailles Treaties (the drift of whose Secret Clauses was sufficiently 
suspected), roused deep indignation against a Power, now the Ally, 
under whatever conditions, of our mortal foe after, for the sake of 
that Power, we had shown so much forbearance at Aix-la-Chapelle, 
and when it had been the recipient of a long series of our Subsidies. 
Popular feeling in England had, throughout the winter 1755-6, been 
in so excited a state as to take the almost inevitable form of a con- 
viction that we had been betrayed. Apprehensions had actually arisen 
of a French invasion; and when, at last, in the spring of 1756, the 
immediate designs of France had declared themselves, Newcastle's 
Government had been found ill-informed. Byng had failed to pro- 
tect Minorca, and, though Newcastle, after sailing with the blast of 
popular fury against the Admiral was by a change of Ministry to 
escape from the responsibility of carrying out the sentence against 
him, this very change had shown that a vigorous foreign policy was 
now imperatively demanded. On May i8th, 1756, Great Britain 
declared War against France. Before the end of June, Port Mahon 
surrendered, a few weeks before Frederick II began his War against 
Austria by crossing the Saxon frontier (August). 


Thus , Great Britain had been driven into open hostilities with France 
at a time when her ancient Ally, Austria, had entered into relations 
of mutual amity with that Power, and when an estrangement of her 
from Great Britain inevitably followed. There remained the question 
whether this estrangement necessarily implied a corresponding change 
of relations between Great Britain and Russia. Such had not been 
the design of the Tsarina Elizabeth. The negotiations concerning the 
still-born Russian Subsidy Treaty had not been allowed to drop ; and 
the brilliant British Ambassador at Petrograd, Sir Charles Hanbury 
Williams, who had consistently promoted (in every way) the Russian 
Subsidy Treaty and the Austrian Alliance, and of whose diplomatic 
career this humiliating episode was to be the end, had been kept in 
the dark as to the transactions in progress between Austria, Russia 
and France. The Russian intentions at this time are surrounded by 
some obscurity ; but it must be remembered that the Franco- Austrian 
negotiations had not come to an end with the Versailles Treaties. 
While Kaunitz and Starhemberg hoped for the support of France in 
the reconquest of Silesia, it was to be recompensed by the transfer 
to France of the Austrian Netherlands, or the main part of them, in- 
cluding, in view of the struggle between France and Great Britain, 
at least the temporary occupation of Ostend and Nieuport. The 
Naval War between the two Powers was already in progress, and at 
no time could an opportunity of establishing her ascendancy in 
Flanders have been more welcome to France than at present. The 
French "ideas" for a "new Europe" suggested in 1756 did not stop 
short with this. As for the North, Bremen and Verden might be cut 
out of Hanover for the benefit of Denmark; and, as for the Mediter- 
ranean, Gibraltar might be taken from Great Britain, as Minorca 
had been ; and she might be confined to the possessions of her own 
chalk-cliffs, just as Prussia would again be reduced to the dimensions 
of a meagre Brandenburg Electorate. 

But it was not till May, 1757, that the spirit of these notions was 
compressed within the limits of a Secret Treaty; and, on the part of 
Russia, upon whose military cooperation the execution of much of the 
airy design depended, the Tsarina Elizabeth and BestuchefT were at 
this time unprepared with the armaments which their share in the 
process would have required. At Potsdam, on the other hand, 
Frederick II reckoned with realities ; and he had by his side the British 
Envoy, Sir Andrew Mitchell, a Scotsman so full of commonsense 
as to be without any trace of Jacobitism, and yet endowed with a 


power of sympathy which on occasion induced the King to reveal 
his inmost feelings to him 1 . Frederick II had, from the first, sus- 
pected that at the bottom of the Versailles Treaties lay the thought 
of an attack on Hanover; but of this, he considered, neither Great 
Britain nor Prussia need be afraid if they were united and prepared. 
For this end he was ready to make any sacrifice. But when reports 
reached him of a triple alliance between France, Austria and Russia, 
when they were corroborated by further intelligence derived by him 
partly from stolen papers in the Austrian and Saxon Chanceries 2 , 
partly from other communications to himself and Mitchell, and when 
Austrian troops began to be massed in Bohemia and Moravia, he 
began to recognise that he was sure of no Alliance but the British, 
whether or not the British Government still succeeded in avoiding 
a quarrel with Russia 3 . He, therefore, resolved to explode the com- 
bination against him before it was ripe for action, arguing to himself 
that, besides France and Austria, Russia might, in a year's time, be 
prepared to draw the sword. Sir Andrew Mitchell, anxious that 
Frederick II should do nothing to affront British public opinion, 
professed himself contented with Maria Theresa's assurance that the 
interests of the other Power Great Britain being of course the only 
Power in question would not suffer from the measures which she 
had commanded. Frederick II, on the other hand, after his question, 
whether Austria would promise not to attack him in the current or 
following year, had remained without a reply from Vienna, started 
at the head of his troops (August 28th) from Potsdam for the Saxon 

The Seven Years' War (1756-63) which had now opened in Old 
World and New, was essentially a double war, the two parts or sides 
of which had each a different origin and were fought (as the com- 
batants recognised) with distinct objects. Yet the successes of their 
Ally, in the face of difficulties altogether unprecedented, came home 
so closely to the British nation, that to popular feeling here this War 
seemed throughout a single War, and that, while our own flag waved 
victorious over every sea, and our arms prospered in Asia as well as 
in America, the glory cf the conflict seemed a glory earned in common. 
On whomsoever may rest the responsibility of its actual opening, the 

1 Cf. Carlyle's Frederick the Great, Bk xvm. c. 5. 

2 These are the so-called "Menzel Documents" which began so far back as 

8 Saxony-Poland, it seems necessary to add, had so far, notwithstanding French 
overtures, adhered to its neutral attitude. 


Seven Years' War as a whole may be regarded as an endeavour, on 
the part of France, to arrest, and if possible put an end to, the grow- 
ing maritime and colonial ascendancy of Great Britain, and, on the 
part of Austria, to deprive Frederick II of the prize which, at the end 
of the previous two Silesian Wars, she had been obliged to leave in 
his hands. The diplomacy of Kaunitz had succeeded in blending 
these two purposes into one. This purpose was compassed before 
long ; but the interests for which France contended beyond the seas 
were not thereby rendered identical with those for which her armies 
fought in Germany. Thus it came to pass, that the year (1759), which 
may be regarded as the climax of Austria's attempt to lay low the 
power and the ambition of Frederick II, was also that in which 
Great Britain gained her most momentous success over the French 
in Canada. And, when the Seven Years' War came to an end in 
Great Britain's case by a Peace thoroughly unpopular at home and, 
in that of her solitary Ally, as a gift of good fortune as well as the 
reward of heroic perseverance the cup of national glory was full in 
each case, and the names of Frederick the Great and the elder Pitt 
were linked together for ever as emblematic of victory. 

We are here only concerned with the policy which directed the 
action of Great Britain in the successive stages of the conflict. The 
gradual unfolding of the prospect of a great European War, and the 
general want of confidence, deepened by the course of the miserable 
Byng episode, in the competence of the Newcastle Government 
proved fatal to it. Newcastle's success in securing Henry Fox as 
Secretary of State was as ineffectual as it was transitory, and a 
series of overtures and manoeuvres ended in his being left without 
a supporter fit to cope with the opposition of Pitt, while the Duke 
still retained power or a share of power himself. The ensuing 
attempt at a combination between Fox and Pitt, having, thereupon, 
broken down, the Duke of Devonshire formed his Administration 
(December, 1756 to April, 1757), of which Pitt, at the King's per- 
sonal request, formed part as one of the Secretaries of State 1 . New- 
castle's influence being still predominant, and the King dissatisfied 
at having had to include Pitt, whose personal following was limited to 
the Grenvilles, the Ministry was not so strong as it might have been. 

But a new spirit had begun to reign and to animate the foreign 
and colonial policy, which under Pitt were from the first blended. 

1 Pitt's tenure of the Southern, and Holderness's of the Northern Department, 
were reversed in June, 1757. 


And after the King, who had in vain negotiated on his own account 
for the assistance of other German Princes in maintaining the neu- 
trality of his Electorate, had spent all his Hanoverian income on 
behalf of its defence, a bolder course was taken. While, with the aid 
of Mitchell, Frederick concluded a Treaty with Brunswick and other 
smaller States for the defence of northern Germany, Pitt proposed 
a substantial Parliamentary grant for the defence of Hanover, and 
early in 1757 the Duke of Cumberland was appointed to the com- 
mand of the British troops sent out to take part in the operations. 
Thus the defence of Hanover had by a strange fortune become the 
corner-stone of Pitt's policy in the European part of the War. Yet, 
even at the last, it was not without great difficulty that George II 
had been persuaded by Frederick IPs Envoy Schmettau to abandon 
the neutrality of Hanover. Before Pitt's hand was laid on the helm, 
there had been some hesitation and some ill-success the latter in 
the operations to prevent the French seizure of Corsica and in the 
fighting in Canada in the region of the Great Lakes ; while the dismal 
tidings from India (the massacre of the Black Hole) were soon over- 
taken by the news of Clive's great victory of Plassey (June, 1757). 

By the beginning of this year the cards were at last all on the 
table. The French Government was so much impressed by the de- 
termined action of the British Government as to signify, by way of 
the Hague, its willingness to conclude peace on terms proposed. The 
answer (February 8th), made at a time when affairs in Canada were 
in a doubtful position, was worthy of Great Britain, and sufficiently 
verified Frederick's saying that she had at last found a man. Great 
Britain, the King was assured, would never assent to terms of peace 
in which he was not included. The overture was evanescent, and the 
war proceeded, on the British side with unprecedented vigour, after 
the personal intrigue directed by Newcastle against the control of 
foreign affairs by Pitt had brought about an interregnum which was 
almost an anarchy, and after, early in July, 1757, Pitt had formed 
what is rightly called his First Ministry. It was, in a word, the most 
powerful Administration the country had, or has, ever known. 
Parliamentary opposition was at a standstill; and when, little more 
than four years later, Pitt went out of office it was as if the glory of 
Great Britain, of which he had consummated the reestablishment, 
departed with him. 

The unexampled popularity enjoyed by Pitt from the time on- 
wards in which the conduct of the country's affairs, foreign, colonial 


and commercial, blended together, at last came under his immediate 
control, cannot be analysed in a few sentences. That popularity itself 
was the cause as well as a consequence of the consummation not pre- 
pared in a day. So far back as 1736, The Craftsman had commented 
on his close study of foreign affairs ; and though he had to cast to 
the winds much on which he had insisted during his long years of 
Opposition, partly (as he afterwards confessed) for Opposition's sake, 
partly from ignorance, he had come into power with a mind made 
up, an initial plan formed, and a knowledge of British as well as 
foreign commercial conditions accumulated and well arranged in his 
mind. His wonderful power, not only of influencing others as an 
orator, but inspiring the agents of his policy to end in action, did 
the rest, in the days of his personal supremacy for no word short 
of this would be appropriate. He had at his command the devoted 
services on which his conduct of British foreign policy depended 
the Foreign Office and its agents, diplomatic and consular, who 
suddenly found their instructions clear and precise, instead of being 
left like servants in doubt as to the intention of their masters, the 
Admiralty and the Board of Trade. The City was devoted to him 
throughout almost the whole of his career. The American Colonists 
regarded him as one of the few British statesmen who understood 
colonial affairs 1 , although it is only just to the memory of the Duke of 
Bedford, whose qualities as a statesman deserve higher recognition 
than they have always received, to remember that a memorial of his 
to Newcastle, a decade before Pitt fully described his American 
policy, foreshadowed it in its comprehensiveness. 

During the Ministerial interregnum which, in the spring of 1757, 
had preceded Pitt's assumption of full power, Frederick II had sent 
to him assurances of his unchanged regard ; but the British Govern- 
ment had not ventured to press on George II, who had still hoped to 

1 See the admirable summary in Miss Kate Hotblack's Chatham's Colonial 
Policy (Routledge and Sons, 1917) which treats the several parts of the subject 
with a rare combination of fulness and point. Of particular value in the present 
connexion is her demonstration of the economic implications of Pitt's foreign 
policy and of his efforts, from this point of view, to frustrate the union of France 
and Spain, to strengthen the Portuguese Alliance, to stir up Italian distrust of France, 
and even to induce the Porte to embarrass Austria by an attack upon Hungary. His 
continuous purpose was that of enabling Great Britain, without self-exhaustion, to 
outlast France ; his conquests beyond sea were designed to pay for the War ; and 
the union of the great variety of measures which he crowded into action from the 
Senegal expedition of 1757 onwards was essential to the total of success. His 
carefully managed dealings with the Barbary States (from 1757) were of high 
importance for the British Mediterranean trade as well as for his Spanish policy. 


play a mediating part between the two chief German Powers, the 
plan of Frederick II, against whom Imperial Execution had been 
declared by the Diet, for uniting the dissenting Estates in resistance 
against it. Of much greater importance for the progress of the War 
was the question of an active Alliance between Russia and Austria, 
which after some delay (owing to differences of opinion at Petrograd 
and the suggestion, rejected as insufficient, of the exclusion of British 
trade from Russian ports) was actually concluded (January, 1757). 
By it, the two Empresses bound themselves not to lay down arms till 
Silesia and Glatz should have been restored to Maria Theresa. In 
March, a Franco- Swedish Alliance against Prussia followed, and in 
the same month the French troops crossed the German frontier. 
The British Government, under the influence of the wishes of King 
George II, was still haggling about Hanoverian neutrality with the 
Austrian, when, in May, the Secret Treaty of Alliance between France 
and Austria the Partition Treaty of Versailles was signed, the 
final hesitation of King Lewis XV having been overcome by his 
being shown a forged Treaty of Alliance between Great Britain and 
Prussia. The Franco-Austrian compact, while providing for Austria 's 
recovery of Silesia and for the transfer to Duke Philip of Parma of the 
whole of the Austrian Netherlands, except Ostend, Nieuport and 
Mons, ceded to France, further promised the Empress's cooperation 
in securing Minorca to that Power 1 . The accession to the Treaty 
of Russia and other Powers was to be asked in due course. 

The House of Austria, which in this Treaty had in. fact gained all 
it desired, had by it completely detached itself from the time-honoured 
Alliance of Great Britain, but had neither undertaken to enter into any 
active operations against her, nor precluded a reconciliation with her 
at some future date. The contents of this Secret Compact remained 
for some time unknown. But, inasmuch as its designs, when they 
came to light, showed that they affected the future of nearly the whole 
of Europe (it is noteworthy that the Treaty itself contained no men- 
tion of the Ottoman Power), and inasmuch as there existed between the 
Contracting Powers no international bond of union unless the Roman 
Catholic religion be regarded as such, the War which it converted 
into a European War was surrounded with that general uncertainty 
which challenges the use of all the resources of statesmanship. And 
it was in the face of a Europe engaged or involved in such a War as this 

1 As already noted, the Utrecht stipulations as to Dunkirk now came to an 


that Great Britain and France carried on, through its most momentous 
stage, their own struggle for empire beyond seas. 

Two months before the formation of Pitt's first Ministry Frederick 
the Great's dearly bought victory at Prague had not failed to exercise 
its effects in England, and George II had met the attempts of the 
Austrian Ambassador still resident at his Court (Colloredo) with con- 
temptuous rudeness. The Austrian victory of Kolin (June 8th, 1757) 
had been followed by a French invasion of Germany and a successful 
conflict with a British army; Russia and Sweden had followed suit. 
But, by this time, all hesitation was at an end in the counsels of 
Great Britain, though the season had advanced too far for any 
material effect to be exercised by British intervention on the progress 
of the Continental War. Great Britain had no ships to spare for the 
protection of the Prussian coasts against Russia and Sweden; and 
the States- General had, after the shedding of some tears by the 
Regent, the British Princess Anne, allowed the transit by way of 
Maestricht of French troops, who, besides garrisoning Ostend and 
Nieuport, occupied the chief towns of Westphalia. The Duke of 
Cumberland arrived in time to be defeated, though not decisively, 
at Hastenbeck and to sign the notorious Convention of Kloster- 
Zeven (September) which was, in reality, a capitulation. Even now, 
George II would have gladly concluded a Treaty of Neutrality for 
Hanover with France and Austria, and confidence was rising at 
Vienna and Versailles; but Pitt, who had his own plans for British 
cooperation in the Continental War, would not hear of the acceptance 
of the Convention. The ultimate refusal of George II to ratify it, 
accordingly, signified the final and complete adoption by the British 
Government of the policy of active cooperation with Prussia, instead 
of attempting to carry out a Hanoverian, side by side with its own 
(British), policy. Before the year 1757 was over, the most brilliant 
of Frederick's victories, Rossbach (November), sealed the compact of 
mutual confidence and relegated into political oblivion the Capitulation 
of Kloster-Zeven. The Duke of Cumberland was superseded in his 
military command by Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick; the Hano- 
verian army was taken into British pay; and success crowned the 
recasting, as it might almost be called, of the lines of the Personal 
Union 1 . 

1 Not, however, so as to cause this aspect of it to be recognised in the Peace 
which ended Great Britain's participation in the War, and which, while abandoning 
Frederick II, ignored Hanover. 


In December, 1757, there followed Frederick IPs second great 
victory gained in this wonderful year of military history the battle of 
Leuthen. The moral, as well as the financial, support of Great Britain 
had been of high value to the victor, and the question now became : in 
what measure was his Ally prepared to help him to carry the Conti- 
nental War to the successful end which his military genius had made 
possible. For the British enterprises of the latter part of the year had 
by no means proved successful; the Rochefort expedition had been 
a costly failure ; and in America and elsewhere the British Navy had 
not asserted its superiority over the French. But the great battles 
won by Frederick, with the news of our victorious progress in India, 
enabled the high spirit of Pitt to carry Parliament with him in his 
forward policy, and he was sanguine enough to conceive, and to em- 
body in a famous despatch composed at this time (end of 1757), the 
idea of an alliance with Spain, which should subsequently be extended 
to Naples and Sardinia. Gibraltar was once more to be the price paid. 
But the scheme was as inopportune as it was unsound, and the good- 
will towards it of the Spanish Minister, Wall, proved a broken reed. 

Yet, when Parliament met in the last month of 1757, the German 
news had, together with the Indian, raised popular enthusiasm to the 
highest pitch in favour of the War and Pitt, though neither of the 
early policy of Clive, nor of the victory which crowned it in Bengal, 
can the credit be claimed for the British statesman. In 1758-9, how- 
ever, his plans against France were in organic cooperation with the 
action of the East India Company, though his design upon Mauritius 
was diverted. (The capture of Manilla was not carried out till after 
his resignation.) Nor should it be overlooked that the material pros- 
perity of Great Britain had not suffered from her warlike exertions 
and preparations; her credit stood high, and British trade, the in- 
terests of which were from the first at the bottom of Pitt's foreign 
policy, prospered under his care. The British fleet were masters of 
the Mediterranean, French trade with the Levant was checked, and 
Dutch trade in the West Indies, at the risk of a serious collision with 
the States-General, was subjected to a strict application of the right 
of search 1 . Pitt's vigilance was unsleeping; nor could any notion be 

1 The difficulties as to the Dutch trade with the French West Indies by way of 
the Dutch West Indian Islands gave rise to a prolonged dispute, which really 
defied settlement, so long as there was no agreement as to the principles of inter- 
national maritime law. There were similar disputes with the Danish Government, 
which, however, was less pertinacious. (Sweden's attitude towards Great Britain 
was hostile.) 


more futile than that of his eloquence having been his main contri- 
bution to the progress of the War. 

For the campaign of 1758 Pitt was ready to furnish Frederick II 
with the promised subsidies ; and the demand for military and naval 
support, pressed by him after the Russians had occupied Konigsberg, 
was (after acrimonious discussion with Fox) met by the Subsidy 
Treaty and the accompanying Declaration (April), which made the 
aid of troops and ships conditional upon the requirements of British 
action in America. This carefully drawn * Declaration of London ' is of 
the highest importance as marking the progress of the Anglo-Prussian 
Alliance from its first to its second stage ; but it shows, at the same time, 
beyond what length Pitt was unprepared to go, well aware as he was 
of the outcry to be eventually expected against the employment of 
men and ships needed for home and colonial defence on the expulsion 
of the French from Hanover and the sweeping the Baltic clear of 
Russian vessels. This latter service, therefore, except in the interests 
of both the Allies, the Declaration expressly declined on the part of 
Great Britain. 

The year 1758, marked by British successes beyond the seas (the 
reduction of Cape Breton and the capture of Duquesne, now re- 
named Pittsburg), brought no decisive results to Frederick II; for 
the occupation of Prussian provinces by his adversaries was, in a 
manner, balanced by his continued tenure of Saxony. The presence 
and successes of the Hanoverian army under Ferdinand of Bruns- 
wick, however, freed him from the obligation of keeping watch and 
ward against the French and their German mercenaries, and materi- 
ally contributed to strengthen the Alliance. The Austrian Nether- 
lands were in serious danger; and, if the British Government had 
chosen to support Prince Ferdinand by a naval descent upon the 
Belgian coast, a momentous effect might have been exercised upon 
the progress of the War. But the resources at hand were expended 
upon two of those lesser expeditions (St Malo and Cherbourg), which 
must be reckoned among the mistakes in Pitt's conduct of the War. 
On the other hand for his sway was absolute in all directions, both 
before and after he and Holderness exchanged Departments his 
Russian policy at this time aimed at inducing the Tsarina Elizabeth, 
whose forces had occupied the Prussian North-East, to conclude 
peace with Frederick II; and the instructions of Sir Robert Keith 
(who remained British Ambassador at Petrograd till the crisis of 
1 762) were so intended . But , though he had consulted King Frederick , 


he found the political situation unmanageable. He had, therefore, to 
turn to the secondary purpose of his mission, the conclusion of a 
Commercial Treaty with Russia, whose trade had suffered grievously 
from British privateers, and who in her turn was suspected of designs 
in which she would command the support of Sweden and Denmark 
(with both of whom France had signed Subsidy Treaties) and might 
thus ultimately acquire the control of the navigation of the Baltic. It 
was not till after much manoeuvring, nor until after the accession of 
Catharine II, that the Commercial Treaty was signed. But between 
Sweden and Great Britain a rupture of diplomatic relations had taken 
place in 1758 (March), and it was only the prudence of Pitt which, in 
this instance, avoided serious complications for British policy. 

Thus, in 1758, while on the whole the British arms had made 
progress both in Canada and in Bengal, the course of the campaigns 
in Germany had (notwithstanding Hochkirch) been such as to afford 
a kind of negative encouragement to Frederick II, and to raise serious 
doubts in influential quarters in France even in Cardinal de Bernis, 
formerly one of the chief promoters of the Austrian Alliance as to the 
expediency of seeking peace. But the hesitation was overcome ; the 
Tsarina Elizabeth stood firm by the Partition Treaty ; after making 
some pacific overtures to Great Britain through Denmark, Bernis 
was banished (December), and in the last days of the year a new Treaty 
was concluded between Austria and France. This compact upheld 
the promise of France as to the recovery of Silesia, and made the 
conclusion of a French Peace with Great Britain conditional on re- 
gard for Austrian interests ; but it otherwise considerably diminished 
her obligations under the Partition Treaty of 1757, to which a Secret 
Agreement now put an end. This "diplomatic masterpiece" of 
Choiseul for he was now in entire control of the foreign policy of 
France amounted to no very considerable improvement of the position 
to which that Power had been reduced by Madame de Pompadour's 
friends ; and it left unchanged the essence of the situation. In other 
words, the Austro-French Alliance continued, while, so long as Pitt 
was in power, there was no fear of the bond between Great Britain 
and Prussia being broken. On the contrary : though Frederick II could 
not but long for as early as possible a peace through victory, Pitt, as 
the triumph of British arms by land and sea assumed wider dimen- 
sions, perceived that fullest advantage must be taken of the oppor- 
tunity for utterly overthrowing the naval and colonial power of France ; 
and George II was, after his wont, speculating on an enlargement of 

W.&G.I. 8 


his Electorate in the direction of Westphalia. But, for the present, 
a new Subsidy Treaty passed the House of Commons (December), 
Pitt taking occasion to defy the Austrians, as if they were treacherous 
conspirators against the honour of the British nation. 

The year which followed (1759) splendidly vindicated his con- 
fidence. For it was the year of the capture of Quebec a heroic 
memory though it was not till the following year (1760) that, by 
the capitulation of Montreal, the whole of Canada fell into British 
hands, and the possessions of France in America were reduced to 
Louisiana alone. The fall of Quebec was only one of a long series of 
British victories at a stage in the War intended by Choiseul to have 
been marked by the invasion of England in lieu of which the French 
coasts were subjected to a complete blockade. Later in the year 
(November), Hawke's great exploit at Quiberon Bay followed; and, 
after this victory, Pitt's foresight in ignoring the hopes placed by 
France on the cooperation of the Italian States was justified, and the 
gallant Thurot's invasion of Ireland ended in death and disaster 
(February, 1760). So far as Great Britain was concerned, the main 
result of the War, the establishment of her naval supremacy, had 
been already achieved, though part of Pitt's American design was in 
his eyes still unaccomplished, so long as the fishing monopoly which 
he wished to establish for Great Britain in the Gulf of Newfoundland 
was not in her possession. 

Meanwhile, the year 1759 had seemed to bring Great Britain's 
Ally to the verge of ruin ; his resources were all but reduced to his 
requisitions in Saxony and some petty Saxon States, and to the 
British subsidies. The moral advantage of Great Britain's maritime 
and American successes contributed to sustain him in resisting what 
seemed his doom ; and Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, though the 
effects of his victory of Minden (August) fell short of what they should 
have been, much more than held his own against the Western foe. 
It is not surprising that the vicissitudes of the German campaigns 
in this year should have overshadowed other aspects in the history 
of the Alliance; but the projects, independently conceived by both 
Frederick II and Pitt, directed to the permanent exclusion of Austrian 
dominion and influence from Italy, should not be overlooked. The 
death of Ferdinand VI had brought to the Spanish Throne his brother 
Charles III, whose goodwill was of so much importance that France 
and Austria were alike willing to promote a drastic revision in his 
favour (or in that of his third son, Ferdinand) of the settlement of Italy 


agreed upon at Aix-la-Chapelle. The House of Savoy (with its wonted 
vigilance) declined to fall in with the arrangement ; and this suggested 
to Pitt a scheme which should at the same time satisfy that House and 
the Spanish dynasty, and involve Austria in a war on behalf of her 
Italian interests. While the Spanish infante Don Philip of Parma was 
to be indemnified by Tuscany, Charles Emmanuel of Sardinia was to 
acquire Milan, and the North- Italian duchies, with the title of King 
of Lombardy 1 . But Charles III, who (not inexplicably) hated Great 
Britain in his heart, had no intention of allying himself with her and 
entering into a war, of which the chief Italian gain would accrue to his 
Sardinian rival, whose desire for territory equalled his own. He was 
secretly longing for the day when, by the side of Great Britain's present 
chief adversary, he might take revenge upon her and her dictatorial 
policy towards his monarchy and himself. The British proposals were 
refused at Naples, where, according to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, 
Philip of Parma was to have succeeded Charles III on his mounting 
the Spanish Throne ; and, when subsequently repeated by Frederick 
II, they met with a similar rebuff. But the new King of Spain 
thought it well at present to conceal his enmity to Great Britain, 
although he made no secret of it to the French Government, whose 
plans of an invasion of England in this year (1759) he warmly ap- 
proved. He was, indeed, intending to proceed to his new Throne at 
Madrid by way of France, in response to an invitation from Lewis XV, 
and with a view to confirming or renewing the Bourbon Family Com- 
pact 2 , when he was restrained, partly by the fear of offending Spanish 
pride, partly by the tidings of recent brilliant successes. At Madrid, 
he found feeling very strong against Great Britain, more especially 
on account of offences against Spanish neutrality imputed to British 
vessels. The Spanish Government, which, at the close of 1759, had 
offered its mediation between Great Britain and France, in the follow- 
ing year sent a memorial to London reciting all the Spanish grievances. 
Pitt received it with surprise, as he had the offer made by Don 
Ricardo Wall with indignation for he was well aware of the real aim of 
Spanish policy. He had, before this, judiciously declined the suggestion 
of Frederick II, that the former Jacobite Earl Marischal, now Prussian 
Ambassador at Madrid, should proffer his mediatory services. 

On the other hand, Great Britain and Prussia had agreed, towards 

1 See R. Waddington, La Guerre de Sept Ans, vol. ill. p. 451. 

2 This was effected in August, 1761, when the most important of the three 
agreements known under the name of the Family Compact was signed at Paris. 



the end of 1759, on the expediency of proposing to the Powers at 
war with them the assembling, in regular form, of a Peace Congress. 
This they did by handing to the Envoy of these Powers at the Hague 
through Duke Lewis Ernest of Brunswick-Bevern (guardian of the 
Hereditary Stadholder William V), the so-called Declaration of Rys- 
wyk (November). But it remained ineffective, and was in truth de- 
signed to conciliate public opinion in England by taking advantage 
of the popular craving for peace in France, which Choiseul, like 
Bernis before him, could no longer gainsay, and which (March, 1760) 
actually induced him to carry on at the Hague secret negotiations 
with the British Government for a separate peace. But, while France 
was negotiating without her Allies Austria having declared it neces- 
sary to arrive, in the first instance, at an understanding with Russia, 
and the Tsarina Elizabeth having sent a point-blank refusal to discuss 
the subject Great Britain, from the first, loyally declared that her 
Ally should be apprised of every step in the negotiation. And Pitt 
held to his promise, while Frederick II, also, kept himself in- 
formed through a secret channel no other than his friend Voltaire 
and then directly through a Prussian agent, and, in the stress under 
which he was placed, showed himself not averse from the proposal 
of a separate peace between France and Great Britain. But Pitt 
judged more correctly (as his Ally was afterwards fain to acknowledge) 
and insisted on the inclusion of Prussia in the peace as indispensable. 
The negotiations, hereupon, broke down, and (April, 1760) the three 
Allies, once more united, presented to the Regent of the United Pro- 
vinces the " Counter-declaration of Ryswyk," which, while stating that 
the King of France was prepared to negotiate with the King of Great 
Britain through the King of Spain, accepted a Congress on Peace 
with Prussia only on condition of the admission of the representa- 
tives of the other Powers at war with her (Poland and Sweden). All 
hopes of peace were now at an end ; and the proverbial tenacity of the 
House of Habsburg had succeeded in keeping its Allies under arms 

But, though Austria had thus been enabled to resume the design, 
with which she had entered into the War, of crushing her archfoe, 
and though bankrupt France had to continue her twofold struggle, 
Russia's adhesion to her Allies, albeit assured, for the period of her 
reign, by the Tsarina's determination, was not accorded without 
promises of future gains in the event of common victory. In March, 
1760, these were secured to her by the so-called Schouvaloff Treaties 


with Austria (ratified in July), which, while signifying Russia's 
accession to the Versailles Treaty between Austria and France of 
December, 1758, in a Secret Article laid down the obligations under- 
taken by the two Powers for their respective satisfaction at the end 
of the War. In the event of Austria's recovery of Silesia but not 
otherwise Austria bound herself to secure the acquisition by Russia 
of "Prussia," i.e. Ducal Prussia, with the addition of Danzig ; Poland, 
helpless as usual, notwithstanding the friendship of France, being 
compensated by some lesser cessions. When it is remembered that in 
the previous year (March, 1759) Russia had concluded a Treaty with 
Sweden for the effective maintenance, for trade purposes, of Baltic 
neutrality, and that Denmark was obliged to adhere to this agree- 
ment in the following year, it will be seen how, in the event of a 
victorious issue of the War, the power of Russia would have been 
rendered irresistible in the Baltic. 

It was against an Alliance thus extended in its aims as well as 
strengthened in its cohesion that Pitt and Great Britain prepared to 
take part in the progress of the struggle, when it reopened in the 
spring of 1760. Pitt's Government, in order not to interfere with the 
British trade in the Baltic, declined to send a fleet into those waters, 
where it would have been welcomed by the Danes ; so that the Rus- 
sians and Swedes had their hands free for operating there against 
Prussia, while her Allied enemies could, with the exception of France, 
address themselves with renewed energy to the German War. Maria 
Theresa had made up her mind to carry it to a decisive issue. But 
there were differences of plan between Austria and Russia; and in 
the end Laudon had to raise the siege of Breslau (August) though 
the Russians for a few days (October) occupied Berlin. The con- 
fidence of Maria Theresa was severely shaken by the Austrian defeat 
(at first reported a victory) at Torgau (November); and, while 
Frederick II remained in his headquarters at Dresden, no important 
result had been reached by his adversaries' campaign against him in 
eastern and central Germany. In the west, Prince Ferdinand had, 
partly in consequence of the numerical inferiority of his forces, been 
unable to deal any effective blow; but, at least from the British point 
of view, he had not carried on the fight in vain, having kept the 
French forces out of Hanover and done his best to exhaust the re- 
sources of the enemy. Thus, Great Britain was the better able to 
continue her efforts against the same foe beyond sea, where the French 
siege of Quebec was raised and Montreal capitulated. 


The indecisive character of the German campaigns of 1760, and 
the extensive losses of the French Power in the East Indies and the 
New World, rendered Choiseul anxious to bring about negotiations 
in the direction of peace with the Prussian and British Governments. 
But, afraid of challenging Austrian (and Jesuit) influences at Court, 
he once more had resort to King Charles III of Spain. The latter at 
this time gave much of his confidence to Marquis Grimaldi, who had 
convinced himself that, instead of continuing to mix herself up in 
the German War, France ought, in close alliance with Spain, to 
apply all her energies to the War with Great Britain. Spain, of whose 
grievances mention has been already made, actually began to arm, 
and a diplomatic contention followed between the Spanish Ambas- 
sador at the Court of St James' and Pitt. Though France still hesi- 
tated about changing her policy and concluding peace with Prussia, 
it seemed as if the year 1760 was not to end without the outbreak of 
hostilities between Spain and Great Britain. But the death of the 
bellicose Spanish Queen (Maria Amalia) and, far more signally, a 
month afterwards, that of King George II of Great Britain, led to 
a change the latter event to an all-important one in the situation. 

King George II died on October 27th, 1760 as the Ally of a 
Prince whom he detested almost more than any other, and counselled 
by a Minister from whom he shrank with unconquerable aversion. 
But it was the nation which had sustained Walpole so long as its 
mind was bent on peace; and the nation, not King George II, had 
brought Pitt into favour and kept him there, so long as its mind was 
set on war. The change in the system of government which began 
with the accession of George III was, in the first instance, fatal to 
the complete ascendancy of Pitt, and could not but become so to the 
continuation of the foreign policy with which he was identified. At the 
very time when the War was extending itself towards the participa- 
tion in it of Spain, Pitt was on the eve of having to resign power into 
the hands of a royal favourite, who was prepared to conclude a peace 
short of the measure of aggrandisement which Great Britain had 
actually achieved, and which would have satisfied the nation. On the 
very first day of his reign, George III proposed to appoint Bute 
one of the Secretaries of State, though it was not till six months 
afterwards that, Holderness having made way for the favourite, the 
offer was reluctantly accepted by him. (Bute had been at once ad- 
mitted by the new Sovereign into the Privy Council.) On opening 
his first Parliament (November 2nd) George III announced his inten- 


tion of steadily pressing on the victorious War, and Frederick II was 
so sure of the bona fides of the British Government, so long as Pitt was 
at its head, that he even declared his readiness to acquiesce in a separate 
peace between Great Britain and France, provided that limits were set 
to French assistance to Austria. Moreover, he remained in control of 
the greater part of the army of Prince Ferdinand. Thus, the proposed 
revision of the Anglo-Prussian Treaty of Alliance came to nothing, and 
the old Subsidy Treaty was renewed. But some of Pitt's followers, 
as well as "the King's Friends," were inclining to the view that the 
War had accomplished enough ; and Bute's acceptance of the Secretary- 
ship, with certain other Governmental changes, no doubt weakened 
Pitt's position. He was ready to make peace with France, though he 
still pressed on British conquests in order to command what were, in 
his judgment, reasonable terms, and, being aware of the intimate rela- 
tions between France and Spain, he was anxious to take advantage of 
Choiseul's increased anxiety to conclude a tolerable peace. Influenced, 
among other pacific symptoms, by the Swedish popular dislike of the 
War, Choiseul pressed his views in favour of peace on Maria Theresa, 
who for the first time in the course of the War, showed signs of dis- 
couragement; but Kaunitz and Russian influence prevailed, and his 
notion of a Congress was in the end accepted by Choiseul, in lieu of 
the plan of a separate negotiation between France and Great Britain. 
Thus, the campaigns of 1761 began without any actual movement in 
favour of peace, and, though Pitt's willingness to entertain the notion 
of concluding it with France on his terms had been in vain, his 
alternative of pressing on the War till these terms should have 
become possible remained and justified itself. 

For, while, in 1761, the struggle of Prussia against Austria and 
Russia remained undecided, want of money, though not of men, having 
delayed an agreement between the Allies on a joint plan of action, 
and Lau don's brilliant surprise of Schweidnitz (October) having then 
reduced Frederick II to the defensive in Lower Silesia, things had gone 
badly for the French in the west. Here the French armies had been 
unable either to drive Prince Ferdinand out of Westphalia or to en- 
croach further on Hanoverian territory. These failures had increased 
the longing for peace in France, and, though the ill-judged Belle-Isle 
expedition, a lesser effort of the sort on which Pitt at times set his 
heart, and intended to secure an eventual equivalent for Minorca, was 
allowed by him to delay the assembling of the proposed Peace Con- 
gress at Augsburg, he saw no objection to secret communications 


with France in the same direction in Paris (through Hans Stanley) 
and in London (through de Bussy). In these negotiations, Pitt let 
it be known that no separate peace with France would be allowed by 
Great Britain to prevent her from continuing effective aid to her 
Prussian Ally. But the Austrian Government succeeded in stiffening 
ChoiseuPs attitude, and even in insisting on a guarantee to Spain 
being attached to any Treaty with Great Britain. Thus, through the 
efforts of Grimaldi, Choiseul, in his Memorial of July i5th, formu- 
lated the Spanish claims against Great Britain and implicitly adopted 
them. Pitt's Government on the other hand, declared their inclusion 
in any Peace Treaty with France wholly inadmissible. The temper of 
the nation, encouraged by the news from the Indies both East and 
West, was still high; and peace with France was still out of the 
question, so long at least as Pitt was at the helm. 

On July 25th the British Government forwarded its own con- 
ditions to the French; they proposed that Great Britain should be 
allowed to assist her Prussian Ally in accordance with her Treaty 
obligations ; but the real difficulty lay in Choiseul's mind being now 
obsessed by the idea of the Spanish Alliance. The Third Family 
Compact between France and Spain, in whose mutual guarantee the 
Bourbon Princes in Italy took part, was signed on August i5th. It 
contained a Secret Article, of even greater moment than the public 
agreement, binding Spain to declare war against Great Britain on 
May ist, 1762, should that Power then still be at war with France, 
and, in this event, promising the restoration of Minorca to Spain. 
The point of the Compact was obviously directed against Great 
Britain ; but by concluding it France violated the Versailles Treaty 
of May ist, 1756 with Austria, who had been left without so much 
as cognisance of it. As for the British peace negotiations with France, 
they were broken off, though not till October, and the Congress of 
Augsburg, for which the Plenipotentiaries had already been named, 
collapsed in its birth. 

But, on finding the preservation of peace with Spain impossible, 
Pitt, as if desirous of taking a leaf out of the book of his Ally, and 
(if it may be so put) anticipating the inevitable, gained an advantage 
over the now accomplished Alliance at the outset. Reckoning that 
the seizure of Spanish ships could, if rapidly effected, be carried 
out without any augmentation of the British navy, and at the same 
time lead to the seizure of Spanish Colonies, he, so early as September 
i8th, 1761, proposed to the Cabinet to declare war against Spain. 


But the proposal appalled the whole Ministry, except Temple, and 
was resisted by Bute, who thought that the opportunity had at last 
arrived for overthrowing the Ministry's master. The question was 
debated in three Cabinet meetings, and on October 2nd was finally 
decided against Pitt. On December 5th, he resigned, Temple fol- 
lowing him out of office. 

Bute had now the leading voice in the Government, though 
Newcastle remained its nominal head till 1762. Lord Egremont, 
who had been designated as Plenipotentiary at Augsburg, and who 
was regarded as wholly under Bute's influence, took Pitt's place as 
Secretary of State. He perceived at once that, popular as the great 
war Minister had been, there was no other way of ending that popu- 
larity than the conclusion of that Peace which Pitt had declined to 
seek to bring about prematurely, but which was favoured by the 
majority of the new Parliament (November), whether through the 
influence of the Court or through the manipulation of Newcastle, 
or both. The Speech from the Throne made no mention of Spain; 
but the Spanish Government vindicated the insight of Pitt by throw- 
ing off the mask. Its military preparations were hurried on, and Wall 
now propounded a long series of grievances against Great Britain, 
accompanied by an indignant message of sympathy with France. 
The request for information of the Earl of Bristol, the British Am- 
bassador at Madrid, as to the Family Compact was received with 
cynical boldness, and, when a formal reply was made five weeks 
later, its tone was unaltered. Immediately afterwards, the Spanish 
reply to the British ultimatum, enquiring whether or not King 
Charles III designed to ally himself with the foes of Great Britain, 
arrived in London; and on January 4th, 1762, there followed the 
British Declaration of War against Spain. In March, a peremptory 
joint Spanish and French Note was despatched to the King of 
Portugal, desiring him to put an end to all correspondence and com- 
merce with Great Britain, and, on the demand being refused, a 
Spanish army entered Portugal (April). 

But while, in this quarter, the British Government had done 
what seemed indispensable, it had taken the momentous negative 
step of leaving the Subsidy Treaty with Prussia unrenewed. This, 
indeed, did not amount to her abandoning Prussia to her foes, and 
was not so regarded by Frederick II, who at this late stage was 
formulating proposals as to the terms on which, as he hoped, Great 
Britain would insist on his behalf in the event of her concluding a 


separate Treaty with France. Nothing, however, came of this 
negotiation; and there can be little doubt that Frederick's recent 
ill-success had, about the turn of the years 1761-2, inclined Bute 
and those who thought with him, or who, like Bedford, went even 
further in their desire for peace than he, to place very little store on 
the continuation of the Prussian Alliance, or to favour its abandon- 
ment. At the beginning of 1762, Frederick II was, though with a 
much reduced army, still holding out, and his best chance of recover- 
ing himself lay in the growing French weariness of the burden of 
the Austrian Alliance. But, of a sudden, the whole situation changed 
by the death of the Tsarina Elizabeth (January 5th, 1762) which 
abruptly transferred Russia's support of the Austrian Alliance to 
Frederick II. In the next month (February), the new Tsar Peter III 
issued a formal Declaration in favour of peace throughout Europe 
(February). To Bute and the friends of peace in England this utter 
change in Russian policy came at a most inopportune moment; and 
he revealed his ulterior intention of leaving Prussia out of account 
in the impending peace negotiations by proposing to her that an 
annual grant should take the place of the renewal of the Subsidy 
Treaty. Before Frederick's answer arrived, the changed attitude of 
the British Government had been made clear to him by the resigna- 
tion of Newcastle (May), who had objected to the insufficiency of 
the grant asked for the expenses of the War (including that to 
Prussia), while Bute insisted that the perilous position of Portugal, 
which in this month declared war against France and Spain, was 
now the matter of chief moment to Great Britain. In vain, Pitt had 
protested that even Portugal could be best protected by upholding 
the Prussian Alliance. The " King's Friends" now had the ball under 
their feet, and prospectively, there was no doubt of Prussia being 
left by Great Britain to her new friendship. About the same time, 
Russia entered into an Alliance with Prussia, and Sweden concluded 
Peace with her. The complications which ensued with Denmark 
need not occupy us. On the deposition and assassination of Tsar 
Peter III (July), his Consort and successor, Catharine II, did not 
renew the alliance with Prussia. But, in substance, the relations 
between the two Powers remained unchanged till the close of the 
War, when, in circumstances of altered significance for Great Britain, 
they were reformulated as an actual Alliance 

1 Treaty of St Petersburg, April, 1764. With this Treaty, accompanied by a 
Secret Convention concerning Poland, the British Government had no concern. 


The Prussian campaigns of the year 1762 had ended successfully 
for Frederick II at Schweidnitz and Freiberg (October), and in the 
west Prince Ferdinand had by the capture of Cassel (November) 
victoriously closed his brilliant military career. Bute, who lacked 
courage rather than insight, had not as yet dared to interfere openly 
with the prosecution of the War; but, while Prince Ferdinand was 
still about to push his advance, the news arrived that, as will be seen 
immediately, the British negotiations with France and Spain had 
resulted in the conclusion of Preliminaries of Peace. ChoiseuFs 
policy of prolonging the War in Germany, in order, at the last 
moment, to carry on effectively the War against Great Britain with 
the aid of Spain had rapidly broken down, even after this joint effort 
had been practically restricted to an attack on Portugal a failure in 
the end, thanks partly to British supplementation of the national 
resources. The British supremacy by sea had in this year been every- 
where maintained. In the West Indies, where, with the solitary 
exception of the capture of San Domingo (1761), warlike operations 
had for some time been suspended, in order to spare Spanish sus- 
ceptibilities, there was, of course, no reason for showing considera- 
tion for an open enemy. Martinique was taken (February, 1762), 
and in accordance with a design of Pitt's, the whole of the Windward 
Islands were now under British rule. Havana was captured (August), 
and before long (October) the Philippines in the Eastern Seas were 
added to the Western gains or rather, would have been added, had 
not the British Government already placed both these acquisitions on 
the list of those of which it was prepared to make a present to Spain. 

The War was virtually over, so far as Great Britain was concerned. 
She had been victorious in almost every quarter of the globe; but 
her Sovereign and his Minister had made up their minds for peace 
with France and Spain, and almost dreaded successes which might 
seem to oblige them to raise their terms as towards these Powers. 
About April (1762), diplomatic correspondence on the subject had 
been resumed with France, Spain being taken into confidence. The 
negotiation was kept carefully secret from Prussia, though Shelburne, 
who had boldly demanded the withdrawal of our troops from Ger- 
many 1 , was informed that the Government had no intention of further 
carrying on the German, in addition to the Spanish War. But, as 
the business proceeded, Choiseul thought it desirable (May) con- 
fidentially to apprise the Austrian Government, which was pressing 

1 Cf. Lord Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, vol. I (1875), p. 124. 

I2 4 


Great Britain for aid, of the design of a separate Peace between the 
Western Powers ; when it was found that, though the assembling of 
a Congress might have seemed more favourable to her interests, Maria 
Theresa and her counsellors were prepared to transact directly, and 
to seek to obtain fair conditions for herself (the retention of Glatz) 
and her Saxo-Polish ally. The persistence of her foe, the desertion of 
her by Russia, and the coolness of France, had at last overcome her 
resistance. It now only remained to inform Frederick II of the con- 
ditions under which she was prepared to make peace with him, if 
the Army of the West were withdrawn from Germany during the pre- 
sent War. Frederick II, still professing his disbelief in the willing- 
ness of his Ally Great Britain to safeguard his interests, asked for a 
direct communication from the Austrian Government as to its in- 
tentions. The opening of official negotiations between France and 
Great Britain, hereupon, followed (September), Frederick's old 
acquaintance the Due de Nivernais being sent to London, and the 
Duke of Bedford, a firm friend of peace, to Paris. 

The Cabinet, on which the final settlement of one of the most 
momentous questions that a British Ministry has ever been called 
upon to determine, had recently undergone certain changes. Bute, 
who, on the resignation of Newcastle, had, as a matter of course, 
become First Lord of the Treasury, had appointed George Grenville, 
in whose valuable support he placed great trust, one of the Secre- 
taries of State in his place ; and it now appeared that both he and his 
fellow Secretary, the Earl of Egremont, insisted that, before signing 
the Preliminaries, Bedford, who had a strong will of his own, should 
submit them to the Cabinet. The news of the British success at 
Martinique added to the arguments in favour of this view, and Bute 
had to bow to it, though he took his revenge by transferring the 
seals from Egremont to Halifax and shifting Grenville to the Ad- 
miralty. The transaction of the Preliminaries was accordingly pushed 
on, and, on November 3rd, the Preliminaries of Peace between Great 
Britain, France and Spain were signed at Fontainebleau. Six days 
later they were approved by Parliament, after Pitt had liberated his 
soul in a speech of three hours and a half, a majority of 319 to 65 
supporting an address of thanks to the Crown. On February icth, 
1763, the Peace of Paris, based on these Preliminaries, was signed. 

This Peace replaced Great Britain in possession of Minorca, and 
left in British hands the whole of Canada, with Cape Breton and 
the other islands (except two) in the Gulf of St Lawrence ; certain 


religious rights were reserved for the Roman Catholics of Canada, and 
certain rights of fishery in the Bay of Newfoundland (the nursery, 
as it has been called, of the French navy) were left to the French. 
On the Gulf of Mexico, Florida and Louisiana, except New Orleans 
and its district, became British partly as an equivalent for Havana. 
In the West Indies there was a partition, and in Africa, Great Britain 
obtained Senegal, but gave up Goree. In the East Indies, France 
recovered possession of certain factories and settlements in Bengal, 
but only on the undertaking to keep no troops and raise no fortifica- 
tions there. In general, it was agreed that all conquests "not yet 
known" should be restored without compensation, so that Havana 
and the Philippines were alike surrendered. On the other hand, 
Spain waived all the claims on which her participation in the War 
had been founded. 

Notwithstanding the signal moderation shown by the British 
Government in agreeing to these terms, King George III must be 
allowed to have had, in more ways than one, reason for declaring 
that Great Britain had never before concluded such a peace, and that 
perhaps no other European Power had ever concluded another like 
it. It established British maritime supremacy in both hemispheres; 
it placed Great Britain in the position of the foremost Colonial Power 
in the world; and it opened for British commerce an incomparable 
prospect of expansion. But this Peace, at the same time, wore a more 
dubious aspect, with regard to its provisions connected with Great 
Britain's participation in the recent European War. W 7 hether, even 
so, it contained in it the germs of national animosities for whose out- 
break the course of time could not fail to provide opportunities, was 
a question which history would be called upon to solve; but, most 
assuredly, an insistence upon the policy of Pitt the policy of abso- 
lute commercial monopoly would not have been accepted by France 
except at a stage which the late War had not reached that of her 
absolute prostration. 

It is impossible, from this point of view, not to compare the 
Peace of Paris with the Peace of Utrecht, or to gainsay that, in both 
instances, the motives impelling the British Government to press a 
pacific conclusion were those of political partisanship, and jealousy 
on the part of the Crown and its followers of one great man pre- 
eminently fitted to carry on the War and associated by public opinion 
with its continuance 1 . Nevertheless, Great Britain cannot justly be 

1 In a powerful passage in Lecky's History of England in the Eighteenth Century, 
vol. HI. (ed. of 1882), pp. 44 ff. 


said to have at Paris, as she had at Utrecht, purchased for herself 
whatever advantages accrued to her from the Peace at the cost of 
her Allies. Portugal recovered all that she had lost by the War, and 
which is, of course, the main question at issue Great Britain's 
conduct to Prussia, though inevitably resented by Frederick II (in 
whatever measure he may have expected it) cannot fairly be described 
as desertion. By a strange coincidence, the Article of the Treaty pro- 
viding for the restoration by France of the territory and strong places 
in her occupation omitted to specify the Powers to whom they were 
to be given up; and, but for Frederick's vigilance, Austria might 
have taken advantage of this lapse. But the real defence of Great 
Britain's action towards Prussia consists neither in this omission, 
nor even in the fact that Great Britain was under no formal obliga- 
tion (as Frederick had been made aware) to continue indefinitely her 
Annual Subsidy to him. It lay in the complete change of the cir- 
cumstances from those in which her Alliance with him had been 
concluded. Austria and Saxony apart, he was now on the friendliest 
of terms with Russia ; Sweden was following suit, the great league 
against him was dissolved, and France alone, from whom he had 
little or nothing to fear, and who in the Peace undertook to give 
no fresh assistance to her Allies still involved in the German War, 
remained unreconciled 1 . 

We leave aside the disentanglement of the relations between 
France and her Allies in Germany. The British Government had 
devised a scheme of its own for solving the difficulties which attended 
the process by proclaiming with a resolution savouring of Pitt 
rather than his successor the neutrality of the Prussian Rhinelands 
during the remainder of the War, when the news of the conclusion 
of the Peace of Hubertusburg rendered the acceptance of the scheme 
superfluous (February i5th, 1763). The Prussian and Austrian 
Governments had rapidly reached the conclusion that the time had 
come for them to settle their differences directly, while keeping in 
good humour the new Tsarina in her own right, who was anxious to 
assume the part of Mediatrix. The Peace of Hubertusburg, which 
left the Austrian, Prussian and Saxon dominions precisely the same 
in extent as they had been before the War, while Prussia made certain 
concessions of no primary significance to the Houses of Austria and 

1 Frederick put faith in the report that Bute had held out hopes of British 
support of demands from Prussia of territorial compensation for Austria ; but this 
gravamen rests on the uncorroborated evidence of Prince Galitzin, Russian Am- 
bassador in London, and need hardly be taken into account. 


Saxony, was regarded by Frederick IPs contemporaries as a masterly 
close to a masterly War, and he and Kaunitz were at one in their 
satisfaction at its having been reached without actual foreign (i.e. 
Russian) intervention. George III was included in it among the 
Allies of Prussia both as King of Great Britain and as Elector of 
Hanover. No warmer congratulations on this Peace attended 
Frederick II than those of Mitchell, who during the most critical 
part of the War had adhered to him and upheld his action with un- 
flagging energy; and when, after nightfall on March 3Oth, the great 
King entered Berlin, there rode by his side Prince Ferdinand, whose 
prowess had lifted from his shoulders a great part of the burden. 
And though there was truth in his boast, "I made the War" for 
in his self-reliance at the supreme crises of his course lay the final 
cause of his victory there were also on his side the forces by which 
history works, and of which the greatest of warriors and statesmen 
are but the agents. 

In England, if the Peace of Paris had been carried through in a 
different spirit, and by other statesmen, it might have been welcomed 
with acclamations. As it was, the hopes of the Court party that the 
assurance implied in the Peace of the young King's having, in the 
conclusion of it, been moved by no German sympathies would cover 
him with popularity were to be speedily disappointed As for his 
chosen Minister, though the charge of having been induced to make 
the Peace by a French bribe was momentarily bruited abroad, he was 
severely handled in the Lords, and, with an insight into the situation 
creditable to his loyalty as well as to his good sense, unexpectedly 
resigned his office as early as April. It is significant that, in the most 
notorious effort of the demagogues who virulently attacked him and 
his regime in No. 45 of Wilkes's North Briton, published a few days 
after Bute's resignation the abandonment of Frederick II and the 
inadequate conditions of the Peace are among the charges urged 
against the fallen, but even now by no means powerless, Minister. 


The intrigues which followed scarcely concern us here. Bute was 
succeeded by George Grenville, the conduct of foreign affairs being 
left to Egremont (whose influence among the Tories was consider- 
able) and to Halifax, personally popular, but not a statesman of high 
mark. After Egremont 's death, the King was forced to have recourse 


to the counsel of Pitt, who, while advocating the exclusion from office 
of all who had taken part in the Peace negotiations, dwelt on the 
necessity of giving the great Whig families their share in the ad- 
ministration of public affairs. The illogical result was the inclusion 
in the Ministry of the Duke of Bedford (September), and, after further 
difficulties, which the King had made yet another effort to overcome 
with Pitt's aid, Grenville and Bedford were superseded in office by 
the Marquis of Rockingham, the leader, respectable according to any 
use of the word, of the main body of the Whigs (1765). 

Within the closing months of Grenville's Government falls the 
event the passing of the Stamp Act with which a new period 
begins in the history of British foreign policy. For, as was soon to 
become manifest, it was henceforth constantly affected, and for many 
a long day dominated, by the relations between the Colonies and the 
mother-country. Hitherto, the North American Colonies, which are 
primarily in question, had in times of peace been virtually left to 
themselves ; and Grenville's Stamp Act, by which half North America 
was lost to Great Britain, was an almost incidental result of his en- 
deavour to utilise discreetly for the defence of Great Britain what he 
looked upon as her resources beyond seas. In the process legalised 
by this Act there is nothing altogether new; but the application of 
its principles which of old Walpole had said he would "leave to a 
braver man " proved the supreme test of Pitt's colonial statesman- 
ship 1 . During the earlier stages of the Anglo-French warfare in 
North America, the British Colonists had fought bravely with little 
help from home. The formation of a central authority to direct their 
efforts had, accordingly, been felt so strongly that, on the eve of the 
Seven Years* War, a Congress had been summoned to Albany (1754) 
by the Colonial Governor, to discuss a common organisation of defence 
and a central fund for supplying the necessary means. But the War, 
while it preserved the Colonies from French dominion, almost ruined 
them by putting an end to their unlawful trade with their French and 
other foreign neighbours, as well as by the exhaustion of their own 
resources; and Grenville's proposal to raise by parliamentary tax- 
ation of them part at least of the money necessary for the permanent 
establishment of a force in North America was as inopportune as it was 
offensive, while it might very possibly prove inadequate to its purpose. 

The history of the Stamp Act, which, while passing with very 
little notice in England, at once aroused the most violent opposition 

1 See Miss Hotblack, u.s., in the chapter " Stamp Act." 


in the Colonies, and that of its Repeal, supported by Burke and 
opposed by Pitt (February, 1766), must not detain us. The Repeal 
was accompanied by a Declaratory Act, asserting that the taxing 
power of the British Parliament extended to the Colonies. Pitt, 
though seeking to maintain a distinction between legislation and 
taxing powers, declined to bind the Colonies by an absolute declara- 
tion of right. The Repeal, however, was accepted in America as a 
binding measure, though the wound still smarted. On every ground, 
the remembrance of it should have been left to die out as speedily 
as possible. 

In the following July (1766), the King dismissed Rockingham and 
recalled Pitt, now created Earl of Chatham, into office as Lord Privy 
Seal. The Duke of Grafton, who had resigned the Secretaryship 
of State under Rockingham, had been persuaded to accept the 
nominal headship of the Government, while Shelburne and Conway, 
both strong adversaries of the Stamp Act, were appointed Secretaries 1 . 
But, though Chatham remained a member of the Government till 
1768, he was such in name only; and his life had already lapsed into 
that of an invalid in retirement, with fitful emergings into the light 
of public day its normal condition in his later years. His Colonial 
policy, which he clearly expounded to the House of Commons on 
the eve of the War of Independence (February, 1775), underwent 
no fundamental change; and he held fast to the principle that the 
legislative authority of Great Britain must remain supreme, with the 
rider that no tax should be imposed on a Colony without the assent 
of an assembly duly convened there to vote supply for imperial uses. 
Grafton's Government, to which Chatham had for a time given the 
support of his name, had, in the meantime, carried out the policy 
of the (repealed) Stamp Act through Charles Townshend's im- 
position on the Colonies of a port duty on tea the occasion, as it 
proved, of the outbreak which led to the War of Independence. After 
Townshend's death, his successor as Chancellor of the Exchequer, 
Lord North, who in 1770 became First Lord and virtual Prime- 
Minister, continued the same policy, of which the primary inspi- 
ration was the will of the King. 

1 It is worth noticing, as showing the increased importance attached to British 
North America, that, in 1768, the Earl of Hillsborough (afterwards Marquis of 
Downshire), who had served under Grenville as President of the Board of Trade, 
but whose sympathies were Tory, was appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies. 
But the office was abolished in 1782 a proof of the difficulty, in this period, of 
distinguishing Colonial from Foreign Affairs. 

W. &G. i. 9 


It would serve no purpose to touch here on the personal incidents 
and influences more or less affecting British Colonial and foreign policy 
in this period of rampant faction, and of the prostration of the powers 
of guidance to which Parliament and nation had, during four glorious 
years, accustomed themselves to look. "The late frequent changes in 
England," wrote, about the end of 1767, Sir Andrew Mitchell, whom 
experience had taught what his country could achieve under a great 
leader, "have created a degree of diffidence in foreign Powers which 
renders all negotiation with them difficult and disagreeable." While 
in America discontent and disaffection were becoming more and more 
formidable, and while at home the attention of the public was con- 
centrated upon domestic agitation, the regard paid to Great Britain 
by the European Powers was rapidly sinking 1 . Significant of this 
decline, though, of course, its importance was much exaggerated by 
Burke when he represented it as changing the Balance of Power in 
the Mediterranean, was the ignoring by France of the protest of the 
British Government against her purchase of Corsica and enforcement 
of it, after the heroic struggle of the islanders under Paoli against their 
Genoese oppressors 2 . Much about the same time, an essentially 
Colonial question, that of the Falkland Islands, brought Great Britain 
to the verge of war with Spain. The first British design of a settle- 
ment on these barren islands (valuable because of their nearness to 
Chili) had been formed in 1748, but abandoned in consequence of a 
protest by Wall. In 1766, a formal attempt was made to take possession 
of one of them (now called Port Egmont) 3 for Great Britain; but, in 
1770, a strong Spanish expedition captured the British garrison, 
detained a British frigate, and for a moment assumed the mastery 
of the South Seas. Since Spain, also, refused to pay the money due for 
Manilla, war seemed unavoidable, but was averted by the skilful 
diplomacy at Madrid of the British Charge d'affaires, James Harris 
(afterwards Earl of Malmesbury) and the apprehension of Grimaldi 
that war with Great Britain, on which Choiseul had determined, could 
not be carried to a successful issue. But it was an untoward incident 
for the British Government, and seems to have led to the resignation 

1 The only step of importance taken at this time by Great Britain with regard to 
India was the enquiry into the affairs of the East India Company, instituted before 
Chatham was wholly disabled by illness. 

2 Corsica was actually annexed to France in 1769. 

3 France had effected a settlement on another (Port Louis). For a full account 
of the Falkland Islands affair, see Winstanley, Lord Chatham and the Whig Ministry 
(Cambridge, 1912). 


of Lord Weymouth (who had succeeded Conway as one of the Secre- 
taries of State). On the other hand, it likewise led to the dismissal 
by Lewis XV of Choiseul. Chatham's laments over the decadence 
of Great Britain, when he found strength to make them, resounded 
in vain, and with the recovery of his bodily powers he had only 
partially recovered his personal authority ; so that, although he could 
help for a time to weaken Lord North's Ministry, he was unable 
either to prevent the American War or to agree with Burke as to the 
conditions of maintaining the union with the American Colonies, 
which they were both unprepared to sacrifice. 

In 1775, without any wish on the American side for separation 
from Great Britain, and with very little belief in the British of the 
power of the Colonists to carry through the resistance on which they 
had determined, the War of Independence broke out. There existed, 
at the time, no kind of understanding between the Americans, or the 
majority of them resolved on resistance, and any of the European 
Powers ; but there was a cooperation, unseen and unnoticed, between 
the historic forces at work in very different regions of the world. As 
has been well said, Europe was strewn with the wrecks of the liberties 
of the past, and all the great or leading States were under the sway 
of despotisms, benevolent or other. In the United Provinces, where 
the House of Orange had recovered a quasi-royal position, corruption 
and decadence were visible on all sides. Poland was already in the 
throes of anarchy, and in 1772 underwent her First Partition 1 , of 
which the Powers that had perpetrated it obtained a formal recogni- 
tion from the Republic itself. The prospects of Constitutional liberty 
were almost universally enshrouded in gloom ; and during the Ameri- 
can War not a few Whig politicians were haunted by the belief 
though this fear acted in different ways on different minds that 
the defeat of the American Colonists would be followed by a sub- 
version of the foundations of the British Constitution. 

It was after the British Government had resolved to bargain with 
certain German Princes, in order to raise the King's forces to what 
seemed the requisite minimum, but before, in July, 1776, the Declaration 
of Independence had been voted by Congress, that the advanced party 
among the leaders of American opinion took into serious considera- 
tion the question of foreign assistance. In the first instance, at all 
events, this could be no other than that of France 2 . Hitherto, France 

1 " England," Frederick II, had in the previous year written to his Envoy in 
London, " need not worry herself about Poland." 

2 See for a full exposition of the situation, in this respect, Lecky, iv. 


I 3 2 


had been regarded as the natural enemy in the American Colonies even 
more distinctly than in England itself; but the early course of the War, 
and the manifest fact that the Colonists were far from united in their 
resistance, or, outside New England, had made so much as an approach 
to unanimity, soon placed it beyond doubt that the action of France 
must determine the result of the struggle. That intervention was by 
no means a mere question of revanche ; for it was the evident interest 
of France to obtain for herself a share of the commerce from which 
she had been excluded since the time of the Navigation Act, to re- 
cover the losses which she had suffered through the deliberate policy 
of Pitt, and to gain comparative security for her West India Islands. 
French political opinion, which had of late become very active, 
anxiously noted the alteration in the conditions of the European 
equilibrium more especially the augmentation of Russian, and of 
Prussian, power and influence by such a process as the First Par- 
tition of Poland. So early as 1776, Vergennes in his Memorial on 
American affairs, while affecting to deprecate war with Great Britain, 
urged the adoption by both France and Spain of a policy which would 
secretly encourage and assist the Americans in their struggle; and, 
though Turgot, when called upon to report on this Memorial, in- 
sisted on the maintenance of peace as the immediate and pressing 
necessity for France, the more active policy prevailed, and the 
Government of Lewis XVI, while duping the British Ministry, sub- 
sidised the American Revolt. 

Spain, partly under the influence of France, partly on her own 
account for she could not have entertained any real desire to foster 
Colonial independence supplied the American Colonies with money 
and gunpowder, and allowed their ships ampler trade privileges than 
she granted to those of any other country. Grand- duke Leopold II 
of Tuscany secretly did away with all duties impeding American com- 
merce with his dominions, besides giving open expression of his 
goodwill to the American cause. And a still more * intelligent ' despot, 
Frederick the Great, who had never forgotten Great Britain's con- 
duct towards him at the close of the Seven Years' War, without com- 
mitting himself publicly, or even consenting to receive an American 
diplomatic representative, threw every obstacle in the way of British 
enlistments in Germany, and took pains to assure France that, if she 
went to war with Great Britain, he proposed to remain neutral. The 
Emperor Joseph II (Co-regent with his mother since 1765), hostile 
to Frederick II on all other points, agreed with him as to discouraging 


the British enlistment of German recruits for the American War. 
Finally, the United Provinces found a single-minded satisfaction in 
obtaining a new market in America, and organising the little Dutch 
West Indian island of St Eustatius as a station for supplying the 
needs of the insurgents. Thus, French sympathies were the reverse 
of isolated in their varied manifestations on behalf of the War one 
of them being a flow of French officers into the American army. 
For a time, the resolution of the French Government wavered, and 
the counsels of Spain (who was engaged in a brief War with Portu- 
gal) were against opening hostilities with Great Britain. But, at 
the close of the year 1777, after the British disaster at Saratoga, the 
American Commissioners at Paris were informed that France was 
prepared to enter into a Commercial Treaty with the American 
Government, and to acknowledge and support its Independence, on 
the sole condition that the Americans would conclude no peace with 
Great Britain, which did not include the actual recognition of that 
Independence. No advantage was asked for France in the Treaties 
formally signed at Paris in February, 1778; France was to have her 
place in the sun her due share in American commerce and Great 
Britain's monopoly of it was to be ended by the severance of the 
political tie between her and the Colonies now in revolt. 

The recognition of their independence was precisely the basis on 
which George III had made up his mind not to treat with the Ameri- 
cans. In deference to a unanimous vote of the Cabinet, he at last 
consented that new proposals should be made to the American Com- 
missioners, and in February, 1778, North moved and passed Bills of 
Conciliation, which yielded all the points originally in dispute, but 
maintained the political union between the Colonies and the mother- 
country. The final oratorical effort of Chatham, true to his point of 
view, and true to his policy of resistance to France, was in support 
of this principle 1 . But when the British Commissioners, recently ap- 
pointed 2 , reached America in May, they found all doors closed against 
them, and, after they had appealed to the nation from Congress, 
returned home. For, in the same month, the French Treaties of 
Commerce and Alliance, signed in February at Paris, but kept secret 

1 April 7th, 1778, against the Duke of Richmond's notice of an Address. See, 
as to the extreme probability that had he survived, he must have been called to 
office, Stanhope's History of England, chap. LVII, where the historian defends 
Chatham's policy against Croker and Macaulay. 

2 The Earl of Carlisle, William Eden (afterwards Lord Auckland), George 



for some time, had become known in America; and, by June, France 
and Great Britain were at war. Great Britain had entered into the 
last phase of the struggle without an ally ; but it can neither be denied 
that the challenge of France for a time strengthened the Govern- 
ment by arousing the national indignation, nor that Chatham's death 
gave unity to the Opposition led by Rockingham, who were now 
unanimous in advocating the concession of complete American 

At first, the clouds seemed to gather more and more darkly, and 
the foreign policy of Great Britain to be reduced to an anxious de- 
fensive, though in America the fortunes of war were in her favour. 
French naval enterprise appeared to be reviving: in 1779, a French 
squadron seized the British possessions in Senegal, and in the same 
year a combined French and Spanish fleet sailed up the Channel, as 
the Dutch had, rather more than a century before. For the Bourbon 
Family Compact, and the irritation, old and new, provoked by British 
self-assertion at sea, with the hope of recovering losses of which that 
of Gibraltar transcended all others, had once more prevailed A 
proposal made by the Government of Charles III, who, with his 
Minister Florida Blanca, had sho\vn pacific tendencies, to mediate 
between Great Britain and France having fallen through, a Conven- 
tion between France and Spain, in which each Power stated the ob- 
jects it desired to secure, and the Spanish Government stipulated that 
no peace should be signed till Gibraltar had been restored, was signed 
in April, 1779 ; and, in June, Spain declared war against Great Britain. 
The combined fleets, as noted, appeared in the Channel; but, ere 
the day of peace had dawned once more, Rodney had brilliantly re- 
asserted British naval supremacy in both hemispheres, and, before his 
final victory over de Grasse in the West Indies (April, 1782), the last 
assault upon Gibraltar had, after being prolonged for three years, 
hopelessly broken down. 

While North's Ministry still held out, British diplomacy had been 
much occupied with the relations between Great Britain and the 
Powers not involved in the momentous conflict into which she had been 
drawn. It was not unnatural that, in the earlier days of the American 
War, the great Continental monarchies and Russia in particular, 
should have leant to Great Britain ; but that at the same time jealousy 
should have been provoked, in northern as well as in western Europe, 
by the continuous growth of her naval ascendancy. The ambition of 
Catharine II, accordingly, might be depended upon to lend a willing 


ear to grievances on this head. So early as 1778, both the vigilant 
Vergennes and several of the minor Maritime Powers of Europe had 
invited the Tsarina to place herself at the head of a combined move- 
ment towards restricting the British pretensions to interfere in times 
of war with the commerce of neutral nations but without much 
success. At her Court, Panin's party carried on the recent tradition 
of serving the interests of Frederick II of Prussia, and was conse- 
quently, in view more especially of his bitterness towards Great 
Britain, ill-disposed towards that Power. Her imperious favourite, 
Potemkin, on the other hand, leaned towards a British alliance, 
though his aims were essentially selfish. Catharine, who was not at 
heart hostile to Great Britain, and who distinguished the British 
Ambassador Harris by her special favour, was prepared, in these 
matters, to pursue a line of policy highly inconvenient to Great 
Britain. The British Government had given orders that Russian 
ships should be left unmolested; but the Spaniards searched and 
made prizes of two which they erroneously thought to be trading 
with Great Britain. The Tsarina, henceforth, angrily gave instruc- 
tions that a number of Russian vessels should be equipped for the 
protection of Russian commerce, evidently with the intention of 
at least making an effective naval demonstration against Spain. 
Frederick IFs counsel, however, induced her to restore the ships, 
and Panin took advantage of the occasion to persuade the Tsarina 
to summon a Congress under her presidency for defining the rights 
of neutrals by sea, so as to prevent a recurrence of the incident. In 
March, 1780, she issued a Declaration to the effect that in times of 
war neutral vessels may navigate freely along the coasts of belliger- 
ents, carrying any such goods of belligerents as are not contraband; 
that contraband articles are such only when expressly enumerated in 
a Treaty concluded between the British and Russian Governments, 
and that blockade must be really effective. This Declaration, amount- 
ing to acceptance by Russia of principles first put forward by the 
Prussian Government in 1752, laid claim to an almost universal au- 
thority. The British Government, without directly disputing the doc- 
trine set forth by this "Armed Neutrality" Declaration, contented 
itself with answering it in general terms. But it was extremely un- 
favourable to the interests of Great Britain, as arraying the greater 
part of northern Europe in diplomatic hostility against her, while 
increasing the probability of an extended War, in which she would 
have no chance of assistance from Russia. Catharine II, however, 


had no wish to engage in hostilities, and promulgated the * Declaration 
of Armed Neutrality,' which, as she told Harris, ought rather to be 
called an Armed Nullity, chiefly to satisfy her self-consciousness. 

A further difficulty connected with the commercial relations of 
Great Britain, about the same time, led to actual warfare. This was 
primarily due to the use made of their island of Eustatius, mentioned 
above, by the Dutch during the War between Great Britain and 
France. The latter Power permitted the City of Amsterdam, and 
finally the whole Province of Holland, to trade with her Colonies 
duty-free through this channel, and came to depend most largely 
on Dutch supply for materials needed in the equipment of her ships. 
The consequent animosity gradually deepened between Great Britain 
and the United Provinces, where the party of Amsterdam and the 
Pensionary van Berkel had, from the first, strongly opposed that of the 
Stadholder and the British interest ; and where the ambition of ulti- 
mately securing a large share of the American trade had never before 
risen so high. The Dutch traders, with contraband and other articles 
on board, swarmed in the Western seas, and American privateers freely 
ran their prizes into Dutch harbours. In return, British ships freely 
applied the right of search and captured Dutch vessels which refused 
to allow it. In September, 1780, a secret Treaty between Amster- 
dam and the "United States of America" (drafted for approval by 
the States- General) was brought to light by a daring capture, and, 
when it was only met by a dilatory and evasive disavowal, Great 
Britain declared war against the United Provinces. 

Thus, at the close of 1780, Great Britain's isolation was complete. 
She was confronted by the united hostility of the American Colonies, 
France, Spain against which she was defending Gibraltar and the 
United Provinces, while Northern Europe was threatening her with 
the loss of her best weapon of offence. Meanwhile, in Hindustan, 
Hyder All was desolating the Carnatic and menacing Madras. In 
Ireland and at home in England in the capital itself the founda- 
tions of the monarchy seemed to be trembling. The recovery in 
America (1779-80) had temporarily strengthened North's Govern- 
ment and the national resolution of resistance ; but with the surrender 
of Yorktown (October, 1781), followed by the Spanish capture of 
Minorca, and the complete establishment of French naval supremacy 
in the West Indian seas, that resistance came to an end, and the 
Ministry resigned (March, 1782). Its place was, after attempts at 
reconstruction by Lord Shelburne and Lord Gower, taken by 


the (second) Rockingham Ministry, in which Shelburne (who 
represented the followers of Chatham) and Charles Fox held the 
Secretaryships of State. After the death of Lord Rockingham, and 
the succession of Shelburne to the headship of the Ministry (July, 
1782), the Secretaryship of State for Foreign Affairs held by Fox was 
transferred to Lord Grantham 1 . 

When, just before the resignation of North, and before King 
George III had reluctantly committed the conduct of affairs to the 
Whigs, with the avowed task of terminating the War and recognising 
the Independence of America, the question of Peace had virtually 
become only a question of time, Benjamin Franklin, American Com- 
missioner in Paris, had transmitted to Shelburne certain conditions 
of Peace, privately suggested by Vergennes to a Scottish intermediary 
named Oswald. They included the cession, by way of reparation, to 
France of Canada and Nova Scotia. In April, 1782, the British 
Cabinet decided to suggest, through the same channel, peace con- 
ditions of which the essence was the grant of Independence to the 
Americans and the restoration of Great Britain to the position in 
which she had been left by the Peace of 1763. In May, Fox com- 
missioned Thomas Grenville (son of George Grenville) to write a 
similar communication to Vergennes; and the Cabinet authorised 
him (after Rodney's great victory) to propose, in the first instance, 
the recognition of the Independence of America by Great Britain. A 
most untoward difference of opinion, hereupon, arose between Fox 
and Shelburne as to the meaning of this offer whether or not it 
was, as the latter contended, to be conditional on the conclusion of 
a general peace, instead of preceding it ? Fox's motion that Inde- 
pendence should be unconditional was lost by a narrow majority; 
and, on Shelburne's appointment as successor to Rockingham, Fox, 
as stated, resigned, with certain other members of the Cabinet. 

The result was a hitch in the informal peace negotiations at Paris ; 
but, inasmuch as the American War largely because of want of 
money languished, though the Dutch as well as the French Govern- 

1 In 1782, the system of three Secretaries of State had ceased (the third or 
American Secretaryship being abolished); and there was instituted for it that of 
two Secretaries, one for Foreign and the other for Home and Colonial Affairs. 
But this arrangement did not prevent an anomalous state of things under Rocking- 
ham, when the two Secretaries of State, Fox and Shelburne, were at daggers drawn ; 
so that, in Lord Rosebery's words (Pitt (1892), p. 22) it "is not matter for surprise 
that, within a month of their assuming office, Shelburne and Fox, the two Secre- 
taries of State, had each their separate plenipotentiary at Paris negotiating for 


ment had now recognised American Independence, it was felt on all 
sides that the advent of peace could no longer be delayed. King 
George Ill's resistance had now been overcome, and France and 
Spain before long perceived the futility of the hope that Rodney might 
still be crushed and Gibraltar and Jamaica captured, or that, though 
their united navies, even without Dutch aid, still outnumbered the 
British, this condition of things would outlast America's remaining in 
the conflict, and their own solvency would continue. The negotiations 
for the Preliminaries of Peace were, accordingly, carried on at Paris 
with renewed assiduity in the later months of 1782; Vergennes, of 
course, representing France, d' Aranda Spain, and Franklin, John 
Adams and Jay America, while the British Government had com- 
missioned, together with Oswald, its original agent in the proceedings, 
Alleyne Fitzherbert (afterwards Lord St Helens). The Preliminary 
Articles with the United States were signed on November 3Oth, and 
those with France and Spain on January 2Oth following. (The notion 
of giving up Gibraltar for an equivalent had approved itself to the 
King and Shelburne, but had been successfully resisted among 
others by Pitt.) The definitive Treaties were signed, at Paris and 
Versailles respectively, on September 3rd, 1783 ; the Duke of Man- 
chester and David Hartley having taken the place of the negotiators 
of the Preliminaries, and the Tsarina and the Emperor Joseph II 
being, by way of compliment, named as Mediators in the Treaties 
with the two European Powers. The Pacification with the United 
Provinces was characteristically delayed till 1784, when freedom of 
commerce was secured to Great Britain in the Indian Seas. 

Compared with the Peace of Paris of 1763, which France and 
Spain had resolved to undo, the new Peace wears a depressing aspect 
on any British page of history, and reflects the balance of losses ex- 
perienced by her in the War. Yet it should not be overlooked that 
almost everything now relinquished by her to her European adver- 
saries had been taken from them by her in previous Wars, and that 
a great part of her acquisitions in the Peace of 1763 was still retained 
by her. The gains of France were, in substance, restricted to those in 
Africa and India ; to the abrogation of the Utrecht Clause providing 
for the demolition of the fortified port of Dunkirk, and to the ac- 
knowledgment of the French right of fishery on the Newfoundland 
coast. Spain recovered Minorca and Eastern Florida, while agreeing 
to the British rights in Honduras and restoring the Bahamas. 

The American settlement turned on that recognition of Indepen- 


dence with which the negotiation virtually began the promise of a 
compensation to the Loyalists, in lieu of the restoration of their 
estates, was a matter of secondary, though of considerable moral, 
consequence. On the whole, the American negotiations had been 
the most successful part of the entire transaction ; and it should be 
noted that there had been considerable differences, at the end, between 
French and American diplomacy as to how far the latter had ful- 
filled its pledge of communicating, before signing, all preliminary 
agreements. Nor was Vergennes free from doubts whether, if Fox 
came into power in the place of Shelburne, he might not be disposed 
to conclude a separate peace with the United States. Yet there was 
no rupture, and the new loan which France had promised to the 
Americans was not refused to them. Spain detested the notion of 
American Independence, and cherished to the last the hope of an 
exchange with Great Britain of Guadaloupe for Gibraltar. 

It will not be necessary, in the ensuing survey of British Foreign 
Policy from the Peace of 1783, to advert, except incidentally, to the 
Ministerial changes which occurred in the interval between the down- 
fall of Shelburne's shortlived Administration, and the advent of the 
younger Pitt, who had held office in it as Chancellor of the Exchequer, 
to full power as Prime-Minister. Until the right solution was found 
in the appointment of the Minister who enjoyed the confidence of the 
nation in the first instance, and that of the Sovereign in the next, 
these changes turned on men rather than on measures; though of 
Shelburne, whose public conduct it is perhaps more difficult to judge 
with fairness than that of any contemporary British political leader, 
it was said, with some point, by his colleague, Lord Grantham, that 
he always trusted too much to measures rather than to men 1 . 

Indeed, his chief defect in his public career was, perhaps, his 
neglect of the Machiavellian maxim, that in politics everything depends 
on making and keeping friends our enemies will take care of them- 
selves. Yet it should not be forgotten that it was Shelburne 2 who, 
after his own resignation, suggested Pitt as the new Prime- Minister to 
the King, who was more than ready to act on the suggestion, in order 
to escape the hateful alternative to which he after all had to submit 
of the Fox and North Coalition. It lasted for little beyond eight 
months, under what is not very happily described as the " ornamental " 
headship of the Duke of Portland, the two reconciled adversaries 

1 See Lord Fitzmaurice's Life of William Earl Shelburne, in, p. 410 (1876). 

2 See J. Holland Rose, William Pitt and National Revival (1911), p. 125. 


holding, Fox the Foreign, and North the Home and Colonial, Sec- 
retaryship of State. This was the Ministry mistrusted by the nation, 
and looked upon with bitter resentment by the King during whose 
tenure of office the Peace Treaties with the United States, and with 
France and Spain, were definitively signed, without any modification 
being introduced into them by the Whigs, who in Opposition had taken 
exception to them so strongly. 

When, through the unconstitutional action of King George III, 
encouraged by the unscrupulous violence of Lord Thurlow and aided 
by the selfish ambition of Earl Temple, the Coalition had been, in 
December 1783, brought to a fall over Fox's East India Bill, Pitt was 
appointed Prime-Minister by the Sovereign, in the face of a hostile 
majority in the House of Commons. From Pitt's Cabinet, the Earl of 
Shelburne, long the leader of the party or fraction to which 
the new Prime-Minister had belonged, was left out, and William 
(afterwards Lord) Grenville, though a member of the Government, 
was admitted into the Cabinet till 1791 ; the Marquis of Carmarthen 
(eldest son of the Duke of Leeds) being, however, included in it as 
Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Defeated again and again in the 
Commons, but rendered confident by the gradual dwindling of the 
Opposition members, Pitt resolved in the full sense of the phrase 
to appeal to the nation. Early in March, 1784, Parliament was dis- 
solved, and in May he met the new House of Commons at the head 
of an overwhelming majority. It was thus that he became the most 
powerful Minister ever known in our history. The foreign policy 
of the younger Pitt presents almost as many points of contrast with 
that of his father as could have coexisted with the personal qualities 
characteristic of both. But the task of the one was conditioned 
by the achievements of the other, and, though their rates of resolution 
differed, they alike proved equal to the unexampled responsibilities 
laid upon them by a nation whose self- trust they inspired and shared. 





1783 TO 1815. 

December, 1783: Marquis of Carmarthen (Duke of Leeds). 

June, 1791 : Lord Grenville. 

February, 1801 : Lord Hawkesbury (Earl of Liverpool). 

May, 1804: Lord (Earl of) Harrowby. 

January, 1805: Lord (Earl of) Mulgrave. 

February, 1806 : Charles James Fox. 

September, : Lord Howick (Earl Grey). 

March, 1807 : George Canning. 

October, 1809 : Earl Bathurst. 

December, : Marquis Wellesley. 

March, 1812: Viscount Castlereagh (Marquis of Londonderry). 


1783 TO 1815. 



February, 1790 
October, 1795 
January, 1796 
April, 1799 

September, 1800 
February, 1801 
November, 1803 
June, 1804 

January, 1805 
February, 1806 



George Aust (Permanent'). 

James Bland Surges (Sir J. B. Burges Lamb). 

Hon. Dudley Ryder (Earl of Harrowby). 

George Aust (Permanent). 

George Hammond (Permanent). 

George Canning. 

John Hookham Frere. 

Edward Fisher. 

Lord Hervey (Marquis of Bristol). 

Charles Arbuthnot. 

Hon. William Eliot (Earl of St Germans). 

Robert Ward. 

Hon. George Walpole. 

George Hammond (Permanent'). 

Viscount FitzHarris (Earl of Malmesbury). 

Hon. Charles Bagot. 

William Richard Hamilton (Permanent). 

Culling Charles Smith. 

Edward Cooke. 

(Later titles in brackets.) 



LEVEN months before he died, that is to say in September, 1785, 
Frederick the Great of Prussia, with the Duke of Brunswick in 
attendance, gave to a Special Envoy from Great Britain 1 a survey of 
the state of Europe as he saw it, or affected to see it, and of England's 
position among the Powers since the Peace of 1783. Frederick was 
gloomy gloomy with intent, as Englishmen thought ; but his view was 
a possible one and no statesman in Europe had better opportunities 
for gaining information than "old Fritz who knew everything that 
he wanted to know." The Balance of Power in Europe, he said, was 
lost. France, Spain, Austria and Russia "were in alliance," and 
Holland was dragged in their wake. England and Prussia were iso- 
lated. Even united, they would hardly be a match for "that mass 
which he had described." A struggle between such unequal forces 
might be attempted; but it "was not a game to play often." He very 
much doubted whether England could tackle the combined fleets of 
France, Spain, the United Provinces and Russia. The position of the 
United Provinces, he said, was particularly unfortunate. The power 
of the Stadholderate and of the House of Orange which held it was 
undermined : France wanted to destroy it and to govern the Provinces 
through her Ambassador. How could he although the wife of 
William V of Orange was his niece how could he prevent the Franco- 
Dutch alliance, which was at that moment in the making ? Did England 
suggest an Anglo-Prussian alliance? There had been talk of this. 
Well: he did not care to alarm the opposing "mass" by a treaty, but 
he would always be well disposed towards England. He had no doubt, 
he concluded with malicious courtesy, that Pitt would restore her " to 
the importance which she had formerly held in the scale of Europe," 
and render her "as great and respectable as his father had done 2 ." 
It is likely that he had grave doubts. A few years earlier he had written 
to Brunswick, who stood at his elbow while he spoke to Lord Corn- 

1 Lord Cornwallis, the Special Envoy, to Carmarthen, September aoth, 1785. 

2 Salomon (Pitt, p. 316) takes this to be a considered judgment of Frederick 
on Pitt. To me it reads differently. 

i 4 4 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

wallis, that "wealth,... luxury, the spirit of corruption, had all helped 
to rot that formerly so respectable Government." He was probably 
too cautious, in his sceptical old age, to hold, with Joseph II of 
Habsburg, that England had fallen "for ever," or that she had " gone 
down to the rank of a second rate Power like Sweden and Denmark 1 ; " 
but combined with an old grudge against her for deserting him in 
1763, which made him unable altogether to conceal his Schadenfreude, 
was a real doubt as to her present efficiency, a doubt which he shared 
with all the chanceries of Europe. That British statesmen felt the 
need to silence this doubt is shown by the pains which Cornwallis 
took to convince him that we had not suffered in pocket by our recent 
disasters more than our rivals had suffered in defeating us, and that 
we were in a position "to support our weight and dignity with the 
other Powers of Europe 2 ." 

Lord Cornwallis had not been sent to Berlin on this occasion 
precisely to seek Frederick's alliance, though he was instructed to 
make it clear that England would prefer Prussia "to all possible 
allies." He went at Frederick's request, or rather at the request of 
Frederick's Ambassador in London. He had been warned to put no 
trust in the King and to be infinitely circumspect 3 . But his mission 
falls in a period during which the British Cabinet, conscious of its 
isolation, had put out feelers among the Northern Courts and at 
Vienna. These feelers had all been cautious; for, as Pitt wrote to 
Carmarthen in June, 1784, it was necessary "to lay the foundation 
of such connections, keeping clear at the same time of being too soon 
involved in the quarrels of any Continental Power 4 ." If England 
could secure the support of Catharine of Russia, Frederick told Corn- 
wallis, he would enter into a triple alliance "as soon as she pleased." 
He knew that Catharine disliked and despised the British Govern- 
ment more than he did himself; that advances had been made to 
her from London: and that these advances had been very coldly 
entertained. Having no intention of committing himself, and being 
anxious not to risk an open breach, either with France, who for the 
moment dominated western, or with Catharine, who seemed to rule 
eastern Europe, he could afford to speak warmly of his own readiness 
to enter this unlikely combination. 

1 Sorel, L'Europe et la revolution franpaise, I. 346. 

2 Joseph Ewart to Carmarthen, September loth, 1785 reporting an earlier 
interview of Cornwallis with Frederick. 

3 Draft of instructions for Cornwallis, September 2nd, 1785. 

4 Salomon, Pitt, p. 300 n. Salomon gives a full account of the feelers of 1784. 


His reference to "an alliance" between Spain, France, Austria 
and Russia was, strictly speaking, incorrect, and he knew very well 
that these Powers did not form a compact "mass." But they were 
linked together ; and it was at least conceivable that, should the loose 
and selfish Alliances of Europe be consolidated by the threat of war, 
should the " General War," whose chances of outbreak the eighteenth 
century statesmen were always calculating, begin again, they would be 
found operating together. The Family Compact between France and 
Spain was a reality. It had worked already and would probably work 
again. The Alliance between France and Austria, the second link in 
the loose chain, seemed to have been tightened since an Austrian 
Princess had shared the Throne of France. Frederick knew how 
strong the anti-Austrian party in France was. The Alliance of 1756 
had, from the first, been regarded as unnatural by the best Frenchmen. 
It was believed to have been unprofitable in a high degree. French 
politicians were always anticipating that Austria would again exploit 
it to their disadvantage. If France became engaged in " a complicated 
unsuccessful war," wrote a member of the French Council of State 
in 1785, who could promise that the Emperor 1 "would not claim 
Alsace and perhaps other provinces?" On the other side, also, the 
Alliance was not popular. At the end of 1784, the coolest head in the 
House of Habsburg, Leopold of Tuscany, Joseph's brother, called 
the French "our natural enemies, disguised as allies, who do us more 
harm than if they were open enemies 2 ." Yet, uneasy as the Alliance 
was, the directors of policy on both sides found it for the present 
worth maintaining. Frederick told Viscount Dalrymple in December, 
1 785, that he knew there was no love lost between France and Austria ; 
but that an Anglo-Prussian alliance would drive them together, and 
then he would have to face the nightmare risks of the Seven Years' 
War. So, he concluded, he must humour France 3 . It was a reasonable 

The link in the chain of understandings most dangerous to Prussia 
was the recent agreement between Joseph and Catharine of Russia. 
At their first meeting, in Mohilev on June 4th, 1780, Joseph had replied 
to the Tsarina's mocking and calculated enquiry, why it was that he, 
a Roman Emperor, did not fix his capital at Rome, that there were 
difficulties in the way which he could not at present overcome, but 

1 Memoires lus au Cornell du Rot en 1784 et 1785 : quoted by Sorel, i. 295 n. 

2 Sorel, i. 441 n. 

3 Dalrymple to Carmarthen, December 3rd, 1785. 

w. G.I. 10 

146 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

that there would be no great difficulty in her case. Her Rome was 
not out of reach. By thus flattering her dearest ambition, he had won 
her favour once for all 1 . Frederick's agents lost ground at Petrograd ; 
and the world knew, during the next five years, that the Imperial 
Courts were revolving schemes for the partition of the Ottoman 
Empire and the establishment of Russian rule at Constantinople. 

In 1785 Catharine was not "in alliance " with France, as Frederick 
asserted to Cornwallis. But there was a very good understanding 
between Petrograd and Versailles. Catharine appreciated and admired 
the conduct of French policy under Vergennes. Relations were so 
confidential that, in 1784, she had received from one of Vergennes' 
subordinates a detailed account of the inner organisation of that 
French Foreign Office which had accomplished so much 2 . The 
traditional friendship between France and Sweden was a permanent 
obstacle to a Franco-Russian alliance. Yet it was not insuperable. 
Frederick's insight into the realities of European diplomacy was 
proved, rather more than a year after his death, when England and 
Prussia had actually drawn together; for, in the autumn of 1787, 
Segur, the very popular and accomplished French Ambassador to 
Catharine's Court, an old friend of England's enemies, transmitted 
to his Government a Russian project for precisely that Quadruple 
Alliance of France, Spain, the Tsarina and the Holy Roman Emperor 
which Frederick had feared 3 . The proposal came to nothing; but it 
was actually made. 

Pitt's desire not to be "too soon involved in the quarrels of any 
Continental Power " was most natural. He was nursing British finance 
and the British navy, which depended on finance. This he was doing 
with no definite intention of revenge either on France or on America. 
He had probably less natural animosity against France than any of 
his colleagues; and certainly less than any of the leading British 
diplomatists of his day. When, in 1786, he protested in a famous 
apostrophe that "to suppose that any nation can be unalterably the 
enemy of another is weak and childish," he was expressing a con- 
viction, not making a point in debate. But if he did not desire for his 
country revenge, he desired honour, weight in the counsels of Europe, 

1 Heigel, Deutsche Geschichte, I. 37. 

2 Doniol, Le Comte de Vergennes et P. M. Hennin, p. 47. Hennin was the sub- 
ordinate who drafted the report. M. Doniol shows that it was Vergennes who " or- 
ganisa ce quiparatt ne V avoir guere etejusqu'd lui: le ministere des affaires etrangeres ," 
p. 44. 

8 Sorel, i. 522, 532. 


" respectability," as the word was understood in the eighteenth century. 
These were things which money, well used, could buy. Hence, in 
part, those great financial measures which filled the early years of 
his Ministry. 

When Cornwallis assured Frederick that Great Britain had not 
suffered in power more than her foes, he made an understatement, 
either discreet or unconscious. Much as Englishmen groaned about the 
cost of the late War, many as were the prophecies of national collapse 
under the burden of the Funded Debt, the British finances, even 
before Pitt's reforms, were in a far better condition than the French; 
and the British financial system was probably the best in Europe. 
In a few years, Pitt made it incomparably the best. He was aided 
by the beginnings of those economic changes which were to fashion 
modern England. Canal building was now in full swing. The roads 
had become good enough to permit Palmer to start his swift mail 
coaches in 1784. Steam was first used to drive the air through a blast 
furnace in 1790. Between 1788 and 1796, the output of pig iron in 
Great Britain doubled. Those who directed European foreign policy 
were either completely ignorant of these things or did not reckon them 
at their full value. British statesmen had better opportunities of 
knowing the truth; and the least economic among them could see 
and appreciate the amazing expansion of the public revenue which 
set in, when a competent and upright financier handled freely the 
expanding resources of the nation. 

From the first, Pitt had seen to it that a full share of his takings 
should go to the Navy. He maintained a larger personnel than had 
ever been maintained in time of peace. He insisted on receiving at 
regular intervals reports on the state and progress of the Fleet. In 
1784 he set aside 2,400,000, a sum about equal to the total income 
of Frederick of Prussia, to build ships of war. By 1790, twenty-four 
new line-of-battle ships had been turned out from the private ship- 
yards. By 1787, he was prepared to risk war. In 1790, when, for a 
time, war seemed certain, he had ninety- three sail of the line ready 1 . 
At sea he would not have feared to meet France, Spain, Russia and 
the Habsburg Empire. By that time, he had not to face the possibility 
of meeting the Dutch also. 

Some critical aspects of Great Britain's international position not 
referred to in Frederick's survey were very present to the minds of 
Pitt's Cabinet and of Continental diplomatists. And, first, the Irish 

1 Rose, Pitt, i. 210-1. 

10 2 

148 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

aspect. The establishment of Ireland's legislative independence in 
1782 had seemed, to outside observers, a final proof of British de- 
cadence. Clearly perceiving the dangers of a semi-independent 
Ireland, Pitt put forward, in 1785, his generous scheme for Anglo- 
Irish Free Trade, to bind the two countries together; but English 
political and commercial prejudice ruined it 1 . So natural did it seem 
to our Ministers to find the enemies of England fishing in the 
troubled Irish waters, that they were always on the look out for French 
intrigues. A careful watch was kept on the letter-post ; and among the 
papers of the Duke of Rutland, Lord Lieutenant, for the year 1784, is 
a copy of a private letter from Sir Edward Newenham of Belcamp, 
Co. Dublin, to Lafayette, inviting him to a friendly visit, and pro- 
mising him a warm welcome 2 . The French knew well that Ireland 
was a source of weakness to England ; but, as a matter of fact, French 
Ministers were not at this time, nor for several years later, engaged in 
intrigues there 3 . 

If Ireland was a source of weakness, India was on the way to 
become a source of strength, though also of sustained anxiety, to 
British Ministers. British influence there had been steadily extended 
throughout the century. The Peace of 1783 had secured Negapatam 
from the Dutch. The need for some regular Constitutional link 
between the growing Eastern empire and the British Crown had led 
to Pitt's India Bill of 1784. When Cornwallis went to Berlin, he was 
already, in the mind of the Prime-Minister, the first parliamentary 
Governor-general designate. At first, Cornwallis had demurred, 
raising objections to the scope of his powers. These powers were 
extended by the Amending Act of 1786. The Governor-general could 
now override the views of his Council at Calcutta, and thus was in no 
danger of factious opposition from colleagues such as Warren Hastings 
had been obliged to face. Under Cornwallis (1786-93) what might 
be called the nineteenth century era of British rule in India began, 
with the power in the hands of a series of men of high ability, who 
enjoyed the full confidence of the Home Government. 

Consolidation of British power in India had two main consequences 
in the sphere of international politics. First, France was forced to 

1 For the Irish propositions see, inter alia, Murray, Commercial relations between 
England and Ireland', O'Brien, The economic history of Ireland in the eighteenth 
century, Rose, Pitt, I. 

2 H.M.C. Rutland MSS. HI. 119. Newenham happens to mention "my agent 
for my landed estates," Napper Tandy. 

3 The evidence is in Lecky, vi. 369 sqq. 


grope about, at times in India itself, at times elsewhere in the nearer 
or further East, for some equivalent as the statesmen of the eighteenth 
century put it in trade or dominion. Secondly, there began to emerge 
out of Asia the first true conflict of interests between Russia and 
Great Britain. Catharine was mastering the northern coasts of the Black 
Sea. Her orders were executed on the shores of the Caspian and on 
the banks of the Oxus. Her designs in the nearer East were frankly 
advertised. Henceforward, Russian policy became a matter of concern 
to every Asiatic Power and Great Britain was now such. Moreover 
though how far this was understood in England is doubtful that 
policy might conceivably work in with France's gropings for an equi- 
valent. In 1782, Joseph II had suggested to Catharine that perhaps 
France, a traditional ally of the Turk, might be induced to acquiesce 
in his destruction by the offer of Egypt. The case was debated at the 
French Council of State, with special reference to the effect of a 
French occupation of Egypt on Indian trade and politics 1 . France 
had no wish to see Turkey dismembered ; but she had to prepare for 
all the chances of a shifting world. The world did not shift so far at 
that time; so the hypothetical situations never arose. But the first 
of those clashes of British, French and Russian interests in the East 
which the occasion foreshadowed was not long postponed ; nor was 
their termination to be the matter of a day. 

Contrary to the expectations of the average diplomatist, apt to 
identify prestige and power, dominion and wealth, and not holding 
with Adam Smith that Britain's American empire had been "not 
a gold mine, but the project of a gold mine," the loss of the Thirteen 
Colonies had made singularly little difference to British prosperity. 
Independent, they traded with the United Kingdom very much as 
they had traded when dependent. Had it been possible to make a 
clean and satisfactory settlement in 1783, it is probable that the empire 
might have seemed to gain greatly by disruption ; and it is certain that 
such a settlement would have contributed enormously to the world's 
peace during the succeeding century. But such a settlement was not 
made. Throughout the ten years 1784-94, the Treaty of Versailles 
remained imperfectly executed, and Anglo-American relations in the 
unwholesome condition of standing water. Since America had no part 
in the ever shifting "systems" of Continental Europe, to which Great 
Britain had to adjust her policy from year to year, their mutual relations 
in those ten years may be described here without reference to any of 

1 Sorel, I. 328-9. 

i 5 o PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

these. Not until the French Declaration of War in 1793 were they 
really affected by the course of European affairs. 

The final Treaty with the United States had been signed at 
Versailles three months and a half before Pitt took office ; but, owing 
to distance and the inevitably slow working of the new American 
Constitution, the ratifications were not exchanged until May, 1784. 
After the exchange, David Hartley, the British representative, re- 
ported the anxiety of Adams, Franklin and Jay to proceed at once 
to the negotiation of an Anglo-American Commercial Treaty 1 . The 
project was not new. It had been put forward at the time of the Pre- 
liminary Treaty, and had been pressed on Hartley by his American 
colleagues during his whole negotiation, from April to September, 
1783. They wanted, as he reported to Fox, reciprocity "upon any 
terms whatsoever, from the narrowest limits to the utmost extent of 
mutual intercourse and participation." For himself, he had dreams of 
perfectly free intercourse, leading to a "family compact between our 
two nations 2 .'* But the letter in which he expressed this hope crossed 
his final instructions from Fox, to complete the political arrangements 
separately from the commercial. The British Cabinet was not ready 
to open the whole question of commercial policy and commercial law, 
and to define its attitude by treaty; though it was ready to make 
important concessions to the United States by Order in Council 3 . 
In any case, it was not prepared to show its hand at Paris. The Anglo- 
French and Anglo-American Treaties were to be signed simul- 
taneously; and Fox held that commercial arrangements "ought not 
to come under the eye of the French Minister, much less to make 
part of a Treaty the completion of which he insists upon previous 
to the signing of his own, and which consequently he may be said 
in some degree to take under his protection 4 ." This point of diplo- 
matic procedure was a good one ; but the unreadiness of London was 
the deciding factor. 

David Hartley, a friend of Benjamin Franklin and of America, 
no ordinary diplomatist, an advanced Whig, a fellow of Merton 
College and, like Franklin, something of an inventor, was recalled 

1 Hartley to Carmarthen, May I3th, 1784. 

2 Hartley to Fox, May 2Oth and August 2nd, 1783. 

3 Fox to Hartley, June loth, 1783. He expresses his wish to put off "for a time 
the decision of that important question which you think at last must come to an 
issue, i.e., how far the principles of our Navigation Act ought to be sacrificed to 
commercial considerations drawn from the peculiar circumstances of the present 

4 Fox to Hartley, August 4th, 1783. 


by Carmarthen without thanks or compliments on May 25th, 1784. 
He refused to understand a perfectly clear phrase of this letter that 
commercial matters would "require a considerable degree of delibera- 
tion" and lingered in Paris until September, in spite of further recall 
orders. At last he was brought back by the cutting off of his appoint- 
ments at a week's notice 1 . In June, Franklin was still hopeful that 
a commercial negotiation might be started; but by the end of July 
he had " begun to suspect that no instructions were intended 2 ." Hartley 
should have perceived this earlier. Pitt's Cabinet was no more ready 
to begin negotiations than Fox's had been. 

As, however, the American deputation remained in Europe, 
negotiating on economic questions with other Powers; and as a 
subordinate diplomatic agent reported them to be "very inquisitive" 
about the prospects of an Anglo-American treaty 3 , they were 
encouraged to come to London at the end of the year. "Your people 
are ready to listen to us," wrote Franklin to Hartley, who was at Bath, 
occupied in drafting the final report of his mission for the un- 
sympathetic Carmarthen; "but they thought it more for the honour 
of both that the treaty should not be in a third place 4 ." There is 
no evidence that the British Minister had written so definitely of 
"the treaty." 

John Adams, the first American accredited to the Court of 
St James', was presented to King George on the afternoon of June ist, 
1785. Two months later he transmitted to Carmarthen a draft treaty, 
hinting in his covering letter that the results of inaction would be most 
serious for Anglo-American commercial and political relations 5 . The 
draft was not merely commercial ; there were included in its twenty-six 
clauses important proposals of a political kind. Relations between the 
two countries were to be based on "the most perfect equality and 
reciprocity." Subjects of either were to reside and pay duties in the 
other as if they had been citizens of it. They were to be free to send 
any kind of goods, wherever produced or manufactured, in ships of 
any description, with any class of crew, to all points in one another's 
territory or elsewhere, subject to the right of either Power to prohibit, 

1 Carmarthen to Hartley, May 25th ; August 2Oth ; September 5th ; September 
1 7th. 

2 To B. Vaughan, July 26th. Memoirs of Franklin, in. 154. 

3 Ed. Bancroft to Carmarthen, Paris, December 8th, 1784. 

4 Franklin to Hartley, January 3rd, 1785. Memoirs, iv. 423. Hartley's report 
to Carmarthen, dated from Bath, is of January 9th. 

6 Adams to Carmarthen, July 29th, 1785. The Diplomatic Correspondence of the 
United States, 1783-1789, iv. 257 sqq. 

i 52 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

for reasons of State, particular imports and exports. This clause 
(No. 4) was a direct challenge to the sections of the British Navigation 
Code which reserved inter-imperial trade to ships built and owned 
in the British empire, and manned by crews predominantly British, 
while excluding foreign ships from most of the carrying trade between 
British ports and ports outside their own territory. By subsequent 
clauses, each country was to guarantee the other most favoured nation 
treatment in the matter of customs, and to give every facility for the 
establishment of consular offices. 

So much for pure commerce. In time of war between either 
country and a third Power, the legal principles of "free ships, free 
goods" and " enemy ships, enemy goods" were to be recognised: 
contraband, if found on the vessels of one of the Contracting Parties, 
was not to be confiscated, but deposited in a port of the capturing 
country and paid for ; no embargo was to be placed on the shipping 
of the Party not engaged in the war "for any military expedition " or 
similar purpose; the subjects of neither Party should take from any 
third Power letters of marque for preying on the commerce of the 
other. In case of war between the Contracting Parties themselves, 
merchants were to have nine months' grace in which to wind up their 
affairs, and prisoners were not to be sent into distant and inclement 
countries, but to be housed in barracks such as were used for the 
captor's own troops. 

Such were the main points of this remarkable draft. Apparently 
it fell dead. There survives a record of a conversation between Car- 
marthen and Adams in October, at which Carmarthen confined himself 
to generalities about Great Britain's desire for reciprocity 1 . Four 
months later, an explanation of his reserve is suggested by a very stiff 
note to Adams, complaining of the failure of the United States to 
carry out the Treaty of 1783 2 . Then, on April 4th, 1786, Adams, now 
in conjunction with Jefferson, sends him, "as requested in conversa- 
tion," another draft treaty. It contains the commercial clauses of the 
previous draft, almost verbatim, but nothing else. Probably, Adams 
had pressed the matter and Carmarthen had responded pro forma. 
A month later again (May 8th) a confidential agent reports Adams as 
being "highly dissatisfied with his situation and the supposed dis- 
positions of H.M. Minister towards the United States," and his 
correspondence as being "calculated to excite them" to commercial 

1 Minute of a conversation with Adams, October 2Oth. 

2 Carmarthen to Adams, February 28th, 1786. 


and political hostility. At this point, the negotiation, if so it maybe 
called, was broken off, and no more is heard of it in Great Britain for 
another four years. 

There is no reason to think that, at any time between 1783 and 
1793 , Pitt's Cabinet was ready to throw overboard the Navigation Code ; 
though Pitt acquiesced in those administrative relaxations which 
alone rendered Anglo-American trade possible. American produce, 
coming to the United Kingdom in American or in British ships, was 
treated just as if America were still a colony. Facilities were given, as 
in the old days, for the reexport of American tobacco and rice; and 
so on. But the strong American wish to trade freely with the Canadian 
and West Indian Colonies, and to carry between those Colonies and 
the Mother-country, was never frankly gratified. In 1783, Fox had 
explained to Hartley that the notion of admitting West Indian produce 
in United States bottoms must be ruled out: "the prejudice (if that 
be the name these opinions deserve) " was, he said 1 , far too strong. 
So it remained. But this and other prohibitions were freely evaded. 
The West Indies, in particular, required food and lumber from the 
United States; and their merchants had pressed for a commercial 
treaty in I783 2 . Failing the treaty, they had to help themselves. 
A common device, as our early Consuls reported, was for a ship to 
be owned jointly by British and American traders and to utilise its 
double nationality 3 . Such evasion, though it might help traders, did 
nothing to promote an Anglo-American "family compact." 

There is no need to assume, as Franklin did in 1784, that Great 
Britain had "still at times some flattering hopes of recovering ". . ."the 
loss of its dominion" over the United States 4 . The difficulties as to 
the Treaty of 1783 are sufficient to explain a great measure of reluct- 
ance to enter into further obligations. " By the fourth, fifth and sixth 
articles of the Treaty no impediments were to be put in the way of 
the recovery of debts [by British subjects]; the States were to be 
recommended to repeal their Confiscation Acts [directed against 
Loyalists] ; and there were to be no future confiscations nor prose- 
cutions of any sort against any person because of the part taken by 
him in the late war. But the States gave no heed whatever to these 
articles. The Confiscation Acts were not repealed ; impediments were 
placed in the way of the recovery of debts ; and thousands of Loyalists 

1 Fox to Hartley, June loth, 1783. 

2 Resolutions of the West Indian Merchants, November a6th, 1783. 

* E.g., Bond (Consul at Philadelphia) to Carmarthen, May i4th, 1787. 

* Memoirs, in. 154. 

i 5 4 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

were driven from the country 1 ." By way of retaliation, the United 
Kingdom refused to evacuate an important line of frontier posts on 
United States territory, from Lake Michigan to Lake Champlain. 
The diplomatic and consular correspondence of the years 1783-94 is 
full of the resulting difficulties and mutual grievances. Franklin had 
recognised in 1783 that the ill-treatment of the "Tories," which he 
deplored, gravely impeded the commercial negotiation 2 : the question 
remained an impediment for years. In view of this unfortunate 
experience, the British Government might well doubt to what extent 
a commercial treaty, assuming it to be desirable, would become 
operative. True, under the Articles of Confederation of 1781, no 
single State might enter into treaties or levy import duties in conflict 
with the stipulations of treaties entered into by the United States ; 
but, if particular States defied one Treaty, they might defy another, 
and it was wellknown that Congress could not collect its own taxes. 
Meanwhile, several States were passing Navigation Acts and levying 
extra duties on goods imported in British bottoms. 

John Adams returned home in 1788. Before the arrival of his 
successor, Morris, early in 1790, the Foreign Office had learnt that, 
under the new Constitution of the United States, Congress alone 
could levy duties affecting foreigners ; that Congress had not adopted 
any commercial policy discriminating against Great Britain ; and that 
everything contrary to the definitive Treaty of 1783 was repealed. It 
was now the law of the land 3 . This settlement paved the way for 
easier relations between the United States representative and the 
British Foreign Secretary. Morris had to explain the absolute inability 
of his Government to carry out the Treaty to the letter, at this late 
date. The debts were in many cases irrecoverable ; the Loyalists had 
suffered persecution and had long since fled. Leeds replied that His 
Britannic Majesty could not evacuate the frontier posts until the 
position was regularised. He suggested some "fair and just com- 
pensation" for the parties who had suffered. As to the treaty of 
commerce, of which Morris had spoken, he was profuse in expressions 
of goodwill, but made no definite proposal 4 . 

In the course of the year, however, Pitt's new Committee of 
Council on Trade was instructed to report on the question of com- 

1 Professor McMaster, of Pennsylvania University, in The Cambridge Modern 
History, vn. 307. 

2 Report of Franklin's article in The Salem Gazette, P.O. November, 1783. 

8 Consul-general Sir John Temple to the Duke of Leeds, September 23rd, 1789. 
4 Leeds to Morris, April 28th, 1790. 


mercial negotiations with America. The report, transmitted to Leeds 
on March 3rd, 1791 ,was generally favourable to the opening of negotia- 
tions " especially as Congress appears inclined to this measure ; but," 
it went on to say, "it will be right, in an early stage... explicitly to 
declare that Great Britain can never submit even to treat on what 
appears to be the favourite object of the people of the United States, 
that is, the admission of the ships of the United States into the Ports 
of Your Majesty's Colonies and Islands 1 ." The Committee inclined 
to the view that America stood to lose more than Great Britain in 
a trade war and suggested measures of retaliation, should Congress 
make "further Distinctions to the detriment of our trade." 

In the autumn of 1791, Grenville now being in charge of the 
Foreign Office (see p. 207, below), George Hammond, who had been 
Hartley's secretary at Paris in 1783, was sent as the first British 
Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States 2 . His main business 
was the settlement of the question of the frontier posts and the British 
claims for compensation. There were also American counterclaims 
arising out of the carrying off of American property, in the shape of 
negroes, at the evacuation of New York by the British forces in 1783. 
If the American Government was anxious to proceed to commercial 
negotiations, Hammond was instructed to aim at securing most 
favoured nation treatment for British goods and, if possible, a promise 
that the existing duties on them would not be raised. Similar treat- 
ment for American goods was to be offered in exchange. For his 
guidance on the wider questions of navigation policy, he was given 
the report of the Committee of Council, with its clearly expressed 
intention to retain the British monopoly of imperial trade. But he 
found at an early date that what the United States, speaking through 
Alexander Hamilton, most wanted was the right of trade with the 
West Indies, if only in small craft 3 . A regular commercial negotiation 
was, however, never started during 1792, Hammond's time being 
entirely occupied with the interminable questions of debts and 
compensations, alleged failures of individual States to accept the 
Treaty of 1783 as the law of the land, and the British garrisons in the 
frontier posts. Then came the French Declaration of War against the 
United Kingdom. The outstanding legacies from the Treaty of 1783 
remained unliquidated. No treaty of commerce existed, and all the 

1 The report is a very elaborate one, extending to about 150 MS. pp. 

2 His special instructions are of September ist, 1791. 
8 Hammond to Grenville, January, 1792. 

156 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

problems of neutrality, contraband, and the exercise of sea power, 
which John Adams's draft had attempted to provide against in advance, 
were revived in aggravated forms. 

American sympathy was overwhelmingly on the French side, and 
Washington's Declaration of Neutrality , of April 22nd, 1793, was re- 
ceived with a storm of abuse 1 . Great Britain's refusal to admit the right 
of American shipping to enjoy the trade of the French West Indies, 
now thrown open to it as a war measure ; an Order to British cruisers 
to bring into port neutral cargoes of corn and flour destined for France ; 
and the beginnings of the search of American ships for British seamen 
all played into the hands of the Anglophobe party in America. These 
events, and those that followed, lie outside the chronological scope of 
the present chapter; but their outline, in their relation to the abortive 
negotiations of the ten years of peace, may be most conveniently 
sketched here. Pitt's Government had been sincerely anxious for 
a settlement when Hammond was despatched. The dangers of war 
stung it into decisive action. The initiative, however, came from 
Washington. With the approval of the Senate, he sent John Jay to 
England to arrange a treaty. His task was eased by an Order in Council 
of January, 1794, instructing naval commanders and privateers to stop 
only such neutral ships as were engaged in the direct trade between the 
French West Indies and France. By October 7th, 1794, Jay had signed 
with Grenville the Treaty which is usually called by his name. It was 
approved by President and Senate nine months later. "Jay was burned 
in effigy, guillotined in effigy, hanged in effigy, from Maine to 
Georgia 2 " ; but ratifications were exchanged next year. 

The Treaty reflects very imperfectly some of the principles of 
international intercourse which American negotiators had put forward 
in the previous decade ; but it was in the main concerned with specific 
cases and grievances. The United Kingdom agreed to withdraw all 
troops from United States territory on or before June ist, 1796. Inter- 
course across the continental frontier was not to be impeded by either 
Power. The navigation of American rivers in the territory of either 
was to be free up to the highest point to which seagoing vessels could 
proceed. A Commission was to be set up in America to provide " full 
and complete compensation" for the British creditors, who had 
waited nearly a dozen years. Per contra, Great Britain offered com- 

1 On the American situation see McMaster in The Cambridge Modern History, 
Vli. 318 seq. 

8 The Cambridge Modern History, vii. 320. 


pensation for damage done to American shipping under the harsh 
Orders in Council of 1793. United States vessels were authorised 
to carry on direct trade with British ports in the East Indies (they had 
done so to a considerable extent already without authorisation) and 
with British possessions in Europe. The trade between the United 
States and the West Indies was opened, as Hamilton had urged on 
Hammond, to small vessels, up to 70 tons burden. The most favoured 
nation principle was mutually adopted in matters of customs, tonnage 
and harbour dues. Neither Contracting Party was to entertain in its 
ports pirates or privateers with letters of marque from an enemy of the 
other, or to allow its subjects to accept from foreign Princes in time of 
war letters of marque which might authorise them to prey on the 
commerce of the other Party. Contraband was more closely defined. 
It was agreed that enemy property, but enemy property only, might 
be taken from neutral ships in time of war ; the United States hereby 
abandoning the principle of "free ships, free goods." There were 
other more detailed clauses dealing with the problems of neutrality, 
capture, and the exercise of sea power. Finally, in the event of war 
between the Contracting Parties, the property of individuals was not 
to be confiscated a reminiscence of the American Confiscation Acts ; 
merchants might remain and carry on trade in spite of the existence 
of a state of war ; and no reprisals for alleged illegal acts were to be 
initiated by either Party without notice. It should be added that all 
the clauses of a general character dealing with the problems of warfare 
were accepted for twelve years only, except the clause which forbade 
the confiscation of private property. It may, also, be noted, in the 
words of an American historian and in anticipation of the war of 1812, 
that "nothing was said about search, or impressment, or paper 
blockades, or indemnity for the negroes whom Carleton took away 
in I783 1 ." The British Navigation Code was rendered less water- 
tight by the clauses relating to the West Indies and India ; but it was 
not wrecked. The Treaty, in short, was a piece de circonstance, and 
as such something of a triumph for British foreign policy : it had few 
of the elements of a "family compact" broad-based on principle. 

Had it been possible for the United Kingdom to have, from the 
first, an Ambassador to the United States in touch with Washington 
and his colleagues, as the Ambassadors to the Great Powers were with 
the Courts to which they were accredited, Anglo-American relations 
in this critical decade might have worked out differently. For the 

1 The Cambridge Modern History, vii. 320. 

158 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

Ambassadors and other diplomatic agents played a great part in the 
development of British policy. In the last resort the policy was Pitt's. 
Early in Carmarthen's tenure of the Foreign Secretaryship (1783-91), 
Pitt gave advice on all delicate matters ; and later, as Great Britain be- 
came more closely involved in the politics of Europe, he assumed the 
control at every crisis, often preparing the drafts of decisive despatches 
himself 1 . When Grenville succeeded Carmarthen (Leeds), these 
personal incursions become less frequent, but only because of the 
complete identity of views between the Prime- Minister and the Foreign 
Secretary. Owing to Grenville's great industry a trait less conspicuous 
in the character of the Duke of Leeds Pitt could be certain that their 
common policy would receive prompt expression and execution. But, 
in contributing to form his own opinion, in preparing the diplomatic 
situation for his decision, and in determining the attitude of foreign 
Courts towards Great Britain, the greater diplomatic agents were 
all-important. In quiet times, they were little interfered with and 
rarely instructed. This was specially so while Carmarthen was at 
the Foreign Office. At an out-of-the-way Court a Minister might 
receive no despatches at all: none went to Warsaw in 1782-4. 
Sir Robert Keith, Ambassador at Vienna from 1772 to 1792, said that 
on the average he received one answer to every forty official letters. 
Once, in times far from quiet, he received no line of instructions for 
five months 2 . The ablest and most independent of all the Ambassadors, 
Sir James Harris (Malmesbury), did not regret this neglect, because, 
as he once said, he "never received an instruction which was worth 
reading 3 ." He served at Madrid, Berlin, Petrograd (1777-82) and 
the Hague. He knew how to play a lone hand, and preferred it. He 
could impress an Empress, plan a revolution, or bribe a royal valet 
to deny the presence to an anti-British Minister 4 . Centrally placed 
at the Hague from 1784 to 1788, he saw most of the northern corre- 
spondence, which passed through the Hague under flying seal; he 
was within easy reach of Paris news ; and through Messrs Hope, the 
Scotch-Dutch bankers of Amsterdam, he knew how the world's gold 
was moving. No one could write more brilliant or more persuasive 
despatches. His career helps to explain Burke's opinion, expressed 
in 1791 , that "those in power here, instead of governing their Ministers 

1 For the evidence, see Rose, Pitt, I. and Salomon, Pitt, passim. It is summarised 
in Rose, I. 618. 

2 Memoirs of Sir R. M. Keith, u. 219,221, 224. 

3 To Joseph Ewart, Malmesbury Diaries, n. 112. 

4 He did this at Loo (see p. i8o,posf). Harris to Carmarthen, June isth, 1788. 


in foreign Courts, are entirely swayed by them 1 ." This was not true; 
but there was truth in it. 

Permanent "combinations" were even more foreign to English 
than to Continental diplomacy in the eighteenth century. But there 
were traditions of friendship and of hostility which affected, in 
varying degrees, the atmosphere of diplomatic life. That France was 
suspected, and that French and British diplomatists worked, steadily 
and courteously, against one another with mine and countermine, 
goes without saying. They had done so for a century. A tradition, 
now rather remote, of friendship with the House of Habsburg had not 
been completely effaced by nearly thirty years of Austro-French 
alliance. So long as Austria remained the Ally of France, Prussia was 
obviously a possible friend. But friendship with her had been inter- 
mittent, and as a first-class Power she was very young ; so that there 
was no weight of tradition behind this relation. Her Protestantism 
still had some little weight at home ; but the word does not occur in 
the diplomatic correspondence. Russia, until recently, had seemed 
a natural friend, by virtue of old commercial connexions and the 
apparent impossibility of any real conflict of interests. But, of all 
friendships, the most natural and obvious was that with the Dutch. 
Nothing seemed more shocking to British diplomatic opinion than 
the decline of British influence at Amsterdam and the Hague during 
the War of American Independence. For four years (1783-7), the 
struggle to recover that influence is the master-thread of British policy 
in Europe. For rather less than four years more (1787-91), the re- 
covery of it is the keystone in the rather ill-cemented structure of 
the Triple Alliance of Great Britain, Holland and Prussia. Two years 
later, Britain had accepted without hesitation a war with France, 
which she had not sought, in order to retain that influence and to 
uphold threatened Dutch interests. 

The United Provinces had not lightly gone to war against the 
United Kingdom in 1780. There were material reasons why they should 
not, apart from all considerations of friendship : "England is I believe 
the only Power that can ever literally annihilate Holland," Carmarthen 
wrote a few years later 2 ; and the point of this remark was always 
appreciated at Amsterdam. Three out of the seven Provinces had 
opposed the War with Great Britain. The influence of the Stadholder, 
William V of Orange, the unworthy bearer of a great name, was always 

1 Ed. Burke to Rd. Burke, August 16, 1791, Correspondence, in. 268. 

2 To Harris, November 8th, 1785. 

160 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

used on the British side so much so that he was accused of treachery, 
whereby the old aristocratic Opposition, with its headquarters in the 
States of Holland, was greatly strengthened. Under the cumbrous 
and intricate federal system of the Provinces, the main utility of the 
office of Stadholder was in time of war. If it did not serve as a rallying 
point for the people then, there was some presumption that it was 
of no use. Certainly, it had not so served in 1780-3. William V was 
dilatory in business. He was neither able nor courageous. He was 
known to be much influenced by his Prussian wife. He was supposed 
to have acquired alien sympathies from his English mother. All 
those who disliked Great Britain or favoured France, and the still 
larger number who valued above all things the pure Dutch traditions 
of their Province or their town, were turning against him. 

Great Britain was on her guard, even before Peace was signed with 
the Dutch. "His Majesty," wrote Fox to Sir John Stepney, Ambas- 
sador at Berlin, on September iQth, 1783, "is much alarmed at the 
accounts we receive every day of the state of affairs in Holland. The 
remaining authority of the House of Orange seems to be in the most 
dangerous state." In a manner hardly worthy of his position, Fox 
had asked the advice of Frederick as to "what steps, if any, could with 
propriety be taken by this Court in the present juncture." Frederick 
replied that this was a matter on which he could not pretend to give 
advice. "No notice whatever was taken of the two Courts acting in 
concert 1 ." It was a palpable snub. However, in April, 1784, Count 
Fihkenstein, speaking as was assumed for his master, suggested 
that England should send to the Hague a Minister " who would employ 
quiet and conciliatory measures 2 ." This was, certainly, not a close 
description of Harris, whom Pitt sent over seven months later. But 
Harris was not sent merely to please Berlin. 

The situation in the United Provinces required skilled handling. 
While the "Patriots" were working against the Orange interest, the 
whole country became engaged in a quarrel with the Emperor Joseph, 
about treaty rights to which Great Britain was a party. Joseph's passion 
for what was rational and absolute was stirred by the irrational checks 
and balances of Low Country politics. "His" Netherlands had been 
protected against France, his Ally, by Dutch garrisons in the Barrier 
fortresses. Of these he had got rid during the late War, Great Britain 
not being in a position to uphold the Barrier Treaty. Now (1784), he 

1 Stepney to Fox, October nth, 1753. 

2 Stepney to Carmarthen, April 6th, 1784. 


repudiated the "unnatural" arrangement by which the Scheldt was 
shut, and Antwerp's trade ruined, for the benefit of the Dutch. Also, 
he revived an old claim to an outlying bit of Dutch territory about 
Maastricht, which lay conveniently adjacent to lands of his in Lim- 
burg. He seized some Dutch forts and set an army in motion late 
in the year. 

It could not be supposed that any Dutch party, least of all the 
"Patriots," the commercial aristocracy of Holland, would yield to 
such demands without a fight. As this party was in close relation 
with France, Carmarthen hoped to see France involved, to her dis- 
advantage, in the quarrel between her friends and her Ally 1 . The 
strain increased throughout the early months of 1785; but in the 
summer it began to appear that the prospect for France was promising. 
She would mediate, bring the disputants to terms, and thereby in- 
crease both her own prestige and, if the terms were satisfactory to 
the Dutch, that of the "Patriots" also. That France should stand 
as protector of Dutch interests in the Scheldt was intolerable to 
Harris ; but this was what he saw coming. Carmarthen's attempts to 
provoke Austria against France proved futile. Frederick of Prussia 
could not be induced to come forward as an open supporter of the 
Dutch, even though he might have been expected to welcome a chance 
of checkmating Austria. He was waiting on France 2 . Carmarthen 
tried in vain to move Berlin, as he saw France and Austria coming 
together again during 1785. " Interested as Great Britain and Prussia 
must be to watch every move of their respective rivals, so formidably 
connected," he wrote to Ewart on May i4th, why should they not 
cooperate "to emancipate the Republic from the shackles of her 
slavish dependency on France " ? Frederick was absorbed in the con- 
templation of another Habsburg scheme, the proposed exchange of 
the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria. When this finally collapsed 
(June, 1785), he was busy building up his German League of Princes 
to hold the Imperial Court in check. He was on the whole in favour 
of the British policy towards the United Provinces ; but he was cir- 
cumspect, timid, rather malicious, and, as has been seen, doubtful of 
England's resolution and competence. In return for active support 
in the Dutch matter, not necessarily military, he might have won 
British assistance for his League of Princes. King George joined it in 

1 See Salomon, Pitt, p. 304. 

2 Joseph Ewart (Charge" d'affaires at Berlin) to Carmarthen, September i8th; 
November gth, 1784; April 2nd, 1785. 

W.&G.I. II 

i62 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

his Hanoverian capacity, but, as usual with him in such cases, without 
consulting or informing his British Ministers. Harris and Ewart 
were anxious to use the League as a steppingstone to an Anglo-Prussian 
alliance. The Cabinet was less eager. Both the desire not to commit 
Great Britain too far prematurely, and a justifiable suspicion of 
Frederick's interest and sincerity, held them back, as the September 
Instructions for Cornwallis show. But had Frederick responded, 
something might have been accomplished. He contented himself 
with his discouraging survey of Europe and his double-edged com- 
pliments to Pitt. 

Harris worked desperately. He interviewed the Stadholder and 
would have felt happier if he " would act one half as well as he spoke " 
as well as the Princess and got the impression of his having warned 
Berlin that open intervention might hurt the Orange cause; and he 
interviewed every accessible person of importance. The Prince lacked 
all "firmness and conduct." Some months before, he had talked of 
selling his estates and retiring to Germany "a resolution," said 
Harris, " which, if ever he carries it into execution, will compleat his 
character." As with other nervous Princes, King Charles's head entered 
into his conversation. Harris thought that "the more temperate 
members of the aristocratical party," though hostile to Orange, 
disliked dependence on France. So he had long discussions with the 
Directors of the Dutch East India Company, as a result of which he 
suggested that Great Britain might guarantee all their Eastern pos- 
sessions, and so prevent them from becoming centres of French 
influence 1 . But to no purpose. Preliminaries of an agreement between 
the United Provinces, France and the Emperor were signed in Sep- 
tember. They showed, said Harris, "the low and abject situation to 
which this Republic is reduced." He worked on, nevertheless, to 
block the completion of the Treaty, through friends in Zealand, the 
most Anglophil of the Provinces. Correspondence with Ewart con- 
vinced him that " the King of Prussia was acting a hollow and insidious 
part," but that his heir, Frederick William Prince of Prussia, took a 
more lively interest in his sister's fate 2 . Yet nothing but words came 
from Berlin. The States- General rated them at their true value, and 
proceeded to consider proposals for removing the arms of the House 
of Orange from regimental colours, postwaggons and public pro- 

1 Harris to Carmarthen, August 2nd, Qth, i6th; September and, gih, i3th, 1785. 
Also, a private letter of March nth, quoted in Rose, Pitt, I. 309. 

2 To Carmarthen, September zyth (two despatches of the same date). 


On November 8th and loth, 1785, two Treaties signed at Fon- 
tainebleau registered Harris's failure. Joseph withdrew. He recog- 
nised the absolute rights of the United Provinces over the lower 
Scheldt, which was all that mattered, and agreed to abandon his 
claims on Maastricht in return for a money payment. To win the 
Dutch, France undertook to pay almost half the sum herself. In 
return, the Dutch Envoys signed the second Treaty, a political and 
commercial Alliance with France. The two Powers were to aid one 
another, if either were attacked, by land and sea; neither was to carry 
on negotiations to the detriment of the other ; and in matters of trade 
a "most favoured nation" system was established between them. 

On the day on which the first Treaty was signed, Carmarthen 
wrote to Harris the threatening despatch already quoted. The Dutch 
were, he said, running a fearful risk, Britain "could destroy their 
credit or annihilate their very soil. Desperate and distasteful as such 
a step would be, it sure would be justifiable and I trust be effected 
(and the attempt I think could scarcely fail) without remorse or 
hesitation 1 ." He approved a proposal of Harris's for the presentation 
of a memorial of protest by the British Ambassador to the States- 
General, a most unusual proceeding as between independent Powers. 
And he authorised Harris to do what that active Minister had done 
already impress the risks they were running on the Dutch traders, 
who "would be the first to suffer and the last to be recompensed" in 
case of war 2 . Nevertheless, the Treaty of Alliance with France was 
ratified at Christmas, 1785. 

The months from January to August, 1786, were the blackest of 
Harris's mission to the Hague. " It is not on the cards at this moment 
to reclaim this country. Every thing... concurs to throw it into the 
arms of France" (March 3ist). Yet hope must not be abandoned. At 
all costs, by combinations somehow to be devised, England must 
manage "to disentangle the Republic from her present connexion 
with France and to restore her to her former treaties with England " 
(June 1 3th). From Prussia there was no hope. " His Prussian Majesty 
is only a friend to the Stadtholder by affinity and not politically so 
and... providing his Niece enjoy the honours usually attached to 
the Office, he is very indifferent as to the preservation of its privileges " 
(August ist). This was so. The King had told Viscount Dalrymple, 
British Ambassador at Berlin, in the previous December, that he 

1 Carmarthen to Harris, November 8th. 

2 To Harris, November iyth. 

II 2 

164 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

hoped to see the title of Stadholder secured to his Niece's husband, 
"but not a shadow of power, nor did he expect it." It could not be 
helped, he said. France must not be provoked 1 . 

Harris was troubled, also, by the silences and apparent indifference 
of Pitt. He wished him to write and encourage the rump of the 
"English" party among the merchants of the United Provinces. " Is 
it impossible to move him who speaks so well, to write one poor line 
to these sound shillings and pence men ? " Such was his postscript to a 
letter for Carmarthen in July 2 . Pitt's silence and apparent indifference 
were due, in part, to preoccupation and overwork ; in part, to a certain 
insularity, natural to a very young man with no first-hand knowledge 
of Continental problems ; in part, to his lack of Harris's flaming hatred 
of France; and in part, it may confidently be assumed, to his wish at 
that moment to avoid any appearance of hostility towards her. If Car- 
marthen ever asked him to write a " poor line," there was an excellent 
reason for refusal. The French secret service was well organised. 
A letter to be communicated even to reputed friends was unlikely 
to remain hidden. And Pitt was just concluding with France a 
Commercial Treaty most advantageous to British interests. The 
signatures were attached to it by William Eden, whose name it 
generally bears, and Gerard de Rayneval on September 26th, 1786. 

In the eighteenth article of the Treaty of 1783 , France and England 
had agreed to nominate, without delay, Commissioners to draw up 
a commercial treaty, "on the basis of reciprocity and mutual con- 
venience," this treaty to be completed not later than January ist, 1786. 
The initiative had come from Vergennes. Vergennes, it has been said, 
had no trace of genius 3 . He had, however, immense diplomatic 
experience and an enlightened commonsense. He had served for 
nearly ten years in Portugal; for five in Germany; for nearly fifteen 
at Constantinople. He had created the modern French Foreign 
Office 4 . All his experience had failed to assimilate him fully to the 
ordinary diplomatic type of his day. True, he could play the diplo- 
matic game with any man. He had led France into the American War, 
and had won back for her from Great Britain, by a timely use of force, 
the position among the Powers but not the territory, which in the 
Seven Years' War Great Britain had by force taken from her. He 
had advised Lewis XVI against a policy of mere spatial aggrandise- 

1 Dalrymple to Carmarthen, December 3rd, 1785. 

2 B.M. Add. MSS. 28061. Quoted in Rose, Pitt, I. 275. 

8 Sorel, i. 297 : " Turgot avait du genie, Vergennes n'en avail point." 
* Above, p. 146 n. 2. 


ment. In memoirs presented to his master, he had protested with 
passion against the partitions, exchanges and mechanical roundings- 
off of territory, which occupied most of the time of the German 
chanceries. France, he said , had ' ' in herself everything that constitutes 
real power (la puissance reelle) 1 ." Of course, he desired that she should 
influence his enemies would have said dominate her lesser neigh- 
bours; but the notion of annexing them was abhorrent to him. 
Between France and Great Britain, he desired mutual respect and 
free intercourse, not the alternations of actual with commercial war 
which had marked the last century. He once told a colleague that, 
if he could annihilate England, he would not do it. But there was 
nothing that he would not do " to bring about a change in her jealous 
policy, which damages both us and her, and which, if well examined, 
proves to be folly." And he added, with a wonderful insight: "for 
a century and a half we have been ruining one another to enrich 
Europe, to strengthen Powers from whom we have nothing to fear 
or to create brandnew Powers. As a consequence, we lose weight in 
proportion as the others grow, and we shall end by making them our 
equals 2 ." In 1783, he had been determined to begin an era of more 
neighbourly relations ; and he had been delighted to find in Shelburne 
a statesman who needed no compulsion 3 . Each had a strain of the 
cosmopolitan idealism of the century and a contempt for some of the 
idols of the marketplace. 

Vergennes was far too good a diplomatist to miss such opportunities 
for extending the moral dominion of France as Dutch and other 
affairs offered him. His agents throughout the world played the 
game for influence as Harris played it, each side calling the play of 
the other " intrigue." In 1785 he approved the recreation of a French 
East India Company. British statesmen suspected that this Company 
would exploit the new connexion with Holland, and possibly amal- 
gamate with the Dutch Company 4 . Therefore, Harris paid special 
attention to the Dutch Directors. These intrigues, suspicions and 
counter-intrigues did not improve the prospects of the commercial 
treaty. Further, Pitt was no doubt anxious that fiscal union between 

1 Sorel, i. 313-5. This was in 1777. 

2 These sayings were credited to him by Hennin after his death. (Doniol, 
Le Comte de Vergennes et P.M. Hennin, pp. 103-4.) They may not be verbally correct, 
but they are in accordance with his conduct. 

3 Pitt was Shelburne's Chancellor of the Exchequer; but Rose (Pitt, 1.325) has 
"found no sign of his opinions on the subject" of Vergennes' proposals and Shel- 
burne's reception of them. 

4 Harris's correspondence contains many references to this suspicion. 

166 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

England and Ireland should precede changes in Great Britain's 
external economic relations 1 . His Irish attempt and failure were not 
complete until June, 1785. By that time, Vergennes was putting pres- 
sure on Great Britain to carry out Article 18. Early in 1784, a British 
Commissioner had been sent to Paris ; but he had been kept waiting 
months for Instructions. In March, 1785, he was still without a reply 
to letters written in the previous September and November. But he 
had been advised to reject the French proposal for negotiations on 
the basis of mutual most favoured nation treatment, since the British 
Government was not prepared to abandon the specially favoured 
treatment of Portuguese wines stipulated for in the Methuen Treaty 
of 1703. Vergennes retaliated by arguing that if the new treaty was 
not completed, as agreed, by January ist, 1786, the existing commer- 
cial arrangements between the two countries arising out of the Treaty 
of Utrecht must lapse. He next instigated a series of edicts inter- 
fering with British exports to France, of which the most serious was 
one of July loth, 1785, forbidding the import of foreign linens, 
cottons and muslins. This was suspended, in consequence of a protest 
from London ; but it showed what England might expect if her delays 
continued. Vergennes was well within his rights; for French silks 
had been prohibited in England since 1765. With considerable for- 
bearance, however, he agreed to waive the claim to negotiate on a 
basis of complete reciprocity and most favoured nation treatment, 
on condition that negotiations were really opened. This was in 
October, 1785 2 . Two days before, he had prohibited the import of 
iron, steel and cutlery. 

Pitt was already preparing to send over a highly qualified agent 
to treat with France; but he showed himself strangely dilatory in 
the whole business. While he delayed, Vergennes secured his Treaty, 
and most favoured nation terms, from the United Provinces. At 
Pitt's request, he now agreed to extend the "period of grace" for the 
British Treaty by six months, and eventually by twelve. Having 
gained time for consideration, Pitt instituted elaborate enquiries, 
partly by his new Committee of Council on Trade, partly by the 
agent whom he selected: William Eden, the future Lord Auckland. 
Eden, now in his forty-second year, had a varied political experience, 
no excessive tenacity of political friendship or principle, but great 

1 This is Rose's suggestion (Pitt, i. 328). It lacks documentary evidence, but 
is inherently probable. 

2 Vergennes to Barthe"lemy (the French representative in London), October I3th. 
Salomon, Pitt, p. 212. 


knowledge of economic affairs . Since 1 772 , he had been , in succession , 
Under-secretary of State, First Lord of the old Board of Trade, 
and Vice- treasurer of Ireland. In Ireland, he had helped to establish 
the National Bank. His economic horizon had been widened by 
intercourse with Adam Smith; but his conduct of the negotiation 
shows little trace of that desire to introduce a freer trade between 
nations, with a view to the future and in defiance of accompanying 
drawbacks, which can be discerned among the French negotiators. 
He was sent to make the best bargain possible, and excellently he 
succeeded. It is not suggested that concern for the far future was the 
deciding motive with the French. Their statesmen wished British 
goods to be imported, in order that Frenchmen might learn to imitate 
them; they wished them to be imported legally, in order that the 
King's revenue might benefit by the cessation of smuggling; they 
desired a freer market for French wines, for obvious reasons; and 
they wished to draw the teeth of England's jealous commercial 
system, both because it did France harm and because so difficult an 
operation would add to her prestige. But Vergennes' final despatch 
to Barthelemy, when all was over, seems sincere and takes higher 
ground. "It is not," he wrote, "a question as to which nation gains 
most in the early years, or of whether the balance of gain will ever 
be exact. We desire to give trade and industry a great stimulus, to 
procure an outlet for our wines, and still more to establish a per- 
manent community of interests between many individuals of both 
nations, which in time of need may serve as a corrective to the warlike 
passions of our neighbours 1 ." 

Not till late in March, 1786, did Eden cross to France. He had 
worked hard in England since December. His appointment was 
popular among English manufacturers, whose right to protection 
against the competition of Ireland he had championed against Pitt 
in the previous May. Josiah Wedgwood, who had organised the 
manufacturers' opposition to the Irish proposals, wrote to congratu- 
late him and placed his extensive knowledge at his service. Daily 
interviews with the interested parties had given Eden exact informa- 
tion, with regard to every important trade, as to whether reciprocity 
with France was desired ; what level of duties would be most suitable ; 
what was the highest level at which the trade could still manage to 
export to France; whether it was greatly in need of new markets; 

1 To Barthelemy, November 26th, 1786. (Paraphrased from the German version 
of the French MS. original in Salomon, Pitt, p. 235.) 

i68 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

whether it could bear French competition at all; and so on 1 . The 
representatives of most British industries were confident in their own 
competitive efficiency, Wedgwood in particular ; but the silk manufac- 
turers, although they boasted of giving employment to nearly 200,000 
people, maintained that, for them, the choice was merely between con- 
tinued prohibition of French silks and ruin. Arrived in Paris with all 
his material, Eden was surprised to find that the French Ministers were 
not equally well prepared. He suspected that, in consequence, they 
would aim at a vague sweeping kind of treaty, avoiding, so far as 
possible, the dangers which might result from pitting their relative 
ignorance against his carefully acquired knowledge. He intended to 
make that knowledge tell; and no doubt he succeeded. Vergennes' 
final disclaimer of all interest in the exact amount of immediate gain 
or loss from the Treaty seems sincere ; but, in view of its unpopularity 
among French manufacturers and its unquestionably painful opera- 
tion on French industry, the disclaimer might be interpreted as a 
veiled admission of failure, a half-apology for his agents' inability 
to beat Eden on his own ground. There had been no elaborate enquiry 
among experts. A single official, the Inspector-general of Manu- 
facturers, appears to have furnished all the technical information on 
the industrial side. 

This apparent neglect was, however, mainly the result, not of 
oversight, but of principle. Vergennes, with no parliamentary criti- 
cism to fear, could take risks and incur unpopularities such as Pitt 
became every year more reluctant to face. His right-hand man, G. de 
Rayneval, strongly influenced by physiocratic thought, stated dog- 
matically that the most useful and solid trade was that in agricultural 
produce ; that the interests of industry were secondary ; that it was an 
economic blunder for a nation to aim at complete industrial self- 
sufficiency ; that an industry which could not maintain itself without 
high tariffs was not worth maintaining; and that prohibition was in 
all circumstances vicious. If he could widen the market for French 
agricultural produce that is, for French wines he was relatively 
indifferent as to Eden's successful bargaining about woollens and 
porcelain and silk and hardware and Birmingham "toys," He was 
aware that the years immediately following the Treaty upon which 
he was engaged might be difficult years for French industry. He was 
planning means for obviating these difficulties, including the intro- 

1 "Evidence for commercial treaty with France," B.M., Add. MSS. 34462 
(Auckland Papers). 


duction of English methods. He had hopes at this time that no less 
a firm than Boulton and Watt might be induced to transfer their 
business across the Channel. 

The French negotiators were, also, fully conscious of the shattered 
state of the French finances. This was what Vergennes had in mind 
when he spoke of commercial relations "serving as a corrective to 
the warlike passions of our neighbours." He believed that England 
desired revenge for Yorktown and the Treaty of 1783. He wished to 
divert her interests from war to commerce, because he thought that 
France could not afford another war for some considerable time. In 
the last War he had saved her honour, and at its conclusion had shown 
moderation. To postpone or avert a fresh war, he was again prepared 
to give something away. If the English valued above all things what 
his physiocratic advisers considered relatively worthless, he naturally 
made no objection. 

Before the end of April, Eden was reporting that, in his opinion, 
France would gain nothing essential through the Treaty beyond a re- 
duced duty on her wines, whereas Great Britain would get rid of all old 
and new prohibitions and other obstacles to her export trade. He had 
still difficulties to surmount ; and at times he found the very exacting 
Instructions from home, inspired by Jenkinson at the Council of 
Trade, difficult of execution. In August, he became nervous because, 
the French manufacturers having had wind of the course of the 
negotiations, letters of protest against their ruinous character were 
pouring in to Calonne, now Controller-general of Finance. Eden 
saw risk of a fall at the last fence and regretted that it had not been 
possible to make the pace hotter. Having avoided the fall, he wrote 
home on the day before signature (September 25th), that he hoped the 
English manufacturers would, for a time at any rate, moderate their 
expressions of joy. Fortunately for him, when the news arrived, 
although the King had "never been seen in such spirits," " the prin- 
cipal merchants in the City did not choose to give an opinion about it," 
because so Dorset, Eden's correspondent, held "anything, if 
novel, is apt to stupify merchants 1 ." And as no such agreement ever 
completely satisfies commercial men, there were some complaints 
and talk of a sacrificing of British interests. It was Pitt who, in 
defending the Treaty in the House during February, 1787, against the 
usual factious Whig opposition, was indiscreet enough to argue that, 
while advantageous to France, it was still more so to Great Britain. 

1 Dorset to Eden, Auckland Journals, I. 392. 

i 7 o PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

Eden's anticipation of the provisions of his Treaty had been sub- 
stantially accurate. Its earlier clauses provided for general freedom 
of intercourse and free exercise of religion in time of peace, and for 
civilised treatment of domiciled enemy subjects in the event of war 1 . 
Its later clauses dealt at length with privateering, contraband, piracy 
and the legal relations of shipmasters of either nation to the local 
authorities of the other when in its seaports. The chief central clauses, 
first, reduced the duty on French wines to the level of that on the 
wines of Portugal, and adjusted, favourably to France, duties on 
vinegar, brandy and oil ; secondly, fixed a maximum duty of loper cent. 
ad valorem, in either country, on hardware, cutlery, and miscellaneous 
metal wares; thirdly, fixed a similar maximum duty of 12 per cent, 
on cottons, woollens, porcelain, earthenware and glass. Silk and all 
goods mixed with silk remained mutually prohibited. This was 
regarded as Eden's great coup ; for England had small hope of export- 
ing silks to France. 

Although, during the debates on the Commercial Treaty, Pitt 
denounced the belief in unalterable hostility between any two nations 
as "weak and childish," during the negotiations he had told Eden 
that, while counting the French sincere on the economic side, he was 
suspicious of their assurances of political friendship 2 . Thorough- 
going haters of France, like Carmarthen and Harris, were convinced 
that there was no sincerity anywhere: economic compliance was a 
mere political subterfuge. The success of France in the United Pro- 
vinces during 1785, followed by an energetic development of her 
defensive and naval works at Cherbourg, and by an Eastern policy 
which kept England constantly on the alert, served to nourish Pitt's 
suspicions and Harris's conviction. While Eden was working in Paris 
during the summer of 1786, Harris as has been seen was as near 
despair as was possible with his vigorous and sanguine temper. Two 
deaths and a crisis in French internal affairs happened opportunely 
for his policy. On August I7th, 1786, Frederick of Prussia died. Six 
months later (February I3th, 1787), Vergennes died. Within a fort- 
night of Vergennes' death, Calonne was explaining to the First 
Assembly of Notables the desperate condition of the French finances. 

The British representatives at Berlin had long hoped that the new 
King, Frederick William, brother of the Princess of Orange, might 

1 In case of war, Englishmen domiciled in France, and vice versa, might stay 
and trade; if their conduct made it necessary to remove them, they were to have 
twelve months in which to wind up their affairs (Art. II). 

2 To Eden, June loth, 1786. Auckland Correspondence, I. 127. 


introduce into Prussia's Dutch policy a change favourable to British 
interests. Frederick the Great was hardly buried, before the Princess 
told Harris that " the only means of saving " the House of Orange was 
" a united support in its behalf from England and Prussia." She read 
to him letters from her brother expressing determination 1 . She 
(naturally) did not explain, if indeed she knew, that her brother's 
determination was intermittent, liable to be suspended at almost any 
moment by the influence of what an English Ambassador once called 
the " female appendices 2 " of Potsdam. A fortnight later, a Prussian 
Envoy, Gortz, was explaining to Harris that, though his master would 
prefer above all things to " conciliate matters " in the United Provinces 
through France, yet there were lengths of conciliation to which he 
would not go, and that, in certain contingencies, he would break with 
France, unless, indeed, he were faced by the superior might of 
"Austria and Russia siding avowedly with France on this occasion." 
Since France would have carried Spain with her, it is clear that opinion 
in Berlin was still much influenced by fear of that quadruple entente. 
As a protection against such a combination, Gortz urged " the necessity 
of a Continental System being formed between England and Prussia." 
Harris listened ; but he had no instructions to take the matter up 3 . 

"So long as M. le Comte de Vergennes lived," wrote the French 
Foreign Office official who was responsible for correspondence with 
the United Provinces, "all the measures adopted by England to 
regain preeminence in Holland were fruitless 4 ." During the last 
months of Vergennes' life it seemed probable that Dutch affairs 
would be "conciliated" by way of Paris. Late in the year, definite 
proposals, drafted byRayneval,for a settlement between the Stadholder 
and the Patriots proposals which Prussia was believed to favour 
were brought by Rayneval himself from Paris. Harris was, no doubt, 
glad to be able to report that both the Prince, whom Rayneval de- 
scribed as "a complete fool 5 ," and the Princess regarded them as 
"absolutely inadmissible 6 ." He added that the English party was 
growing, led by van de Spiegel, Pensionary of Zealand. Early in 1787, 
he could report that the Prince was still firm and that, since France, he 

Harris to Carmarthen, September ist, 1786. 

Morton Eden to Lord Auckland, November 23rd, 1792. Dropmore (Grenville) 
Papers, II. 347. 

Harris to Carmarthen, September iQth, 1786. 

Doniol, Vergennes et Hennin, p. 95. Hennin was the official in question. 

In a despatch of January 3rd, 1787. P. de Witt, Une invasion Prussienne en 1787, 
p. 142; quoted in Heigel, Deutsche Geschichte, I. 136. 
6 To Carmarthen, December I2th, 1786. 

i 7 2 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

assumed, would try to force her solution, " civil war. . .might be a very 
near event 1 .'' In February, Vergennes was succeeded by Montmorin, 
a much inferior statesman, and the mess of the French treasury was 
disclosed by Calonne. Harris continued to work hard at propaganda, 
organising meetings, subsidising journals and pamphleteers, and 
evidently making progress 2 . 

By May, civil war in Holland had practically begun. The "Pat- 
riotic" party, by its origin that of the commercial aristocracy, was 
acquiring a revolutionary and democratic tinge by intercourse with 
France. Hitherto, the permanent limitation of the powers of the 
Stadholderate, and perhaps the removal of the undeniably incom- 
petent and universally unpopular Stadholder in favour of his son, 
had been the measures contemplated. Now, the total abolition of 
the office was certainly being discussed. This enabled the English 
party to appeal to old deep-rooted popular sentiment in favour of 
the House of Orange. Even in the Province of Holland itself, the 
stronghold of the Patriots, there were Orange elements. The dockers 
of Amsterdam, for instance, preferred a remote Prince to the local 
Mynheers capitalistic Patriots and were accessible to Harris's 
propaganda. The French Ambassador Verac was working, also with 
success, on the other side. Such external interference in domestic 
affairs was singularly easy in a state "built up in the most amazing 
fashion out of Federation, Republic, Monarchy, Crown Property 
and heritable Privileges," as Clausewitz described the United Pro- 
vinces at this time 3 . 

The crisis came in June. Both sides had armed. The Prince had 
about 4000 men; the Patriots a larger, but less compact, body of 
Free Companies (militia). Some months earlier, the Prince and 
Princess had left the Hague and the Province of Holland for a safer 
residence at Nymwegen. But recent changes of opinion encouraged 
Princess Wilhelmina to think that, by a personal appeal at the Hague, 
she might yet win a majority of the States-General for the Orange 
cause. She set out, with a very small following, early on June 28th 
spent the night in a peasant's house, a prisoner of the Free Companies 
of the province of Holland, and returned next day to Nymwegen. 

Thereupon, her brother, who had heard an exaggerated report of the 
insults offered her, sent a threatening despatch to the States of Holland 

1 To Carmarthen, January 2nd, 1787. 

2 See his correspondence, February- April, passim. 

3 Der Feldzug des Herzogs von Braunschweig von 1787, p. 259; quoted in Heigel, 
I. 133. 


and ordered his nearest troops to hold themselves in readiness. He 
was careful to treat the issue as personal, not political, and to explain 
that he was far from contemplating war. " She wants to drag me into v 
a war," he told one of her confidential servants, " but I will soon show 
her that I am not to be led by her 1 ." Yet war might come; and, if 
it came, he knew he must look to England. For some years, Hertz- 
berg had been advocating an Anglo-Prussian-Dutch "system" at 
Berlin. The growth of the English party in the Provinces, and the 
fear of a Dutch democratic republic subservient to France, had roused 
Pitt and the Cabinet, hitherto not very responsive to Harris's des- 
patches. Harris had been in consultation with Ministers at Whitehall 
in May. The Cabinet, most certainly, did not want war; but in view 
of the financial embarrassments of France it was prepared to adopt 
a course which might conceivably lead to war. Harris went back 
with a promise of 20,000 for the Orange cause 2 . Next month, he 
obtained 70,000 more. In July, Carmarthen assumed, almost as 
a matter of course, the armed intervention of the King of Prussia 3 ; 
and Pitt sent for the Prussian Ambassador, with whom hitherto he 
had had few dealings, to tell him that the insult to Princess Wilhelmina 
concerned her brother only and that France had no right to intervene 
in any way. It is evident that, if he could get the famous Prussian 
army in motion, he was prepared to risk war. On August and, he wrote 
instructing Cornwallis to seize Trincomalee from the Dutch, so soon 
as hostilities began, in order that the French might not use it as a base, 
and that the English might possibly for an attack on the Cape of 
Good Hope 4 . 

Rather better diplomacy on the part of France, a diplomacy such 
as Vergennes could, almost certainly, have commanded, or a different 
course of events in Eastern Europe, might have shattered Carmarthen's 
assumption ; for in July Frederick William was trimming. He wanted 
a settlement without war; and it should have been easy for France 
to make the Patriots offer satisfactory, but not to them humiliating, 
terms. This she failed to do, thus giving the impression that she meant 
to support them through thick and thin; yet, at the end of August, 
Verac, her Ambassador at the Hague, their party's patron andfaiseur, 
was recalled and succeeded by St Priest, a representative who was not 

1 Luckwaldt, Die englisch-preussische Allianz von 1788, p. 67. 

2 Malmesbury Correspondence, n. 306. Pitt himself was not in favour of a policy 
which might lead to war: but he agreed to the financial assistance. Rose, i. 360. 

3 Malmesbury Correspondence, n. 329, July 3rd. 
* Cornwallis Correspondence, I. 321. 

i 7 4 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

committed. Meanwhile, Frederick William was relieved of anxiety 
towards the east, by the growing internal difficulties of the Habsburg 
dominions, where Joseph's reforms were bearing their fruit of dis- 
affection, and still more, in August, by the sudden decision of the Porte, 
weary of Catharine's insolence, to declare war on Russia. Sir Robert 
Ainslie, our Ambassador at Constantinople, had warned the Foreign 
Office of the impending Declaration. It was issued so opportunely as an 
embarrassment to the Imperial Courts, that contemporaries credited 
it to Ainslie or his Prussian colleague. The suggestion is unproved 
and, in view of the dates of the various relevant decisions, unlikely. 
Certainly, Ainslie had no Instructions in this sense. 

News of Turkey's decision reached Berlin in the first days of 
September. Verac's recall from the Hague had taken place at the end 
of a month during which French diplomacy had seemed definitely 
provocative. The recall suggested a weakening of purpose. Great 
Britain had already sent a General to Germany to hire Hessians, and 
had put ammunition at the disposal of the Orange party. The King 
of Prussia had failed to secure any apology or satisfaction from the 
States of Holland. He had just decided to send an ultimatum to the 
Hague and to close with English offers of cooperation. The news that 
his imperial neighbours would now probably have their hands full 
greatly eased his mind 1 . 

On September i3th, Ferdinand of Brunswick, all his plans having 
been mathematically drawn out and the risks of cutting the dykes care- 
fully weighed 2 , crossed the Dutch frontier with 20,000 men, to attack 
the Province of Holland only. Brunswick's preparations were super- 
fluous. The Hollanders, unsupported by France, collapsed. Opinion 
swung round at the Hague. By the 2Oth, the mob was tearing a Patriots' 
flag in pieces in front of the British Embassy, with cries of Oranje 
boven ; and Harris's eyes were moistening as he met again the Prince 
of Orange, of whom he had so exceedingly low an opinion. Next day, 
he induced the States of Holland to rescind a decision, which they 
had taken on the Qth, appealing to France for aid. Amsterdam showed 
fight, but capitulated on October loth. In Berlin, Hertzberg quoted 
venij vidiy vici\ and in Europe the conviction was confirmed that 
Prussian troops, led by Ferdinand of Brunswick, were invincible. 

1 It was not until November that Austria's participation in the Russo-Turkish 
War was definitively known. 

2 He started at the new moon, so as to secure the minimum variation of the 
tides. Clausewitz, who was with him, thought the campaign reckless and its success 
due almost entirely to Dutch incompetence, Heigel, i. 143-4. 


Montmorin was bewildered at the speed of events. Before the 
States of Holland had rescinded their appeal, he had issued a declara- 
tion that France could not reject it (September i6th). Two days 
earlier, Pitt had written to William Eden, who was still clearing 
up the aftermath of the commercial negotiation in Paris, that, if 
France wished to maintain predominance in Holland she would have 
to fight 1 . Carmarthen had already told Harris that France was not 
ready and, in his opinion, was unlikely to fight 2 . Harris, who heard 
no news of French military action down to September 22nd, con- 
curred 3 . 

On September 2ist, a despatch, drawn up by Pitt himself, went 
to all British Embassies, notifying them that, since France had 
declared her intention of assisting that party in the Province of 
Holland which resisted the King of Prussia's just demands, and since 
her intervention had not been called for by a majority in the States- 
General, and thus there was no casus foederis > His Britannic Majesty 
was arming a fleet and augmenting his land forces. Very soon, forty 
ships of the line, from the fleet which Pitt had been nursing, were 
ready for sea. Once more, events moved too quickly for Montmorin. 
Late in September, Amsterdam was still holding out in the expectation 
that he would act; but he was already telling Eden in confidence that, 
if the French party in the Provinces proved utterly weak, action 
would be folly 4 . Before the end of the month, he was interviewing 
William Grenville, sent over as a Special Envoy to smooth matters 
down if possible, but was protesting that he could discuss nothing 
until the Prussian troops were withdrawn, and meanwhile was pro- 
ceeding with belated military preparations 5 . The fall of Amsterdam, 
apart from all other circumstances, made French intervention hopeless ; 
and on October 27th Montmorin exchanged with Eden and Dorset, the 
ornamental British Ambassador to the Court of Versailles, a Declara- 
tion and Counter-Declaration of Disarmament, the French Declaration 
stating that France had never intended to intervene in Holland and 
retained no hostile views towards any party involved in the affair 
that is to say, towards Prussia. After the signature, Dorset reported 

1 Auckland Correspondence, I. 192. 

2 Carmarthen to Harris, September 8th. 

8 To Carmarthen, September 22nd. Harris's despatch of September i8th, 
written in the full rush of events, is a most/brilliant document. At 11.30 p.m. he 
wrote "and I think I can now venture to congratulate your Lordships that the 
revolution in this country is as complete as it was in 1747.'* 

4 Eden to Carmarthen, September 25th. 

6 Grenville to Carmarthen, September 28th. 

176 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

that " there did not seem to remain any degree of ill-humour, tho' 
there was visible a little awkwardness on occasion of the humiliating 
terms to which this Court had been obliged to subscribe 1 ." 

But Montmorin told Eden that war had been nearer than might 
have been supposed. For "exclusive of all objects of internal interest, 
there had been some opinion of weight that a war was the best mode 
of finishing the internal troubles which had prevailed at the time of 
the King of Prussia's march 2 ." The suggestion recurred again and 
again in France during the next five years; for foreign war, it has 
been said, was the classical cure for internal troubles 3 . 

Even before Amsterdam had fallen, Harris was pressing the Dutch 
for an alliance. But with so complex a polity as the United Provinces 
negotiations were exceptionally slow. In November, while the 
Prussian troops were beginning to withdraw, the Orange party was 
consolidating its power by the dismissal of "Patriotic" functionaries. 
In December, Harris's friend van de Spiegel became Grand Pen- 
sionary of the United Provinces. Though a friend, he did not wish 
to sell his friendship too cheap ; and, since in any Anglo-Dutch discus- 
sion colonial questions at once came to the front, the Dutch states- 
man suggested that Great Britain should give backNegapatam 4 . Harris 
managed to put this suggestion aside. By the end of March, 1788, 
his draft had passed the States of Holland, and on April i5th, the 
Defensive Alliance between His Britannic Majesty and Their High 
Mightinesses the States-General of the United Provinces was signed 5 . 
A Prusso-Dutch Treaty was signed the same day. 

Great Britain and the Provinces promised one another friendship 
and armed assistance if involved in war, specifying the amount of 
that assistance. A clause, to which England attached great importance, 
provided for military and naval cooperation in such an event between 
the Dutch and British authorities in the East. In case of war with 
a common enemy, neither was to disarm or make peace without the 
consent of the other. Great Britain guaranteed to the Prince of Orange 
the Hereditary Stadholderate of the United Provinces, and the office 
of Hereditary Governor in every Province, "engaging to maintain 
that form of Government against all attacks and enterprises, direct 
or indirect, of whatsoever nature they might be." The contracting 

1 To Carmarthen, November ist. 

2 Eden to Carmarthen, November ist. 

3 The point is repeatedly referred to by Sorel. 

4 Harris's despatches, December and January, passim. 

5 Harris to Carmarthen, April isth, 1788, enclosing the treaty. 


parties agreed to negotiate further about Negapatam. On May 8th, 
1788, the Treaty was ratified, and the Dutch skiff appeared to be once 
more in tow behind the British ship of the line. This, however, was 
the year in which Mirabeau, in his pamphlet Aux Bataves sur le 
Stathouderat, told the Dutch that England was working through the 
House of Orange " to turn them into European Indians." In the long 
run, the reimposition of a personally unpopular and incompetent 
Stadholder by foreign arms worked as Mirabeau hoped it might to 
increase the existing dislike of the office and of the Powers who 
propped it. It did so the more surely, because Great Britain in fact 
never opened the promised negotiations about Negapatam. 

Brunswick's military promenade to Amsterdam and its brilliant 
results proved a curse to Prussia. They set her statesmen planning 
other and greater coups, to be brought about by an opportune waving 
of the Prussian sword, and confirmed her King in his natural inclina- 
tions. "When once prevailed upon to exert himself," wrote Joseph 
Ewart from Berlin about this time 1 , "he is by no means deficient 
in judgement and penetration ; but he requires to be roused from his 
dissipation and inactivity." It might well seem to him, now, that an 
occasional rousing was enough. Frederick William emerged from 
the Dutch crisis pledged to Great Britain, by a secret agreement of 
October 2Oth, 1787, to maintain the Dutch Constitution. Beyond that 
point he was not committed ; nor was Great Britain. Throughout the 
winter, both Governments worked at the Dutch Treaties, which in 
themselves constituted a political consortium of the three Powers, if 
not exactly a Triple Alliance. 

For a time, Great Britain had not been anxious to go further. There 
were once more rumours of a Quadruple Alliance of the Imperial 
and Bourbon Courts, and Pitt wished to learn what they were worth. 
The scheme came from Catharine, who during 1787 had partly 
shown her hand by refusing to renew her Commercial Treaty with 
Great Britain, while including one with France. She now (late in 
1787) sounded Montmorin through Segur, the French Ambassador at 
Petrogad. But an alliance with Russia meant for France the sacrifice 
of three of her oldest diplomatic friendships those with Sweden, 
Poland, and the Porte. Montmorin could not bring himself to make 
such sacrifices: the Quadruple Alliance remained a scheme 2 , and Pitt 
was for the moment free of that risk. 

Intimate relations between Great Britain and Prussia were first post- 

1 To Carmarthen, January Qth, 1785. 2 Sorel, I. 322, 323. 

W.&G.I. 12 

178 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

poned and always imperilled by the working of the anti-British party 
at Berlin and by the fantastic programmes of European rearrangement 
which, at this time, were being put forward by Hertzberg. Hertzberg, 
as a Prussian, was not greatly interested in the United Provinces, where 
Prussian interests were dynastic rather than territorial, except in so 
far as Dutch affairs might promote that closer cooperation with Great 
Britain which he had always favoured, in opposition to his colleague, 
Fink von Finkenstein, who inclined to a French connexion. While Pitt 
regarded Anglo-Prussian cooperation via the Netherlands as a safe- 
guard for the peace of Europe, and for those colonial and maritime 
interests which the Dutch Alliance was especially intended to promote, 
Hertzberg saw in it a means of promoting the territorial consolidation 
and expansion of Prussia in the east, for which the state of affairs in 
Austria, Russia and Turkey seemed to present opportunities. Before 
the end of the year 1787, he had outlined a gigantic system of re- 
arrangements and "compensations," which Joseph Ewart, the British 
Secretary of Legation at Berlin, described in January, 1788, as "equally 
extravagant and impracticable in the present circumstances 1 ." 

In Prussia, no Ministerial plan had the weight and influence 
belonging to plans agreed on by a British Cabinet, since it was always 
uncertain to the last moment whether any such plan would receive 
the royal sanction. So, British diplomatic representatives at Berlin 
had to keep in constant and unwelcome touch with what Morton 
Eden, in 1791, called "the wretched and dirty intrigues that pervade 
this Court." Eden, in a fit of disgust, actually went so far as to say, 
in a very private letter, that the Prussian Ministers "knew about as 
much and had as much influence in public affairs as his boy" an 
overstatement, but significant 2 . 

Hertzberg's plans during 1787 and the early part of 1788 were 
based on the assumption that Russia and Austria would profit by 
the Turkish War. Russia was known to covet the Black Sea port of 
Oczakoff and the province of Bessarabia, Austria the provinces of 
Moldavia and Wallachia. Assuming that they secured these or other 
important territories, Prussia must put forward a claim for compen- 
sation backed by force and British influence. The compensation was 
to be secured by a reshuffle of Polish territory. In the First Partition, 
Prussia had linked her detached province of East Prussia to the mass 

1 To Carmarthen, January Qth, 1788. 

2 Eden to Grenville, December 3ist, 1791; Morton Eden to Lord Auckland, 
November 23 rd, 1792. Dropmore Papers, 11. 245 and 347. 


of her territory by securing West Prussia from the Poles ; but she had 
not acquired Danzig. The core of the schemes was that she should 
obtain Danzig and the palatinates of Posen and Kalisch (Great 
Poland), the Poles being in their turn compensated by the retrocession 
of Galicia, Austria's acquisition in the First Partition. Ewart was 
"informed, in private confidence," at the beginning of 1788, "that 
the King of Prussia would have no objection to Russia's obtaining 
Oczakoff and Bessarabia, but that he was more averse than ever to 
the Emperor's making any acquisitions, without his having the equi- 
valent, on the side of Poland 1 ." Thus, in broad outline, the King and 
his Minister were in agreement. 

Great Britain can hardly be said to have had any Polish policy at 
that time. Her Embassy at Warsaw was regarded mainly as an outpost 
for securing information about the plans of Poland's neighbours a 
function which it fulfilled imperfectly, owing to "the extreme dearth 
of news at this place," as Charles Whitworth wrote in 1786. His 
Instructions, when sent there in January of that year, had been simply 
to watch all designs for the dismemberment of Turkey or Poland, 
and to safeguard British commercial interests 2 . It was not the habit 
of the British Foreign Office to embody political "systems" or hypo- 
thetical policies in the initial Instructions for Ambassadors. The 
British Instructions would make a very meagre collection, if placed 
side by side with the great French series of ambassadorial Instructions ; 
but the almost complete absence of subsequent despatches from 
London to Whitworth shows that the bald Instructions in this case 
correctly outlined the Polish interests of his Government. 

Although schemes for rearrangements of Polish territory, certainly, 
did not greatly concern the Cabinet of St James', it was necessary, 
when drawing closer to Prussia, to weigh the resulting commitments. It 
was therefore important to keep abreast of Hertzberg's plans and his 
master's impulses, and to move with some caution. The history of 
the Triple Alliance, which dominated British foreign policy from 
1788 to 1791, proves that, in his desire to terminate a period of isola- 
tion and secure continental support for his general policy, Pitt showed 
too little rather than too much caution when dealing with his principal 

1 To Carmarthen, January 15th, 1788. 

2 Whitworth to Carmarthen, April 8th, 1786 and his Instructions, January, 1786. 
The Foreign Office only showed interest in Warsaw when it instructed Whitworth 
to attend, on some pretext, the meeting of Catharine and the King of Poland at 
KiefT, in April, 1787. He was sent to collect news, but failed to make Catharine 
talk politics. To Carmarthen, April 24th and May 7th, 1787. Whitworth was 
promoted to Petrograd in October, 1788. 

12 2 

i8o PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

Ally. Not because Prussia was abnormally lacking in scruple, if 
judged by the diplomatic standards of the day ; but because her real 
interests and those of Great Britain lay in such different fields, 
sustained and active cooperation between the two Powers was always 

Just before the Treaties with the United Provinces were signed, 
i.e. early in April, 1788, Pitt had written down his notion of the form 
which an Anglo-Prussian alliance might take 1 . Putting on one side 
a definite proposal which had come through Ewart from Hertzberg 
for joint action in the east, he suggested that a treaty guaranteeing 
the Dutch settlement should include also a general defensive alliance 
and guarantee of territories between the two Powers, which might be 
kept secret so long as the Quadruple Alliance of the Imperial and 
Bourbon Courts remained incomplete. The Cabinet was more cautious, 
and decided against the suggested mutual guarantee of territory. It 
fully agreed that Great Britain ought not to be in any way committed 
to Hertzberg's territorial speculations. Hertzberg tried again. Again, 
the British Cabinet raised difficulties and refused to commit itself 
too deeply 2 , unless Prussia would make very general promises of 
military assistance. This angered King Frederick William. He told 
his Minister that he was determined not to employ his troops outside 
Germany and the Netherlands, and thanked God that he had no need 
to snatch at alliances 3 . Within a fortnight he had accepted the Alliance, 
though not quite on the terms which had provoked this outburst. 

His acceptance was the work of Sir James Harris. The Prussian 
King had an appointment to visit his sister, the Princess of Orange, at 
her chateau of the Loo, in the second week of June. Just before he 
started, Ewart at Berlin was not very confident. The French party 
in Prussia was active, and Ewart could only express the hope that 
the King would be "undeceived at Loo 4 ." To accomplish this, the 
full apparatus of diplomacy was brought to bear. King George wrote 
an appropriate autograph letter to the Princess, which Harris deli- 
vered 5 . During the critical day (June I2th), Harris concentrated the 
whole strength of his trained and impressive personality on the King 
and bribed the King's valet to block the access of a hostile personality. 

April 2nd, 1788. Pitt MSS. In Salomon, p. 342. 

Carmarthen to Ewart, May i4th, 1788. Hertzberg's proposal to Ewart was 
dated April igth. Luckwaldt, pp. 105-6. 

In a note of May 3Oth. Salomon, p. 345. 
To Carmarthen, May 3ist. 
Malmesbury Correspondence, II. 420. 


Matters were settled between King and Ambassador after midnight 
during a walk in the gardens, away from the music of the State ball. 
The King returned to the music, while Harris, with the Minister 
Alvensleben, spent the small hours of the morning drawing up the 
Treaty on the basis of one of Hertzberg's drafts. The King looked 
through the draft at 9 a.m., and signed the Treaty at 2 p.m. on the 
1 3th. Harris despatched his courier to Helvoetsluys, and spent the 
afternoon going over the European situation with England's new Ally. 
On the 1 4th, he must have begun the series of despatches in which 
he told his Cabinet how it had all been done 1 . His rewards were 
a peerage and the right to bear the Prussian Eagle in his coat of Arms. 
Meanwhile, from Berlin, Ewart was able to report that " the French 
emissaries were discarded" and that the Countess Ingelheim the 
reigning Mistress "warmly applauded" the King's conduct 2 . 

The Treaty was officially described as provisional. The definitive 
Treaty was signed by Hertzberg and Ewart, exactly four months 
later; but not many changes were made in Harris's work. The final 
Treaty was a Defensive Alliance, the United Kingdom and Prussia 
pledging themselves to support one another, if attacked, with a force 
of at least 20,000 men or an equivalent in cash, and to uphold the 
Dutch Settlement of 1787. As a concession to Frederick William's 
known prejudice, Prussian auxiliaries were not to be used by Great 
Britain outside Europe or be shipped to Gibraltar. Secret articles 
stipulated that the promised contingents should not be furnished, unless 
the Party attacked had set 44,000 men of its/)wn in motion; and that 
Prussia might count on the help of a British fleet, should she require it. 

Hertzberg acted on the principle that Prussia's policy was to have 
no policy she ought to be always adjusting her programmes to a 
changing world, in order to extract from it the maximum of land and 
of power. He held to the main objects of his great scheme ; but he 
was prepared to put in operation any lesser, or greater, scheme which 
circumstances might favour. Now the early course of the War of 
Russia and Austria against Turkey suggested that the vast conquests 
of the Imperial Courts, in return for which Prussia was to press for 
compensations equally vast, might never be achieved. Wars got 
under way slowly in eastern Europe, and nothing considerable was 
attempted during 1787. In 1788 disease ravaged the ill- organised 
Russian armies and the Act of God at sea crippled the fleet of 

1 They are dated June isth and have been fully utilised by Salomon and Rose. 

2 To Carmarthen, June 28th. 

1 82 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

Sebastopol. It was only at the very end of the year (December i7th) 
that Oczakoff was carried in a last desperate assault and its population 
massacred. Austria, by an immense effort, had put 180,000 men into 
the field, but in scattered and ill-coordinated armies. Disease broke 
out in them. Their Generals were incompetent, but so, too, was 
the Emperor, who insisted on retaining the supreme command. So 
unsuccessful were the early months of the War that in August, when 
news of the Anglo-Prussian Treaty came, Joseph was writing to 
Kaunitz that, if Prussia and England joined in, "then the monarchy 
was lost/' and there was nothing to prevent the King of Prussia 
from " occupying all Bohemia and Moravia and marching on Vienna 1 ." 
By September, the Austrians were retreating, leaving the Banat of 
Temesvar to be ravaged by the Turks and in fear for Transylvania. 
The Emperor's letters were more despairing than ever. Very natur- 
ally, the thought arose in Berlin that Prussia by an opportune show 
of force she had already troops massed on the Austrian frontier 
might get compensation, though Austria got nothing from her Turkish 
war but disgrace. Hertzberg began to see the most brilliant prospects 
opening out for Prussian policy 2 . 

For a time, in the summer, Catharine had seemed in even greater 
danger than Joseph. The chivalrous, autocratic and inconsequent 
Gustavus III of Sweden had suddenly declared war, come to an 
understanding with the Turks, and marched on Petrograd through 
Finland. In the north, Catharine had only a small force and her 
Cronstadt fleet. The fleet fought an indecisive action and the Empress 
had horses ready for the journey to Moscow. Then, partly as a result 
of Russian manipulation, the powerful party among the Swedish 
nobility and gentry which detested Gustavus, on account of his 
autocratic home policy, connived at revolts among the troops and 
desertions of officers. At the same time, the Danes, secretly bound to 
Russia in case of a Russo- Swedish war, prepared to invade Sweden 
from Norway and beset Gothenburg. On September 2nd, Carmarthen 
wrote to Joseph Ewart: "The last accounts which we have received 
of the situation of the King of Sweden represent his difficulties as 
much increased, and state the probability of his applying to this Court 
and that of Berlin, as well as to France, for good offices and mediation." 
It was most desirable, he added, that England and Prussia should 
"prevent France having a share in the event," and hinder Russia 

1 August 26th. Quoted in Sorel, i. 526. 

2 Krauel, Hertzberg, p. 43 ; quoted in Salomon, p. 488. 


from becoming supreme in the Baltic 1 . Pitt and his colleagues began 
to see their new Triple Alliance not only preserving for Great Britain 
that peace which they sincerely prized, but also acting as the great 
and honoured European peace-maker, the preventer of France, the 
curb of Russia, the saviour of Sweden and, should she need saving, 
of Turkey. At Constantinople, Sir Robert Ainslie and his Prussian 
colleague Dietz were influencing Turkish policy and preparing the 
way for mediation by the Triple Alliance, when the time for peace- 
making should come. In the struggle for prestige among the Great 
Powers mediations had long played an important part. Could Great 
Britain mediate, so as to save two old dependants of France, Sweden 
and the Porte, nothing would more clearly demonstrate that to her was 
already passing that moral leadership of Europe which in 1783 the 
French seemed to have recovered. 

That the Alliance should strike in upon the weakness of its neigh- 
bours and thus upset existing territorial arrangements, did not enter 
into the British conception. The British point of view was expressed 
clearly, if not concisely, a year later by Leeds (Carmarthen), when 
Hertzberg's scheme, in a fresh form, had again been put forward. 
The scheme, he said, went much beyond "the spirit of our Treaty 
of Alliance, which is purely of a defensive nature and by which, of 
course, we cannot be considered as in any degree bound to support 
a system of an offensive nature, the great end of which appears to be 
aggrandisement rather than security, and which, from its very nature, 
is liable to provoke fresh hostilities, instead of contributing to the 
restoration of general tranquillity 2 ." 

In the autumn of 1788, Catharine was not in a mood to accept 
British or any other mediation. She supposed, wrongly 3 , that Great 
Britain and Prussia had some hand in the King of Sweden's adventure, 
and wished to punish him and them. She had saved herself by her 
own energy and did not intend to be beholden to that " grandissime 
politique fr. Ge" (frere George), as she called Pitt's master in her 
private correspondence 4 . But, if Catharine was inaccessible, the Court 
of Copenhagen was not ; and there Great Britain was strongly repre- 
sented, by Hugh Elliot. He was instructed to call off the Danes. 

1 See also Pitt to Grenville, September ist, 1788: "Our intervention may pre- 
vent his (Gustavus') becoming totally insignificant, a dependent upon Russia, and 
it seems to me an essential point." Dropmore Papers, i. 353. 

2 Leeds to Ewart, June 24th, 1789. 

s The evidence is in Rose, Pitt, i. 494-5. 
4 To Grimm, quoted in Sorel, i. 528. 

184 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

Mediation between Denmark and Sweden had been offered in a 
despatch from Carmarthen to Elliot, dated August i5th. The great 
Minister Bernstorff had seemed well disposed ; but the young Prince 
Royal repeated what Elliot had been told before, that Denmark was 
bound by treaty to Russia and must stand to her word. This brought 
Pitt forward in person. A despatch to Elliot drafted by him left this 
country on September 9th. It criticised Danish policy on the ground 
that it was certain "to extend the mischiefs of the present war in 
a manner which cannot fail to excite the most serious attention, and 
to have a great effect on the conduct, of all those Courts who are 
interested in the relative situation of the different Powers of the 
Baltic." Before he received this rather obscurely veiled threat, 
learning from Ewart that Prussia was in agreement with Great Britain 
and was contemplating an invasion of Holstein, also that there was 
imminent risk of Gustavus' accepting French mediation, Elliot crossed 
to Sweden, to come into personal contact with the King, who, in spite 
of his high spirit, was almost overwhelmed by external danger and 
domestic treachery. Abandoning his natural inclination to trust in 
Sweden's ancient ally France, Gustavus, who knew that time was 
short, accepted Elliot's magniloquently worded offer without reserve : 
" Sire, give me your Crown ; I will return it to you with added lustre." 
The return of the Crown was not entirely Elliot's work. He went 
at once to the Danish camp, for the Danes were now advancing on 
Gothenburg; but, at first, he failed to impose mediation upon the 
Prince Royal. The siege of Gothenburg was prepared; but so was 
the defence by Gustavus himself, with the assistance of English 
sailors from ships then in the port. As the prospect of carrying the 
town by a coup de main seemed over, the Danes accepted a short 
Armistice, on October 9th. During the period of the Armistice, news 
of Prussia's threat to Holstein arrived. This strengthened Elliot's 
hand. In the middle of November, the Armistice was extended for 
six months and the immediate danger to Sweden was over 1 . There 
was no peace : the state of war continued between Sweden and Russia : 
Denmark's good faith was doubted ; yet, at the close of the year, the 
Triple Alliance was looking forward with confidence to a general 
pacification and a satisfactory settlement during 1 789 . But its members 
were not agreed as to what constituted a satisfactory settlement. The 
fall of Oczakoff, following on Sweden's breakdown, closed the year 
not unsatisfactorily, if not brilliantly, for Catharine. She had the 
1 This account is based on Rose, Pitt, I. 495. 


patience and the long views of her adopted country. If not Con- 
stantinople or Bessarabia in this War, then in the next or in some yet 
remote war. Only for a moment, during Gustavus' Finland raid, 
had she ever feared attack and even then not for Russia proper. 
Without bitterness or any recrimination, she acquiesced in the change 
of plan which circumstances seemed to force on her Ally. She wrote 
to him just before Christmas, and before she can have had the news 
from Oczakoff, that she would raise no objection at all to his making 
peace with the Porte, if he so desired. But she would have nothing 
to do with mediation from any quarter. The view now prevalent at 
Vienna was put by Kaunitz thus : " so long as Prussia's power has not 
been curtailed, all the intentions, plans and enterprises of the two 
Imperial Courts will always be hindered and destroyed by her 1 ." It 
was therefore necessary, if in any way possible, to settle accounts 
with Prussia. On New Year's Day 1789, the chances of doing so in 
the near future would have appeared, to any cool observer, scanty. 

The relations between Berlin and the Imperial Courts had just 
been complicated by events in Poland. For years diplomatists had 
anticipated dissolution for this country, "precluded from every 
exterior commerce by its neighbours and deprived of every interior 
improvement by its Constitution 2 ." Now, the Poles, hoping to be 
relieved of Russian pressure by the withdrawal of Catharine's armies 
for use elsewhere, initiated a constitutional reform. The Diet met 
on October 6th, 1788, and prepared for action by "confederating" 
itself. By "confederation" it acquired the power to make decisions 
by an ordinary majority vote, instead of by that unanimity, the need 
for which, under the old Polish Constitution, had done more than 
anything else to ruin the country 3 . Catharine, who was in fact com- 
pelled to remove her troops from Polish soil, called to Poland over her 
shoulder, so to speak, that she would regard the least change in the 
Constitution as a breach of treaty (November, 1788). Prussia egged 
the Poles on to defy her, and the work of the Diet went forward. 
Early in December, the Diet decided to enter into negotiations with 
a view to a Prussian alliance, and to send missions to the European 
Courts to explain the contemplated reforms in the Polish Constitution. 
Thereupon, the Prussian representative at Warsaw, Lucchesini, let 
it be known, about Christmastime, that his master would guarantee 

1 Martens, Traites de la Russie avec VAutriche, n. 188-9, quoted in Sorel, I. 528. 

2 Viscount Dalrymple (from Warsaw), October ist, 1782. 

3 There is an excellent series of despatches on the work of the Great Diet from 
David Hailes who took over the embassy from Whitworth in November, 1788. 

i86 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

the independence of the Republic without interfering in its internal 
affairs. Prussia at once became popular among the patriots of Warsaw. 
They began, also, to approach the British representative and ask 
whether, if they made an alliance with Prussia, England would accede. 
The British representative was civil ; but, not seeing what commercial 
advantage England could derive from a Polish alliance, with Prussia 
astride the trade route down the Vistula, and inclining to the view that 
Great Britain could only get any such advantage by working through 
Berlin, he advised his Polish friends to lean on Prussia, or else "they 
would never be able to effect any purpose, either commercial or 
political 1 ." Approached again, rather later (March, 1789), he advised 
his Government that to step into Polish affairs might endanger rela- 
tions with Prussia; that it would mean for England "taking the 
Republic under her protection " ; that this was "undoubtedly the wish 
of the Poles and their chief design in proposing their commerce to us " ; 
but that he was very doubtful how far we ought, "to engage for their 
independence" or incur "the danger arising from the protection of 
a sort of new Colonies 2 ." The despatch, though not that of a Cabinet 
Minister, reflects perfectly the Polish problem, as seen from London 3 . 

In these opening months of the great year of Revolution, Prussia 
was encouraging revolutions wherever she could in the Habsburg 
dominions, which contained hardly one contented province, while 
blessing officially what Catharine called revolution in Poland. Prussian 
agents in Hungary were working on the pride and dissatisfaction of 
the Magyar leaders. In Galicia, they were explaining the benefits 
of reunion with a reformed Poland. In the Austrian Netherlands, they 
were blowing the fires of that revolution of Brabant which preceded 
the revolution of France, and gave half its title to Camille Desmoulins' 
first revolutionary journal 4 . Hertzberg, so a French agent reported 
from Berlin, wanted to push his master into action and glory, but 
was opposed by the courtiers and favourites: "all that lot are most 
anxious that the King of Prussia should not escape them, which 
would happen inevitably if that monarch went to lead his armies. So 
these people and the mistress are all for the maintenance of peace 
and England still more so 5 ." To Great Britain, at least, he did justice. 

Among all the revolutions, actual or projected, that which touched 

1 Hailes to Carmarthen, February 8th, 1789. 

2 Hailes to Carmarthen, March 27th, 1789. The English Alliance was a favourite 
scheme of the Prince Sapieha of those days. Hailes to Carmarthen, July isth, 1789. 

3 See below, p. 188. 4 Les Revolutions de France et de Brabant. 
6 Report of the Comte d'Esterno, April 2ist, 1789., in Sorel, 1. 531. 


Great Britain most nearly was the revolution of Brabant. Brabant, like 
all the other duchies and counties which formed the Austrian Nether- 
lands, had inherited its own customs and constitution; and, until 
Joseph's day, the Habsburgs had respected this inheritance. No new 
taxes could be levied without the consent of the Provincial Estates, 
and the established taxes were voted from year to year. The country, 
as a whole, was passionately Catholic, though French philosophy had 
made headway in educated circles. The combination of autocratic 
tendencies, a striving after governmental uniformity, and a definitely 
anti-clerical strain in the Josephine system, had provoked all sections 
of Belgian society. The crisis began when Joseph attempted, by edicts 
dated January ist, 1787, to introduce a centralised bureaucratic 
system for the whole country. Within four months, the Estates of 
Brabant had declined to vote the taxes, and the Council of Brabant 
had refused to accept dissolution. A lawyer demagogue, Henri van 
der Noot, called the men of Brussels to arms. On May 3Oth, the 
ancient militia of the gilds, swollen by peasants from the neighbouring 
villages, overawed the Regent and her husband Marie Christine, 
Joseph's sister, and Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen. The Government 
on the spot gave way; but, in the autumn, Joseph sent a soldier to 
enforce discipline. In January, 1788, the first blood was shed by 
the troops, while dispersing a mob in the streets of Brussels. 

Joseph supposed that he had won and went forward with his 
reforms, especially the educational and ecclesiastical. In the course 
of 1788, opposition and refusals to vote taxes came from the Estates 
of Flanders and Hainault also. This opposition Joseph once more set 
himself to crush. By June, 1789, just before the fall of the Bastille, he 
supposed that he had succeeded. "At last we have won our game in 
Brabant," he wrote to his sister on the 26th 1 . In truth, the losing game 
for the Habsburg rule in the Low Countries had just entered on its 
final stage. 

The English view of the Belgian situation was stated very clearly 
by King George, in a letter to the Duke of Leeds, later in the year. 
It would never, he said, be in the interests of Great Britain, "either 
that the Emperor should become absolute, or that a Democracy should 
be established there, as either must probably unite that country more 
with France 2 ." During August, Pitt had drawn up a remarkable 

1 Heigel, Deutsche Geschichte, i. 199. 

2 George III to Leeds, December ist, 1789. Leeds Papers, quoted in Salomon, 
p. 461. 

i88 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

memoir on the whole position, as a basis for replies to suggestions 
from Prussia that Great Britain should encourage revolution in 
Belgium and Galicia, with a view to their ultimate separation from 
Austria 1 . Galicia, as it touched English interests, he put on one side 
in few and significant words. "The object of increasing Poland with 
a view to the extension of our commerce " he wrote, was " too remote 
and contingent to be relied upon." But the Belgian question was of 
another order. The prevention of a union of Belgium with France 
was an object "worth the risk, or even the certainty," of a war. But 
the mere creation of an independent Belgian State one of the 
possible results of supporting the Belgian patriots was not a British 
interest. Our sole direct interest was to keep Belgium in dependence 
on Holland and ourselves. The status quo ante, a half-independent 
Belgium, not too docile under Austrian rule, suited us perfectly; but 
he recognised the difficulties in the way of its maintenance, and so 
came to a rather lame conclusion. He might have mentioned that 
the main cause why Great Britain, a few years earlier, had not looked 
favourably on Joseph's scheme for exchanging the Low Countries 
against Bavaria was the reasonable belief that a small independent 
Belgian State was far more likely to fall permanently under French 
influence than a group of Belgian Provinces, laxly ruled by a remote 
but powerful Prince, who could make his voice heard in the counsels 
of Europe. An alternative to independence or the maintenance of 
the status quo was the union of Belgium with Holland. This suggestion 
came from the Belgian leader van der Noot. Noot was not a democrat 
of the '89 type the leader of the growing democratic party was his 
rival, Vonck but a clerical and an upholder of the old Provincial 
privileges. Driven from home by Joseph's temporary success in 1789, 
he visited van de Spiegel, the Pensionary of the United Provinces, went 
later to Berlin, and sent an agent to London. How sincere his pro- 
posal was, or what weight should be assigned to such schemings of 
a party leader in exile, may be left undecided. He undoubtedly 
made the suggestion to van de Spiegel that a son of the Prince of 
Orange should be nominated Regent of Belgium 2 . The proposal was 

* It is in the Leeds Papers, B.M. Add. MSS. 28068, and is dated August 27th. 
A German translation is in Salomon, p. 453 sqq. 

2 Resume des Negotiations qui accompagnerent la revolution des Pays-Bos Au- 
trichiens, by.L. B. J. van de Spiegel, 1841, quoted in Heigel, op. cit. i. 199. Van der 
Noot's agent in England was a certain van Roode. Van de Spiegel mentioned the 
scheme for Belgian independence, but apparently not the Regency scheme, to the 
British Minister, Alleyne Fitzherbert. Fitzherbert was " not a little surprised that... 
he could condescend to listen for a single instant, to a scheme which to my mind 


weighed in London and known in Paris. A French agent in England 
reported it, in what seems a distorted form, in the course of September. 
England, he said, had for a time played with the idea of uniting the 
two countries and attaching the new composite State to the German 
Empire, as an additional electorate 1 . In his August memorandum, 
Pitt had in fact considered the scheme, and had dismissed it. It 
appeared to him, he wrote, that "the difference of religion and the 
clashing interests of commerce, particularly with respect to the navi- 
gation of the Scheldt, seemed to make that project difficult, if not 
impracticable." Nothing more was heard of it for years. 

Discussing the possibility of an ultimate war with France on 
some Low Countries' issue, Pitt stated that he would rather become 
involved in such a war, "having the Emperor and Holland with us, 
and Prussia not against us," than run the risk of forcing it on now, 
and so driving France and Austria into a joint war with England, 
the United Provinces and Prussia . He had not yet come to understand 
the new France, nor foreseen that henceforward Franco- Austrian 
cooperation would be an impossibility. His conclusion of the whole 
matter was to wait, but to assure the Belgian insurgents that Great 
Britain would not allow the Emperor to destroy their Constitution. 

Pitt did not anticipate any immediate complications with the 
French over the Belgian question; but he thought that, if "either the 
rashness of their councils, or the enthusiasm of the present spirit 
which prevails among them should lead them to measures of this 
nature, a war would be in any case inevitable." The sentence contains 
one of the earliest hints by a European statesman of a possible French 
war of democratic propaganda. That France might be plunged into 
war by the partisans of the Old Order, with a view to distracting 
attention from internal trouble, was a commonplace of diplomatic 
speculation 2 . Pitt's representatives and agents in the Belgian Provinces 
kept the Foreign Office well informed as to every move of the French 
and democratic parties there 3 ; but so late as August, 1789, at least, 
and, in the minds of most statesmen, down to a much later date, the 

appears wild and chimerical in the extreme" (to Leeds, July loth, 1789). Nor does 
van der Noot appear to have broached the Regency scheme at Berlin (see Ewart to 
Carmarthen, September 5th, 1789, reporting his proposals there). Pitt's serious 
discussions of it suggest that his agent pressed it in London. 

1 Report of La Luzerne, September 29th, 1789, quoted in Sorel, n. 60. 

2 There are many such suggestions: for example, the discussion between the 
British representative and the Spanish Minister Florida Blanca reported by the 
former. Wm. Eden to Carmarthen, March 3Oth, 1789. 

3 See the P.O. Correspondence, Flanders, 1789, passim. 

igo PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

possibility of French democratic propaganda being conducted by the 
sword seemed remote and in no way dangerous. What might be 
called the correct diplomatic opinion during 1789 undoubtedly was 
that for years France, whatever she might do, would involve no real 
danger to anyone. William Eden, for example, writing to his brother on 
September 29th, said it was "beyond any speculation that in our time 
France should again make the same appearance among nations that 
she has made... I fairly and sincerely wish to see order restored: she 
is no longer an object of alarm; and her prosperity would now be 
very compatible with ours, which certainly is at this hour far beyond 
what the nation has ever experienced." He added, a month later: 
" The troubles of France have increased, so as to render that unhappy 
country very interesting as to its interior, but probably for a long 
period of little importance with regard to its external, politics 1 ." Eden 
was a representative observer, cool, experienced and intimately 
acquainted with French affairs 2 . Other cool heads were of the same 
opinion. "The situation of France," Ewart reported from Berlin 3 , 
"seems to have made the Empress of Russia fairly sensible that no 
reliance whatever can be placed on the power or influence of that 
country at least for many years." The Court of Berlin, also, was 
persuaded that "the great popular revolution in France will prevent 
that country effectually from interfering in any shape in favour of 
the Imperial Courts 4 ." 

Hertzberg no longer felt any fear of that Quadruple Alliance 
which had haunted his first and great master. He could go forward, 
if Great Britain would. Throughout the latter part of 1788 and the 
whole of 1789, Anglo-Prussian diplomacy is one long struggle between 
Prussia's forward policy and the British conception of the Triple 
Alliance. Hertzberg's plans evolve and shift. His master's military 
enthusiasm flares up, and dies down, and flares up again. The British 
Foreign Office reiterates that "it is impossible to pledge this country 
beforehand to the consequences of measures which go beyond the 
limits of a Defensive Alliance 5 ." By May, 1789, Frederick William 

1 Wm. Eden to Morton Eden, September 29th and October zoth, 1789, Auckland 
MSS., B.M. Add. 34429. 

z By April, 1790, however., Eden had become alarmed at what he called the 
French " enthusiasm of giving what they called liberty to all nations." To Sir R. M. 
Keith, printed in Memoir of Sir R. M. Keith, n. 270. 

3 To Leeds, October 2oth, 1789. 

4 Ewart to Leeds, July 28th, 1789. 

6 Leeds to Ewart, September i4th, 1789, following the lines of Pitt's August 


was writing to his Ambassador in London that he was losing all 
patience and did not know what to think of this indifference of the 
British Cabinet, which he had not deserved. "There was no such 
delay and indifference shown on my side, when the Dutch affairs 
were under consideration 1 ." When the Bastille had fallen, Prussia 
tried to scare England into activity; not by suggesting that France 
might begin a war of democratic propaganda, but by suggesting 
a Franco-Prussian alliance the French, free from autocracy, might 
cast off the Austrian connexion, and return to their true interests 
and to their old relations with Prussia 2 . England was not fright- 
ened. Her Minister had just stated once more that "she could not 
be considered as in any degree bound to support a system of an 
offensive nature 3 ." 

Prussia then tried the argument that she need not support it very 
actively. The King himself told Ewart, in October, that in "case of 
his being committed with Austria, either separately or in conjunction 
with Russia, relative to the affairs either of Poland or of Turkey, he 
did not pretend that England should become a party in the War; 
mats qu'elle voulut settlement lui tenir le dos libre, du cote de la France, 
and continue to cooperate in maintaining the neutrality of Denmark 4 ." 

At this time, Frederick William was desirous of war, Hertzberg 
eager for a diplomatic triumph, but apparently not for war. The 
King was in high spirits at the successes of the Belgian insurgents, 
successes which culminated in the return of van der Noot with 
triumph to Brussels, a joint repudiation of the Habsburgs by the 
Estates of Flanders and Brabant, and the junction of the other 
Provinces with them at the end of the year. "He is so over-elated 
that he thinks of nothing less than depriving the House of Austria 
both of the Netherlands and Galicia," Ewart wrote on November 28th. 
His Minister at Constantinople was working for a Turkish Treaty, 
a Treaty which was signed hurriedly and, as Hertzberg thought, with 
an amazing lack of foresight in the drafting, on January 3ist, 1790. 
During December the Polish Diet approved the preliminary arrange- 
ments with Prussia which ripened next year into the traite d'amitie 
et d' union of March, 1790. These two negotiations explain Frederick 
William's reference to "the affairs of Poland and of Turkey." The 
Polish Treaty was the starting-point for the series of events which 

1 To Alvensleben, May 4th. Salomon, p. 450. 

2 To Alvensleben, July sist. Salomon, p. 450. 

8 Leeds to Ewart, June 24th. The despatch quoted above, p. 183. 
4 Ewart to Leeds, October i7th. 

i 9 2 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

led up to the Second Partition ; but, at the time of its signature, Prussia 
was not planning partition. All her statesmen were determined to 
secure, by any means, at least the key- towns of Thorn and Danzig; 
but the ruling design in 1789-90 was that for compensating Poland at 
Austria's expense by the gift of Galicia. In gratitude, Poland was to 
pass from the Russian sphere of influence into that of Prussia. This 
plan did not allow sufficiently for the strength and resource of 
Catharine, or for the storms which were blowing up from the west. 

At the close of 1788 Catharine had hoped that George Ill's 
insanity and the Regency of the Prince of Wales might bring Fox back 
to power. She approached Fox through Woronzow, her Ambassador 
in London, and expressed the conviction that he and the Prince would 
not allow themselves to be dragged at the heels of Prussia 1 . But King 
George's recovery (February) left Pitt stronger than ever; so that 
door was closed. However, the succession of a weak Sultan, Selim II, 
in April, 1789, raised hopes in Petrograd for the campaigns of that 
year. They proved, in fact, most successful. Joseph's armies recovered. 
The Danubian Provinces Bessarabia, Moldavia and Wallachia 
were invaded, and by the end of 1789 the original postulate for Hertz- 
berg's compensation schemes, that the Imperial Courts would be in 
a position to claim much Turkish territory at the end of the War, 
seemed to have become valid. Hence, Frederick William's desire to 
utilise the Belgian revolt to the utmost, and to blood his fine army on 
Austria while the mass of Joseph's troops were on the Danube. 
British troops he neither needed nor expected, but he required the 
British fleet, for Denmark was not to be trusted. She had not yet 
made peace and, thanks to her passive assistance, Russia was in control 
of the Baltic. Prussia, therefore, hoped that Great Britain's firm wish 
to reestablish the status quo in the Baltic, and to keep France in check, 
would suffice to ensure her cooperation at least long enough for the 
Prussian sword, or the threat of the Prussian sword, to do its work. 

Great Britain was exceedingly cautious, but correct. At the end 
of 1789, she was given an opportunity by the Imperial Courts of 
throwing over Prussia altogether. They sounded her as to the terms 
on which she would agree to an eastern peace 2 . This offer she put 
aside: she must act with her Allies, she said. But as the offer indi- 
cated a desire for peace, it confirmed the British Cabinet in its policy 
of using the Triple Alliance as a peace-making and conservative 
combination. All that Frederick William, to his annoyance, was able 
1 Rose, Pitt, I. 509. 2 Details in Salomon, p. 463. 


to secure in relation to the Netherlands was a Convention, signed at 
Berlin on January 9th, 1790, by which the three Powers declared their 
joint interest in the Belgian Provinces; their resolve to uphold Belgian 
liberties; and their willingness to recognise Independence, should 
Independence become quite evident 1 . In spite of its annoyance, the 
Court of Berlin made a swift calculation and fell into line. This was 
the calculation: that the Triple Alliance, taking its cue from Great 
Britain would come forward with a proposal for a general peace on 
status quo ante terms : that the Imperial Courts would be too proud 
to accept : and that Prussia would thus secure her war, her com- 
pensations, and her Ally 2 . 

Early in the morning of February 2Oth, 1790, Joseph II died at 
Vienna. He had worked to the end at the task of government which 
had now broken him signing documents that same night. His wiser, 
cooler, more diplomatic brother Leopold, the liberal-minded Grand- 
duke of Tuscany, was his heir. Two days after the news of Joseph's 
death reached Florence, Leopold summoned the British Resident, 
Hervey, to a private interview in the evening. He told his visitor that 
he wanted peace, and that Hervey was to state this emphatically to 
his own Court. He referred to the unhappy Alliance with Russia and 
the sacrifice of the natural Austrian friendship with England. Let 
England mediate and save hkn from a breach with Prussia. He would 
dearly like a defensive alliance with England. He praised her correct 
and reserved handling of the Belgian revolution, and said with 
seeming sincerity that no nation in Europe was now so highly 
esteemed. France, he added, was laid aside for years. For himself, 
he cared for no conquests. He would make peace tomorrow. Russia 
and the Porte were war-weary, and would no doubt concur. To the 
Belgians he had made offers which they could not refuse: if desired, 
he would accept England and Prussia as guarantors of the Belgian 
liberties. To the Magyars, also, he would restore their ancient customs 
and liberties. As for Poland he would give back his share of it 
tomorrow, if the other Partitioning Powers would do the same. 
Hervey left the presence late at night, with Leopold's parting pro- 
testations of friendship in his ears 3 . 

1 Ewart to Leeds, January gth, 1790.* For the King's annoyance, Ewart to Leeds, 
February 22nd. 

2 Minute au Rot, March sth, 1790, and the King's reply (Salomon, p. 465), 
Compare the unexpectedly cordial reception given to a despatch from Leeds of 
February z6th, as reported by Ewart to Leeds, March Sth. 

8 The report is in the Leeds MSS., dated February z8th. A full summary in 
Salomon, pp. 467-9. 

W.&G.I. 13 

i 9 4 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

Nothing could have been more welcome to the English Cabinet 
than Hervey's report. " It seems highly expedient," Leeds wrote at 
once to Ewart, "to communicate to his Prussian Majesty in the 
strictest confidence some very interesting information we have re- 
ceived respecting the general views of the King of Hungary 1 ." The 
information followed, with hopeful estimates of the new Sovereign, 
and of his sincerity. These estimates were shortly confirmed by the 
shrewd and humorous British Ambassador at Vienna, Sir Robert 
Murray Keith. " I have every reason to be persuaded of the sincerity 
of his pacific professions, and it appears to me that he uses his best 
endeavours to restore the general tranquillity." But as a Scotsman and 
a soldier, Keith added: "It may not however be amiss to remark 
that with a brave army of above three hundred thousand effective 
men... and with a population as well as money sufficient to keep it up 
to that strength, he may be supposed to be able to maintain. . .a vigorous 
war against Prussia... particularly if that war shall be made (as every 
appearance seems to prognosticate) on a plan merely defensive 2 ." 

Campaigning had now begun, and what Keith anticipated is 
clear. Leeds had followed up his letter to Berlin of March i6th by 
another, in which he stated categorically that "it would be impossible 
for this country to give any expectation of supporting Prussia in a 
contest" waged to tear Galicia from Austria 3 . The Prussian Court 
was for a moment dismayed. Should Leopold act as reasonably as 
he spoke, and accept the status quo, there would be neither war nor 
compensations 4 . There was talk of British treachery at Berlin. But 
having secured his Turkish and Polish treaties, considering that Russia 
was far away, the King, after much vacillation, decided to risk 
Great Britain's defection and stand by Hertzberg's Galician plans, 
on the ground that either he would get something by them, or they 
would provoke Austria to war. He arranged "to have his whole army 
on the war establishment about the middle of next month," as Ewart 
wrote in April. " This has been judged necessary on every account and 
particularly as very considerable corps of Austrian troops are already 
assembled in Bohemia and Moravia and are daily receiving rein- 
forcements 5 ." 

1 Leeds to Ewart, March i6th, 1790. 

2 Keith to Leeds, April 5th, 1790. Prince Henry of Prussia, a constant enemy 
of Hertzberg, also thought that Austria would fight a successful defensive war. 
Heigel, op. cit. p. 255. 3 Leeds to Ewart, March soth. 

4 For details of Prussian opinion see Salomon, pp. 470-1. See also Lecky, 
VI, 127 sqq. 5 Ewart to Leeds, April i9th, 1790. 


Leopold wanted peace; but, as Keith had hinted, he was not pre- 
pared for humiliation. Perhaps his resolution was stiffened by the 
maritime quarrel about Nootka Sound which had suddenly broken 
out between Great Britain and Spain. It might give the former occu- 
pation. But, as he already knew that she would not support Prussia in 
a war for Galicia, this must have been a secondary consideration. He 
continued warlike preparations ; but he wrote most reasonable letters 
to Berlin 1 . In June, Frederick William moved to Schonwalde on the 
Silesian frontier, whither Ewart followed him, so as to keep in touch 2 . 
The King was growing impatient. "It is ridiculous to lose so much 
time, when you have an army like mine," he wrote to Hertzberg: 
matters must be settled within three weeks, or he would fight 3 . 

From Vienna, the British Ambassador did not vary his estimate 
of Leopold's good intentions and sincerity. But conflicts of royal 
with Ministerial policy, very typical of the State systems of the day, 
puzzled Keith. It is possible that Leopold utilised them to throw dust 
in his eyes. The old Chancellor Kaunitz, with his "haughty inflexi- 
bility," became so impracticable that another Minister, Count Philip 
Cobenzl, was authorised by Leopold to explain away the Chan- 
cellor's communications. Keith was asked to show them to Cobenzl, 
who would bring back his master's glosses. " It is at best (rejoined I) but 
an awkward method of doing business, and the sooner an end is put 
to it the better. But I subscribe to it for the present.... Here, My 
Lord," Keith concluded, "ends the history of Prince Kaunitz 's 
political career : Heaven forbid that I should ever hereafter insult his 
ashes 4 ." Kaunitz was not so easily buried ; but, by June, the King of 
Hungary Leopold was not yet Emperor was in effective control 
of his own policy, and seemed ready to accept British mediation of 
a peace on the basis of the status quo 5 . 

Pitt and his Cabinet, fully occupied at that time with the Spanish 
problem, could not bring their full weight to bear either on Leopold 
or on Prussia. Leeds had written, on May 2ist, that Great Britain 
would acquiesce in minor territorial rearrangements, should an 

1 Copies were regularly sent by Ewart to Leeds. 

2 He writes from Breslauon June i6th. On June 2ist, he moved to Reichenbach. 

3 June i ith. Heigel, op. cit. p. 257. Hertzberg must have told Ewart, who wrote 
to Leeds on the i6th in these very words. 

4 To Leeds, April 24th, 1790. 

5 Keith's June despatches, passim. It may be worth noting that the Dutch 
Ambassador in Vienna reported at this time that there were three policies there 
Kaunitz's, Cobenzl's, and Leopold's, "often totally distinct and separate from them 
both." Auckland [from the Hague] to Leeds, July i6th, 1790. 


196 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

armistice and, eventually, peace be attainable on no other terms. A few 
weeks later, Leopold, in one of his friendly letters to Frederick William, 
had made it clear that he could not go beyond some such minor adjust- 
ments without sacrifice of honour 1 . At the same time he sent Envoys, 
Baron Spielmann and Prince Reuss, to treat with Hertzberg, who was 
now established within twenty-five miles of the Bohemian frontier, 
at Reichenbach. 

Here, the formal Conference opened on June 27th. On the first 
day, Prussians and Austrians discussed compensations, exchanges and 
the status quo. On the 29th, Ewart and his Dutch colleague van Rheede 
were invited to attend. Ewart found that the negotiators were con- 
templating much more extensive " arrangements " than England could 
possibly approve. The Austrians were standing out for heavy com- 
pensation at the cost of the Porte which looked ugly after their 
master's professions. Leopold, in fact, was far less radically friendly 
towards Great Britain and British schemes than he led her agents to 
suppose. He criticised her bitterly in letters to his sister, and he 
would almost certainly have risked the rejection of the status quo, 
for his armies were doing well on the Danube, had Catharine promised 
more powerful support 2 . On both sides, Great Britain's influence 
was limited far more limited than a first reading of Ewart's des- 
patches suggests. Ewart threw every ounce of it into the scale ; but 
the deciding weights were in other hands, as can be read between the 
lines of his despatches 3 . 

For a month the discussions continued. Private agents came and 
went between Reichenbach and Vienna. All the personal forces at 
work in the Prussian Court made themselves felt. Varying news from 
the seat of war, and as to whether the Sultan would accept territorial 
sacrifices, supposing such were suggested by his new Ally Prussia 
who left the Treaty of January still unratified affected the course of 
the negotiations. The British and Dutch representatives laboured 
for peace. In the back-ground stood Russia, refusing to participate in a 
conference which implied mediation from outside, but influencing its 
course by a policy shifting and hard to interpret 4 . About July 2ist, 
war seemed certain ; and Frederick William sent Hertzberg "repeated 
orders to prepare the manifesto 5 ." By this time, the Prussian King 

1 Copy in Ewart to Leeds, June 

2 Wolf, Leopold und Marie Christine, pp. 163 sqq. Salomon, p. 585. 

3 A long series, July ist, 8th, i6th, i8th, 22nd, 25th, 28th, August 4th. I over- 
rated the importance of Ewart's influence in my Causes of the War of 1792, pp. 61-2. 

4 See Rose, I. 527. 5 Ewart to Leeds, July 25th. 


had anchored his tossing mind to the alternative of the strict status 
quo or war. He hoped to pin Austria on one horn of this dilemma. 
Hertzberg's view was that Leopold could not accept the strict status 
quo without dishonour 1 . Thus, he expected, and now desired, war. 
At Vienna, Kaunitz shared Hertzberg's view. But on July 23rd came 
news that Austria would not fight for her compensation ; and on the 
27th Declarations and Counter-declarations were exchanged. 

Austria declared herself ready to conclude an armistice with the 
Porte, with a view to a status quo peace, though a hope was expressed 
that the Sultan might accept a few frontier adjustments. She would 
not participate in the Russo-Turkish War, should it continue. Prussia 
stipulated that, if the Sultan freely gave Austria anything, Austria 
must give Prussia something. Prussia and the Sea Powers were to 
guarantee Belgium to Austria, but also Belgium's ancient Con- 
stitutions. The Sea Powers promised to support the whole settlement 
which was exactly what the British Cabinet had always desired 
and to continue their mediation at the ensuing Peace Congress 2 . At 
the last, both Hertzberg and Kaunitz had to be forced to sign, by 
personal notes from their respective masters 3 . 

And now, wrote Frederick William to Hertzberg, we must work 
through Ewart to get English support in forcing the status quo on 
Russia. He had already used an opportunity of binding England to 
him by gratitude for services rendered. Two months earlier, Hertz- 
berg had told Ewart that, if England's quarrel with Spain led to war, 
she might count on Prussia. 

On January 7th, 1790, Consul-general Merry had written to the 
Duke of Leeds from Madrid : "Accounts have just been received here 
from Mexico that one of the small ships of war on the American 
establishment... has captured an English vessel in the port of Nootka 
(called by the Spaniards San Lorenzo) in Lat. 50 North of the coast 
of California. There are different relations of this event." A month 
later 4 , the Spanish Ambassador in London claimed for his country 
the sovereignty of those parts, i.e. the modern Vancouver Island and 
British Columbia. Leeds replied stiffly that, until the ship was 
restored and the violence atoned for, the question of principle must 
wait 5 , though, as his despatches show, the British Cabinet had no 

1 Salomon, p. 485. 2 Ewart to Leeds, July 28th. 

8 Heigel, I. 267. 

4 February nth, Rose, I. 565. As to the very complicated question of what 
actually happened in Nootka Sound, see Rose, passim. 

6 February i6th. A rather bullying despatch, drafted by Pitt. 

198 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

intention of conceding the principle. In Spain, Count Florida Blanca 
was distressed, so he said, at the British tone : in these times especially, 
such matters ought to be discussed without heat 1 . In April, there 
were preparations both in English and Spanish dockyards; and at 
the end of the month the heat in this country was not lowered by the 
reception of a memorial from the aggrieved party, Meares, an ex- 
lieutenant of the Navy, who had bought land from the Indians at 
Nootka and was carrying on the fur-trade there. He made strong 
charges of cruelty and bad faith against the Spaniards. 

War was already in sight. " I can see only one circumstance," Merry 
wrote on April i2th 2 , "which may incline the King of Spain and his 
Ministry to war it is the idea that it might be the means to re- 
establish the royal authority in France, as that Kingdom would 
naturally take a part." The whole tone of Florida Blanca's communi- 
cations with Eden in 1789 justifies the assumption that the motive 
indicated may have been at work 3 . But, when Merry wrote, he did 
not think it would prevail to overcome the Spanish Minister's desire 
for peace. However, after Great Britain had officially intimated that 
she was arming, and had sent out the pressgangs, opinion at the 
Spanish Court became more warlike. This was in the first week of 
May 4 . Merry's explanation was "that the national vanity of Spain had 
so much increased of late, as well by the situation of France, as by the 
manner in which she has been flattered by the Imperial Courts " in 
connexion, that is, with the schemes for a Quadruple Alliance 5 . It 
is true that Florida Blanca had been losing his hold on affairs, since 
the death of Charles III in 1788 ; persons vain in every sense of the 
word were acquiring influence at Court. Indeed, the British agent 
had suggested that the Count might conceivably be contemplating 
war, in order to secure his position against them 6 . 

Meanwhile, Pitt, who had not forgotten how the Family Compact 
had helped Washington, took a hand in the game of revolution- 
making in a rival's discontented provinces, as played by Hertzberg, 

1 Merry to Leeds, March 22nd. 

2 To Leeds. 

3 See, especially, Eden to Leeds July 27th; August loth. It maybe noted that 
Eden had "never... seen reason to doubt either the veracity or the candour of Count 
Florida Blanca." To Leeds, February 23 rd, 1789. 

4 Leeds to Merry, May 3rd, notifying armament, and the May despatches from 
Madrid. The pressgangs were out on the 5th. A French agent in England wrote: 
" Si Vonjuge des projets du gouvernement anglais par les preparaiifs, on doit croire a une 
guerre la plus longue et la plus severe possible" Sorel, n. 85. 

5 To Leeds, May 2Oth. 

6 In his letter of April i2th. 


by entering into personal relation with Miranda, Brissot's friend, the 
exiled advocate of South- American independence 1 . Pitt, with the full 
support of his King, was now challenging Spain on the question of 
principle 2 the claim to sovereignty over the Pacific coast up to 
60 N. Not wishing to exclude a peaceful solution, he sent Alleyne 
Fitzherbert on a special mission to Madrid, at the end of May. But 
it would appear that in no case did he mean to withdraw. His ready, 
almost brutal, acceptance of this challenge to a struggle in which 
maritime prestige and the freedom of colonisation were at stake is in 
notable contrast with his laboured approach to any Continental 
problem. The reaction is instinctive: there are to be no abstract 
rights over blocks of parallels of latitude : the beard of the King of 
Spain is to be singed. 

Fitzherbert went by Paris, to test the strength of the Family 
Compact ; for no one supposed that Spain would fight, if the Compact 
now proved too weak to hold France to her. He was ''inclined to 
believe that M. de Montmorin is perfectly sincere in the desire that 
he professes to see our difference with Spain terminated amicably," 
but could "plainly perceive that many of the other members of the 
aristocratical faction are anxious to bring on a war." * * However, their 
opponents begin to be aware of their drift and... have chosen the 
present time for carrying into execution their plan of transferring the 
power of making war and peace from the Crown to the National 
Assembly 3 ." It was the King's intimation, given on May i4th, that 
he proposed to arm forty ships of the line as a precautionary measure, 
which had roused the Assembly. Montmorin hoped that the threat 
from the old enemy, risen from her humiliation of seven years ago, 
might rally the representatives of the people to the Throne. On the 
contrary, it crippled French diplomatic and military action by ren- 
dering the seat of authority uncertain. Robespierre was up on the 
1 5th of May, proposing that France should renounce all wars of 
conquest; Petion followed on the i7th, Volney on the iSth, Barnave 
on the 2 1 st. Mirabeau stood for the King and was called a traitor. 
By the 22nd it had been decided that the King might propose war 
to the Assembly, but might not declare it without their concurrence. 
"England has nothing more to fear from France and can lay hands 
on the hegemony of the two worlds, without scruple and without 

1 Details in Rose, I. 569. 

2 Despatch of May 4th. 

3 Fitzherbert to Leeds, May 2Oth. 

200 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

fear," bitterly wrote a French agent from London 1 . Fitzherbert went 
on to Madrid with some confidence. 

He found the Spaniards unexpectedly, and as he thought stupidly, 
warlike from a feeling of jealousy, he supposed. They seemed, he 
said, not to count much on France, but had hopes of the United States 2 . 
However, before the end of July he had signed an agreement with 
Florida Blanca as to the actual episode of Nootka Sound. Spain pro- 
mised satisfaction 3 . "Their present object," he now reported, "is 
to preserve peace on alnwst any terms." 

No doubt, one reason was that they had asked France for armed 
assistance in the middle of June and had hitherto received no reply. 
Montmorin only laid the matter before the Assembly on August 2nd. 
It was referred to the Diplomatic Committee, presided over by Mira- 
beau. Not knowing what the outcome might be, Pitt kept his fleets 
ready. On August 25th, at Mirabeau's suggestion, the Assembly 
decided to arm forty-five capital ships and begin a negotiation with 
Spain for the transformation of the Family Compact into a National 
Compact. A little earlier, Florida Blanca had told Fitzherbert that 
his appeal to France had been merely pro forma and occasioned by 
England's similar, and earlier, appeal to her Ally the United Provinces. 
He did not expect help from the National Assembly, "nor in truth 
did he desire to receive any, at the immediate risk of introducing 
by that means into this kingdom those democratic principles now so 
universally prevalent. . .in France 4 ." He would, however, welcome 
support from Russia and Austria, but this of course he did not say 
he had received no encouragement from either. When the proposal 
for a new sort of Compact was ready, in September, he explained that 
his King loathed it, but would have to accept, "if the Court of London 
pressed too hardly upon him in the present juncture 5 ." But, since 
the proposal was accompanied by the suggestion that Spain should 
restore Louisiana to France, and since Spain neither wished to do 
this, nor desired an alliance with the democrats, nor yet believed in the 
fighting value of such an alliance, Florida Blanca yielded to relentless 
pressure from London 6 , and signed, on October 28th. The claim to 

Sorel, ii. 91. 

To Leeds, June i6th. 

Fitzherbert to Leeds, July 25th. 

Fitzherbert to Leeds, August iQth. 

Fitzherbert to Leeds, September i6th. 

On October 2nd Leeds is writing of "one further effort" and "our final and 
unalterable decisions," which if not accepted negotiations are to be broken off. To 


Pacific dominion north of the actual Spanish settlements was with- 
drawn : the Pacific, though not these settlements, was declared open to 
British commerce and fishery : and full restitution and compensation 
were guaranteed to the parties aggrieved at Nootka Sound 1 . 

In Continental history, the most famous aspect of the Nootka 
Sound affair is its relation to the career of Mirabeau. What was 
his policy ? Why did he suggest armament yet go no further ? What 
were his exact relations with Pitt's two semi-official agents, his own 
friend Hugh Elliot and W. A. Miles? Did either of them use the 
legendary "gold of Pitt"? The probability is that they did 2 . But 
these are, in truth, all secondary problems in the history of British 
Foreign Policy. Nothing suggests that, had France vigorously sup- 
ported Spain, Pitt's policy would have been altered. From the 
French side, it is most doubtful whether such vigorous support could 
have been given, whatever course Mirabeau had followed. And Spain 
never really wanted alliance on the only terms considered in France. 
"His Catholic Majesty could not reconcile it to His Feelings to 
contribute, at a critical moment like the present, to the extinguishing 
the reviving hopes of the partisans of the French monarchy by... a 
renunciation on his part of the Family Compact 3 ." 

But the correspondence relating to the negotiations with Mirabeau 
raises a wider issue. When consenting to Elliot's mission, King George 
stipulated that there should be no interference whatever in French 
internal affairs, no taking sides among the French parties. " We have 
honourably not meddled with the internal dissensions of France," 
he wrote, "and no object ought to drive us from that honourable 
ground 4 ." Pitt's relations with Miranda show that such interference 
was not beneath the dignity of the British Cabinet ; but the King's 
statement was nevertheless true. The British inaction had surprised 
Continental observers. Even in 1789, the diplomatic gossips in Berlin 
could not understand Pitt's conduct; they thought he could not be 
such a fool as not to declare war 5 . And a German scholar wrote: 
"What do you think of the French Revolution? That England has 

1 For the final stages see Fitzherbert's despatches of October I4th, i8th, 24th, 
28th. On October i4th, on receipt of Leed's of October 2nd, he feared rupture. 

2 Rose, Pitt, i. 577 sqq. a discussion which goes nearer to providing satisfactory 
answers to these questions than any other. 

9 Fitzherbert to Leeds, November 28th, 1790. 

4 To Pitt, October 26th, 1790. P. V. Smith MSS. p. 368 in H.M.C. Duke of 
Beaufort MSS. and others. The collection was made by Pitt's secretary, Joseph 

6 Report of the Comte d'Esterno from Berlin, September 9th, 1789. Sorel, 
n. 29*1. 

202 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

allowed it is a tribute to her heart, but not to her head 1 ." No doubt, 
the heart had its influence. An English statesman could scarcely 
have interfered, had he wished it, in the early days of sympathy for 
a people struggling for freedom. And the King's honourable horror 
of such interference as that from which he had himself suffered during 
the American War was always a restraining force. But a main reason 
for abstention was a calculation of the head, which proved to be 
wrong that France was no longer dangerous. That "the rival of 
Great Britain was, at least for the present annihilated," was still an 
axiom in the Foreign Office at the end of ijqo 2 . Great Britain did not 
at once realise, as the German scholar did, that " the republic of twenty- 
four millions would give her more trouble than the autocracy." In 
1789-90, she did not foresee a republic. 

In one of his despatches to Fitzherbert, Leeds had explained that 
Great Britain could not reduce her naval establishment until France 
did the same. He had added that it would not be wise to do so, with 
the Russian matter still pending 3 . At that time, the representatives 
of Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Holland and Turkey were preparing 
to move to the dirty little oriental town of Sistova on the Danube 4 , 
to arrange an eastern peace on the basis of the status quo. Sir Robert 
Keith arrived there on December 2Oth 5 . No Russian came. On 
December 22nd, Suvoroff, Bessarabia now behind him, stormed 
Ismail, far down the river, and was in a position to organise an in- 
vasion of the Sultan's home provinces, by way of the Dobrudja. 
Earlier in the month (December 2nd), Leopold's armies, set in motion 
against his rebellious subjects in Belgium, had entered Brussels 
without difficulty. The Belgians had been ruined by their divisions. 
All through 1790, the democratic party, headed by Vonck, had been 
working against the Catholic and Constitutional party of van der Noot. 
These "Red Patriots," as an English agent called them 6 , had been 
encouraged by the visits of two French agents, first La Fayette's 
confidant Semonville, then Dumouriez, who had reported very un- 
favourably on the military prospects of any Belgian Government 7 . By 

1 Georg Forster. Cf. Gooch, Germany and the French Revolution, p. 304. 

2 From a long unsigned and undated memoir On a Defensive Alliance with Spain, 
a subject under discussion after the Nootka settlement. 

3 Leeds to Fitzherbert, October and, 1790. 

4 Now in Bulgaria. 

5 Memoirs of Sir R. M. Keith, n. 324. 

6 Colonel Gardiner to Leeds, February 2nd, 1790. 

7 Gardiner's reports of July I2th and 26th and August 2nd contain a full 
account of this mission and an excellent appreciation of Dumouriez. 


the beginning of 1791, not only had Belgian opposition to Leopold 
collapsed ; his tact and discretion had calmed the rest of his dominions. 

It is not therefore surprising, nor really very discreditable, that 
the Austrian representatives at Sistova should have wasted time and 
attempted to escape from their promise about the status quo 1 . The 
promise had been extracted by pressure. Suvoroff was now exerting 
great, if indirect, counter-pressure. -That the Triple Alliance would 
be able to force Catharine to renounce her conquests seemed unlikely. 
If Turkey collapsed, were the Habsburgs, who had suffered much in 
contributing to that collapse, to go away empty handed? 

Catharine's position had been strengthened during 1790 by the 
action of Gustavus III of Sweden. Saved from what looked like a risk 
of destruction in 1788, he had managed to carry through a coup d'etat 
against the aristocratic party, in 1789. But his political successes 
at home had not improved his financial position. He always tried 
to drive hard bargains with the Triple Alliance ; and, at any time, the 
prospects of active Swedish campaigning depended on the success of 
such bargains 2 . In 1790, he could only secure a small part of his 
demands from Great Britain and Prussia, the Dutch being unwilling 
to assist. Catharine made him attractive offers after Reichenbach. 
Moreover, ever since October, 1789, he had been passionately interested 
in the fate of his ancient Ally the King of France, and he wished to 
be free to champion the cause of monarchy. His solicitude for that 
cause, if romantic and impracticable, was disinterested. Suddenly, 
in July, 1790, although a British fleet was ready to sail to the Baltic, 
and although he had promised not to conclude a separate peace with 
Russia, he sent Baron Armfelt to conclude such a peace. The way 
was made easy for Armfelt, and Peace was signed on August i4th, 
i7 9 o 3 . 

This defection had increased the desire, which had long existed 
in London, to widen the Triple Alliance. Gustavus himself had been 
an ally designate. Among other possible allies were Denmark but 
she was unlikely and the reformed Republic of Poland, which would 
have been glad of this admission to the circle of Great Powers. As 
the chief British promoters of this extended system of alliances were 

1 See Keith's Memoirs, n. 369 sqq. Letters of February to June, 1791. 

"The Swede is not much to be depended on even when highly paid." Auck- 
land to Grenville, April zoth, 1791. Dropmore Papers, n. 49. 

3 See Geffroy, Gustave III et la cour de France, u. 102 sqq. and Rose, Pitt, 
I' 530-2. In January, 1791, Gustavus wrote to Catharine to suggest a joint refusal 
to recognise the tricolour flag. Geffroy, II. 1 1 1 . 

204 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

Ewart at Berlin and Hailes at Warsaw, the chances of Poland's 
admission to what these Ambassadors, in their despatches, referred 
to as "the great federal chain 1 " at one time seemed good. The final 
detachment of Poland from her Russian connexion was specially 
attractive at a time when Catharine appeared the chief obstacle to 
"the restoration of general tranquillity." But Prussia looked on Poland 
as her own preserve and suspected any proposal for a commercial 
treaty, the form into which the projected Anglo-Polish rapprochement 
was first thrown. " It is contrary to myinterests and insidious and must 
be set aside," King Frederick William wrote in October 2 . He was con- 
scious that any strengthening of Poland would make her less likely to 
cede the necessary minimum after all these years of effort, that is, Thorn 
and Danzig. At the end of the year the Poles had a representative in 
London, Count Oginski, who had a series of interviews with Pitt 3 . 
Poland was, also, in treaty with the Porte for a commercial outlet 
down the Dniester, to evade a Prussian throttling of the Vistula trade. 
She was most reluctant to cede anything, and was furious with 
Prussia who had not won for her any part of Galicia, yet still talked of 
compensation. Pitt gave Oginski good economic advice, and sug- 
gested the cession of Danzig alone, in return for a commercial treaty 
with Prussia providing for outlets in that direction. The suggestion 
was acceptable neither to Poland nor to Prussia. Thus, when, in 
January, 1791, actual proposals for the admission of Poland to the 
Triple Alliance were sent to Berlin and Warsaw, the business lan- 
guished until the break up of the Alliance in April; and it was 
never revived 4 . At this very time, Hertzberg was preparing the way 
for the Second Partition by secret personal dealings with Russia 5 . 

Catharine was known to demand Oczakoif and its district. It 
was supposed, but not certainly known, that this was meant to cover 
all the land to the Dniester, including Odessa at that time a village 
never mentioned in the despatches. Frederick William was com- 
mitted to the support of Turkey, and was at this time resolute for the 
status quo. If he could force it on Russia, Austria could not evade it, 
and, at least, no rival would gain territory and " souls " the currency of 
Princely bargains when he as yet had acquired none. But he did not 
want war. In England, his most valuable advocates were Whitworth, 

1 Hailes to Leeds, June i8th, 1790. He has heard with delight from Ewart 
of the prospect of Poland, Sweden and the Porte entering our " great federal chain." 

2 October 2ist. Salomon, p. 500. 

3 See Rose, I. 594 sqq. and Salomon, pp. 506-7. 

4 Rose, i. 595, 599. 5 See Rose, I. 597. 


whose despatches from Petrograd led Pitt to suppose that Russia 
must yield to a threat of force 1 , and Joseph Ewart, on leave from 
Berlin in the winter of 1790-1. Ewart had laid before Pitt a series of 
Considerations on the expediency of combining Poland, Turkey and one 
of the inferior Baltic Powers in the defensive System of the Allies*. He 
insisted on the enormous importance of Oczakoff and the risk to 
British prestige which its acquisition by Catharine would involve. 
There was also the certainty of losing our chief Ally, who had stood 
by us in the Nootka business, and, with him, all control over Leopold 
and the course of events. Ewart's argument was traversed by Auck- 
land, now Ambassador at the Hague. Writing to Pitt personally he 
urged "the importance of peace to your whole system of government," 
suggested that "we overrated the object in question," as Oczakoff 
was not really vital, and explained that he had good reason to believe 
that the King of Prussia had no wish for a Russian war 3 . The 
Pensionary van de Spiegel supported Auckland. 

Ewart won. By the beginning of February Great Britain was com- 
mitted in principle to the enforcement of the status quo on Russia 
by a threat of force, though a final decision was postponed. Reluctance 
to risk the break up of an Alliance which had done much for the 
peace of Europe and our own prestige ; a measure of gratitude to the 
King of Prussia; fear lest the Austro-Turkish Peace, for whose 
character Great Britain stood pledged, should miscarry ; forebodings 
of an ultimate clash of interest between Russia and ourselves in the 
Near East ; and perhaps some desire to school a particularly arrogant 
woman all contributed to the decision. Ewart was arguing his case, 
but also stating the main issue as he induced Ministers to see it, when 
he wrote to Auckland on January 5th : " I am sure your Lordship will 
agree with me... that Oczakoff and its district are very secondary 
considerations in comparison of the great influence which the decision 
of the present question must have on the strength and permanency 
of the system of the Allies on which the preservation of peace likewise 
depends 4 ." 

Auckland did his duty at the Hague with reluctance. "If that 
Russian business could happily be settled we might sit still and look 

1 Rose, i. 598. 

2 Pitt MSS. Salomon, p. 502. There are also two able Memoirs by Ewart on 
Anglo-Russian relations, dated April, 1791, in the Drop-more Papers^ II. 44 sqq. 

3 To Pitt, January 29th, 1791. Dropmore Papers, n. 22. 

4 Auckland MSS., B.M. Add. 34435. J. B. Burges, the Under-secretary for 
Foreign Affairs, wrote more and more in this same strain to Auckland e.g. March 
ist, 1791, showing that Ewart's doctrine had become official orthodoxy. 

2o6 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

at the French story like spectators in a theatre," he wrote to his 
brother in January. And, in March, he wrote to Grenville: "This 
phantom of Oczakoff has appeared to me for some time to beckon 
us towards an abyss of new debts and endless difficulties at a moment 
. . .when it may be essential perhaps to the very existence of our govern- 
ment and of many other civilised states, that we should maintain our 
own internal peace... 1 ." Auckland had now comprehended the 
possible dangers from "a republic of twenty-four millions," which 
Georg Forster foresaw in 1789. 

Pitt took no risks and worked at all the Courts, beginning with 
his Allies, before reaching his final decision. Plans were communicated 
to the Hague and Berlin. At the Hague, information was sought from 
the Dutch Admiral Kingsbergen, who had recently visited Oczakoff. 
Frederick William was told that London saw no possible counter- 
alliance which might prevent the humbling of Russia in the spring 2 . 
At Madrid, Fitzherbert was to solicit Spanish help or, failing that, 
a promise of neutrality. He secured the latter a promise of "the 
strictest neutrality 3 ." Copenhagen made the same promise. At 
Stockholm, Liston failed to catch "the Swede" with offers of money. 
Lord Elgin, who had been sent on a special mission to Leopold II 
in November, 1790, to congratulate him on his accession and facilitate 
a Belgian settlement by direct negotiation, was, if he could, to secure 
Austrian cooperation in a general settlement, and to speed up the 
Congress of Sistova; or at least, to keep Leopold from helping the 
Tsarina 4 . Paris was not neglected. Hugh Elliot and Miles were to 
let it be known privately that Pitt was not making preparations against 
France 5 . 

By the end of February, Frederick William had learnt, as he 
supposed, that Austria might be kept quiet possibly by concessions 
at Sistova in the event of a Prusso-Russian war. He had learnt it, in 
a way characteristic of his methods, by the despatch to Vienna of his 
personal favourite and confidant Colonel Bischoffswerder. Pitt, mean- 
while, was testing the information about Oczakoff supplied from 
Holland, which, coming through Auckland, insisted on the un- 

1 To Morton Eden, January nth; to Grenville, March 5th. B.M. Add. 

2 Leeds to Jackson (Ewart's deputy), January 8th. 

3 Leeds to Fitzherbert, January 3rd ; Fitzherbert to Leeds January 29th. 

4 Elgin's special mission, P.O. Austria, vol. 23. Despatches of January to 

5 Miles Correspondence, i. 43, 280. All these various negotiations are referred 
to by Salomon, pp. 504-6. 


important aspects of the place 1 . Leeds was talking of how to avoid 
war without sacrificing honour. He feared we were too far committed 2 . 
In Berlin, at the same time, Hertzberg was thinking of the same things, 
though from another angle. Hertzberg, however, was not Prussia. The 
King did not desire war, but wrote, on March nth, a personal letter 
to his Ambassador in London explaining the reputedly favourable 
attitude of Leopold, and suggesting the coercion of Russia by a 
"display of force 3 ." This letter decided the British Cabinet. On 
March ayth, the ultimatum went to Russia, and plans for naval and 
military preparations to Berlin 4 . Catharine was to resign all the 
conquests of this war, but might retain the Crimea, absorbed in 1783. 
It was to recover the Crimea that Turkey had declared war in 1788. 
There remained Parliament, which was apprised next day of the 
need for naval preparations. The Lords were critical, but yielded 
a substantial majority. In the Commons, Pitt seems to have opened 
badly; the Whigs had excellent opportunities; but the majority was 
again considerable. Yet there was no enthusiasm for the policy of 
Ministers, which is in no way surprising, in view of the remoteness 
of the object and the hesitation they had themselves shown in adopting 
it. Further, on the day they despatched their ultimatum, news came, 
first, from Auckland who controlled a better cabinet noir than any 
other British diplomatist that "he had happened to see" a ciphered 
Prussian despatch which showed clearly that, in spite of the King's 
letter, the Emperor was not to be trusted, and, secondly, from Drake 
at Copenhagen, that Catharine was likely to prove reasonable in 
negotiation 5 . The Cabinet met often and discussed long, early in 
April. Some change of front was suggested, but opposed by Leeds, 
who did not see how it could be managed with honour 6 . By April 
loth Pitt was confessing to Ewart, that he had failed to make the 
House understand the matter and could never carry the vote of credit, 
and was " repeating, even with tears in his eyes, that it was the greatest 
mortification he had ever experienced 7 ." Within a few days, Leeds 
had refused to sign despatches suggesting a modification of the 
ultimatum, and had made way for William Grenville. Before the 

1 Rose, I. 604. 

2 To Auckland, March nth. Quoted in Rose, I. 605, from B.M. Add. 34436. 

3 Rose, I. 607-8, where the King's letter is quoted from the F. O. records. 
Salomon (p. 514) failed to find the original at Berlin. 

4 Leeds to Jackson and Leeds to Whitworth, March 27th. 

5 Rose, i. 614-5. 

6 See Browning, Political Memoranda of Francis, Fifth Duke of Leeds, 1 50-73 . 

7 Major-General Sir Spencer Ewart's MSS., first used by Rose, I. 617. 

2 o8 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

end of the month, Ewart, returning to Berlin from a sense of loyalty 
towards Pitt, in order to undo his own policy, had seen the King, who 
said repeatedly that, "as he was convinced the intentions were good, 
however mortified he might be at the change, he would concur in 
doing everything in his power to prevent bad consequences 1 ." In 
July, Auckland was explaining to his brother how much he preferred 
Grenville to Leeds, and how "from the hour of his taking the seals 
we have laboured hard to get not quite disgracefully out of a very 
bad scrape, and I begin to hope that it will end tolerably well 2 ." This 
was after the flight to Varennes the hinge on which European history 
in 1791 swings. "All political speculation will now turn to France," 
Auckland wrote in August. Russian affairs, he said, were not working 
out so ill after all 3 . Catharine would obtain her Dniester boundary, but 
no more. His desire to see these affairs out of the way, that the 
English might " look at the French story like spectators in a theatre," 
seemed near fulfilment. 

Spectators they became for a year and more. From every Court, 
when once the debris of Russian policy and the Sistova Congress have 
been cleared up, the reports of the British Ambassadors are those of 
a profoundly interested audience at the great Continental play. The 
Triple Alliance faded into nominal life, a "conviction of good in- 
tentions" being a poor foundation even for a political friendship. 
"I know now," Ewart wrote in August, "that though the King and 
Colonel Bischoffswerder professed to be satisfied with the explanation 
I gave them, they immediately lost confidence in the resources both 
of the Alliance and of this country 4 ." So, Great Britain lost her 
diplomatic point d'appui. The Congress of Sistova was speeded up, 
not so much because Elgin demanded it, as because Leopold became 
absorbed in French affairs, anxious to put others aside, and thus 
accessible to Colonel Bischoffswerder, the leading Prussian advocate 
of interference in France. In May and June, Elgin was following 
Leopold up and down Italy, trying to detach him from Russia, ac- 
cording to instructions. While Elgin was talking in terms of the 
previous year's diplomacy, Leopold aware of his sister's projected 
flight was debating whether the friendship which Great Britain 
offered might not be used to establish a European Concert for the 
settlement of France. Elgin came to think that Leopold was mainly 

1 Ewart to Grenville, April soth. 

2 July icth. B.M. Add. 34438. 

3 To Morton Eden, August izth. B.M. Add. 34439. 

4 To Grenville, August zist. 


concerned to check the "progress of democratical principles." " Nay, 
his Imperial Majesty went so far as to suggest the expediency of 
guaranteeing not only the possessions, but also the Constitutions of 
the different States of Europe 1 ." 

A month later, Bischoffswerder came to Italy from Berlin to offer 
an alliance, and was well received. Before the news of Varennes 
arrived, Leopold had promised to finish at Sistova and had issued the 
necessary orders. He had agreed to a defensive alliance with Prussia, 
and to a personal interview with Frederick William. Elgin, though 
kept on the fringe of affairs, knew the outline of all this 2 . After the 
Varennes catastrophe, Leopold issued his Padua Circular to the Powers, 
with its suggestion of joint action to "vindicate the liberty and honour 
of the Most Christian King and his family, and to limit the dangerous 
extremes of the French Revolution." 

Great Britain did not commit herself over this Circular, until she 
was sure that Leopold meant to finish at Sistova. Such was now his 
intention. By August i3th the Sistova Treaty was ratified at Vienna. 
After the lapse of a year, the Reichenbach agreement had been strictly 
carried out and British policy endorsed. Attached to the main Treaty 
was a separate Convention specifying "the small and voluntary con- 
cessions which the Turks were disposed to grant 3 " ; but this had been 
allowed for at Reichenbach. Three days earlier, Catharine's negotiators 
had agreed to preliminaries of peace with Turkey. No mediating 
Powers were there: Catharine had never intended otherwise. She 
secured her Dniester boundary. In consequence of Great Britain's 
volte-face in the matter of Oczakoff, the event forms no part of the 
history of British Foreign Policy, though, perhaps, but for that 
policy and its reactions on Austria, Catharine might not have re- 
nounced Bessarabia. 

After that, Great Britain hardly made a pretence of remaining in the 
Triple Alliance or of continuing to figure on the Continental stage. 
Witness Grenville's private letter to Auckland of August 23rd: "The 
conclusion of the Sistova business has removed every difficulty which 
there was in the way of our speaking out, and avowing our determina- 
tion of the most scrupulous neutrality in the French business and 
I now hold this language to all the foreign ministers, in order that 
it may be clearly understood that we are no parties to any step the 

1 To Grenville, May 9th, 1791. 

2 His despatches June i3th, I4th, i8th contain fairly full accounts, derived 
apparently from Bischoffswerder. 

3 Keith to Grenville, August 2nd, 1791. 

W.&G.I. 14 

aio PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

King of Prussia may take on this subject 1 ." Or see Grenville's Instruc- 
tions to Keith a month later, after Leopold and Frederick William 
had issued the Declaration of Pillnitz (August 27th), and the Emigrant 
Princes their insolent address to King Lewis, in which they told him 
he had no right to sign the new Constitution: "With respect to the 
concert which has been proposed to His Majesty and to other Powers 
by the Emperor, or to the measures of active intervention which 
appear to have been in contemplation for the restoration of the French 
monarchy .. .the King has determined not to take any part either in 
supporting or in opposing them. This resolution he has already ex- 
plained to his allies and also to other powers, and... he commanded 
me to instruct you to use a similar language at Vienna 2 ." 

Six months later, March 2Oth, 1792, Auckland, now in retirement 
at Beckenham, yet "every day seeing well-informed men of all 
descriptions," wrote to a friend that he had heard recently from 
Mr Burges, the Under- Secretary at the Foreign Office; but that "the 
remarks which he makes are general and chiefly calculated. . .to explain 
that England has little concern now in what is going forward on the 
Continent" the Revolutionary Wars began a month later "except 
perhaps with regard to Poland, to which the Empress seems to turn 
her attention in a manner that may eventually interest other powers 
though it will not implicate us." Catharine was moving up her 
armies to destroy the reformed Polish Constitution, completed in 
May, 1791, after the Triple Alliance and with it Great Britain's Polish 
policy had cracked. She was also inciting Prussia and Austria to 
attack France, in order to obtain "elbow room" in Poland 3 . "His 
remark," Auckland continued, "that we have no concern in foreign 
politics is true in another sense to a degree that I cannot describe to 
you... and this indifference as to foreign affairs is general thro' the 
kingdom ; you may trace it even in your newspapers ; perhaps it may 
justly be attributed to the great prosperity of the country, which 
confines all attention to interior and insular details. I have lately 
much wished to pass a day or two at the Hague for the sake of a little 
rational conversation 4 ." Auckland instanced, as the kind of topic in 
which no interest whatever was taken by representative Englishmen, 
the death of the Emperor Leopold (March ist, 1792). It was a well- 

1 B.M. Add. 34439. 

2 Grenville to Keith, September igth, 1791. 

3 Sorel, ii. 216-7. See also Kaunitz' analysis of her motives in Vivenot, Quellen 
zur Geschichte der . . .Kaiserpolitik Oesterreichs, I. 358. 

4 B.M. Add. 34441. 


chosen illustration; for, although it is most unlikely that Leopold 
would have averted the clash between Old Europe and revolutionary 
France in 1792 both he and the French were too deeply committed 
to war before he died yet it is certain that the loss of his skilful 
and mediating personality and the substitution for it of a young and 
ignorant Prince, dominated by a mixed group of advisers, were a 
disaster for Europe. 

Auckland wrote as a diplomatist, with a high standard of interest 
in foreign affairs. There was in England no lack of vague interest; 
Burke 's Reflections sold well; but, from Pitt downwards, the country 
was in a mood to wash its hands of Continental matters. Even Pitt's 
interest in them had been intermittent. Now, the old enemy was 
believed to be crippled. She must be watched, but need not be 
countered. Hardly anyone had begun to think regularly of Russian 
power as a danger to English interests. In 1790, some attention had 
been given to a pamphlet which made much of the Russian threat to 
the Balance of Power in Europe ; but Oczakoff revealed the funda- 
mental indifference. Only a handful of experts had ever understood 
the working of the Triple Alliance. It was an affair of Cabinets and 
Courts and favourites, of intercepted despatches and Congresses in 
inaccessible places. No single event in its history, since the initial 
strokes in the Low Countries, was of the least interest to the average 
educated Englishman. With Nootka Sound it had been different. The 
place was more remote than Sistova or Oczakoff; but, even down to 
the No-Popery mobs of London, Englishmen could understand a 
maritime quarrel with Spain. 

"The English," we find Albert Sorel writing, towards the end of 
the nineteenth century, "only make up their minds to fight when 
their interests seem absolutely threatened. But then, plunging into 
the struggle because they feel themselves bound to do so, they apply 
to it a serious and concentrated passion, an animosity the more 
tenacious because its motive is so self-regarding. Their history is 
full of alternations between an indifference which makes people think 
them decadent, and a rage which baffles their foes. They are seen, in 
turn, abandoning and dominating Europe, neglecting the greatest 
Continental matters and claiming to control even the smallest, turning 
from peace at any price to war to the death 1 ." During the early years 
of Pitt's Ministry, they had been in one of these phases of apparent 
indifference. From 1787 to 1791, they seemed to be preparing for 

1 L'Europe et la Revolution Franfaise, I. 240. (First published in 1885.) 


2i2 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

the alternative phase. Had Oczakoff led to a general war but for 
the change of front, a very probable contingency then the phase of 
rage might have set in ; for a general war would soon have threatened 
England's nearer interests. As it was, the phase of indifference never 
seemed more complete than in the eighteen months which preceded 
the longest of her modern Wars. 

After the rebuff to the Padua Circular, the Powers of Europe made 
no attempt to influence her. The Emigrant Princes tried, now and again ; 
but their cause was so hopeless, in view of England's deliberately 
adopted attitude, that the details have no place in the history of her 
foreign policy. "Repeated applications have been made to His 
Majesty," Grenville wrote at the end of August, 1791, "on the part 
of the Emperor, of the King of Sweden, and of the French Princes, 
to concert in the plans which are in agitation for restoring the French 
monarchy. But His Majesty has determined not to depart from... 
strict neutrality 1 ." From that policy there was not the slightest 
deviation during the following year. It was the same when England 
was approached from another section of French opinion the Con- 
stitutional revolutionary party. The approaches were made, first, 
informally before the outbreak of war in Europe in 1792, and then, 
formally, after the outbreak. On both occasions Talleyrand was the 
agent. The object was to ensure English neutrality and feel towards 
an Anglo-French entente 2 . 

Talleyrand came first, in the middle of January, 1792. The visit 
and its results were summarised, from the English side, by Grenville, 
writing to Lord Gower at Paris, early in March 3 . "Since I wrote to 
Your Excellency on the subject of M. de Talleyrand I have seen that 
gentleman twice. The first time he explained to me very much at large 
the disposition of the French Government... to enter into the strictest 
connection with Great Britain, and proposed that this should be done 
by a Treaty of mutual guaranty, or in such other manner as the Govern- 
ment of this country should prefer." Grenville told him that he did 
not expect to be able to enter into any kind of negotiation with an 
agent not officially accredited. At the second interview, he confirmed 
this, but had no difficulty in saying to Talleyrand, as an individual, 
"that it was very far from being the disposition of this Government to 

1 To Lord St Helens (Fitzherbert), August 26th, 1791. See W. Grenville to 
George Aust (of the Foreign Office), September 2oth, 1791, with Instructions for 
a reply to the Emigrants. The critical passage is quoted in Lecky, v. 558. 

2 See Pallain, La Mission de Talleyrand a Londres en 1792. 

3 Grenville to Gower, March 9th. 


endeavour to foment or prolong the disturbances there, with a view 
to any profit to be derived from them to this country." This last 
declaration was perfectly sincere. The day after Grenville wrote, 
Talleyrand returned to Paris. 

He came back at the end of April, nominally second in command 
to Chauvelin, War against the Emperor having just been declared. 
The scheme which he was to advocate ran thus. For the moment, 
England's benevolent neutrality was to save France from complica- 
tions with the United Provinces or Spain. She was to be made to 
understand that the coming French attack on Belgium was a military 
necessity, not a prelude to annexation. And then then, when this 
war was over, the Constitutional monarchies of the west, the old 
and the new, were to rule Europe and the seas. There was to be a new 
commercial treaty. The Spanish Colonies in South America were to 
be liberated and thrown open to trade. Hand in hand, France and 
England were to share in that trade and in the maintenance of Con- 
stitutional liberties throughout the world 1 . 

Nothing was accomplished. The English Court was frigid, the 
people almost offensive so reported Dumont, who was a member of 
the Embassy. Only the Whig houses were thrown open. Talleyrand 
said that the English Ministry was "the most secret in all Europe." 
It kept them waiting for a month ; then moved King George to write 
a short, friendly, empty note to Lewis XVI (May i8th), and to issue 
a public Declaration of Neutrality (May 25th). England regretted the 
War; she intended to respect all Treaties; she wished to live at peace 
with France, and trusted that France would contribute to peace by 
showing respect for the rights of His Majesty and His Allies. There 
were no real negotiations, and Talleyrand spent his generous leisure 
in composing his Lettres sur les Anglais. He left this country early in 
July ; the indiscreet Chauvelin remaining 2 . 

The rising tone of the French propaganda, and the attack on 
Belgium, explain the suspicious reticence of the British Ministry. 
It is indeed, at first sight, surprising that Pitt did not take an even 
stronger line as to Belgium. But, at this time, he was not faced, as 
he supposed, with that risk of absorption of the Belgian Provinces 
into France which he had so clearly stated, in 1789, to be at all times a 
casus belli for Great Britain. The first French attack northwards, at the 

1 Reflexions pour la Negotiation d'Angleterre en cos de Guerre, March soth. 
Pallain, pp. 172 sqq. 
z Sorel, II. 440 sqq. 

214 PITT'S FIRST DECADE, 1783-1792 

end of April, proved a pitiable failure. All through May and June, full 
accounts of the mismanagement and insubordination of the French 
armies in Flanders were arriving at the Foreign Office, from a most 
capable British representative on the spot 1 . By the beginning of 
July, it was reported that the French had "entirely evacuated" those 
frontier districts into which they had penetrated. A month later, the 
news came that the garrison towns and camps on the French side of 
the frontier were in good order, the fortifications "in the most perfect 
repair, and even considerably added to, since the probability of a 
war with the Emperor." But there was no discipline. The Emigration 
had ruined the corps of officers; "nor is there a remedy against this 
evil." So, although Dumouriez was said to be confident and "the 
soldiery (by which is meant only the private men) and the peasantry 
universally revolutionists," it seemed impossible that France should 
"frustrate, or even derange, the plans of the combined army" of 
Prussia and Austria 2 . Pitt might well conclude that the Belgian 
Provinces were in no danger. '.. 

Throughout the summer, the best-informed men in England 
discussed Continental affairs on the assumption that the military 
plans of the Allies would not be "even deranged." "As soon as the 
German troops arrive in Paris," Grenville wrote to Auckland on 
June i Qth, "whatever is the ruling party in Paris must apply to us to 
mediate for them. Such at least is my speculation. Even in that 
case, it would, I think, be right to hold back, and to show no anxiety 
for that sort of interference.... But if the opportunity presents itself, 
I know no end of this troubled scene so advantageous as the bringing 
about by our assistance, an agreement which, I am convinced, all the 
parties will equally wish 3 ." 

On the day on which Colonel Gardiner sent his sanguine military 
report to Grenville, the French monarchy fell. Great Britain recalled 
her Ambassador, accredited to a King, not to a revolutionary Assembly ; 
but her calculations as to the near future remained unchanged. A 
circular was sent round the Courts of Europe, explaining that the 
withdrawal of the Minister made no difference to her neutrality. 
Grenville had still no reason to doubt the early arrival of the Germans 
in Paris. Presumably, he continued his speculations as to the most 
advantageous thing that could happen next. On September 3rd the 

1 Colonel Gardiner to Grenville, May and June despatches, passim (P.O. 

2 Gardiner to Grenville, August loth, 1792. 

3 Dropmore Papers, II. 281. 


day after that on which the massacres had begun he heard from his 
Foreign Office subordinate the latest news from France. It announced 
that the successful march on Paris was sure 1 . From every source came 
the same confident news. 

Before the month of October was out, Valmy had been fought and 
lost ; Ferdinand of Brunswick had recrossed the French frontier ; and 
Custine with his army of the Vosges had dashed into Germany, to 
occupy Mainz and Frankfort. On November 6th, Dumouriez, taking 
up in person the Belgian plan of campaign, broke the Austrians at 
Jemappes by Mons ; and two days later the Austrian Government fled 
from Brussels. The postulates of British Foreign Policy had become 

1 J. B. Burges to Grenville, September 3rd. Dropmore Papers, n, 308. 



THE overthrow of the French monarchy on August loth, 1792, 
established the supremacy of men who owed their power chiefly 
to the populace of Paris; and the ensuing September massacres, 
carried out by the Revolutionary Commune of that city, helped still 
further to cow the moderates, disgust the provincials, and establish 
the domination of the capital. Thenceforth, it was the misfortune of 
the French democratic movement, which had claimed to be universal, 
that the driving force was mainly Parisian a fact which goes far to 
explain the course of French politics during the next two years. The 
Girondin chiefs, now installed in office, possessed little power; it 
rested with the men of the streets and of the clubs ; and the nominal 
leaders always followed the spasmodic impulses of a populace agitated 
by Marat and infuriated by the threats of vengeance that came from 
Emigres serving with Brunswick's army. 

The psychology of Revolution renders difficult the maintenance 
of peace with neighbouring States of the old type. Suspicion and 
aversion naturally set in ; and these are the parents of war. Never- 
theless, proofs abound that, from August to October, 1792, Pitt and 
Grenville sought to continue the policy of strict neutrality which they 
had laid down as their guiding principle. True, they decided to 
recall Earl Gower from Paris, an act which seemed to betoken illwill. 
But Grenville at once informed him, and through him the Revolu- 
tionary Government, that his recall followed as a matter of course 
on the lapse of the authority of Lewis XVI, to whom he had been 
accredited, and was "conformable to the principles of neutrality 
which His Majesty has hitherto observed." Lebrun, the new Minister 
for Foreign Affairs, welcomed this announcement and expressed a 
hope for the continuance of friendly relations, especially in com- 
mercial matters. The credentials of Chauvelin, French Envoy at 
London, having been signed by the deposed monarch, he was 
informed that he could no longer be officially recognised 1 ; but he was 

1 O. Browning, Despatches of Earl Gower (1790-2), p. 209; Ann. Reg. 1792, 
pp. 327-8. 


received unofficially. For some time, he offered no objection to this 
arrangement; but later, whether from injured vanity or from a desire 
(as an ex-noble) to show his democratic ardour, he represented it as 
a slight to the French Republic. His frequent association with 
Opposition clubs in London tended to annoy Ministers, but assured 
his popularity in Paris. Unfortunately, during the autumn his 
appointed adviser, Talleyrand, fell under the suspicions of the French 
Convention, which decreed his arrest. He, therefore, remained in 
London, and his sage warnings conveyed to Paris against the aggressive 
tendencies of French policy remained unheeded 1 . 

The characters of the French Ministers were calculated to inspire 
distrust and dislike in George III and his advisers. Danton's appoint- 
ment as Minister of Justice seemed a hideous farce ; Roland for Home 
Affairs was a respectable nonentity ; Claviere, originator of the assignats, 
became responsible for Finance; and Foreign Affairs fell to Lebrun, 
an adventurous journalist, well versed in the Belgian disputes, but 
otherwise displaying the half-knowledge and consequent conceit 
which marked his patrons, Brissot and Dumouriez 2 . With such 
Ministers, ever impelled by Robespierre and the all-powerful 
Commune of Paris, there was reason to expect the extension of 
Jacobin propaganda and the widening of the circle of hostilities. Yet 
Pitt and Grenville showed no sign of joining the party that called for 
intervention on behalf of the cause of monarchy. They differed even 
more sharply from Burke, on grounds not only of sentiment but of 
policy. They believed royalists of the old school to be a less potent 
force in home politics than radical reformers, whose influence would 
be enhanced if the cause of peace were associated with them. The great 
Irishman scouted these calculations as both timid and false. He 
dreaded revolutionary principles as a pest which, if not stamped out, 
would in its rank growth desolate all nations. Pitt, and to a less 
extent Grenville, trusted in the inherent strength of British institu- 
tions and their consequent immunity from Gallic ailments, formidable 
only to weakly organisms. Stripped of its literary adornments, Burke 's 
crusading policy was one of pessimism and panic. Their policy, on the 
other hand, however briefly and baldly set forth, was nevertheless one 
of trust in the good sense of the two nations and in the principle of 
non-intervention. So late as November 6th, 1792, Grenville wrote that 

1 For his Mmoire of November 25th, 1792, see Pallain, Le Ministers de Talley- 
rand sous le Directoire (App.), and a summary in Sorel, in. 221-3. 

2 A. W. Miles, Corresp. on the French Rev. I. 24, 144-6. 


he had, throughout, disapproved of the invasion of France by the 
Austrian and Prussian armies as tending to consolidate the power 
of the Jacobins and delay the reestablishment of order. He now 
expressed some apprehension lest Republican principles should 
spread into England, but deemed the danger minimised by the 
maintenance of a policy of non-intervention 1 . 

The comparative passivity of George III during this crisis in the 
fortunes of monarchy is not a little curious ; but it may be explained 
by his dislike of a policy of costly adventure, his desire, owing to the 
growing claims of his family, to reduce national expenditure, his trust 
in Pitt and Grenville, and his inveterate dislike of Burke. He also 
utterly distrusted the quixotic proposals of Gustavus III of Sweden 
for the rescue of Marie- Antoinette by armed force 2 . On September 
22nd, while at Weymouth, he approved the somewhat bold proceeding 
of Grenville in discouraging similar appeals from Vienna and Naples 
on her behalf, and added these words : " Undoubtedly there is no step 
that I should not willingly take for the personal safety of the French 
king and his family that does not draw this country into meddling 
with the internal disturbances of that ill-fated kingdom 3 ." He viewed 
the Revolution as a series of disturbances judicially inflicted by 
Providence on France as a penalty for her intervention on behalf of 
the American rebels against divinely constituted authority, and 
therefore discountenanced any attempt to shorten the period of 
retribution. Thus it came about that, even after the September 
massacres at Paris, Burke's fervid appeals for action remained mere 
echoes in the void. 

Alike in temperament and conviction, the men who guided British 
foreign policy were averse from a policy of warlike adventure. A 
decade of unremitting efforts in the direction of retrenchment and 
reconstruction attested the devotion of Pitt to the cause of peace. 
From this, as the sequel will show, he was with great reluctance drawn 
aside by the course of events ; and to it he sought to return at the 
earliest opportunity compatible with prudence. Had he possessed 

1 Dropmore Papers, in. 463-7; Burke's Works (Bohn edit.) v. 231-3; Auckland 
Journals, n. 464-6; J. H. Rose, Pitt, part II. ch. 11. 

2 Klinckowstrom, Per sen et la Cour de France, I. p. 173. 

3 Dropmore Papers, n. 3 17. Even on November 25th, George wished for a general 
peace, if it could be made "to the real satisfaction of the parties concerned" (Ibid. 
II. 339). This corrects the statement of E. D. Adams (The Influence of Grenville on 
Pitt's Foreign Policy, p. 21) that after September, 1792, George III was hostile to 
France. It was her Decrees of November i6th and i9th, 1792, which changed his 


more imagination, greater foresight, and a readier power of ex- 
pression, he might perhaps have succeeded in appealing to the heart 
of France during the negotiations of 1795-7, and have stood forth as 
the pacificator of Europe. But in his nature there was too much of 
the Grenville stiffness for him to understand, still less to placate, 
Gallic susceptibilities. In truth, he had no knowledge either of 
Continental peoples or their politics. But as to his longing for peace 
there can be no doubt 1 . Equally certain is it that his mistakes during 
the period 1793-1805 arose largely from inability to grasp the stern 
exigencies of war and the calculating selfish ness which it often engenders 
in the conduct of Allies towards one another. Virtuous, high-souled, 
patriotic and intensely hopeful, he lacked the critical faculties, 
especially those of distrust and detachment, which are needed for the 
unravelling of intrigues, the detection of rogues, or a due appreciation 
of the chances of success and failure in complex enterprises. He under- 
stood mankind in the abstract, but he did not understand men. There- 
fore, while excelling in the more familiar spheres of British statecraft, 
he fell short of full success at a world-crisis. His nature was far better 
suited to the decade of reconstruction than to that of revolution. 

Similar limitations marked even more strongly the character of 
his cousin. Lord Grenville's accession to the Foreign Office in the 
spring of 1791 marked the definite triumph of a pacific policy; but a 
certain austerity of manner and narrowness of outlook hampered his 
usefulness at all times. Uninspiring, prolix and somewhat tactless, 
both as a speaker and writer, he chilled his friends and irritated his 
enemies ; so that, in 1794, we ^ n< ^ ^ m expressing to Pitt a wish at the 
termination of the War, to retire from his uncongenial duties 2 . We 
shall not be far wrong in connecting this desire with his later con- 
fession: "I am not competent to the management of men. I never 
was so naturally, and toil and anxiety more and more unfit me for it." 
A phrase of Windham's explains this failure: "He [Grenville] knows 
nobody and is known by nobody." Yet that acute observer pronounced 
him well-informed, high-minded, and more imbued than Pitt with 
ideas of national dignity. In Windham's view, the Prime-Minister 
was, also, unacquainted with mankind and too disposed to live on by 
making concessions and " tiding it over 3 ." In these respects, Grenville 

1 Malmesbury Diaries, n. 101, in. 96, 516 ; Sorel, 11. 383. R. Guyot, Le Directoire 
et la Paix de V Europe, p. 303. 

2 Dropmore Papers, n. p. 513. See, too, Malmesbury Diaries, II. 441, for Gren- 
ville's predilection for non-intervention on the Continent. 

3 Stanhope, Pitt, n. 122; Malmesbury, in. 590. 


supplied backbone to the more pliant and pacific nature of Pitt ; but 
in knowledge of men and management of Parliament they both so 
far yielded the palm to that versatile bonvivant, Henry Dundas, that 
the Administration was dubbed Scottish. To Dundas, however, and his 
impulsive and acquisitive ways Grenville felt an instinctive aversion, 
which was to become more marked as he gained in experience of fyis 
own. His career is remarkable for the growth of confidence in the 
great qualities of the British people ; and it is hardly an exaggeration 
to say that his will-power, patriotic pride and indomitable persistence 
provided the mainspring of the first two Coalitions against France. 
Grenville, however, lacked the wide sympathies, imaginative outlook 
and inspiring influence that mark a leader of men. To him, still more 
than to Pitt, the French Revolution was incomprehensible. He sought 
to combat it with the old weapons in the traditional ways. Therefore, 
despite his constancy, honesty of purpose and unflinching courage, 
he figures merely as an able Minister of George III, but unequal 
(like most of his colleagues) to the novel demands of the Revolu- 
tionary era. 

Henry Dundas, Secretary of State for Home Affairs, supervised 
far more than the business of that Department and, in fact, claimed 
participation in all affairs of moment. To him Pitt entrusted the chief 
oversight of executive war policy ; and in this sphere his unbounded 
energy and assurance not seldom led him to impulsive and diffuse 
designs. Indian affairs interested him intensely, and, from 1792 
onwards, the development of British influence in the Mediterranean 
was his special care. For the present, he opposed all interference with 
France. So late as November 25th, 1792, he wrote: "I think the 
strength of our cause consists in maintaining that we have nothing to 
do with the internal politics of foreign nations 1 ." 

The Under- Secretary of Foreign Affairs up to the year 1795 was 
James Bland Burges, 1751-1814, who was unremitting in his warnings 
as to French aggressiveness and the danger of democracy. He, prob- 
ably, inclined Grenville to the stiffer attitude adopted from November 
to December, 1792. On December i8th, he wrote to Auckland that 
a war with France was inevitable, and the sooner it came, the better; 
for public opinion in England was excellent, and there was "an 
earnest desire to go to war with the French 2 ." Bland Burges was 

1 Veitch, The Genesis of Parliamentary Reform, p. 235. For mordant attacks on 
Dundas, see Fortescue, British Statesmen of the Great War, and Hist, of the British 
Army, vol. iv. parts I. and n. 

2 Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 34446. 


probably the only one of our leading officials or diplomats who had 
as yet come to this conclusion. We may note here that, in 1794, he 
received a hint from Grenville that his services would be better 
appreciated abroad ; and, on ignoring it, he was superseded by a friend 
of his chief. George Hammond, who became his successor in October, 
1795, had been British Envoy at Washington. 

The influence of our Ambassadors has rarely counted for more in 
the shaping of Foreign Policy than in this period ; for, as the ablest of 
them noted in 1785, Ministers at home were too engrossed in parlia- 
mentary affairs to attend to events on the continent. "I never yet 
received an Instruction that was worth reading 1 ." This irreverent 
assertion (less applicable after Grenville's acceptance of the Foreign 
Office) was made by Sir James Harris [1746-1820], who in 1788 
became Baron, and afterwards first Earl of, Malmesbury. After the 
retirement of Sir Murray Keith from the embassy at Vienna, Malmes- 
bury was the most distinguished, though not the most important, 
personage in the British Diplomatic Service 2 . In 1792-3, his 
predilections were hostile to France, and his severance from the 
Foxites in 1793 paved the way for diplomatic missions of the first 
importance. The doyen of the diplomatic circle was then William 
Eden, first Baron Auckland (1744-1814). As Ambassador Extra- 
ordinary at the Hague in 1790-3, he displayed exceptional activity 
in the acquisition of news, for which his position gave him unequalled 
facilities ; and his intimacy with both Pitt and Grenville contributed 
to the enriching of a correspondence which is of prime importance, 
Auckland advocated strict neutrality in regard to French affairs: 
"Our general wishes on the one hand" (he wrote on September 
1 8th, 1792) "are that France may never again resume the same rest- 
less and troublesome system which has so often been fatal to the peace 
of nations ; and, on the other, that an executive government may exist 
there so as to restrain the present lawless and atrocious spirit." He, 
also, agreed with Grenville in thinking that the armed intervention 
of Austria and Prussia only emphasised the disorders in France which 
it was designed to crush 3 . On November 9th, he suggested tentatively 
to Grenville the advisability of recognising the French Republic (in 
order to ensure Lewis XVI and Marie- Antoinette against violence) and 

1 Malmesbury, Diaries, n. 112. 

2 Cf. ante, pp. 160 ff., as to the personality and early achievements of le ruse et 
audacieux Harris (as Mirabeau termed him). 

3 Journal and Corresp. of Lord Auckland, n. 443, 465. 



of making secret overtures to Austria and Prussia with a view to 
ending their contest with France 1 . 

The secondary figures in the diplomatic circle were Auckland's 
younger brother, Sir Morton Eden, Ambassador first at Berlin and 
then at Vienna, where his mediocre abilities failed to make head 
against the masterful personality of the Chancellor, Thugut; also, 
Sir Charles Whitworth, Ambassador at Petrograd in the years 1788- 
1800, a man of soldierly bearing and firmness of character which 
withstood alike the craft of Catharine and the whimsical impulses of 
Paul I. At Madrid, Lord St Helens and his successor, Francis 
Jackson, worked tactfully, and for a time successfully, in conciliating 
that Court, always touchy and exacting as an ally; and scarcely less 
difficult were the tasks of John Hampden Trevor at Turin and Colonel 
Gardiner at Warsaw, the latter being instructed by Grenville to avoid 
entanglement in the Polish imbroglio 2 . The Hamiltons at Naples 
belong rather to the spheres of art and romance, until the crisis of the 
autumn of 1798 involved them in events from which they emerged 
with discredit. Ainslie and his successors at Constantinople helped 
to avert the danger of a Franco-Turkish Alliance, which seemed 
probable in the winter of 1792-3 ; but, with this partial exception, 
British Ambassadors strictly upheld the policy of non-intervention 
enjoined by Grenville. 

The general diplomatic situation furnished adequate reasons for 
a policy of strict neutrality. The Triple Alliance of 1788 with Prussia 
and the United Netherlands had virtually lapsed, so far as the 
Hohenzollern Power was concerned 3 . Frederick William II now 
sought to withdraw as speedily as possible from his adventure beyond 
the Rhine, in order to procure more profitable spoil on the Vistula. 
With our former Ally, Austria, we were, also, on cool terms, both the 
German Powers maintaining that they had fought our battles for us 
in Champagne, while, as has already appeared, we disapproved of 
that enterprise and somewhat distrusted Francis II and his advisers 4 . 

1 Dropmore Papers, n. 329. Many more of his letters are in the Brit. Mus. 
(Add. MSS. 34446 et seq.). 

2 Gardiner's predecessor, David Hailes, in his last despatch, of July 25th, 1792, 
warned Grenville of the fragility of the Polish Constitution of May 3rd, 1791, and 
the discredit attaching to its authors. On August 4th, Grenville instructed Gardiner 
that Great Britain would not intervene in favour of Poland and charged him to 
discover the intentions of the three neighbouring Powers "on whom the fate of 
Poland seems now entirely to depend" (P.O. Poland, 6). 

s Dropmore Papers, II. 194, 241, 257, 262, 279. 

4 Stratton, our Charge d'affaires at Vienna, thought the Emperor's ability and 
steadfastness unequal to his moral rectitude; he had no mental vigour or decision 


Spain, too, was still smarting under the grievance of the Nootka 
Sound affair, which the now all-powerful Minister, Godoy, Duke oi 
PAlcudia, kept open by all the arts of chicanery. It soon transpired 
that Spanish officials at Nootka refused to give up Nootka to Captain 
Vancouver, who had been despatched to take it over 1 . Further, the 
odd complaisance of Spain to the new French Republic betokened a 
desire for friendly relations with Paris, which, in fact, were only to 
be severed by the execution of Lewis XVI. Even at the close of i^i, 
Great Britain had to reckon Spain among her possible enemies. 

Moreover, the attitude of Catharine II of Russia was ambiguous. 
The unscrupulous ambitions of the Tsarina, far from sated by recent 
triumphs over the Turks, now turned in the direction of Poland. Her 
many incitements to the Monarchs of Sweden, Austria and Prussia 
to champion the cause of Lewis XVI and Marie- Antoinette were 
accompanied by no tangible proof of crusading zeal; and, on November 
9th, 1792, Whitworth reported that she would " continue to look on 
at the conflagration with the utmost composure" ; and again, that she 
had throughout sought "to engage all Europe in the quarrel [with 
France] and to remain herself a spectator of the desolation." The 
knowledge of her Machiavellian designs on Poland not only weakened 
the efforts of the German Sovereigns against France, but imposed 
caution on the one Power which had maintained its neutrality (as 
Whitworth put it) "with so much dignity and sound policy." A 
slight ruffle of anxiety overspread the serenity of the Tsarina when she 
learnt that the French Republic was vigorously striving to set the 
Turks against her; for the incursion of a Franco-Turkish fleet into 
the Black Sea might involve the destruction of the new and almost 
unprotected fleet at Sevastopol. By the end of the year, therefore, 
a feeling of relief pervaded the Russian Court at the news of the 
Anglo-French complications, as tending to restrain the Republic from 
oriental adventures and thereby to leave Catharine free for her long 
meditated move against Poland 2 . It was now discovered that French 
principles were making alarming progress among the Poles a source 
of infection which neither she nor Frederick William II could allow 
on the borders of their dominions. 

of character. On Grenville pressing for a declaration of Austria's war aims, the Acting 
Chancellor, Count Philip Cobenzl, on December 22nd stated that she would insist 
on the complete liberty of Lewis XVI, and on applying to France the essentials of 
a monarchical Constitution (P.O. Austria, 32). 

1 P.O. Spain, 25. F. J. Jackson to Grenville, December 2Qth, 1792. 

2 P.O. Russia, 23. Whitworth to Grenville, November gth, 23, December nth; 
Sorel, La Question d'Orient, p. 770. 


The atmosphere being charged with electricity in both the east 
and the west of Europe, the only wise course for the British Govern- 

* ?:> ^ment was to maintain a watchful aloofness. But an unkindly fate 
began to extend the storm area over these islands. The persistent 
rains, which hindered Brunswick's operations in Champagne, also 
ruined the harvests of Great Britain and the north of France, thereby 
causing widespread dearth and an eager competition for foreign corn. 
Hence arose not only commercial tension between the two nations, 
but internal discontent, resulting, on both sides, in a notable increase 
of democratic and levelling ardour. These sentiments, again, were 
accentuated by the astounding triumphs of the French arms. Sep- 
tember saw the Austro-Prussian forces retreat from Champagne and 
the Sardinians driven from the capital of Savoy; in October, the 
Allies recrossed the Rhine in disorder ; early in November, the French 
occupied Frankfort and utterly defeated the Imperialists at Jemappes 
a victory which laid at their feet the Austrian Netherlands and brought 
the victorious tricolour to the borders of the Dutch Republic 1 . 

In the nervous and irritable state of public opinion, these events 
wrought a magical change. The French were filled with boundless 
confidence in the complete triumph of democracy over all the old 
Governments; and cognate aspirations spread among their many 
sympathisers in the British Isles. The sharp rise in prices favoured 

N^ the growth of discontent, which found expression in numerous 
"Constitutional clubs," where the principles of the new French 
Constitution were vehemently acclaimed. The next development was 
destined to have far-reaching results. Delegates from the most 
important of these clubs, especially those of London, Newington, 
Manchester, Derby and Norwich, proceeded to Paris, and read to the 
Convention addresses of congratulation and fraternity at the sittings 
of October 3ist, November yth, icth and 28th. The address bearing 
the signatures of Thomas Hardy and Maurice Margarot declared that 
the Elector of Hanover was uniting his troops to those of traitors and 
robbers; but that England was not Hanover. "A Triple Alliance, 
not of crowned heads, but of the people of America, France and Great 
Britain, will give liberty to Europe and peace to the world 2 ." These 
addresses, which were circulated throughout France, created the 

1 Jomini, Guerres de la Revolution, Bk u. chs. ix. x. 

2 "A Collection of Addresses... to the Nat. Convention of France," London, 
Debrett, 1793 ; Ann. Reg. (1793), pp. 344-352. Veitch, op cit. pp. 221-230, 363-6; 
Moniteur, November 8th and i2th, 1792. 


impression there that the British people would support France in any 
effort made by her on behalf of democratic movements in other lands. 

The French Convention, hereupon, conceived aggressive designs. 
Already, it had ostentatiously favoured addresses from Dutch 
"Patriots"; and, elated by the occupation of Brussels and by pro- 
mises of support from British and Dutch democrats, it passed the 
Decrees of November i6th and igth. By the former, the navi- 
gation of the Scheldt and the Meuse was declared open to and from 
the sea, though the Dutch Republic, by the terms of the Treaty of 
Westphalia (1648), absolutely controlled that navigation within its 
borders. On the same day, the French Executive Council resolved 
that Dumouriez should pursue the enemy even on Dutch territory, 
if he took refuge there. On the igth, the Deputies of France decided 
to grant fraternity and assistance to all peoples desirous of re- 
covering their liberty. Lebrun laid great stress on the Scheldt Decree, 
and, on November 3Oth, communicated a dissertation on the subject 
to Chauvelin, in which he spoke of it as an affair decided by the 
imprescriptible laws of universal justice, which France must have the 
courage to apply 1 . By that time, he must have known of the British 
Declaration to support the United Provinces at all points; but his 
language implied a resolve to go to war rather than compromise on 
this head. The importance of the Scheldt question has often been 
denied. Now, it may freely be granted that the right of the Dutch 
to close the navigation of that estuary to all other vessels was per se 
unjust 2 . But they had enjoyed it since 1648. So late as 1785, France 
had formally recognised it; and to abrogate it without consultation 
was an unheard-of proceeding. Moreover, most Dutchmen clung to 
the privilege in question. In 1784, the Grand Pensionary declared 
that the Netherlands ought to expend their last florin in maintain- 
ing it 3 . 

Meanwhile, the conditions which induced the French Convention 
to pass these decrees, also led the British Ministers stiffly to oppose 
the first signs of aggression. In mid- October, they prepared to 
reassure the King of Sardinia by a Declaration stating, inter alia, that 
the retention of Savoy by France would create a new order of things 
which Great Britain could not accept 4 . But far more significant was 

1 Sorel, in. 233. 2 Cf. ante, ch. I, pp. 161 ff. 

t 8 Malmesbury, Diaries, n. 89: see, too, Marsh, Politics of Great Britain and 
France, chs. x, xi, xm. 

4 Dropmore Papers, n. 322. On November 27th, the French Convention annexed 
Savoy to France (Sorel, in. 203). 

W.&G.I. 15 


their action on receipt of the news that the French forces were before 
Brussels. Antwerp would be the next stage; and the siege of that 
stronghold must bring up the vexed question of the navigation of the 
Scheldt estuary. Moreover, on its banks, France would impinge on 
territory which for naval and commercial reasons England has never, 
' since the days of Edward III, allowed to pass into the hands of a great 
rival Power. From the time of the battle of Sluys to that of the battle 
of Jutland, her action has been consistent on this head ; and her resolve 
now to warn the French off the Scheldt estuary and neighbouring 
coasts opened the struggle which ended in 1815 with the expulsion of 
Napoleon from Belgium. 

On the receipt at Whitehall of the news of the evacuation of 
Brussels by the Austrians, the Dutch Ambassador, Nagel, took alarm 
and came to Pitt to request advice and help. Pitt suggested the 
despatch of notes to the two German Powers offering mediation, with 
a view to ending the War with France. Grenville met the crisis more 
stiffly. He at once informed Auckland at the Hague that the danger 
to the Dutch must be encountered firmly " for, much as H.M. desires 
to maintain peace, he does not hesitate to aid the Dutch Republic 
against any attempt to invade it or disturb its Government 1 ." 
Accordingly, he forwarded a Declaration to that effect, which was 
at once to be delivered publicly to the States General of the United 
Provinces. It assured them of H.M.'s "determination to execute at 
all times with the utmost good faith all the different stipulations of 
the treaty of alliance so happily concluded in 1788," but added that 
the correct conduct of the two nations ought to remove all grounds 
of apprehension. Auckland delivered it to the States General on 
November i6th the very day on which the National Convention 
passed the Decree abrogating the rights of the Dutch over the estuary 
of the Scheldt and the Meuse. The States General thanked the British 
Government for its assurances of support, but expressed the hope 
that it might not be needed. The Stadholder, Prince William V of 
Orange, in a letter dated November i6th, thanked King George III 
for the Declaration, and suggested that British warships should be 
moored in the Downs, in readiness to proceed to the Scheldt if 
occasion demanded. It soon arrived. On November 22nd, the senior 

1 P.O. Holland, 41, Grenville to Auckland, "most secret," November i3th, 
1792. Pitt also believed that "the explicit declaration of our sentiments is the most 
likely to prevent the case occurring." See, too, Pitt to the Marquis of Stafford, 
November i3th, 1792 (Diaries, etc. of the Hon. G. Rose, I. 115); also my article in 
the Eng. Hist. Rev. (January, 1912). 


officer of two French gunboats at Rammekens demanded, in the name 
of Dumouriez, the right to pass up the Scheldt li pour fair e prosper er 
les armes de la Republique Franfaise" obviously, in order to assist 
their land forces in reducing the Austrian garrison of the citadel of 
Antwerp. The Dutch authorities refused permission, but secretly 
instructed the commander of their guardship not to use force if the 
gunboats persisted in forcing a passage. They did so, and were soon 
reinforced by more powerful craft. Auckland explained to Grenville, 
that the Dutch intended "to temporise as far as may be practicable 
without essential disgrace or detriment"; but Nagel made a strong 
appeal to the British Government for succour to a faithful Ally in view 
of the imminence of a French invasion 1 . In fact, the Dutch were 
utterly unprepared for war, and saw with alarm a large French force 
on their borders, having all but open communications with the mal- 
content "Patriots" who sought to overthrow the Dutch Constitution. 
The chief difficulty of the situation lay in the Dutch Government not 
daring to plead openly for British succour, lest the French should 
burst in, with the aid of the Patriots. To temporise and quietly prepare 
for defence was therefore the only prudent course. Grenville under- 
stood their difficulties, and hoped by maintaining a firm attitude to 
conjure the danger. 

The occurrence of riots in parts of Great Britain, also, alarmed 
him ; and he concluded that there was a close connexion between the 
aggressive policy of the National Convention towards the Netherlands 
and the republican propaganda in these islands. On hearing of the 
Scheldt Decree (on or just before November 27th), he wrote to 
Auckland: "There is, I am afraid, little doubt that the whole is a 
concerted plan to drive us to extremities with a view of producing an 
impression in the interior of the country, which I trust and hope will 
fail." These statements (repeated even more strongly in his letter 
of December 4th) differ entirely from those of November 25th, 
when he heard from Auckland of a possible opportunity of setting 
on foot an informal negotiation for a general peace, through the 
medium of a French agent in Holland. Grenville then commended 
the scheme and secured a guarded expression of approval from 
George IIP. Two days later, after hearing of the Scheldt Decree, he 
completely changed his language ; and thenceforth he never swerved 

1 P.O. Holland, 41 . Nagel to Grenville, November 2Qth ; Auckland to Grenville, 
November 27th, 3Oth. 

z Dropmore Papers, 11.339, 341, 3 44. His letter of November i4th to the Marquis 
of Buckingham makes light of the supposed sedition. (Mems. of C. J. Fox, in. 29.) 



in his resolve to oppose the novel pretensions of France. On 
November 3th he informed Auckland that a small squadron of 
observation would be sent to the Downs. On December yth, owing 
to the outbreak of sporadic disorders, the Government issued a 
Proclamation ordering the embodying of the militia in certain counties, 
in consequence of the conduct of evil-disposed persons "acting in 
concert with persons in foreign parts" a statement repeated in 
the King's Speech of December i3th. Fox denied the existence of 
seditious practices, and denounced Ministers for creating and utilising 
a panic. The charge has been repeated; but the utmost that can 
fairly be urged is that they exaggerated the connexion between 
British democrats and French aggressions. Such a connexion un- 
doubtedly existed; but it was unfair to charge our democrats with 
consciously provoking French action. All the addresses to the National 
Convention were drawn up, and half of them presented, before that 
body passed the aggressive Decrees which occasioned the volte-face 
of November 27th in British policy. 

War was certain to result from the decisions of the British and the 
French Governments, publicly announced on November i6th, unless 
one side gave way. But to give way was difficult; for principles, 
considerations of honour and material interests were alike at stake. 
Great Britain took her stand on the sanctity of treaties ; France, on 
the imprescriptible laws of nature as to the navigation of rivers in 
general and the rights of Antwerp in particular. Great Britain was 
resolved to stand by her Dutch Ally; France, to support the Dutch 
Patriots in the attempt to reverse the events of 1787. Moreover, 
neither side could retreat without loss both of prestige and material 
advantages. For the French Republic, to secure control of the Dutch 
Netherlands involved a gain of power such as Lewis XIV had never 
achieved; for Great Britain, it meant the establishment of her rival 
in estuaries that threatened the mouth of the Thames and her long 
and exposed east coast. At bottom, the issue was naval, therefore 

Events now tended towards war. Dumouriez' occupation of 
Liege and his demand to enter Maestricht (over which the deposed 
Prince- Bishop had joint control with the Dutch) threw new light on 
the French Decree freeing the navigation of the lower Meuse 1 . 

1 Nagel in a note verbale of November zgth to Grenville stated that French 
vessels were assembling at Dunkirk and Ostend to ascend the Meuse and Scheldt 
into the heart of the United Provinces. He begged for British support. (P.O. 
Holland, 41.) 


Nevertheless, Pitt and Grenville endeavoured to come to a friendly 
agreement with the French Republic by means of informal dis- 
cussions with a private French agent. On December 2nd and i4th, 
Maret (the future Due de Bassano) had interviews with Pitt, the 
earlier of which promised a good understanding; but, in the later, 
Maret had to announce the resolve of his Government to adhere both 
to the November Decrees and to its demands for the recognition of 
the French Republic and of Chauvelin as a fully accredited Envoy. 
To the recognition of the Republic Pitt and Grenville might possibly 
have acceded at an earlier date ; but that of Chauvelin (now a persona 
ingrata at Whitehall) was out of the question 1 . With Maret in his 
place much more might have been accomplished, though probably, 
in any case, George III would have vetoed the recognition of the 
Republic. Fox's motion in Parliament on December i5th for sending 
a Minister to Paris to treat with the French Government was nega- 
tived. The occasion was rendered memorable by Burke, Windham 
and other Whigs taking their seats on the Ministerial side. 

The French Convention now took a highly provocative step. In 
a Decree of December i5th, it declared for the suppression of the 
existing authorities in all districts occupied by the French troops, 
whose Generals were ordered to place under the protection of the 
French Republic the whole property of the deposed Government and 
of its adherents. Further, it invited the liberated people to accept the 
principles of liberty and equality, and to form a Provisional Govern- 
ment on those bases. Wide powers were, also, given to French 
Commissioners to provide means for the maintenance of the troops. 
Finally, it denounced as hostile any people which desired to preserve 
its Prince and privileged castes. This Decree, offering limitless 
opportunities of extortion, plunder and malversation, was an added 
threat to neighbouring nations \ 

To Grenville 's practical mind, this profession of a desire to extend 
the bounds of liberty meant merely spreading the control of France 
over all lands which she coveted. Such is the dominant note of his 
reply of December 2Qth to a recent proposal of Catharine II for joint 
action of the Powers in setting bounds to the expansion of French 
power and influence. He stated that King George III saw with great 

1 For details of these interviews and those of Auckland with a French agent in 
the Netherlands, see Rose, Life of Pitt, H. chs. in. iv.; W. A. Miles, Correspondence, 
i. 61-72. 

2 Fox privately expressed horror at the Decree of December i5th and "thought 
war likely" (Malmesbury, Diaries, H. 482). 


satisfaction the similarity of their views and, while abstaining from 
x. all interference in French domestic affairs, he would oppose the efforts 
of the National Convention to abrogate treaties and overturn all 
institutions in neighbouring countries. He, therefore, agreed with the 
Empress in desiring to form a League of the Powers, not for the 
purpose of imposing on France by force any form of government or 
. Constitution, but in order to assure their own safety and curb French 
" aggrandisement. In a covering letter of the same date to Whitworth 
at Petrograd, Grenville emphasised the distinction, already drawn in 
the Russian note, between the policy of imposing a particular form of 
government on France, and that of providing for the security of the 
other Powers. He then suggested tentatively that the Powers not at 
war should consult together as to the conditions which they might 
offer to the French viz., "the withdrawal of their arms within the 
limits of the French territory, the abandonment of their conquests, 
the rescinding any acts injurious to the sovereignty or rights of any 
other nations, and the giving in some public and unequivocal manner 
a pledge of their intention no longer to foment troubles or to excite 
disturbances against other Governments." If France assented to 
these terms, they would forego all thought of hostility to her and live 
in amity with her Government. If not, they would take active steps 
to secure those ends, and possibly require some indemnity for their 
exertions. For Great Britain and Russia, the War with France, if it 

ensued, would be mainly maritime and would assure supremacy at 

sea, especially if Spain did not join the French. Russia should induce 
Denmark and Sweden to stop all supplies going to France ; and she 
might possibly send a force to be landed on the French coast under 
cover of the British fleet 1 . 

These pronouncements mark out clearly the line of policy which 
British statecraft was to follow down to 1815. They differ entirely 
from the original plans of Prussia and Austria, which aimed at the 
restoration of monarchy in France (together with considerable gains 
of territory at her expense) and very extensive acquisitions in Central 
and Eastern Europe. Great Britain desired little more than the status 
quo ante bellum, and was prepared to recognise the existing Govern- 
ment in France, in case it made peace and ceased all subversive 
propaganda. Catharine assented to these proposals, except that which 
referred to a negotiation with the French Government ; for she refused 
to take any step which seemed to imply an acknowledgment of the 

1 P.O. Russia, 23; also in B.M. Add. MSS. 34446. 


Republic. Whitworth toned down Grenville's expressions on this 
head, but without avail ; the Tsarina scouted the thought of recognising 
any country in revolt from its lawful sovereign, and had, for this reason, 
refused to recognise the United States of America. In vain Whit- 
worth pointed out "how difficult it would be for His Majesty to make 
the establishment of any form of government in France the pretext 
of a war with that country 1 ." 

With a royalism so flaming as Catharine's the cool and cautious 
Grenville could with difficulty frame a concert. Her political creed 
corresponded very nearly to those of the Habsburgs and Hohen- 
zollerns. But under this display of zeal there was cunning. Whitworth 
found reason for believing that her recent overture was prompted by 
a desire to stiffen the attitude of the British Government towards 
France, and thereby to increase the chances of a rupture between the 
Western Powers. Her scheme of partitioning Poland was maturing 
apace; and, on the 2yth, he reported the general desire in Russian 
official circles that it should remain unknown in London until the 
Anglo-French rupture occurred. That wish was to be gratified; for 
on March ist, the day on which the Partition Treaty was ratified, he 
stated that there was great satisfaction at our being forced into 
hostilities "without any further negotiation, from which it was always 
feared some pacific system might ultimately have resulted 2 ." It soon 
appeared, then, that between the United Kingdom and the Great 
Powers there existed a deep contrariety. We could count on frank and 
complete union with only one State the United Netherlands. 

We may pass rapidly over the ensuing negotiations with France. 
They were complicated by the suspicion that Chauvelin was in- 
triguing with British malcontents, and desired to bring about the 
overthrow of the Pitt Administration. Certainly, he was jealous of the 
preference shown by our Ministers to Maret; and, perhaps because 
Maret's tone was conciliatory, his was haughty. He associated 
ostentatiously with the Opposition, and announced the resolve of 
Lebrun not to retract the Scheldt Decree, but to insist upon the 
acknowledgment of the French Republic in the person of Chauvelin. 
He also boasted that, if he were not received as Ambassador, the 
height of his ambition was to leave England with a Declaration of 
War 3 . These assertions harmonised with the Report of the French 

1 P.O. Russia, 23. Whitworth to Grenville, January 22nd, 1793. 

2 Ibid. Whitworth to Granville, January 22nd, 25th, 27th, March ist, 1793. 

3 W. A. Miles, Authentic Corresp. with Lebrun (1792), p. 84; id. Corresp. on the 
French Revolution, I. 369. 


Diplomatic Committee, of which that mischievous busybody, Brissot, 
was chairman. In presenting it to the Convention on January ist, 
1793, Kersaint pointed out the vulnerable character of the British 
Empire, which could be revolutionised in Ireland and attacked with 
deadly effect in Canada and the East and West Indies. War, should 
it take place, ought to be considered as Pitt's War, not that of the 
British nation 1 . 

Chauvelin echoed these statements in his next notes, which 
elicited vigorous retorts from Whitehall. His reiterated claim to be 
considered the official representative of the French Republic met with 
a cold refusal. He also attacked the Aliens Bill for subjecting all 
foreigners, including himself, to official supervision (December 3ist, 
1792), alleging that that measure infringed the Commercial Treaty 
of 1786, which stipulated freedom of intercourse and sojourn for the 
inhabitants of both countries. But this Aliens Bill was less rigid 
than a similar measure adopted at Paris in May, 1792, which con- 
sequently had already infringed that Treaty. Equally unfounded was 
Chauvelin's assertion that the refusal to recognise him officially 
implied a rupture of relations with the French Republic. Grenville 
retorted that he (Chauvelin) could not be officially acknowledged 
except as the Envoy of Lewis XVI, though unofficial explanations 
might still pass between them. In answer to Chauvelin's assurances 
that the Decree of November i6th was not intended to impugn Dutch 
rights, save in a matter of minor importance (the Scheldt), and that 
the Decree of November i9th applied to a community desirous of 
assuring its new-found liberty not to a few seditious persons in that 
community Grenville pointed out that a French flotilla had forced 
an entrance up the Scheldt in spite of Dutch protests, and that the 
whole affair showed a resolve to set at naught treaties and the rights 
of neutral nations; also, that the later Decree was accompanied "by 
the public reception given to the promoters of sedition in this country 
and by the speeches made to them precisely at the time of this Decree." 
He further denied the imputation of harbouring illwill towards 
France, but enjoined her, if she desired to maintain friendship, "to 
renounce her views of aggression and aggrandisement and to confine 
herself within her own territory, without insulting other Governments, 
without disturbing their tranquillity, without disturbing their rights." 
The whole despatch, though needlessly stern in form, proves that 
Pitt and Grenville did not object to the French Republic per se, but 

1 Hist.parl. xxn. 365-378; O. Browning, p. 278. 


to its aggressive claims and subversive propaganda. Lebrun's answer 
of January yth, was temperate in tone; but he refused to give way 
on the main point at issue, the Scheldt Decree. On the same day, 
Chauvelin wrote an acrid note respecting the Aliens Bill ; indeed, on 
this and other topics his tone embittered the discussions. The points at 
issue were far from irreconcilable ; and a tactful negotiator like Maret 
would perhaps have found means to effect a reconciliation. 

The whole affair, however, was complicated by the deepening 
conviction of Grenville (perhaps also of Pitt 1 ) that the French were 
working hard to undermine the British and Dutch Constitutions, and 
that Dumouriez' forces were preparing to invade the United Provinces. 
Such was the news derived from a French agent at the Hague, who 
was on a confidential footing with the Grand Pensionary, and 
informed him secretly, but with absolute certainty, that the French 
would invade his country by January 25th. Grenville received this 
news on December 29th, and thereafter disregarded the pacific 
assurances of Lebrun and Chauvelin 2 . His despatch of January loth 
to Trevor at Turin implied that hostilities were imminent an 
inference rendered the more probable by the shifty character of 
Dumouriez 3 . So far back as November 2Oth, that General wrote to 
Maulde, French Envoy at the Hague, that he intended to carry liberty 
to the Dutch as he had to the Belgians 4 . During his visit to Paris 
at the end of 1792, he seems to have convinced the French Ministers 
of the feasibility of that enterprise and of the immense results certain 
to accrue from it; for, on January loth, the Executive Council sent 
secret orders to his second in command, General Miranda, to prepare 
to invade Dutch Flanders and Zealand within twelve days 5 . Probably, 
he would have done so, but for lack of food and transport. Grenville 
did not know of these orders ; but the evidence coming from the Hague 
pointed to the imminence of a French invasion. Thus, when most of 
the British warships were about to be withdrawn from off Flushing in 

1 On December i3th, Noel, a French agent in London wrote to Lebrun de- 
scribing Miles's informal efforts for peace and his assurances that Pitt was entirely 
for peace more so than Grenville. Miles added: " Ne craignez rien de notre arme- 
ment" (referring to the embodying of part of the militia and the sending of a small 
squadron to the Downs). Miles, Corresp. on the French Revolution, i. 68. 

2 Dropmore Papers, n. 360. For his reply of December 29th to Auckland, see 
Appendix A. 

3 See W. Eliot's despatch of February 23rd, 1793 from Berlin to Grenville in 
Appendix B. 

4 F.O. Holland, 41. Enclosure in Auckland's despatch of November 23rd, 

5 "Corresp. de Miranda avec Dumouriez..." (Paris, 1793), pp. 3-8. 


order that their crews might help the press-gang, the Prince of Orange 
begged that they might not depart, as their presence greatly encouraged 
his Government. On January 2Oth Grenville enclosed for Auckland's 
use a copy of the French plan of campaign, which had been secretly 
procured at Paris, and urged greater expedition in the Dutch defensive 
preparations. He also stated that the transactions with Chauvelin, 
and the manifestos recently issued by the Convention, left little 
doubt as to the resolve of that body to bring about a rupture. 
If the Dutch were attacked, a British force would be sent to aid 
in their defence. By that date, even Pitt deemed a war with France 
inevitable 1 . 

In all these discussions, the fate of Lewis XVI, which was then 
trembling in the balance, was scarcely mentioned. Obviously, the 
rupture would have occurred, even if his execution had not taken 
place . But , on the news of that event reaching London on January 24th , 
the Privy Council at once met and ordered the withdrawal of Chauvelin 
from the realm within eight days. Technically, this measure was 
correct, as that Envoy had been accredited by Lewis XVI and was 
received solely in that capacity. On his arrival at Paris, Brissot and 
the Diplomatic Committee drew up a report declaring that George III 
had not ceased, especially since August loth, 1792, to give proofs of 
his malevolence to France and his attachment to the Coalition of the 
Kings; that he had violated the Anglo-French Treaty of 1786 and 
ordered armaments clearly intended against France ; that he had just 
concluded a Secret Treaty of Alliance with the Emperor, and had 
drawn the Stadholder of the United Provinces into the same Coalition. 
These falsehoods found ready acceptance ; and an inflammatory speech 
by Brissot decided the Convention to pass unanimously a Declara- 
tion of War against the King of Great Britain and the Stadholder 
(February ist) 2 . The inclusion of the latter in this Decree proved the 
aggressive designs of the French Government ; for, whatever might 
be thought of the action of the British Government, that of the United 
Provinces had given no cause of offence. The acquisitive spirit of the 
Convention further appeared in the Decree of January 3ist, annexing 
Nice, and in that of a few days later, annexing the Belgic Provinces, to 
France. It is also noteworthy that, among the charges drawn up in 
October, 1793, by the Jacobins against the Girondins as a party and 
against Brissot in particular, he and they were accused of brusquely 

1 Malmesbury, Diaries, n. 501. 

2 Hist. Parl. xxiv. 194-207. 


proclaiming war against the British and Dutch peoples and other 
Powers which had not yet declared themselves 1 . 

It has often been stated that a conflict between Great Britain and 
the French Republic was inevitable because the one represented the 
old order, the other the new, so that between them there was a fixed 
antagonism. The statement is overstrained. There was no irrecon- 
cilable opposition between British statesmen and the French leaders, 
until the latter, amidst the exaltation produced by the conquest of 
Belgium, adopted an aggressive policy which was at variance with the 
best traditions of their predecessors. The French conquest of Belgium 
and the ensuing trial of Lewis XVI produced an artificial excitement, 
a flamboyant patriotism, an eager competition between Jacobins and 
Girondins each to outdo the other, which infused a dash of the old 
Chauvinism into the fanaticism of the new age. The heady mixture 
was not the true wine of the Revolution. It was nauseous to Talley- 
rand, the inheritor of the Mirabeau tradition; and, in his obscure 
lodgings in London, he had to look on helplessly while the fate of 
France and of Europe was decided by the coxcomb Chauvelin, the 
journalist-adventurer Lebrun and the charlatan Brissot. To assert that 
these men represented either France or the Revolution is to insult her 
and degrade her progeny. 

Furthermore, the statement errs in assuming that George III, Pitt 
and Grenville desired to make war on the Revolution. The reverse is the 
case. Until near the close of 1792, the King wished to remain at peace. 
Pitt and Grenville disapproved of the two German Powers embarking 
on a monarchical crusade, because they foresaw its effect in identifying 
Jacobinism with France and, up to the end of November 1792, they 
hoped by an understanding with all the Powers to mediate with a view 
to a general pacification. They were, also, prepared to recognise such 
de facto rulers of France as should conclude peace that is, to recognise 
the French Republic if it proved to be pacific and non-interfering. 
True, in Parliament, in December, 1792, they opposed the motion for 
sending a Minister to Paris ; but, at the same time, they were quietly 
taking steps which might lead to the resumption of friendly relations, 
if France renounced her aggressive designs. For they were aggressive. 
The Scheldt Decree was a violation of a recent French Treaty with 

1 Hist. ParL xxix. 435. For proofs that the so-called mission of Maret to 
London at the end of January was unauthorised, and that the pacific proposals of 
Dumouriez were unimportant and doubtful, see Rose, Life of Pitt, n. 109-111; 
W. A. Miles, Correspondence on the French Revolution, u. 62; Lecky (vi. 126) over- 
rates their importance. 


the United Provinces and infringed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1788. 
The British Government has been blamed for laying too much stress 
on the Decrees of November i6th and i9th; but, viewed collectively, 
they constituted a claim to the right to abrogate treaties and interfere 
in the internal affairs of neighbouring lands. Moreover, the French 
authorities followed up the Scheldt Decree by action which revealed 
their design of making Antwerp a French naval port. Their whole 
conduct with regard to the Austrian Netherlands was such as to 
warrant the belief that annexation was intended. The Decrees of 
November, therefore, became, not only a test question with respect 
to the maintenance of treaties, but a matter of vital importance to 
Great Britain and the United Provinces. 

On the other hand, the procedure of Pitt and Grenville must be 
pronounced stiff and ineffective. Without divulging too much of the 
sacrosanct treasures of the Foreign Office, they might surely have 
made it clear, not only to diplomats but to the two nations concerned, 
that British policy was essentially peaceful and aimed at achieving 
a just settlement of the War, with a view to the eventual recognition 
of any truly pacific Government established at Paris. A declaration 
of this kind would have at the same time allayed resentments in France 
and discontents at home. But Ministers allowed their good intentions 
to be shrouded by old-world reserve; and Grenville met the pert 
insistence of Chauvelin with an aristocratic hauteur which irritated 
that Envoy and played into the hands of the aggressive party at 
Paris. Pedantic insistence, there, on the imprescriptible laws of nature, 
and rigid adherence, here, to the text of treaties complicated a question 
which, with goodwill and tactfulness on both sides, might have been 
settled in a month. As it was, the two great nations of the West drifted 
into a conflict which stirred the dying embers of Continental strife 
into a mighty conflagration, destined to rage over the whole of Europe 
and finally to bring back the exhausted principals to the original point 
in dispute Antwerp. 


The divergence between the policy of Great Britain and that of 
the chief potentates of the Continent appeared very clearly so 
soon as they deemed her entangled in the dispute with France. The 
conduct of Catharine has already been described, and that of Austria 
and Prussia now claims attention. In the first days of 1793 , Sir Morton 
Eden reported that Prussia was about to send her best troops against 


Poland, and that his request to spare some for the defence of the 
United Provinces was disregarded. The reason became clear in the 
course of an interview which Grenville had at Whitehall, on January 
1 2th, with the Austrian and Prussian Ambassadors, Count Stadion 
and Baron Jacobi. They stated the decisions of their Courts: that 
Prussia should obtain in Poland an indemnification for her expenses 
in the French War, and should, in return, withdraw her opposition 
to the long-cherished Habsburg plan of acquiring Bavaria in exchange 
for the Belgic Provinces. Grenville protested against this cynical 
scheme and pointed out "the mischief which must result to the 
common cause from such an evident act of injustice 1 ." But the 
transaction was irrevocably settled between Vienna and Berlin; for 
on January i9th Eden reported that the King of Prussia would no 
longer act as a principal in the French War, if these indemnifications 
were not forthcoming; also, that Russia had her plans for aggrandise- 
ment at the expense of Poland, those of Austria in that quarter being 
doubtful 2 . On February 5th, when the French Declaration of War 
was known, Grenville informed the German Powers that Great 
Britain, while protesting against the Partition of Poland, would not 
oppose it by force ; also, that, if France continued the War, the Great 
Powers must exact from her the renunciation of all her conquests 
and of "all policy of interference in the affairs of other States." 

As this programme involved the abandonment by France of the 
Belgic Provinces, part of the Rhineland, Savoy and Nice (not to speak 
of Avignon), it opened the way to an understanding with the German 
Powers and the Empire, as also with Sardinia and the Pope; and this 
prospect undoubtedly encouraged the Empire to declare war on 
France, as it did on March 23rd, 1793. The Court of Turin also 
resolved to persevere in a contest which, without Britain's financial 
and naval assistance, must have been hopeless. On this territorial 
basis, then, the foundations of the First Coalition could be laid; but 
in the sphere of moral, as distinct from material, interests there was 
slight hope of an understanding, save with the smaller States threatened 
by France. Our attention may now be concentrated, first, on the 
formation of the Treaties which built up the First Coalition, secondly, 
on British efforts to secure the active cooperation of Prussia and to 
lessen the friction with Spain. 

1 P.O. Prussia, 27. Draft of January i2th, 1793, in Grenville's writing. 

2 Ibid. Eden to Grenville, January 1 9th. On February 5th, Eden was appointed 
to succeed Sir Murray Keith at Vienna. He arrived there at the end of the month. 


Before the entry of Great Britain into the War, no attempt (apart 
from the rather doubtful proposal of Catharine) had been made to 
frame a general concert of the Powers ; and in that sphere British policy 
was to effect results no less important than in the naval and military 
operations. From Catharine, little was to be expected except skilfully 
baited incitements to the continuation of the War. They took the 
form of two companion Treaties, signed by Grenville with Vorontzoff 
at London on March 25th, 1793, viz., a Commercial Treaty renewing 
that of 1766, with a few variations favourable to British trade, and a 
Treaty of Alliance containing vague offers of mutual assistance in the 
War, but binding each of the two Powers to prohibit all exports to 
France and to hinder neutrals from sending them, or from granting 
any protection to French property Or commerce, whether in their 
v ports or at sea. This last proviso, besides rendering impossible a 
renewal of the League of Armed Neutrality of 1780, implied an 
embargo on French ships and property in the ports or in the territory 
of neutrals. Moreover, it prevented the revival of the old French 
practice which, in time of war, opened up to neutrals commerce with 
French Colonies forbidden in time of peace. 

On April 25th, Grenville signed with the Sardinian Ambassador, 
the Comte de Front, a Treaty granting to that kingdom during the 
War a subsidy of 200,000 a year, conditional on the maintenance of 
a Sardinian army of 50,000 men. Great Britain engaged to send a 
fleet into the Mediterranean, and to secure the restoration to Sardinia 
of her lost provinces of Savoy and Nice. A month later, the Treaty 
of Aranjuez with Spain established a close concert for the purpose of 
opposing French views of aggrandisement, and binding the two Powers 
to prevent neutrals from according protection to French commerce. 
With Naples no treaty was signed, until that Power knew that Lord 
Hood with a powerful fleet was in the Mediterranean. Then, on 
July i2th, 1793, Sir William Hamilton and General Acton, Prime- 
Minister at that Court, signed a compact of a more intimate nature 
than the preceding. The King of the Two Sicilies, thereby, agreed to 
supply for service with the British forces in the Mediterranean 6000 
troops, 4 sail of the line, and 8 smaller warships; while Great Britain 
engaged to maintain in that sea "uneflotte respectable" and to protect 
Neapolitan commerce. With Prussia, owing to the exertions of Sir 
James Murray and Lord Beauchamp, a Treaty was signed on July i4th , 
1793, at the headquarters of Frederick William II at Mainz. It estab- 
lished a perfect concert with her, and assigned a subsidy for her 


military support, while obtaining from her assurances as to neutral 
commerce similar to those secured from Russia and Spain. These 
assurances, also, reappeared in the otherwise rather vague compacts 
concluded on August 3Oth and September 26th with the Emperor and 
the King of Portugal respectively. Subsidy Treaties with Baden and 
the two Hesses also promised to swell the totals of the Allied armies. 

The Treaty of 1788 still subsisted with the United Provinces; 
and the first naval and military efforts were put forth by Great Britain 
in February, 1793, resulting in the blocking, at the Hollandsdiep, of 
Dumouriez' scheme of invasion of Holland. Foiled there, he was 
utterly beaten on March i7th by the Austrians at Neerwinden, with 
the result that the Belgic Provinces once more came under their 
control. When Dumouriez, after planning the overthrow of the 
regicides at Paris, was constrained to fly for refuge to the Austrians, 
the Allies seemed to have the game in their hands 1 . The opportunity 
was lost, largely because the Austrian commander, Prince Frederick 
Josias of Coburg, in the course of a conference on military affairs held 
at Antwerp early in April, issued a proclamation which implied that 
the Allies would demand territorial indemnities from France. Nothing 
could have tended more certainly to unite all Frenchmen together 
in defence of la patrie. 

For this blunder Prussia's action in Poland was largely responsible. 
By the end of March, it was clear that Prussia and Russia would share 
between them the spoils of the Second Partition, to the exclusion of 
Austria. In consequence, Francis II honourably removed the Vice- 
and Acting-Chancellor, Count Philip Cobenzl, who had been duped 
by those two Powers, and in 1794 appointed to the general control of 
Foreign Affairs Thugut, a diplomat remarkable alike for his versa- 
tility in the choice of means and for his persistent pursuit of 
fundamental aims. Thugut resolved that Austria, while opposing 
the Partition, should make use of Prussia and Great Britain to 
secure acquisitions of territory proportionate to those of Prussia 
and Russia in Poland. He declined to specify where those acquisi- 
tions should be found 2 . The most obvious were the recovery of the 
Belgic Provinces (together with Liege) and the addition of territory 
to be conquered from France. He therefore pressed a close under- 
standing with Great Britain ; and Grenville now held out to the Court 
of Vienna the prospect of acquiring Lille, Valenciennes and other 

1 So urgent was the crisis that Lebrun wrote to Grenville, on April 2nd, to 
propose discussions for peace. For Grenville's reception of the proposal see his 
letter of May i8th, 1793 (Appendix B). 

2 P.O. Austria, 32. Eden to Grenville, April isth, 1793. 


strong and populous cities of north-eastern France as a barrier against 
that Power. This revived Barrier-scheme offered some temporary 
advantages. It would root Austria more firmly in her Belgic lands, and 
thereby tend to efface her desire for the Belgic-Bavarian exchange, a 
project always strongly opposed at Whitehall. When the Allied arms 
prospered in May- July, the Court of Vienna viewed these proposals 
with favour, and, in deference to British representations, seemed to 
abandon finally the proposals for the exchange. This decision pleased 
the Hohenzollern Court; but, dissembling its satisfaction, it now 
proceeded to mark time in the west, to the exasperation of Great 
Britain and Austria. The motives of Prussia were clear enough. Having 
secured her booty in the east, she now desired to see her southern rival 
go empty away from the territorial scramble planned between them 
early in 1792 ; and, at the close of August i793,Lucchesini,the Prussian 
Envoy at Vienna, declared that his Government would object to any 
serious diminution of the power of France as detrimental to the balance 
of Europe 1 . 

These facts explain the course of the campaign in France. The slow 
and methodical reduction of the French Barrier fortresses in the north- 
east (most faulty as a military measure, when France had no good army 
in the field) was due mainly to the Anglo-Austrian understanding as to 
the eventual acquisition of those fortresses by the Habsburgs ; and the 
efforts of Coburg and the Duke of York, which, on the reduction of 
Valenciennes (July 28th), came very near to success, were wasted 
by the calculating selfishness of Prussia. The remonstrances of British, 
Austrian and Dutch statesmen at her feeble and belated operations 
in the west had no effect. Finally, on September 23rd, Lucchesini 
handed to Lord Yarmouth, our special Envoy at Prussian head- 
quarters (where Frederick William still was) a note bewailing the 
expenses of the campaign, the troubles in Prussian Poland, and so 
forth, and requiring, not only our guarantee for the possession of that 
land, but also a subsidy by the Allies towards the expenses of the War. 
These demands being declined, Frederick William quitted his army, 
ordering it not to engage in serious undertakings; whereupon 
George III commented: "The sudden retreat of the King of Prussia 
completes the very ill-advised line of conduct that has attended every 
step he has taken for these four or five years 2 ." 

The results of Prussia's apathy were severely felt in another sphere 

1 F.O. Austria, 34. Eden to Grenville, August 3ist, 1793. 

2 Drop-more Papers, n. 441. See too, pp. 446, 451, 470. 


of war, Toulon. On August a8th, the French Royalists, dominant 
in that city, handed it over, with its dockyard and fleet, in trust to 
the British Vice- Admiral, Lord Hood. The Spanish fleet under 
Admiral Langara sailed in immediately after. The plan of the British 
Government, who on September i3th heard of this unexpected 
success, was to collect as large a force as possible of Austrians, 
Spaniards, Sardinians and Neapolitans for the succour of the Royalist 
cause in the South of France, and to press the Republic hard on that 
side. The unwarlike character of the Spanish and Neapolitan con- 
tingents (those of Sardinia were highly efficient) rendered very neces- 
sary the despatch of at least 5000 seasoned Austrian troops from her 
Milanese province. On September 24th, Thugut reluctantly assented 
to Eden's requests to this effect ; but, on various pretexts (chiefly the 
inactivity of Prussia in the Rhenish campaign), the Imperial Govern- 
ment delayed the fulfilment of its promise until too late. Toulon fell on 
December i Qth, before the Austrian troops began their march seawards. 
This disaster also strained severely the relations between Great 
Britain and Spain. The Court of Madrid had claimed the right to 
appoint the Commander-in-chief on shore, even though Toulon was 
surrendered to Hood, and though most of the seamen and troops 
present by the end of September were British or subsidised by Great 
Britain. Much friction ensued, but Pitt and Grenville ordered the 
retention of the command by a British General. Spain, also, har- 
boured resentment at the overtures made by Paoli on behalf of 
Corsican Royalists to Lord Hood for placing their island under the 
protection of George III. Another faction, headed by Buttafoco, 
treated with Langara for calling in the Spanish forces 1 . Neither 
move had any effect until after the evacuation of Toulon by the 
Allies on December iQth; but Hood thereafter resumed his relations 
with the Paolists; and in the spring of 1794 British forces set about 
the reduction of the remaining French garrisons. The Spanish 
Government resented this conduct as unfriendly on the part of an 
Ally, and declared it one of the causes of the rupture of 1796. 
Grenville sought to divert the thoughts of Spain to acquisitions in 
Roussillon and Beam ; but his motive of promoting hostility between 
her and France was too obvious to draw away her attention from 
the leading preoccupations of her statesmen, viz., the extension of 
British power in the West Indies and the Mediterranean 2 . 

1 P.O. Genoa. F. Drake to Grenville, December 22nd, 1793. 

2 P.O. Spain, 27. Grenville to St Helens, July iQth, 1793. (See Appendix B.) 

W.&G.i. 16 


Another relation which the Toulon affair brought to a crisis 
was that of the British Government to the French Princes and the 
Royalist party. Up to the month of August, 1793, the British Govern- 
ment declared its resolve not to intervene in favour of any party or 
form of Constitution. But the informal alliance with the Royalists 
of Toulon perhaps, also, disgust at the deepening atrocities of the 
Reign of Terror somewhat modified its attitude. It continued to 
discountenance the Emigres. In common with all who had experienced 
their intolerable arrogance and old-world bigotry, British statesmen 
and commanders were determined to keep them at arm's length 1 . 
But a very delicate situation arose in October, when it appeared that 
the Comte de Provence (afterwards King Lewis XVIII) who had 
assumed the title of Regent of France, proposed to proceed to Toulon ; 
also, that the Spanish Court favoured the scheme as a rrieans of 
increasing Spanish influence there. At once, British Ministers took 
alarm ; for it was certain that Monsieur would dictate military and 
political measures, and would prevent the Allies from holding any terri- 
torial conquests as gages for the indemnities on which they were still 
hopefully counting. On October 22nd, Grenville fired off despatches 
to St Helens at Madrid and Drake at Genoa, bidding the former 
oppose the scheme and the latter, in the last resort, even prevent the 
embarkation of the Prince 2 . His slow progress and the rapid success 
of the Republican arms prevented that harlequinade from taking 
place; but the whole affair strained our relations both with Spain 
and with the Royalists of Toulon. 

While discouraging the "pure" Royalists, George III and his 
Ministers avowed their preference for a limited monarchy. In the 
Instructions, drawn up almost entirely by Pitt and signed on 
October igth, for the three British Commissioners appointed to 

^administer Toulon, there occurs this passage: "You will be par- 
ticularly careful on all occasions in stating H.M.'s conviction that the 
acknowledgment of an hereditary monarchy and of Lewis XVII as 
lawful sovereign, affords the only probable ground for restoring 
regular government in France." A less distinctly monarchist Declara- 
tion, drafted by Grenville and issued from London on October 29th, 
stipulated merely that "some legitimate and stable government should 

\ be established, founded on the acknowledged principles of universal 
justice, and capable of maintaining with other Powers the accustomed 

1 P.O. Sardinia, 13. Mulgrave to Trevor, October iQth, 1793. 

2 Cottin, pp. 425, 428. 


relations of union and peace." On this head, Grenville's policy was 
more flexible than that of Pitt and left the Administration free to treat 
with any French Government that did not pursue aggressive and sub- 
versive aims. Of this wider definition Pitt was glad to avail himself 
in the negotiations of 1796 and 1797 ; though by that time, as will duly 
appear, Grenville's predilections had become less pacific and rather 
more monarchical than those of Pitt 1 . The British Declarations were 
less royalist in tone than those of our German Allies and far less so than 
the vehement professions of Catharine. Thus, by the autumn of 1793, 
the four Allies had taken up a standing not unlike that of the year 
1814. For the present, their pronouncements placed them signally 
at variance with French Republicans, and tended to rally all of them 
round any Government which could drive out the invaders. Thus, 
the Toulon episode, which bred discord among the Allies, solidified 
Jacobin rule in France. By the end of the year, her soil was almost 
freed from the Allied armies a result due no less to the fatuities of 
their Generals than to the blunders and selfishness of their Cabinets. 
The signal failures of the Allies in the campaign of 1793 emphasised 
the need of securing substantial help from Prussia for that of 1794. 
That Court, however, seemed resolved to continue marking time on 
the Rhine, while acting energetically beyond the Vistula. Its guiding 
spirit was Lucchesini, formerly reader to Frederick II. Having 
espoused the sister-in-law of Bischoffswerder, the still powerful 
favourite, he had secret means of influencing the highly susceptible 
Monarch ; and, by dint of cajolery or bullying, generally had his way. 
Though his policy was persistently anti- British and anti- Austrian, he 
had gained too great an influence over our Envoy, the Earl of Yarmouth. 
Pitt, therefore, advised the despatch of Lord Malmesbury on a special 
mission to Berlin to clear matters up. At Whitehall Ministers differed 
as to the value of Prussia's Alliance. Grenville was so convinced of 
her falseness as to advise the refusal of all further subsidies. Pitt was 
more hopeful; but, on October 9th, the Cabinet decided on the with- 
drawal of the subsidy and the transmission of remonstrances (toned 
down at Pitt's suggestion) to the Court of Berlin. It was well not to 
insist overmuch ; for the Prussian Ministers could claim that they had 
as much right to crush the so-called Polish revolt as we had to extend 
British sway in the East and West Indies ; and, later, the Anglophil 
Duke of Brunswick mildly reproved our exigence at Berlin. Frederick 

1 Dropmore Papers, 11. 433, 438, 443; Part. Hist. xxx. 1060; Cottin, p. 423; 
E. D. Adams, pp. 22-24. 

16 2 


William II, with all his defects, was not devoid of chivalry, and a 
personal appeal of George III to him would probably have cleared 
the air. As it was, the British remonstrance produced an angry 
counterblast, which Yarmouth explained as due to annoyance at our 
refusal to meet Prussia's lofty demands for payment of actions 
required by her treaty obligations 1 . 

The Prussian problem being insoluble except by consummate 
skill and tact, Yarmouth was superseded by Lord Malmesbury. On 
his way to Berlin, he stayed at the Hague, Brussels and Frankfort, 
in order to probe the situation. He found it unpromising. At Brussels, 
he met the Austrian Ambassador, Mercy d'Argenteau, formerly the 
Anglophobe counsellor of Marie- Antoinette, who now, under the 
chastening stroke of her execution, confessed that everything depended 
on the union of England and Austria. He extolled the exertions of 
the Duke of York's army, but declared that Austria had no further 
troops available except 10,000 in the Milanese. In his view, the 
conduct of the Prussians, both Ministers and Generals, was equally 
reprehensible and foolish; but Frederick William must understand 
that abandonment of this contest spelt ruin. At Alost, Malmesbury 
found the Duke of York indignant at the mismanagement of the 
campaign, and his officers discontented or even insubordinate. At 
Frankfort, he gleaned useful hints from the Dutch Envoy, Vice- 
admiral Kinckel, as to the influences, male and female, which played 
upon the Prussian monarch, and as to the success of that arch-intriguer 
Lucchesini, in removing from the royal councils all friends of Austria 
and Great Britain. Austria's representative, Count Lehrbach, was 
unpopular, owing to his rough overbearing ways. The Prussian Court, 
therefore, oscillated between hatred of French principle and fear of 
Russia, the dominating motive being to incorporate thoroughly its 
late gains in Poland and to leave Austria beggared by her Rhenish 
campaigns. An imperious necessity, however, controlled these oscilla- 
tions. The treasury at Berlin was nearly empty. Frederick William 
having squandered money on mistresses and official embezzlers, four- 
fifths of the treasure inherited from Frederick the Great had vanished ; 
and Prussia possessed no system of finance capable of meeting the 
huge yearly deficits 2 . 

Herein lay the secret of Frederick William's complaisance to 

1 Dropmore Papers, n. 442, 446, 470. 

2 Malmesbury, Diaries, in. 14-23; Vivenot, Quellen zur Geschichte der Politik 
Oesterreichs, IV. n et seq.; P.O. Prussia, 28. G. Rose to Grenville, November 3rd, 


Malmesbury. When our Envoy saw him at Berlin on December 25th, 
he proffered almost indignant assurances of his fidelity to the Treaty 
of 1788, though recent notes from Berlin had left it doubtful; but he 
added that, in the exhausted state of his exchequer, he could not 
undertake another campaign, and that, a loan being out of the 
question, he must recall nearly all his troops from the Rhine unless his 
Allies granted pecuniary support. Such a step he would regret, for 
he abhorred the French Jacobins ; and he trusted that Great Britain 
would not leave him "degraded and sunk," but would enable him to 
proceed with the French War. These earnest professions, added to the 
assurances of George Rose (Charge d'affaires at Berlin) as to Prussia's 
poverty, produced a great impression, especially when the King stated 
his keen desire to increase his Rhenish army to 100,000 men. Malmes- 
bury hoped that, if the honest old Field-marshal Mollendorff com- 
manded such a force, the results would be decisive. Despite warnings 
from Lehrbach, that Prussia meant to desert her Allies and join 
France, our Envoy hoped for the best; and his influence turned the 
scale in Downing Street 1 . Grenville cast off his scepticism, and, 
while grumbling that the Germans thought England a pretty good 
milch-cow, looked about anxiously for the necessary subsidy of 
2,000,000. On January 28th, 1794, he wrote to Malmesbury, 
promising this sum Great Britain to contribute two-fifths, Austria 
and Holland each one-fifth, the last fifth remaining as a charge either 
on a beaten France or on the conscience of Catharine 2 . 

The reception accorded to these offers at the Allied capitals threw 
light on the loose texture of the First Coalition. Frederick William 
at once computed that such a sum would not enable him to act up 
to the limit of his desires for the great cause. To the Dutch their quota 
seemed excessive. The appeal to the conscience of Catharine found it 
numb ; and Thugut saw in the British subsidy to the Hohenzollerns 
a means whereby they could arm a great force, maintain it in a central 
position and possibly even launch it against Vienna 3 . The Austrian 
General, while less nervous than the Minister, protested against the 
advent of the great Prussian subsidised force near Liege, and pointed 
out West Flanders as its proper sphere of operations. As the spring 
approached, much ink was spilt in drafting plans for the defence of 

1 After January 24th, 1794, the F.O. despatches were dated from Downing 
Street. 2 Dropmore Papers, 11. 491-7. 

3 F.O. Austria, 36. Eden to Grenville, February isth, 27th, 1794. Malmesbury, 
Diaries, m. 53-68. The best survey of Thugut's policy is in H. Hiiffer's Quellen, 
edited by F. Luckwaldt (1907), Pt n, vol. i. 


Ypres and the lines of the Lys and Sambre ; but the Imperialists now 
pointed out that the British and Dutch contingents were 30,000 below 
strength 1 . Worst of all, a revolt of the Poles strengthened the Franco- 
phil party at Berlin, which always received powerful support from 
the King's uncle, Prince Henry. Finally, the British Envoy induced 
the chief Prussian Minister, Count Haugwitz, to suggest the trans- 
ference of the negotiation to the Hague. There, on the scene of 
Malmesbury 's former triumphs in 1787-8, they concluded a Treaty 
(April 1 9th, 1794), whereby Prussia was to supply an army of 62,400 
men, under a Prussian Commander-in-chief, for service against 
France, Great Britain and the United Provinces paying her 50,000 
a month and 300,000 for initial expenses, also her costs in bread 
and forage, calculated at the rate of 32 shillings a month per head. 
The movements of this army and the conquests made by it were to 
be at the decision and disposal of the Maritime Powers. Of the yearly 
subsidy Great Britian was chargeable for 1,600,000 and the United 
Provinces 400,000 a year; also, for the other expenses in similar 
proportion. The Treaty was framed ostensibly for the year 1794, but a 
separate article stipulated its renewal and for the duration of the War 2 . 
Malmesbury had somewhat exceeded Grenville's instructions ; but 
he could plead that only by liberal payments to Prussia could she 
be induced to act with vigour. As the compact aided her finances, 
spared those of Russia, and promised to fulfil the aims of the Allies, 
it should have formed the basis of a stable Coalition. Various cir- 
cumstances, however, militated against it. Inter alia, Pitt and Grenville 
recalled Malmesbury to London for further information, but, on his 
arrival, were so absorbed in the suppression of sedition as not to see 
him or provide for the payment of the first subsidy during nearly 
three weeks. The delay was disastrous. It gave a handle to the 
Francophils at Berlin, and they seem to have won over to their side 
Haugwitz, whose constancy had always depended on the influence of 
Malmesbury. Thereafter, the Count always shunned meeting him 3 . 
Lucchesini now had his way at Berlin, the result being that Mollen- 
dorff, commanding the subsidised Prussian army, was induced to 
raise various difficulties as to the method of its employment beyond 
the Lower Rhine. Seeing that the Austro-British force under Clerfait 
and the Duke of York, on May i8th, suffered a heavy defeat at 

1 Vivenot, iv. 367. 

2 Martens, v. 283 ; Garden, v. 233 ; Malmesbury, Diaries, in. 91-3. 

3 Malmesbury, Diaries, ill. 91-6. 


Turcoing-Roubaix, the arrival of the Prussians for the defence of the 
United Provinces was urgently necessary 1 . The British and Dutch 
Envoys, General Cornwallis and Kinckel, added their arguments to 
those of Malmesbury during lively interviews with the Marshal near 
Mainz, but failed to overcome his objections to so lengthy a march. 
Malmesbury discovered that the Anglophobes of the Prussian Court 
had been influencing him; and, in the absence of Haugwitz, Baron 
Hardenberg seemed to be the only official at Prussian headquarters, 
anxious for the fulfilment of the Treaty. Hardenberg consented to 
represent to Mollendorff the disgrace and isolation which must befall 
Prussia, if, after receiving the British and Dutch subsidies, she failed 
to perform her bounden duty to those hard pressed Allies. It was in 
vain. Not without some show of reason, the septuagenarian Marshal 
represented the immense difficulty of a march northwards, and kept 
his army in cantonments with the maximum of economy, British and 
Dutch money being therefore available for the other requirements of 
Berlin 2 . 

Meanwhile, events had occurred which began to awaken jealousy 
of British maritime power. The occupation of the French colony of 
Hayti and the conquest of Tobago and Pondicherry in 1793 were 
followed up, early in 1794, by the capture of Martinique and St Lucia, 
the keys to the West Indies. On June ist, 1794, Lord Howe gained a 
decisive victory over the Brest fleet, thus confirming British naval 
supremacy. On the other hand the Anglo-Austrian forces sustained 
a serious reverse at Fleurus (June 25th). Thereupon, in pursuance of 
Thugut's policy, Coburg tamely evacuated the Belgic Provinces, 
abandoning the garrisons of Valenciennes and three neighbouring 
fortresses. Probably Thugut now cherished the hope that, if Belgium 
were to be recovered at all, it would be at the cost of Colonial 
sacrifices made by Great Britain for the sake of maintaining the 
Flemish Barrier system. Thenceforth, he took little interest in the 
recovery of Belgium. The entry of Austria's troops into southern 
Poland, early in July, manifested her intention to claim her share of 
the now imminent Partition 3 . 

This event should have convinced British Ministers that Thugut's 
policy of finding an indemnity there for the loss of Belgium had 
definitely triumphed. Even in June, Whitworth reported from 

1 Fortescue, Hist, of the Brit. Army, iv. (Pt I), ch. x. Mollendorff always opposed 
the compact with England. See Hardenberg, Denkwurdigkeiten, I. 186. 

2 Cornwallis Mems. n. 248-256; Dropmore Papers, n. 577. 

3 P.O. Austria, 37. Stratton to Grenville, July gth, 1794. 


Petrograd that the King of Prussia pressed the Empress Catharine 
to undertake a Third Partition. For a time, she seemed to disapprove, 
probably from a surmise that the scheme would palsy his efforts 
beyond the Rhine, and thereby leave Austria weak for the acquisition 
of her promised indemnities in that quarter. In July, however, her 
scruples seemed to vanish, and her only difference with Frederick 
William was as to Austria sharing in the proposed Partition 1 . The 
Empress favoured it; he opposed it; but, after the Prussian troops 
had suffered sharp reverses at the hands of the Poles, his opposition 
relaxed. She, also, read him some severe lectures as to the evil influence 
of the former Partitions (primarily due to Berlin) on the struggle 
against France, and reminded him that she had shared in them only on 
condition of his waging war vigorously beyond the Rhine. There is 
no sign that these reproofs were received any more seriously than the 
original advice. But Whitworth continued to assure Grenville of 
Catharine's enthusiasm for the French War, in which, however, she 
reluctantly declined to participate until after the settlement of the 
Polish question 2 . 

The almost complete silence of Grenville on this question be- 
tokens a feeling of despair. Indeed, it is difficult to see how Great 
Britain, when immersed in the Revolutionary War, could have averted 
the Partitions. Certainly, neither Pitt nor Grenville assigned sufficient 
importance to these events. Pitt's knowledge of Continental politics, 
especially of those of eastern Europe, was scanty; and, looking at the 
European situation from a somewhat insular standpoint, both he and 
Grenville underestimated the drag of the eastern undertow. A signal 
proof of Pitt's hopeful half-knowledge appears in his Memorandum 
of July, 1794. While the Imperialists were evacuating Belgium, and 
Mollendorff refused to move northwards, the Prime-Minister insisted 
on the necessity of bringing up the total of the former to 100,000 men, 
with a view to the rescue of the besieged garrisons and the recovery 
of that land; he also demanded " the immediate march to Flanders of 
the army under Marshal Mollendorff." The hoped-for result of these 
combinations was to be the muster, by the spring of I795 3 , of 238,000 
Allied troops in Belgium. 

1 P.O. Russia, 27. Whitworth to Grenville, June 27th, July i8th, 1794. 

2 Ibid. Whitworth to Grenville, September 26th, October i4th, November 4th, 

3 Dropmore Papers, n. 599-600. Grenville's note of July i9th to Spencer and 
T. Grenville gives an estimated total of 230,000 a proof of the close relations 
between him and Pitt. (P.O. Austria, 38.) 


Pitt was, at this time, elated by the accession of the Portland Whigs, 
which left the Foxite or anti-War party a mere handful. One of the 
Old Whigs, Thomas Grenville, brother of the Minister, was now 
selected, together with Earl Spencer, to proceed on a special mission 
to Vienna for the purpose of stimulating Austria to further efforts 
by the prospect of her acquiring the French Barrier fortresses from 
Lille to Sedan 1 . A further attempt to galvanise Mollendorff into 
activity was made by a Supplementary Convention with Prussia on 
July 2yth, 1794, which renewed and extended the stipulations of the 
recent Treaty. 

It was a characteristic of British policy, in this period, to make these 
convulsive efforts, after the misfortunes which prompted them had 
become irreparable. Spencer and Grenville, on their arrival at Vienna, 
found a very general disposition to give up the struggle. The Emperor 
had just dissolved his Government of the Belgic Netherlands 2 , thus 
fulfilling the wishes of Thugut to be rid of that encumbrance. The 
Chancellor now founded his chief hopes on Catharine's intervening to 
keep Prussia in the right path. To the British Envoys he laid stress on 
the financial plight of Austria, and, insisting that she could not 
continue her efforts without a liberal subsidy, claimed for Vienna that 
which was wasted on Berlin. On August i2th, Thomas Grenville 
thus summed up the situation: "They (the Austrians) will, I fear, 
again play with us by giving orders to move when they get money 
only, and they will probably get none till the places are lost which they 
ought to recover 3 ." In comparison with this dominant fact, the 
difficulty of Lord Grenville having omitted to specify how extensive 
a barrier the Emperor was to acquire from France seemed trivial. In 
truth, the Allies were about to lose all the French strongholds acquired 
in 1793 ; and, whatever promises were forthcoming at Vienna, per- 
formance was lacking. To keep up appearances, Coburg was replaced 
by Clerfait ; but the retirement continued 4 . When the French advance 
threatened Maestricht, Clerfait called on the Duke of York with his 
scanty British and Dutch forces to rescue it, but himself remained 
inactive, in spite of vigorous protests from Downing Street. Early 
in October, he retired behind the Rhine 5 . The Dutch troops, dismayed 

1 P.O. Austria, 38. Despatch of July igth. 

2 Vivenot, iv. 375. 

3 Dropmore Papers, n. 614. 

4 Pitt and Grenville wished the Archduke Charles to take over the command, 
with Mack as adviser. (P.O. Austria, 38. Grenville to Spencer and T. Grenville.) 

5 Fortescue, iv. Pt I, ch. n ; Vivenot, iv. 365-8. 


at their abandonment by both Prussia and Austria, had already shown 
signs of collapse, the stronghold of Bois-le-Duc being surrendered in 
disgraceful fashion (September 28th). 

This display of ineptitude and cowardice at the front was accom- 
panied by chicanery both at Berlin and Vienna. Malmesbury had 
noticed a semblance of activity in MollendorfFs army, whenever the 
British subsidies fell due, and a rapid relapse after their payment 1 . 
At Berlin, also, the politicians showed alarm at the mere report that 
the British subsidy was to be transferred from them to the Habsburg 
Court. The hope of such a transfer (with substantial additions), kept 
up a show of energy at Vienna ; but Thugut more than once hinted 
that Great Britain, having virtually destroyed the navy and commerce 
of France and captured several of her colonies, could well afford to 
"buy back" the Belgic Provinces for Austria at the general peace 2 . 

He thus gave expression to a notion always popular among Great 
Britain's Allies. It amounted to this: that her triumphs at sea were 
to atone for their failures on land, the sacrosanct principle of the 
Balance of Power being also invoked to justify her colonial renuncia- 
tions ancf their territorial recoveries. The classic instance of this 
procedure had been the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748), when 
George II sacrificed an important conquest overseas in order to re- 
establish Austria in the Flemish Barrier fortresses. Thugut, however, 
knew little of the British people, or even of George III, if he believed 
that a similar bartering away of colonial gains, made or likely to be 
made, would take place after the Flemish campaigns had aroused 
general disgust with the Austrian Alliance 3 . Mercy d'Argenteau, who 
was sent as Austrian Special Envoy to London, seems not to have 
urged any such argument. Thugut hoped that Mercy's action would 
avail at least to procure a loan ; but he died at London on August 25th, 
after accomplishing there nothing worthy of note. The Ambassador, 
Starhemberg, continued to press for a considerable loan 4 . The more 
flagrant the incapacity of Habsburg officers and officials, the more 
urgent became their demands for money. Thugut now insisted on a 

1 P.O. Prussia, 35. Malmesbury to Grenville, September 26th, 1794. On 
September 3oth he threatened to stop the subsidy unless Mollendorff moved to 
cover Clerfait. 

2 Dropmore Papers, 11. 627. 

3 Those feelings were increased by the cowardice of the Austrian commander 
of Valenciennes, who, on surrendering that fortress, tamely handed over a large 
number of Emigrh to be butchered. (Vivenot, iv. 447.) 

4 Vivenot, IV. 389-407. See ibid. p. 441 for Austria's hopes of a new Barrier. 
It included Lille. 


loan of 6,000,000, which both Spencer and Thomas Grenville 
declared to be an impossibly large sum. They returned to London 
late in October, re infectd.*i/ 

Early in that month, Pitt's indignation against Prussia boiled 
over in an interview with her Ambassador, Jacobi ; and thereupon he 
stopped the subsidies. Grenville promptly intervened and resumed 
the payments ; but the mischief could not be undone. Berlin clamoured 
at the breach of the Treaty; and Frederick William threatened to 
recall his Rhenish army, unless the full arrears were paid up 1 . Pitt's 
intervention in the affairs of the Foreign Office was the more unfor- 
tunate, because, as the autumn wore on, the rot spread alarmingly in 
the Grand Alliance. On October 24th, the Elector of Mainz proposed 
to the Diet of the Empire a motion in favour of peace, begging the 
Emperor and the King of Prussia to concert measures for an armistice, 
with a view to a pacification 2 , provided that the integrity of the 
Imperial frontiers were maintained. Disgust at the War also pervaded 
the Allied armies, and to this cause, rather than to any special prowess 
of the French arms, must be assigned the discreditable collapse in the 
campaign of 1794. Not a sign appeared of the ancient determination 
of the Dutch in the defence of their land ; and the powerful faction of 
the Patriots assisted the French invaders and paralysed the military 
preparations. In vain, the Prince of Orange added his entreaties to 
those of the British Government for help from Prussia. Frederick 
William replied that he was engaged in a war with Poland ; and that, 
as the Dutch could not supply him with succours for that struggle, 
their demands on him were consequently cancelled. Another ominous 
symptom was the discontent of the Germans. Malmesbury found the 
Rhinelanders clamorous for peace, and prejudiced against Great Britain 
because of her " views of ambition and conquest." They were proof 
against his arguments that she was the chief bulwark against French 
ambition and conquest 3 . 

In a last attempt to stay the flood of French invasion over Holland, 
the British Government decided to despatch Malmesbury to Brunswick 
with a formal request to the Duke to command an Allied army assembled 
behind the Waal for the defence of the United Provinces. The Duke 

1 P.O. Prussia, 35. Grenville to Malmesbury, November isth, 1794; Paget 
Papers, I. 50, 63. 

2 Malmesbury 's despatch of October 2ist to Grenville ascribes this proposal 
to Barthe'lemy, French Envoy at Berne, though Barthelemy said France would 
probably demand the Rhine boundary down to Coblentz or Cologne. (F.O. Prussia, 

3 Malmesbury, Diaries, ill. 143; Paget Papers, I. 57. 


himself had made proposals as to the operations of such a force 1 , and 
the recent engagement of his daughter Caroline to the Prince of Wales 
furnished another reason for his consent. Malmesbury, therefore, 
undertook the mission with some degree of hope, but he met with a 
refusal. The Duke made it clear that His Prussian Majesty vetoed the 
project 2 . The Envoy passed judgment on Prussian policy as embodying 
" as many bad political qualities as can possibly exist at the same time 
in the same Power, weakness, perfidy, insolence, avarice and folly 3 ." 

The contempt felt by the Russians for their Prussian fellow-con- 
spirators against the independence of Poland appeared in an incident 
at Warsaw. Scarcely had the King of Poland abandoned that city than 
the victorious Russians tore down the insignia from the Prussian 
embassy with every sign of contumely. Francis II so far demeaned 
himself as to congratulate the victor, Suvoroff , by declaring in a letter 
to him that his success would be the means of changing the system 
of all the Cabinets of Europe 4 . The fact was largely true, though the 
admission of it was needlessly humiliating. The fierce jealousies of 
the Central Powers subordinated them to Catharine; she virtually 
dictated the terms of the Third Partition now imminent, though it 
was not completed until October, I795 5 . Great Britain, of course, 
was helpless to prevent this catastrophe. Thus, in the winter of 1794-5, 
as two years before, the scramble for Polish lands distracted the policy 
\Jp! Berlin and Vienna, nullifying all the efforts of Great Britain to 
construct a solid barrier against French aggressions in the West. When 
those efforts appeared to be futile, Pitt and Grenville turned to Russia, 
and concluded a Defensive Alliance, signed at Petrograd on February 
1 8th, 1795, for granting mutual armed assistance in case either party 
"was attacked, Russia furnishing 12,000 troops and Great Britain 12 
sail of the line 6 . 

Meanwhile, the Dutch in despair of defending their land, proposed 
to the British Government to enter into negotiations fora general peace. 
With this plan our Government did not comply, but signified that, if 
the United Provinces chose to seek their safety in a separate peace, 

1 Paget Papers, I. 79. 

2 P.O. Prussia, 35. Malmesbury to Grenville, November 25th, 1794; Paget 
Papers, i. 98. 

3 Drop-more Papers, 11. 653. 

4 P.O. Poland, 8. Gardiner to Grenville, January 7th, loth, 1795. 

5 Sorel, iv. 447. 

6 Garden, v. 297. Probably the treaty contained a secret article specifying 
Russia's naval help; for in June, 1795, she sent 12 sail of the line to reinforce 
Duncan in the North Sea. 


we would not oppose such a step 1 . The overtures were abruptly ended 
by the French, so soon as weather conditions favoured a renewal of 
their advance. Before the utter collapse of the Allied defence on the 
Waal, Pitt and Grenville induced the King to recall the Duke of York 2 . 
The leadership of that prince had been meritorious ; but he was clearly 
unequal to the ever increasing difficulties ahead, not the least of them 
being the almost open insubordination of the British army and the 
active ill will of the Dutch. The Duke reported at Windsor that he was 
in every instance thwarted by the people whom he was trying to save 3 . 
Pitt further showed his zeal for the public service by substituting Lord 
Spencer at the Admiralty for the too leisurely Lord Chatham. 

But no changes of men could as yet avail to turn the tide of events. 
What was needed was a change in the spirit of the nations concerned ; 
and this came about only under the pressure of overwhelming calamities. 
The French Revolution, under the subtle alchemy of militarism, was 
to become by turns conquering, rapacious and tyrannical to its neigh- 
bours, until finally it was personified in the most awe-inspiring ruler 
of the modern world. Under his vigorous but oppressive sway, peoples 
previously torpid acquired new strength and a passion for independence 
unknown before. Rulers, too, were compelled to rely wholly on their 
subjects ; and the national consciousness thus aroused on all sides served 
to endow peasants with patriotism, Generals with determination, officials 
with honesty and Governments with efficiency. That transformation, 
however, was to come only with a radical change in the methods of 
waging war and with the overthrow of the old governmental systems. 
So long as the Allies could jog along with hired troops and British 
subsidies, no reform was possible. The payment of such subsidies was 
irritating to the donor and humiliating to the receiver. It promoted 
exacting captiousness on the one side and slack performance on the 
other. Not until both parties could unite frankly and enthusiastically 
under the stimulus of a great cause could great deeds be accomplished. 
The story of the year 1794 is the story of the wreck of an imposing 
Coalition, partly through divergences of aim, but also through a 
demoralising reliance upon the cash-nexus 4 . 

1 Dropmore Papers, n. 646. Minute of Cabinet of November i8th, 1794. This 
corrects the misstatement of Garden (Traites, v. 249), that we opposed the Dutch 

2 For the correspondence on this topic see Rose, Pitt and Napoleon : Essays and 
Letters. 3 Dropmore Papers, n. 644, 659. 

4 Thus, a delay (due to bankers) in the payment of the July subsidy led Frederick 
William at once to order Mollendorff to halt, until the sum due was paid. (F.O. 
Prussia, 35, Paget to Grenville, July 26th, 1794.) 



As always happens, perseverance in a bad system led to increasingly 
evil results. The year 1795 completed what 1794 had begun. Illwill 
between London and Berlin strengthened the Francophils at the 
Prussian Court ; and overtures made by the French Republic through 
the Prussian legation at Bale were warmly welcomed on the ground of 
the inner community of interests between the two Powers. Haugwitz 
and others assured Sir Arthur Paget (now Secretary of Legation at 
Berlin), that Frederick William entered on this discussion only in order 
to sound the intentions of France, and to discover whether a general 
pacification were possible 1 . It soon appeared that the reverse was the 
case. Despite an urgent remonstrance from Catharine against his nego- 
tiations with France, the Prussian monarch persevered with them. The 
Tsarina, thereupon, more decidedly favoured Austria's territorial 
claims in the Partition of Poland 2 . The Prussian politicians, attributing 
her conduct to a resolve to humiliate their country, were, all the more, 
bent on making peace with France. Thus, as at all stages of the Revolu- 
tionary War, the efforts of Great Britain in the west were thwarted by 
the intriguers of the east, over whom (as Grenville now perceived) she 
had no sure hold. Indeed, her subsidies to them, which were intended 
for the protection of Flanders, were often used to effect the subjection 
of Poland. Earl Spencer, during a mission to Berlin, found the im- 
pressionable monarch occasionally intent on renewing the struggle 
against France ; but, with very few exceptions, all his advisers counselled 
peace. Seeing that Grenville now differed from his colleagues as to 
the advisability of making further advances to Prussia, Spencer long 
remained without instructions, and could only observe helplessly 
Prussia's policy of drift. Instructions from Dundas reached him on 
April 2Oth, fifteen days after Prussia and France had concluded peace 
at Bale. 

That Treaty (due largely to the tact of Barthelemy, and the con- 
ciliatory ways of Hardenberg) empowered the French troops to occupy 
Prussia's lands west of the Rhine, prevented the Allies from passing 
across any of her territories, and brought about a truce with all the 
northern States of Germany. In pursuance of this last clause, a line 
of demarcation was agreed on, including the Circles of Saxony, West- 

1 P.O. Prussia, 37. Spencer to Grenville, January 6th, loth, 1795. See, too, 
Appendix B. Sir Arthur Paget (1771-1840) had been in the Berlin Embassy under 
Ewart, then at Petrograd. After 1794, he was Minister at Mainz, Ratisbon, Naples 
and Vienna. 

2 P.O. Russia, 29. Whitworth to Grenville, February i6th, March 3rd, i9th, 
27th, 1794. 


phalia, Franconia, and part of those of the Rhine, in order to separate 
the territories no longer at war with France from those which remained 
true to the Emperor and therefore at war. Prussia, also, invited the 
Diet of the Empire to make peace under her mediation an open bid 
for the substitution of Hohenzollern control for that of the Habsburgs. 

As a retort to this move, the Emperor on May iQth, 1795, invited 
the Diet to take the first steps towards assuring a general pacification. 
On July 3rd, it requested him to summon a Congress for this purpose 1 . 
His position had been strengthened by a Treaty with Russia of 
January 3rd, 1795, which favoured his claims in the Third Partition 
of Poland and held out to the Habsburgs tempting prospects of 
acquisitions at the expense of France, Turkey or Venice 2 . Further, 
on May 4th, Thugut signed with Morton Eden at Vienna a compact 
whereby Great Britain agreed to be responsible for the payment of 
interest on a loan for 4,600,000 raised for the Emperor, he agreeing 
to maintain during 1795 an army of 200,000 men. And, on May 2Oth, 
they signed another Treaty, whereby the two Powers mutually agreed 
to guarantee their possessions and to invite Catharine to form a Triple 
Alliance for the maintenance of the European System. It was con- 
cluded on September 28th, 1795, when Catharine engaged to furnish 
to the two Powers either 30,000 troops or an equivalent in money. 
These compacts signified the retort of the Allies to the defection of 
Prussia and of two other States, whom Great Britain vainly sought to 
keep true to the Coalition, viz., the United Provinces and Spain. 

Among the Allies of 1793, none underwent a harder fate than the 
United Provinces. In the winter of 1794-5, tnev were overrun and 
pillaged by the hungry and ragged troops of France, having already 
suffered from the disorderly elements in the British army. On January 
1 9th, 1795, the tricolour was borne in triumph into Amsterdam. The 
Prince of Orange and his chief partisans fled to England; and, on 
February 24th, the Patriots, now dominant in the States General, 
declared for the abolition of the Stadholderate and for alliance with 
France. Early in the same month, the Dutch East India Company 
issued orders to all Dutch vessels to leave British ports, and requested 
the French to abstain from attacks on their merchantmen. The 
detention of British vessels in Dutch ports led the British Government 
to adopt, on March i9th, a similar measure and to order the capture, ' 

1 Garden, Traites, v. 284-290. For the negotiations at Bale, see Hardenberg, 
op. cit. vol. v. chs. xi-xvi; Papiers de Barthlemy...en Suisse, vol. v. pp. 1-168; 
H. Stroehlin, La Mission de Barthelemy en Suisse (Geneva, 1900). 

a Sorel, iv. pp. 193-5- 


when necessary, of Dutch warships 1 . The e isition of territory 
negotiations with France, which resulted in an ^ hat Gr enville's tenacity 
and offensive, directed especially against Grea tQ hold QUt such hopes 
France required from her new Ally the services^ arms everywhere 
and 18 frigates, also of half of the troops at the d, tch ig highly sig _ 
Government; she restored the conquered districts e con dition o f the 
parts and the Maestricht territory, and secured the. am w k ere an a ttack 
Flushing. The United Provinces further agreed to ssion of more 
Dutch florins as an indemnity a crushing fine, which : . O f the French 
of Public Safety deemed essential for the avoidance oi^ r 

* jUaUl Ill a. CUI1 

In return, the Dutch received a recognition of their Ii. t j me Aj cu di a 
which can scarcely have deceived even the most creek, .^ ^Q- ^e 
Patriots. The rigorous conditions now imposed on the D. ' e enoue h 
world-wide importance ; for they extended the War more t ^ e p renc h 
over seas, and imparted to it, more and more, the char^ oga j s ear | 
Colonial struggle. Foreseeing that the French would use thfterranean 
settlement at the Cape of Good Hope as a means of attacking li\ ess were 
British Government prepared to strike at that strategic point me ^ g ute 
was occupied, in September following, by Rear- Admiral Sir an( j t ^ at 
Elphinstone and General Sir James Craig. Colonies 

As has been shown in this Chapter, the War between Franc,, com _ 
Great Britain was not, for us at least, mainly a war of principle. ' or a 
material issues at stake always outweighed those arising from a )a - n 
-of political ideals. But now, the defection of Prussia and the Al^ ut 
of the Dutch with France transformed the struggle increasingly^ 
one for Colonial and commercial supremacy. The change was g pam 
rendered more complete by the most striking events of the year \ tQ t ^ e 
viz., the Anglo-Spanish rupture and the rise of Bonaparte. 

The friction between the Courts of St James's and of Madn ors 
never ceased during the period of uneasy alliance, (1793-5). To thaj s ^ 
old sore, Nootka Sound, there were now added the irritants ofter^ 
arising from seizures at sea, disputes during the joint occupation itore( j 
Toulon and afterwards from the British occupation of Corsica. Desp >rt - on 
the offer of Paoli to place that island solely under the protection O f 
Great Britain, the Spaniards conceived a violent jealousy, when, ai eg at 
the reduction of the French garrisons by British seamen and 
the assembly of chieftains at Corti proclaimed George III King 
Corsica. Possibly, jealousy played some part in the unceasing 

1 P.O. Holland, 57 ; Cape Records, i. 98 ; Drop-more Paper , HI. 35. 

* R. Guyot, Le Directoire et la Paix d' Europe, p. 106. ^ 5> 



intervention in the west of Hayti, it is not easy to account for the joy 
manifested at Madrid at the news of a pacification which involved the 
abandonment of the whole of that island. The humiliation of the 
King was completed a few weeks later, when he conferred on his chief 
Minister, the Queen's paramour, the title of Prince of the Peace. 

Grenville at once pointed out that the cession of San Domingo to 
France was a violation of the Treaty of Utrecht, w r hich forbade Spain 
to cede to the French any of her American possessions ; and he charged 
Bute to find out the strength of her forces in the West Indies. That 
Envoy, also, saw whither the recent compact tended, and foretold that 
it would soon be followed by war with England. He, therefore, warned 
Admiral Hotham, commanding the Mediterranean fleet, to be on his 
guard, and even hinted at a dash upon Cadiz 1 . Grenville J s despatches 
to Bute at Madrid prove that the British Government desired to keep at 
peace with Spain. The attack on San Domingo was postponed, because 
Godoy asserted that it was not yet a French possession ; and in other 
ways deference was shown to Spanish susceptibilities. But all was in 
vain. In the year 1796, the prospect darkened, and Ministers at home, 
as well as Bute, expected a rupture whenever it should suit Spain 
to attack us. Godoy 's private appeal in July, that we should not 
consider his recent Offensive Treaty with the French as a casus belli, 
was clearly a ruse to postpone hostilities to a more convenient time 2 . On 
October 5th, Godoy handed to Bute the Declaration of War, the chief 
complaints of which referred to the conduct of Lord Hood at Toulon, 
the British conquest of Demerara, the occupation of Corsica and the 
west of Domingo, various naval incidents, and the establishment of 
British Commercial Companies along the river Missouri for the 
evident purpose of penetrating to the "South Sea." The rupture 
marked yet another stage in the transformation of the War into a 
commercial and colonial struggle. Its more immediate effect was the 
evacuation of Corsica, Elba, and the Mediterranean by the British 
forces, with the view of effecting a concentration in the Atlantic and 
in home waters. Its later results were the ruin of the Spanish navy, 
the capture of Trinidad and other Colonies, and the increase in the 
number of securities held by Great Britain as a set-off to the losses of 
her Allies on the Continent. 

We have looked ahead, in order to survey connectedly Anglo- 

1 P.O. Spain, 38. Grenville to Bute, August 7th; Bute to Grenville, August 
loth, 1795. 

2 See Despatches in Appendix C, also Dropmore Papers, HI. 148, 214, 233, 246. 



Spanish relations to the date of their rupture. But it is time to return 
to the autumn of 1795, which witnessed the first efforts of Great 
Britain for a general peace. By that time, the Coalition had sustained 
successive shocks in the defection of Tuscany, Prussia, Holland, and 
Spain ; while the attitude of the Imperial Diet was doubtful and the 
prospects of Sardinia were gloomy. On the other hand, Great Britain 
had concluded Treaties of Alliance with Russia and Austria ; her fleets 
had swept from the seas both the warships and the merchantmen of 
her enemies; she had captured, or was about to capture, their chief 
Colonies ; her finances, though strained, were vigorous ; and her spirit, 
in spite of sporadic riots, was undaunted. Accordingly, Parliament, 
at the opening of the autumn session, heard with some surprise the 
following sentence in the King's Speech (October 29th) : " Should this 
crisis at Paris terminate in any order of things compatible with the 
tranquillity of other countries, and affording a reasonable expectation 
of security and permanence in any treaty which might be concluded, 
the appearance of a disposition to negotiate for a general peace on just 
and equitable terms will not fail to be met, on my part, with an earnest 
desire to give it the fullest and speediest effect." " Mean while" (the 
speech continued), " we must carry on the war with a vigour which 
would conduce to this desirable end." Ministers seem to have im- 
posed their pacific views on George III ; for, two days previously, he 
had written to Grenville that no attempt at negotiation ought to be 
encouraged, as it would tell against an active prosecution of the War 1 . 
Further, it appears that the Duke of Portland, Windham and their 
Whig followers who had coalesced with the Pitt Administration 
regarded with apprehension or active dislike a policy which implied 
recognition of the Republic and the abandonment of the monarchical 
cause 2 . 

It may be well here to recall Pitt's pronouncements on the subject 
of negotiation with France. On January 26th, 1795, he deprecated 
'them as tending to encourage the enemy and " to bury the remains of 
opposition in France." On March 24th, in combating a motion by 
Fox, he disclaimed all notion of fighting in order to impose monarchy 
on the French people; but he added that "we shall gain all possible 
aid from the French Royalists": and he defined our leading object as 
"security." On May 27th he resisted Wilberforce's motion in favour 
of early negotiations for peace on the ground that "perseverance in 
the contest is more wise and prudent, and more likely in the end to 
1 Drbpmore Papers, in. 143. z Ibid. ill. 135. 


effect a safe, lasting and honourable peace than any attempt at negotia- 
tion." Admitting the reverses of the Allies, he yet claimed that France 
was nearly exhausted, her assignats being worth less than 5 per cent, 
of their face value; and, viewing her Government as regicide, he 
declared: "I will not acknowledge such a Republic." 

How, then, are we to explain the proffer of the olive branch on 
October 2Qth ? Probably, it was due to recent events in France. The 
new French Constitution had not the ultra- democratic character of 
its predecessors; and, though the Royalist or malcontent risings at 
Paris and elsewhere had been crushed, the prospect had arisen of a 
return to ordinary methods of government. In Pitt's words, if the new 
deputies could " speak on behalf of the people of France, I then have 
no difficulty in saying, from that time all objections to the form of 
that Government, and to the principles of that Government, all 
objections to them as obstacles to negotiation will be at an end." He 
still hoped for success in the War, bade the country show a firm front, 
and reproved the Opposition for dwelling on the reverses of the 

The present suggestion, then, was little more than an appeal to 
the French people for reasonableness in their foreign relations. It 
resembled somewhat that suggested by the Austrian Chancellor early 
in April. Thugut had then proposed the issue of a proclamation to 
the French people, declaring that they had been the aggressors and 
urging them to adopt "a Government such as may enable foreign 
Powers to treat with them with security 1 ." British Ministers seem at 
the time to have passed by the suggestion, perhaps because Grenville 
harboured hopes of a Royalist reaction in France, which William 
Wickham was to further from the embassy at Berne. If we may judge 
by the number and length of his letters to Wickham, the usually 
cautious Grenville continued long to believe in this chimera 2 . Evidently, 
he had not learnt the lesson, writ large on the Toulon episode, that 
foreign help during an internal dispute tends to the discredit and 
undoing of the party thus supported 3 . The lesson was once more to be 
illustrated, in ghastly guise, in the British-Royalist expedition to 
Quiberon. The failure, also, of all Wickham 's emissaries to Lyons and 
other centres of anti-Jacobin activity proved that the Royalists dis- 
trusted outside assistance 4 , and that the French people wanted peace, 

1 P.O. Austria, 40. Eden to Grenville, April 8th, 1795. 

2 Corresp. of W. Wickham, i. pp. 9-86. 

3 Ibid. I. 93. 4 Sorel iv. 350. 



order, and the retention of the chief social conquests of the Revolu- 
tion. The unpopularity of Lewis XVIII, his decision to stand by the 
principles of Henry IV, above all, the utter failure of the rising of the 
Royalists of Paris on October 5th, seem to have dispelled the hopes of 
Grenville. The baffling uncertainty as to obtaining military help, or 
even any definite decision, from the Court of Vienna, further disgusted 
him; and, though hitherto more favourable than Pitt to the Austrian 
connexion, he now decided to send Francis Jackson on a special mission, 
to press urgently for a decision, seeing that "we might possibly not 
find it very difficult to make either war or peace with advantage, if 
Austria will set her shoulders to the work in earnest 1 ." Grenville, 
then, though of late less pacific in tone than his cousin, was apparently 
not averse from a negotiation with France. 

On December 8th, the King sent a message to Parliament, stating 
that the crisis in France had led to an order of things which would 
induce him to meet any disposition to negotiation on the part of the 
enemy. Sheridan and Grey challenged Ministers to say wherein the 
order of things in France differed from that of 1793-4; but Pitt 
declared that her Constitution and her conduct need no longer prevent 
an accommodation. The distinction which he drew was overstrained ; 
but it is clear that he objected to the French Republic only because 
it had been a mighty agency for the propagation of levelling principles. 
This it had now ceased to be. At home its democratic fervour had died 
down; and, on all sides, the liberated peoples were crying out against 
their Jacobin liberators. As a conquering and acquisitive organism, 
the Republic aroused none of the enthusiasm inspired by the appeals 
of Vergniaud and the challenges of Danton. Pitt, therefore, viewed 
with no grave concern the recent Declaration at Paris, which in effect 
pronounced "the natural boundaries," to be an essential part of the 
new Constitution 2 . Frenchmen have generally applauded that resolve. 
They forget that it has always involved a war with Europe. For the 
present, the helplessness of the Empire, the inertia of Austria, the 
short-sighted selfishness of Prussia, and the calculated aloofness of 
Catharine, postponed the struggle; but it lay in the nature of things; 
and British Ministers were not afraid of the prospect of a negotiation 

1 Dropmore Papers, m. 137 ; E. D. Adams, p. 37. 

2 Decree of October ist, 1795 (Sorel, iv. 428-31, v. 2: Sybel, iv. 444 Eng. 
edit.). Soon after decreeing the natural boundaries, the French Government sent 
proposals to Vienna, offering Bavaria to Austria, if she would acknowledge the French 
annexation of the Belgic Provinces and not oppose that of the left bank of the Rhine 
a bribe to her to desert England. 


with France, which, if successful, would bring temporary relief, 
and, if unsuccessful, would exhibit the French Directors as the 
political heirs of Lewis XIV. 

The sincerity of Pitt and Grenville in this overture for peace has 
been sharply questioned by Sybel, Sorel, and other historians ; but the 
foregoing considerations both explain and justify the conduct of 
Ministers. Pitt, also though perhaps not Grenville assigned some 
weight to the news brought from Paris by Baron de Beaufort, to the 
effect that the Directory would gladly receive a pacific proposal 1 . 
Doubtless, the French Government hoped to separate England from 
Austria. If so, it failed ; for, from the outset, the Foreign Office declared 
that no separate negotiation would be undertaken. Further, its good 
faith appears in the elaborate measures at once adopted to assure the 
collaboration of the Allies. On December 22nd, Grenville wrote a 
4 * most secret " despatch to Eden at Vienna, setting forth the desirability 
of the two Courts at once exchanging views so that they and, if possible, 
all the Allies should arrive at an agreement before a negotiation began. 
A recent statement by the Directory set forth terms of peace which 
Grenville regarded as "extravagant and insulting"; but the internal 
difficulties of France seemed to promise a more reasonable programme. 
On her side, Great Britain now abandoned the fantastic notion of 
annexing the north-eastern fortresses of France to the Belgic Provinces. 
She proposed the restitution to Austria of those territories (with the 
addition of Liege and the southern parts of the United Provinces 
recently acquired by France) ; also, the recovery of Savoy by Sardinia 
(Nice was not mentioned), and the restoration of the Stadholderate. 
From the outset, the British Government utterly disclaimed the plan, 
which busybodies in Vienna had fathered on it, of making a separate 

Circumstances appearing to favour this project, Ministers, on 
January 3oth, 1796, approved the draft of a despatch to Eden inviting 
the issue of a joint Declaration by the two Powers as to their readiness 
to discuss terms of peace. George III disapproved it, but informed 
Grenville that he would not offer "any obstinate resistance," and 
hoped that the proposal would be rejected by France 2 . Grenville was, 
also, doubtful as to its success; but he instructed Wickham to open 
the matter to Barthelemy at Berne, with a view to the assembling of a 
Congress. The overture was made in Switzerland, mainly in order to 

1 Guyot, pp. 146-9. 

2 Dropmore Papers, in. 169, 170. 


allow of Austria and Sardinia readily cooperating if they desired. Pitt 
was more sanguine ; and, considering the hopefulness of his nature, there 
is no reason to doubt his sincerity in the matter. Grenville wrote to 
Eden that the Declaration should be issued " for the double purpose 
either of securing advantageous terms of peace or of laying the founda- 
tion of a vigorous prosecution of the war 1 ." 

Unfortunately, the British Government now held back the sub- 
sidies due to Vienna. Apparently, it deemed the defensive Austrian 
tactics, lately pursued with such fatal results, not worth the stipulated 
financial support, or else it believed in the speedy advent of peace. 
Nothing could have been more unfortunate. Austria was left without 
the sinews of war, just before the opening of Bonaparte's Italian 
campaign. On April 9th, Eden reported the utter inability of Austria 
" to provide even for the common expenses of the war " ; and discontent 
on this head must have hindered cordial cooperation with regard to 
the peace proposals. Already, Thugut had thrown cold water on them, 
declaring that the Emperor, while declining to join in the Declaration, 
would, in due course, issue one of similar import. On March 5th, he 
harked back to the recently discarded notion of the Belgic- Bavarian 
Exchange a proof that he was toying with that scheme which France 
had dangled before him. Eden expressed deep regret at the revival 
of this proposal, as to which the two Governments had so often been 
at variance 2 . 

Affairs at Turin were not more promising. Since the disasters of 
the year 1794, that Court had been a prey to constant fears, which 
found expression in tentative overtures for peace. Such at least was 
the first belief of Thugut and Grenville, the latter even for a time with- 
holding the subsidy due to Sardinia, and thereby weakening her before 
the blows of Bonaparte fell upon her discouraged troops. The proposal 
of a joint Declaration of the Allies completed the dismay of the 
King and his advisers, who believed that the French Directory was 
bent on a ruthless prosecution of the War. 

They were right. Aggressive aims were now uppermost at Paris, 
doubtless because the Directory detected further signs of collapse in 
the Coalition and felt confident of victory. In the month of January, 
1796, when the British Government set on foot its scheme for a 
general pacification, Carnot accepted the plan of Bonaparte for the 
conquest of Italy. The final British note to Barthelemy, perhaps, erred 

1 Wickham Corresp. I. 271-3. See too my article in Eng. Hist. Rev. April, 1903. 

2 P.O. Austria, 45. Eden to Grenville, March 2nd, 5th; April gth, 1796. 


on the side of firmness, and it omitted all reference to the French 
Republic 1 . But the counterblast from Paris ended all hope of peace. 
As handed in at Berne on March 26th, it implied the retention by 
France of the " natural frontiers " (Rhine, Alps, Pyrenees and Ocean). 
The Belgic Provinces were not named among her acquisitions, because, 
by the Decree of October ist, 1795, she had incorporated them 2 . The 
French answer, moreover, involved the restitution of all the Colonial 
conquests of Great Britain during the War. These conditions put an end 
to the negotiation. They were announced in the days when Bonaparte 
was preparing to drive the Allies from the passes leading from Savona 
into the plain of North Italy. His conquest of that land was destined 
to postpone for eighteen years a favourable opportunity of effecting 
a durable peace. 


Criticisms on Pitt's proposals for peace were twofold. The most 
fundamental were those of Burke, Windham and other Old Whigs who 
rallied to his side. Their devotion to the Royal cause led them to censure 
the whole conduct of the War as having been waged for material 
securities, when in reality it was to use Burke 's trenchant phrase 
a war against "an armed opinion." Stamp out that pest, or it will 
infect, enfeeble and finally destroy you ! Wage the war not for self- 
interest but for a principle! Distrust Prussia, Austria and other 
acquisitive States ! Ally yourselves with the French Royalists against 
the murderous despotism now enthroned at Paris ! Spurn all thought 
of compromise and peace as a cowardly betrayal of a sacred trust! 
Such is the burden of Burke's Letters on a Regicide Peace (1796-7). 
It formed the fighting creed of Windham, and ultimately had great 
influence on Grenville, while it echoed, in philosophic tones, the 
primitive predilections of George III. 

Over against this clear-cut theory stood the contentions of Pitt 
that, for Great Britain, the War did not arise out of a Royalist crusade 
(which was undeniably true), but from a resolve to gain " security" 
against French encroachments on a land fronting our exposed east 
coast ; that treaty obligations and expediency alike bade us expel her 
from that land ; that we had entered into a Coalition already virtually 
formed, and, from the weakness of our army, could only play a second- 
ary part in military operations ; that, therefore, we were inevitably drawn 

1 Guyot, pp. 153-5. 2 Wickham (Corresp. I. 321), forgot that fact. 


into the orbit of the Germanic Powers for land warfare and had to 
rely mainly on naval pressure to compel France to a peace. This 
implied the seizure of her Colonies, especially when the best of them, 
Hayti, was offered to us by the French inhabitants. Cooperation with 
the roving bands of Chouans or the Royalists of Provence, had been 
tried without success. 

In the main, these statements were undeniable. Wholly unprepared, 
Great Britain was engaged in a struggle of unexpected magnitude and 
duration. Her methods were therefore empirical, her warfare tentative, 
her blunders colossal. Trusting inevitably to her Allies, she saw them 
falter or fall away, a prey to the jealousies necessarily aroused by her 
policy of limited largesse on land and unlimited acquisitions at sea. 
Critics from among his own supporters could, therefore, claim that his 
war policy was a failure, when judged by his own standard. 

In a sense, both Burke and Pitt were right. The one Ally certain 

\ never to fail us was French Royalism. But how utilise it, when its 
^ champions were errant bands of Breton peasants and waspish cliques 
of intractable Emigres'* Burke's theory was as inspiring as its practice 
was impossible. He and Windham could demonstrate very forcibly 
the mistakes in Pitt's war policy. But, in the peculiar circumstances 
of 1793-4, now cou ld they have conducted the War on purely Royalist 
lines? That was the question which Pitt, if he had had time for literary 
embroidering, might have pressed home in Letters on a suggested 
Royalist Crusade. 

The all-important fact, however, was that by the year 1796 both 
of these methods of warfare had utterly failed. Royalism, after being 
half stifled by the scheming monarchs of Berlin and Petrograd, was 
now buried under the Old World trappings of " Lewis XVI 1 1." On the 
other hand, Pitt's policy of winning security had ended in the loss of 
the whole of the Netherlands and the all but complete collapse of the 
First Coalition. Therefore, Royalist theorists and political pragmatists 
should have joined in discovering a way out of the impasse. Instead, 
the theorists held aloof and added to the difficulties of the men of affairs 
in seeking to retrace their steps. 

Despite the fact that Pitt's peace overtures of the winter of 1795-6 
had played into the hands of Bonaparte, the Prime-Minister prepared 
to renew them. His second proposal, however, was prefaced by 
schemes almost comparable to those of our Allies. As French victories 

\ in Italy and Rhineland portended disaster to the First Coalition, Gren- 
^ ville (now a partisan of the connexion with Prussia) sought to ensure 


her active support by suggesting her acquisition either of the Belgic 
Provinces or of extensive domains in Germany. George III returned 
the proposal with the cutting comment: " Italian politics are too com- 
plicated for my understanding 1 ." Nevertheless, in its desperation, the 
British Cabinet prepared to act on the degrading principle of gaining 
the help of a powerful State by conniving at its annexation of a weak 
neighbour ; and, at the close of July, 1796, George Hammond, Under- 
secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, received instructions to pro- 
ceed to Berlin to tempt Frederick William by the offer above noted. 
George III again demurred, but did not actively oppose. Grenville 
sought to gild the pill for Austria by pointing out the urgent necessity 
of bringing in Prussia ; and he even held out the prospect of the acquisi- 
tion of Bavaria by the Habsburgs. No palliative could reconcile Thugut. 
He received the suggestion very coldly, declaring that either alternative 
would break up the Empire 2 . Hammond's mission to Berlin, also, failed 
owing to the absence of Frederick William, during which no important 
business could be transacted ; and the Envoy seems not to have con- 
sidered it worth while definitely to offer the bait 3 . Useful assistance 
was offered by Gouverneur Morris, an American citizen who, after 
actual experience of the French Revolution, decided to support Great 
Britain by all the means in his power 4 . But neither the address of 
Morris nor the vaguely alluring suggestions of Hammond could elicit 
a definite reply from Haugwitz. He betrayed unusual embarrassment, 
which was not unnatural, seeing that he had just signed a Secret Treaty 
with the French Ambassador binding Prussia to a system of neutrality, 
and accordingly missed the advantages, both public and private, which 
would have accrued from Anglo-French competition for favours at 
Berlin. The Franco-Prussian Treaty marked out the line of neutrality 
for northern Germany along the course of the Fulda, Ruhr and Lower 
Rhine, and promised to Prussia the eventual acquisition of the 
Bishopric of Minister 5 . Another Treaty, also signed on August 5th, 
will be noticed later. 

The British invitation for the support of Prussia having merely 
caused annoyance at Vienna, and the War in Italy going from bad to 
worse, Pitt recurred to his proposals for a pacification. In August, 

1 Dropmore Papers, in. 172-4. 

2 P.O. Austria, 45. Eden to Grenville, August isth, 1796. 

3 Dropmore Papers, in. 225, 235. 

4 The unsigned letters to Grenville in Dropmore Papers, in. 222, 224, 230, 258 
are almost certainly from Morris. See, too, 111.563, Sparks, Life of G.Morris, 111.93. 

5 Garden, v. 359; Guyot, 219, 265-^7. 


1796, he saw a politician named M. Nettement, who claimed to 
know that the Moderates in the French Directory secretly desired 
peace, which was certainly longed for by the great mass of the 
nation. If, therefore, so he assured Pitt's private secretary, Joseph 
Smith, an affable and tactful envoy were sent to Paris, who would 
interview the Directors privately and use his influence with the chiefs 
of parties, a reconciliation might well be reached ; otherwise, the peace 
would be one of exhaustion 1 . So dark was the outlook, especially in 
regard to finance, that Pitt resolved to seize this opportunity, and 
for a time induced Grenville to make the effort. By September 2nd, 
Ministers had drawn up a Minute embodying the terms to be offered 
to France through the medium of Denmark. These were : the cession 
to France of Savoy and Nice (she had acquired them by her recent 
Treaty with Sardinia); also, of "all the conquered countries on the 
Rhine not belonging to Austria " ; she would regain her Colonies lost 
in the War, while Great Britain restored to Holland the conquered 
Dutch Colonies, except the Cape, Ceylon and Cochin. Austria was to 
recover the Belgic Provinces and other territories conquered by the 
French ; but, in case they refused to give back the Belgic Provinces to 
Austria, and the latter insisted on the Belgic-Bavarian Exchange, we 
would not oppose it, provided that those Provinces were placed' " in a 
situation of as little dependence as possible on France 2 .' 

Here were the outlines of a possible settlement. The chief objec- 

Royalist Crusade. '-> considerable renunciations asked from France 

tions to them were trie +,*--+ U T; r;; wa, losses to be imposed on the 

in the heyday of triumph, and the heavy ^ ^ ^ 

Dutch, in order that L^n^ of September H tn, 

British Government, forthe ^ ecuringof better 

sacrifice any of i * colon* _g ^ ^ 

e ore to 

I794 , not to _ 

terms to Austria, now proposed to re ^ore o ^ 

overseasatthei^ Lol ^ bard and 

in order to induce the French t 


. . 

the expenses of the contest displease d George III, wL, 

The proposals of September cr a p j f their almos.. 

deemed them undignified and untunely , but '* ^ 

MSS. (Hist . MS* Coon), p 3*& ^ offet of the good 


certain rejection at Paris, he did not withhold his consent. Grenville 
also expected the Directory to find " a frivolous pretext for refusing a 
peace contrary to its interests " so he wrote to Eden on September yth 
and he hoped the affair would merely serve to show who was guilty 
of the continuation of the War. He proceeded with the negotiation, 
but in a spirit different from that of Pitt. His despatch to Eden 
diverged somewhat from the proposals mentioned above. He (lately so 
insistent on an alliance with Prussia) now laid stress on maintaining 
the power of Austria, for which cause Great Britain would sacrifice 
many of her maritime gains, and he also insisted on the entire inde- 
pendence of the Belgic lands. Before sending Lord Malmesbury 
to Paris for the purpose of opening the negotiation, he reminded him 
that "the King is bound not to make peace without the consent of 
Austria, except on the terms of procuring for that Power the restitution 
of all it may have lost in the war 1 ." Thus Grenville stiffened the 
original proposals, which bore the mark of Pitt's more pacific nature. 

Even so, their reception at Vienna was very cool. Fortune then 
favoured the Imperialists. In October they threw back the French 
to the Rhine and confidently expected to drive Bonaparte from Mantua. 
Further, Catharine, true to her policy of prolonging war in the west, 
offered 60,000 Russians for the next campaign on consideration of 
receiving a British subsidy, which she finally fixed at nearly 8,000,000. 
Thugut, before he was aware of this exorbitant demand, had conceived 
great hopes of Russia's help and disapproved the pacific overtures 
as likely to arouse her distrust 2 . Thus Habsburg pride, reliance on 
Catharine, and the gleams of success in Germany disinclined that 
Court to thoughts of peace, even on the liberal terms outlined by 
Grenville. So stiff was Austria's attitude that, as will soon appear, he 
warned her of the fatal results likely to ensue. 

The general situation in October, 1796, also offered but slight hopes 
of a settlement. True, the fortunes of France were for a time overcast. 
Nevertheless her diplomatic position was favourable, owing to the 
conclusion recently of Treaties with some secondary German States 
and Naples 3 . On the other hand, the Triple Alliance of September, 

1 Drop-more Papers, ill. 260. 

2 P.O. Austria, 46. Grenville to Eden, September 2oth; October 7th: Eden to 
Grenville, October i6th, i8th, 1796. For Thugut's confidence up to November I2th 
of military success see Vivenot, Thugut, Clerfait und Wurmser, pp. 511-518. 

8 Naples gave up no territory and was not compelled to exclude British ships. The 
Directory hoped probably to facilitate a separate peace with Austria, since the 
Empress Maria Theresa was a daughter of Queen Maria Carolina, of the Two 
Sicilies. Guyot, pp. 205-7. 


1795, had also reconstructed the First Coalition, and now the prospect 
of the active participation of Catharine in the War seemed no longer 
a chimera. With the aim of averting a Franco- Spanish domination of 
the Mediterranean, which appeared imminent after the Anglo- Spanish 
rupture, the British Cabinet decided to offer to the Tsarina Corsica, the 
object of her ardent desire. So confident were Ministers of bringing in 
the Russian fleet as a makeweight, that on October igth they decided 
to suspend the evacuation of that sea by Jervis's fleet, a change of plan 
heartily approved by George III 1 . So well balanced seemed the com- 
batants that the French Foreign Minister, Delacroix, at his first con- 
ference with Malmesbury on October 23rd, adopted a tone far less 
truculent than that of his earlier despatches. He even affirmed the desire 
of France for peace a statement confirmed by the deep weariness, the 
almost unbroken silence, which hung over the land. The issue, how- 
ever, rested, not with the disillusioned populace, but with the masterful 
faction which still overawed it. Yet, the need of humouring public 
opinion being urgent, the British overtures could not be declined 
forthwith. Indeed, on both sides of the Channel they were regarded, 
at least by those who disliked them or doubted their success, as a means 
of influencing public opinion. In London it had to be stimulated, at 
Paris calmed. 

These considerations explain the somewhat artificial character of 
the ensuing negotiations. The Directory tried to induce Great Britain 
to treat for peace separately, alleging the greater simplicity and speed 
of this procedure. She, of course, refused to separate from Austria. 
Thence ensued sharp differences, which were increased by the harsh 
tone of the French reply and by Grenville's stiff rejoinder on Nov- 
ember 7th. It has been claimed that, by this time, Grenville had 
resolved on a rupture, and that Pitt resigned himself to that ending of 
his hopes 2 . But their letters of that date and Grenville's Memorial 
to the Directory do not warrant so extreme a statement. The French 
effort to separate the two Allies was calculated to increase the distrust 
of Grenville and overcloud the hopefulness of Pitt 3 . There is, how- 
ever, nothing to show that even Grenville then desired a rupture of 
the negotiation. He instructed George Canning, now Under- Secretary 
at the Foreign Office, to commend Malmesbury 's tact in passing over 
certain annoyances and irregularities at Paris. Further, his two im- 

1 Dropmore Papers, ill. 261. 

2 Adams, p. 49. Guyot, p. 293. 

3 Malmesbury, Diaries, in. 295-303. 


portant despatches of November yth imply a desire for peace. In the 
former of them, he charged Eden to inform Thugut that, if Austria 
declined to share in the negotiation for peace, Great Britain might find 
herself compelled to open one separately, assuring to her Ally the best 
terms possible. In the latter despatch, he sent a warning calculated 
to dispel the last hopes of the Chancellor for the Belgic-Bavarian Ex- 
change. No Power but Austria or Prussia (he said) could hold the 
Belgian Provinces against the French. If the Habsburgs declined, 
then Prussia should be invited, to do so. In either case, the success of 
any general settlement depended on her consent, and Austria must 
formulate her policy without delay 1 . 

These are not the words of a man who desires a rupture at Paris, 
but rather of one who seeks to avoid it by inducing Austria to act 
promptly and reasonably. By all the claims of honour he was bound 
not to make peace with the French without putting forth all possible 
efforts to include her in the settlement; and, in view of her precarious 
financial situation, his remonstrance of November yth, together with 
his constant refusal to satisfy her exorbitant pecuniary demands, ought 
to have induced a desire to treat for peace. But the eyes of the Emperor 
and his counsellors were holden. Even the news of Bonaparte's victory 
at Arcola on November i8th, failed to open them. On Eden reporting 
Grenville's warning as to a possible reversion of the Belgic lands to 
Prussia, Thugut hotly exclaimed that his master would oppose it by 
force of arms. Not until December I3th, when the news of the 
sudden decease of Catharine reached Vienna, was that Court able to 
perceive its imminent danger ; and then it was too late for participa- 
tion in the negotiation at Paris. 

There, the British decision to act along with Austria had aroused 
some annoyance, which was increased by our Foreign Office instructing 
Malmesbury not to disclose the essentials of his Instructions. This 
prudent reserve (fully consonant with diplomatic usage) resulted chiefly 
from the above-mentioned decision, which involved waiting on the ever- 
deferred declaration from Vienna. Thus, affairs gyrated in a vicious 
circle, from which there was no escape until the course of events de- 
clared decisively for one of the disputants. It favoured France and told 
against the Allies. Arcola confirmed her conquest of Italy. The death 
of Catharine shattered the new Triple Alliance ; for it soon appeared 
that her successor, Paul I, would reverse her policy. Further, the 
Directory hoped much from Hoche's great expedition for the invasion 
1 See Appendix D for these despatches. 


of Ireland ; and it is significant that the date of his sailing from Brest 
(December iyth) coincided with the drawing up of a warlike note by 
Delacroix, in which he advised the rejection of the British proposals. 
Those proposals drawn up by Grenville on December nth, were 
delivered to Delacroix after the news of the death of the Tsarina 
reached Paris. Since they included the retrocession of the Belgic Provinces 
to Austria and the evacuation of Italy by the French armies, with 
comparatively small colonial retrocessions by Great Britain, the 
Directory naturally termed them ces conditions deshonor antes, and, on 
December igth, bade Malmesbury leave Paris within 48 hours. He 
believed this haughty conduct to result largely from the news of the 
death of the Empress 1 . 

Grenville's final proposals were, probably, designed to lead to a 
rupture. If so, he succeeded ; for it came about in a manner calculated 
to throw the odium upon the Directory. But that Government could 
now afford to disregard the moderate or peace party in France. Its 
successes bade fair to overturn old Europe and extend French control 
to the Tiber and the Upper Danube. Moreover, the British Opposition 
hotly denied the good faith of Ministers in the late negotiation ; but, 
in spite of a brilliant attack by Fox, Ministers carried the day against 
his amendment by 212 votes to 37 (December 3Oth, I796) 2 . 

Thus ended this gloomy year. In European waters, the British 
Navy had achieved little of note ; for the failure of Hoche's expedition 
to Ireland was due rather to a faulty start and bad weather than to the 
dispositions of Admirals Bridport and Colpoys. Nevertheless, in distant 
waters British seamen won several triumphs, securing from France 
St Lucia, Grenada and St Vincent ; from the United Provinces Am- 
boyna, Demerara, Berbice, together with Colombo and other Dutch 
settlements in Ceylon. On the other hand, our forces serving in Hayti 
suffered terrible losses from disease, which almost warranted the scathing 
censures of Windham on our West India policy. 

In view of the growth of discouragement at home and of anti- 
British feelings in Austria, it is surprising that Grenville did not 
publicly explain the motives underlying British policy. Gouverneur 
Morris, a good friend to England, urged this course of action in a 

1 Malmesbury, Diaries, in. 339-65; C. Ballot, Les Negotiations de Lille (1910), 
pp. 38-40. 

2 I doubt the story of the Prussian Ambassador, Sandoz-Rollin (in Bailleu, 
PreussenundFrankreich, i. 106), that Malmesbury went to him on December aoth 
and accused Grenville of bad faith a breach of confidence of which (to say the least) 
Malmesbury would surely not have been guilty and to the envoy of Prussia ! E. D. 
Adams (p. 50), seems to accept the story. 


letter of October 5th, 1796, from Vienna, stating that Anglophobes 
were accusing her of protracting the miseries of Europe in order to 
complete the conquest of the two Indies. He admitted that Grenville 
had to appease home opinion by dilating on the value of our Colonial 
acquisitions ; but such statements were utilised by hostile pressmen, 
until they embarrassed even the autocrats of Vienna. He, therefore, 
suggested that Grenville should issue a reasoned defence of his policy, 
to the effect that the security of the British possessions required the 
capture of the French and Dutch Colonies ; but that this, though a 
legitimate war measure, was not the ultimate object of the War, which 
was to protect Germany and the Netherlands 1 . This statesmanlike 
advice Grenville seems to have disregarded as an unheard-of departure 
from the traditions of diplomatic reserve endemic at Downing Street. 
The ominous tightening of the financial situation, the arrival of 
serious news as to the daring outrages of the United Irishmen 2 , and 
the popularity of Erskine's pamphlet, A View of the Causes and Conse- 
quences of the present War with France (January, 1797), concurred to 
arouse in Pitt once more the resolve to seize the first opportunity for 
a general pacification. His desire was strengthened by the course of 
the War. Though Jervis's brilliant victory over a greatly superior 
Spanish fleet (February i4th) had dealt a heavy blow at that navy, yet 
the general prospects were gloomy. As usual, Austria was a load about 
our neck. The surrender of Mantua (February 2nd) and the speedy 
collapse of her defence of the Carnic Alps portended a final disaster. 
Naturally enough, the attacks in Parliament on the Government's policy 
of subsidising Austria became more bitter. On April 4th, Sheridan's 
motion for an enquiry into this subject gained 87 votes, as compared 
with37 for the anti- War motion of December3Oth. The numberswould 
have trebled, if members could have read the reports then being penned 
by Eden and Colonel Graham at Vienna as to the refusal of Austrian 
officers and soldiers to fight and the utter confusion at headquarters. 
The Emperor, it is true, had repelled suggestions for a peace made by 
General Clarke through the Grand-duke of Tuscany, and Thugut was 
struggling manfully against a surrender. But they both complained 
that we were compromising the campaign by withholding adequate 
pecuniary support and naval assistance in the Adriatic. Thugut de- 
manded a large subsidy and the despatch of Jervis's fleet (then observing 
Cadiz) to operate on the Venetian coast. The British Government 

1 Drop-more Papers, in. 258; Sparks, Life of G. Morris, in. 93. 

2 Lecky, vii. ch. xxvm. 

W.&G.I. 18 


declined both requests, but on April 4th decided to send a force of 
frigates and light craft to that quarter 1 . 

On the same day, Grenville signed a despatch to Eden, affirming 
the willingness of Great Britain to treat for peace conjointly with 
Austria. He again suggested the issue of a joint Declaration stating 
their wishes for a combined negotiation. If France agrees, then Austria 
may propose the locality, provided it be not too far from London. Great 
Britain will sacrifice certain of her Colonial conquests in order to assure 
the welfare and security of her Ally, " on which His Majesty holds that 
of Europe essentially to depend 2 ." These proposals were prompted, 
not only by Austria's defeats, but also by news which reached London 
on March 3Oth from Lord Elgin, British Ambassador at Berlin, as to 
the Secret Treaty of that Court with France on August 5th, 1796 3 . 
Grenville, true to his earlier conviction of the value of a Prussian 
Alliance, had decided to make one more bid for it. Now, it seemed 
hopeless ; and the need of peace was the more urgent. On April 9th 
the Cabinet decided to send Hammond to Vienna to arrange a joint 
negotiation to that end. George III deemed the measure big with 
evils, but did not actively oppose. He could scarcely do so, in view of 
Pitt's statement that the Cabinet was unanimous. The following words 
in his letter of April 9th to the King are noteworthy: " In this opinion 
he knows that none concur more decidedly than those of Your Majesty's 
servants who have been most anxious to resist, while they thought it 
possible, the sacrifices now proposed." Grenville's letter to the King 
of the same date is equally decisive 4 . 

The Instructions of April nth, 1797,10 Eden, taken by Hammond, 
were drawn up with the special purpose of safeguarding Habsburg 
interests. They aimed at securing a general armistice, so as to allow 
time for consultation with Vienna and Petrograd, but set forth alter- 
natives in case Austria needed to act at once. If so, Eden and Hammond 
might advise the cession of the Belgic Provinces, provided that she 
acquired indemnities in either Germany or Italy sufficient for the main- 
tenance of her position as a Great Power. On other topics, Grenville 

1 P.O. Austria, 48. Eden to Grenville, March 8th, 22nd, 25th, 1797. For 
Thugut's opposition to the French offers of peace sent through General Clarke and 
with the recommendation of the Grand-duke of Tuscany see Appendix ), also Hiiffer, 
Quellen, Pt II, vol. I. pp. 112 et seq. Sorel, in. chap. iv. 

z Ibid. Grenville to Eden, April 4, 1797. 

3 Drop-more Papers, in. 304. 

4 Stanhope, Pitt, in. App. p. v. Dropmore Papers, in. 310. But see Windham's 
account (Diary, p. 357) of George Ill's remark to him : " I honour you for your firm- 
ness " (probably in opposing the peace proposals). 


proposed as a general basis the status quo ante, the French recovering 
all their former Colonies except Martinique : or, if we gave up that 
island, we claimed, in lieu of it, Trinidad and either Tobago or St 
Lucia. Similarly, we would restore to the Dutch their Colonies taken in 
the War, except the Cape and Ceylon, deemed essential to the pro- 
tection of our East Indies. No British possessions having been lost, 
we offered these restitutions, in order to assure satisfactory terms to 
Austria and Portugal 1 . The arrival of news of further defeats of Austria, 
probably also of the outbreak of the mutiny at Spithead, decided 
Grenville, by April i8th, to name conditionally further concessions, 
viz. that, if it were necessary to save her from complete disaster, His 
Majesty would forego all his recent conquests in the West Indies, 
except Tobago, where British commercial interests were supreme. 

These despatches and others printed in the Appendix vindicate the 
good faith of the Cabinet in regard to this overture. George III dis- 
approved of it; but he had long ago regarded persistence (not to 
say obstinacy) as the foremost of the political virtues. Statesmen who 
viewed the whole situation with an open mind must have deemed peace 
essential. Great Britain, though severely strained by recent events, 
held strong ground. She could fight on alone, unencumbered by Allies ; 
but at present she was bound to do her best for them. On their behalf, 
she now prepared to rescind her earlier decision not to surrender her 
colonial acquisitions, in order to alleviate their peace conditions. Of 
what use, indeed, was it to continue a conflict in which Austria's 
military disasters continually cancelled the effects of British naval 
triumphs ? The statesmen of London and Paris must already have seen 
that affairs were approaching a deadlock. The French fought desperately to 
secure the " natural frontiers " as a safeguard against Austria and England ; 
while those Powers struggled on from a conviction that the new frontiers 
would place France in a position of dangerous preponderance. In the 
process, Austria was losing Northern Italy and her possessions in Suabia 
and the Rhineland. Great Britain was pouring forth subsidies and 
making conquests overseas, whose chief use was to serve as barter at 
some ever receding pacification. The result would be either the destruc- 
tion, or some artificial reconstruction, of the old Flemish Barrier. If 
so, as in the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748), the British navy would 
have served merely to redress the Balance of Power on the Continent. 
As Burke truly said respecting the horrible loss of life in our West 
India campaigns : " If we look for matter of exchange in order to ransom 

1 See Appendix D. 

18 2 


Europe, it is easy to show that we have taken a terribly roundabout 
road 1 ." 

Grenville feared that the British proposal might arrive too late; 
and therefore sent after Hammond another, to the effect that, if Austria 
had made peace, he was to proceed to Berlin and accept an earlier, and 
rather suspicious, offer of that Court to mediate for peace 2 . On arriving 
at Vienna at the end of April he found that Bonaparte had imposed on 
that Court the Preliminaries of Leoben (April i8th). Thugut main- 
tained the utmost reserve and concealed them from him. Hammond, 
therefore, said nothing about the projected overture at Berlin 3 , which 
was certain to annoy Thugut. Proceeding to Berlin, he acted 
warily, and again fulfilled Grenville's revised intention, which was that 
he should state merely Britain's readiness to enter into pacific negotia- 
tions, saying nothing meanwhile as to our actual relations to Austria. 
By this cautious reserve, Grenville and Hammond rendered possible a 
resumption of close relations with Austria. The wonder is that, after 
reiterated proofs of the bad faith of Prussia, Grenville should, even in 
the present desperate straits, have thought of seeking her mediation. 

Starhemberg, who believed that Hammond had unguardedly dis- 
closed the secrets at Vienna, reproached Grenville and expressed the 
hope that Great Britain would never cease to trust Austria and Russia, 
united as they were by friendly ties. But the mischief of the situation 
was that we were drifting apart from Austria, who answered our in- 
vitation to a joint negotiation with excuses and reserve, or by complete 
silence. Further, it was clear that neither did she wholly trust the Tsar 
Paul, nor he her. Grenville had contemplated an application even to 
that unaccountable potentate for his good offices; but the mere in- 
tention illustrates the British statesman's desperation 4 . It would be 
unfair to blame Francis II and Thugut overmuch for the collapse of 
1797, in view of the utter demoralisation of the Austrian army, the 
craven spirit of nobles and burghers, and the delays in our financial' 
succour 5 . But it soon transpired that the Habsburg Court was con- 
templating an alluring alternative an entente with France with a view 
to the partition of the Venetian Republic 6 . Herein lay the chief reason 

1 Burke, Letters on a Regicide Peace (No. II). 

2 Drop-more Papers, in. 298. 

8 So he declared (Dropmore Papers, ill. 322) Starhemberg heard the contrary 
(Ibid. p. 325); he thought the secrecy of his Court culpable. 

4 Ibid. ill. pp. 299, 312; Ballot, chap. IV. Vorontzoffat London was working for 
a rapprochement with England ; but the inconstancy of Paul made it very difficult. 

5 Huffer, Quellen, Pt II, vol. I. pp. civ, 178-184. 

6 See Appendix D; also, Huffer, Quellen, Pt II, vol. I. p. 153. 


for the secretiveness of its policy during the spring and summer of 
1797. Frequently did Grenville and Eden ask for the communication 
of the Austro-French terms signed at Leoben. Thugut kept them 
jealously secret. He, also, refused to ratify a convention for the repay- 
ment of sums lent by Great Britain to Austria ; and, in spite of reiterated 
protests from the British Government that such conduct sapped all 
confidence in Austria's integrity, he took no steps to satisfy these just 
claims, believing probably that her isolation and need of an Ally would 
lead to the cancelling of the debt. Sharp opposition in Parliament com- 
pelled the Pitt Administration to hold firm in this matter, the result 
being a marked divergence between British and Austrian policy. Thus, 
the hope of setting on foot joint negotiations for peace came to naught. 
In fact, the Triple Alliance of 1795 was defunct. Paul pirouetted 
apart; Francis II was drifting towards a tame but not unprofitable 
surrender; and Great Britain, hard pressed by the mutinies in the 
fleets at Spithead and the Nore, seemed for a time at the mercy of the 
French. The cheery pessimism of George Canning found expression 
in the following lines (May i2th, 1797): 

Come, Windham ! celebrate with me 
This day of joy and jubilee, 

This day of no disaster. 
Our Government is not o'erturned 
Huzza. ! Our fleet has not been burned, 

Our army's not the master 1 . 

*-The intensity of Pitt's desire for peace is at no time more evident 
than his venturing, even in the midst of these civil discords, to sound 
the disposition of the French Directory on this question. On June 4th 
he privately assured Lord Carlisle that overtures were being made at 
Paris 2 . To take such steps while the Nore mutineers were blockading 
the Thames and Consols were down to 48, was the most questionable 
proceeding in Pitt's career; and it was, almost certainly, disapproved 
by Grenville. On May 26th he ordered Hammond to leave Berlin, 
where nothing could be effected, and on June 2nd he informed Eden 
that we were making peace overtures at Paris in consequence of Austria 
having come to terms with the French and observing complete silence 
on those terms ; but he ordered Eden merely to state these facts as a 
proof of our desire still to remain in concert with her. As to the method 

1 Windham Papers, u. 53. 

2 See Appendix D, also, for the reasons why Grenville refused Austria's futile, 
because belated, proposal of a General Congress. 


of our negotiations with the Directory, there arose a sharp division in 
Downing Street. Grenville, Portland, Spencer and Windham still 
desired close cooperation with our Allies, Austria and Portugal. Pitt, 
Loughborough, Dundas, Chatham, Cornwallis and, finally, Liverpool, 
carried the day in favour of a limited negotiation 1 . George III, very 
reluctantly, concurred. Grenville, however, in his note of June iyth 
to Delacroix, declared that Great Britain must look after the interests 
of her Ally, Portugal, and that those of Spain and Holland might be 
considered on the representation of France. 

We can here consider merely the causes of the failure of the ensuing 
negotiation at Lille. Malmesbury, our Plenipotentiary, well summarised 
the influences at work in the concluding sentence of his letter of 
July 25th to Grenville : " The fate of the negotiation will depend much 
less on what passes in our conferences here than on what may shortly 
happen at Paris." This remarkable forecast was prompted by the 
critical state of affairs at Paris. There, the violent trio that controlled 
the Directory procured the dismissal of Delacroix and other Ministers, 
the Foreign Minister's place being taken by Talleyrand as Plenipo- 
tentiary at Lille. Not that this diplomat was, either by nature or 
conviction, a Jacobin ; but, since at this juncture his diplomatic talents 
would be invaluable, he became their man for a time. In his opinion, 
the British Government was secretly encouraging Austria to resist the 
French terms, or rather the terms which Bonaparte was thrusting on 
her. " Force the Austrian peace by hurrying on the British peace " 
such was his motto. If left to himself, the young conqueror would 
probably have humoured the islanders to some extent, in order to 
crush Austria. That Powerwas playing a dangerous game. Obstinately, 
she held her British Ally at arm's length, until Grenville declared that 
her suspicious reserve and belated proposals for a General Congress left 
the Court of St James's free to go its own way, cooperation with her 
being out of the question, unless Gallic haughtiness compelled both 
States to fight on to the death. Malmesbury, also, affirmed that we 
had done more than our duty by her, while she forgot what she owed 
to us 2 . As for Portugal, her Envoy complicated matters on August roth 
by hurriedly signing a Separate Peace, which his own Government 
promptly disavowed. 

Thus, in the month of September, the Directory seemed to have 

1 Life of Sir G. Elliot, n. 408. Windham, Diary, pp. 365-8. For Burke's last 
despairing letter on public affairs, see The Windham Papers (1913), vol. n. pp. 53-6. 
For the British peace proposals of July 8th, 1797, see Ballot, App. xiv. 

2 Malmesbury Diaries, m. 465. 


the ball at its feet. Recent events had puffed up its leading members 
with intolerable pride. They hoped to arouse a great revolt in Ireland, 
stir up panic in England by invasions and plots of malcontents, and 
group the Baltic States in a new Armed Neutrality against her. The 
Tsar Paul being inclined towards peace, they hoped to refashion the 
Armed Neutrality of 1780, and to overwhelm both Great Britain and 
Austria. Their forceful policy having succeeded in the domestic crisis, 
the coup cTtiat of i8th Fructidor (September 4th, 1797), which led to 
the triumph of the violent trio and the exile of their moderate opponents, 
the victorious faction was about to apply similar methods to their foes 
abroad. Reubell, the most energetic of the three, hated England viru- 
lently and believed that she could be revolutionised and ruined 1 . A 

eek later, TulluynuK* and Maret were replaced by Treilhard and 

T> rr\ *tf " f if *** t : f f f TAetf>*''rf* . . . x-\ n t /: t 

Bonnier, Talleyrand becoming Foreiga-Mtmater. On September i oth , 
they sent a note, asking Malmesbury whether he had full powers to 
agree to a complete restitution of all British conquests made from 
France or her Allies; failing which, he should leave Lille within 
twenty-four hours. This brusque demand involved the restitution to 
the Dutch, not only of their settlements in Ceylon (as to which Pitt 
and Maret were ready for a compromise), but also of the Cape, as to 
which no British statesman would give way 2 . On other questions, an 
agreement had been virtually reached during informal discussions 
between Malmesbury and Maret; but this sudden demand was equi- 
valent to a rupture. In vain did the French Plenipotentiaries declare 
that it was designed pour activer la negotiation, and that, if Malmesbury 
chose to depart, they would await his return. That device was a sop 
to public opinion in France, which had longed for peace. With more 
reason, the British Government could urge that France had broken off 
the negotiation by a sudden and imperious demand. Accordingly, 
the whole affair tended to accentuate the war spirit on both sides of 
the Channel. 

It is, however, doubtful whether a compromise was practicable. 
The French Plenipotentiaries might, in private, deride the lofty claims 
of their Spanish Allies for the recovery of Gibraltar and Nootka Sound, 
the demand of territory in Newfoundland for their fisheries and of a 
virtually exclusive possession of the Pacific coasts of America. But, 
after the revival of Spanish pride consequent on Nelson's repulse at 

1 Ballot, chap. xvm. 

2 Malmesbury Diaries, HI. 385, 400, 456, 471, 557. Pitt and Grenville differed 
respecting Ceylon. 



Teneriffe, the Directory could not entirely overlook the claims of its 
chief Ally, nor indeed those of the Dutch, who, while less pretentious, 
were far more persistent. Maret believed that if Great Britain would 
forego Ceylon, she might retain the Cape by bribing each Director 
to the extent of 5o,ooo 1 . On the score of character the suggestion 
is quite credible ; but on that of expediency it is more than questionable. 
For such a proceeding could not remain secret ; and its disclosure would 
damn for ever the men who resorted to it at the expense of a faithful 
Ally. There was, apparently, some chance of the Dutch accepting a 
substantial sum from England for the Cape, in order to discharge their 
pecuniary obligations to France, that Colony being then regarded as 
financially burdensome and useful only as the outpost guarding the 
East Indies 2 . But the spirit prevalent at Paris after Fructidor forbade 
any chaffering on this head. Probably, Bonaparte's influence prevented 
the cession of the Cape to " the intriguing and enterprising islanders " 
who alone stood between him and the conquest of the East. Ostensibly, 
the question of the Cape was the chief crux at Lille, Ceylon and 
Trinidad presenting fewer difficulties. But, in reality, it was the 
domineering spirit of the Directors which occasioned the rupture 3 . 
Could they have foreseen the events of the next nine months the 
Dutch navy crushed by Duncan at Camperdown (October tath), the 
revival of British finance and prestige, the miserable failure of French 
plans for Ireland, the hatred aroused by the French invaders of Switzer- 
land and Rome, and the rapid rise of Bonaparte at the expense of " the 
lawyers of the Directory," they would have made peace and have 
figured as the benefactors of Europe, not as the dupes of the Great 

In view of the evidence now in our possession, the charge that 
Grenville always desired the breakdown of the negotiation at Lille 
must be revised. He felt the need of peace, if it could be obtained on 
terms neither dishonourable nor too disadvantageous 4 . But, clearly, 
Pitt was more eager than he for a settlement. His desire to end the 
War appeared in his entertaining some vaguely alluring offer to restore 
peace on not unfavourable terms, if 2,000,000 were secretly paid to 
the five Directors. The offer was either a hoax or an attempt to 
manipulate the Stock Exchange ; and Pitt's dallying with so suspicious 

1 Ballot, p. 237. 

2 Malmesbury Diaries, in. 439, 454, 464, 470. 
* Ballot, pp. 474-6, 298-309. 

4 See Appendix D; also Drop-more Papers, in. 372, 378; Hiiffer, Quellen, Pt II, 
vol. I. p. cxx note. 


a proposal seems to have induced Windham to write the sarcastic 
letter of October loth, referring to the constant lowering of our terms, 
in the hope of some day finding at Paris a Government that would grant 
conditions of peace " not utterly destructive " ; for to that course Pitt's 
system of "tiding over" was rapidly reducing us 1 . The prestige and 
credit of Great Britain never sank lower than in the summer of 1797. 
Thenceforth, under the pressure of French pretensions she began to 
recover spirit and energy. 

In every respect, the coup d'etat of Fructidor marks the beginning 
of a new period. In France, it brought about a recrudescence of 
Jacobinical violence. The rupture at Lille also opened the period of 
definitely offensive war. Both events were decided largely by the 
forceful will of Bonaparte, which, with military help, overbore the 
Moderates and launched France on a career of conquest and plunder. 
An attempt has been made by Sorel to prove the essential unity of all 
the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars ; but that theory is at variance 
with certain plain facts. Before Fructidor and Lille, the military efforts 
of Frenchmen had been to a large extent directed to the acquisition 
of what they deemed secure boundaries. Afterwards, they aimed at 
foreign conquests. There is a wide difference between the campaigns 
of Carnot and those of Bonaparte. The former was now an exile, the 
latter was now the uncrowned king of the French. Up to September, 
1797, the hopes of democrats everywhere centred in France. Thence- 
forth, they turned against her. That month marks the turning point 
both in the French Revolution and in European History. Brumaire 
and the Empire were but the natural sequel of Fructidor. 

That event also led the Directory and Bonaparte to conclude peace 
promptly with Austria. "We have war with England (wrote Bona- 
parte on October i8th), that enemy is formidable enough." Fearing 
that she was about to frame a new Coalition, he bullied Cobenzl into 
a surrender of the chief outstanding Austrian demand, the Ionian Isles, 
then forming part of the Venetian Republic, which the two disputants 
had resolved to partition. By the resulting Treaty, signed at Campo 
Formio near Udine on October i7th, 1797, France acquired the 
Venetian fleet, and for her subordinate Cisalpine Republic the western 
districts of the Venetian mainland, while Austria obtained the city of 
Venice, Eastern Venetia, Istria and Dalmatia. She also ceded to the 
French the Belgic Provinces, recognised the (nominal) independence 
of the lands now forming the Cisalpine Republic, promised to transfer 

1 Windham Papers, n. 61. 


her Breisgau to the dispossessed Duke of Modena and agreed to the 
assembly of a Congress for the settlement of German affairs. The main 
outlines were marked out in secret articles whereby the Emperor 
pledged himself to use his good offices to procure from the Empire 
the cession to France of all German lands west of the Rhine, she in 
return using her endeavours to secure for him the Archbishopric of 
Salzburg and part of South-East Bavaria. The signatory Powers further 
agreed that, if one of them made more acquisitions than these in 
Germany, the other should gain an equivalent indemnity 1 . 

Such was this disgraceful compact. The two Powers now extin- 
guished the unoffending Venetian Republic and agreed on a policy 
of spoliation at the expense of the lesser States of the Holy Roman 
Empire. The Emperor consented to schemes which involved the breach 
of his coronation oath ; and the French Republic placed itself on the 
level of the despoilers of Poland. The success which, also, attended 
the French negotiations at the Congress of Rastatt hastened the dis- 
solution of the Holy Roman Empire and assured the predominance 
of France in German affairs. Bonaparte, after participating for a few 
days in the early sessions at Rastatt, repaired to Paris, where he received 
a rapturous welcome, and was bidden by Barras to proceed to the 
northern coast and overthrow " the giant corsair that infests the seas." 
Duncan's victory at Camperdown deprived this verbiage of all sig- 
nificance; but unrest in England and unceasing outrages in Ireland 
darkened the outlook in the autumn of I797 2 . If the French Republic 
had not soon belied its reputation of liberator of oppressed peoples, 
the democratic ferment in our large towns would have been formidable. 
For a time British malcontents looked with hope to Bonaparte's forces 
mustering on the coasts of Picardy and Flanders. It soon appeared 
that those preparations were, on his part, a blind to hide his real aims 
which pointed towards Egypt. When his ambitions became manifest 
and the plunder of the Swiss Cantonal treasuries was known, the 
sympathy of British democrats with France rapidly cooled ; and the 
War received whole-hearted support. The rise of Bonaparte syn- 
chronises closely with the decline of British Republicanism, fear of 
which had in a measure influenced Grenville's foreign policy. 

The truth that the excess of an evil works its own cure likewise be- 
came manifest, though slowly, in the international situation. The domi- 

1 Garden, v. 415-425. Austria lost 3,604,300 inhabitants, but gained 3,050,000 
in Italy, etc. 

2 Dropmore Papers, ill. 378, 385-9. 


neering behaviour of the French Envoys at Rastatt, the rapacity of 
French officials in theRhineland,andthe spoliation of Rome and central 
Switzerland alarmed and disgusted all neighbouring Powers. Thugut, 
while secretly satisfied with the terms signed at Leoben, resented the 
far more onerous conditions of the Treaty of Campo Formio, and 
regarded it as a truce, to last until the Triple Alliance could be renewed 
under more favourable auspices. The conduct of the French convinced 
the statesmen of Vienna, Petrograd and London that the time was 
fast approaching 1 . 

For a brief period, some hope was entertained that Prussia would 
enter on a different course. In November, 1797, the death of Frederick 
William II brought to the throne his son of the same name. The new 
monarch was virtuous; and his accession and that of his beautiful 
consort Louisa, ended the scandals which had disgraced the Court of 
Berlin. His national patriotism revolted at the terms of the Treaty of 
Campo Formio and the intrusion at Rastatt of French influence into 
Germanic affairs. He, therefore, sought to come to an understanding 
with the Emperor Francis II. The attempt produced little result, owing 
to the incurable distrust between the two Courts. Further, there 
appeared in Frederick William III signs of that narrowness of outlook 
and paralysing indecision which were destined often to warp or thwart 
Prussian policy; and the hopes of a change of policy harboured by 
Lord Elgin, British Ambassador at Berlin, soon faded away. The Duke 
of Brunswick, who went thither with the purpose of influencing the new 
monarch in favour of Great Britain and Austria, soon had to lament 
his timidity and reliance on the old clique, especially on Haugwitz, 
a man (said Brunswick) "whom no honest man could trust." 

Very different was the character of George III. As he once wrote 
to Pitt, " I never assent till I am convinced what is proposed is right, 
and then I keep." This excellent quality, together with the quenchless 
optimism of Pitt, the stern tenacity of Grenville, the valour of her 
fighting men and the marvellous buoyancy of her finances, made 
Great Britain the sole hope of European independence. Mallet du 
Pan, on reaching our shores in the spring of 1798, was astounded at 
the confidence which prevailed. "The nation (he wrote) had not 
yet learnt to know its own strength or its resources. The Government 
has taught it the secret, and inspired it with an unbounded confidence 
almost amounting to presumption." This dogged determination was 
certain to reinvigorate our former Allies, so soon as they had full 

1 Drop-more Papers, ill. 384, 395-7. 


experience of the dealings of France with her neighbours. On 
January nth, 1798, George III wrote to Pitt, urging the need of an 
alliance with Austria, Russia and Prussia, and the despatch of Lord 
Minto to Vienna for the initial negotiations, England acting as a 
guarantor for an eventual Austro-Prussian settlement. No such steps, 
however, were taken for the present, but de Luc, George Ill's agent 
in Germany, worked hard to safeguard the Princes of the Holy Roman 
Empire and remove the obstacles to a union of the Powers. For the 
present, the scramble for "indemnities " at Rastatt left Central Europe 
a prey to French intrigues ; and, by a vote of the Congress on March 
9th, 1798, France secured the Rhine boundary, the ecclesiastical 
domains further east being earmarked for the dispossessed German 
Princes from beyond that river 1 . 

These and other high-handed actions on the part of the French 
induced Thugut to angle warily for support from London ; but, on 
the score of Austria's poverty, he declined to repay her loan of 
1,600,000, now overdue at London. Pitt and Grenville insisting on 
the discharge of this obligation, a diplomatic deadlock ensued, des- 
tined to produce serious consequences. True, on April ist Starhemberg 
proffered to Grenville proposals, drawn up by Thugut on March i8th, 
probably owing to the French diplomatic success of March 9th at 
Rastatt. They aimed at the formation of a league between the four 
great monarchies in order to oppose France, now " decidedly bent on 
the subversion of every part of Europe and totally regardless of the 
faith of treaties." Austria, also, asked for pecuniary aid, the despatch 
of a British fleet into the Mediterranean, and enquired whether, if 
necessary, action could be taken in theyear 1799. Starhemberg, further, 
hopefully suggested that the one thing necessary to make the Tsar act 
was to convince him that peace with anarchic France was impossible, 
and that, if Prussia were unfriendly, he should at least neutralise her. 
At best, however, a Quadruple Alliance could be formed with which 
the Scandinavian and Italian States would probably coalesce. He, also, 
opposed the notion of the Belgic Provinces ever falling to Prussia, but 
in any case begged for British financial support 2 . Here he encountered 
the fixed resolve of Pitt and Grenville, which barred further progress. 
For a brief space, the question of reparation for an insult to the French 
flag at Vienna on April i3th promised to lead to a rupture; but the 

1 Rose, Pitt and Napoleon: Essays and Letters, pp. 240, 243; Dropmore Papers, 
in. 400-7, iv. 43-60; Guyot, pp. 673-684; Le Congres de Rastatt, I. pp. 1-256; 
H. Hiiffer, Der Rastatter Kongress, vol. n. passim. 

2 Dropmore Papers, iv. 153-9. 


incident ended in a tame compromise which for a time seemed likely 
to lead even to an Austro-French entente. The Directory sought to 
entice both Austria and Russia to a partition of the Turkish Empire, 
but met with little response. Prussia, likewise, rejected its overtures 
for an alliance. 

In the early summer of 1798, the impasse in European affairs 
seemed hopeless. Great Britain was for a time distracted by the for- 
midable revolt in Ireland, which the fleets of Brest and Rochefort 
promised, but failed, to foster. Italy and Switzerland lay at the feet 
of the French ; and the helplessness of the Holy Roman Empire stands 
revealed in the remark of Bonaparte, that, if that institution did not 
exist, France would have to create it. But now, as was so often to 
happen, his masterful ambition launched France into an ocean of 
adventure, overburdening her with new responsibilities and exaspera- 
ting all the Powers. Instead of striking at Ireland, where the blow 
would have been mortal, he purposed to ruin Great Britain by the 
seizure of Malta and Egypt, as a preliminary to the acquisition of her 
Indian Empire. Setting sail from Toulon on May igth, his great 
armada easily captured Malta (June i2th). The news aroused a pro- 
found sensation at Rastatt. "It caused, first stupor" (wrote Debry, 
the French plenipotentiary on August 6th), "then rage. Not for a 
week has a single friend of Austria come to my house 1 .'* Bonaparte's 
capture of Alexandria produced an equal sensation. It threw light on 
the French projects for a partition of Turkey, and spurred on that 
Power to a declaration of war. On August i5th, the Sultan appealed 
to the Emperor of Morocco and other Moslem Princes for a joint 
effort against the French, who had without " any declaration of war, as 
practised by all regular governments, sent a wretch named Bonaparte 
against Egypt with a view to an attack on the whole Mohammedan 
world." Though the Sultan failed to stir up a Jehad against France, 
he found an unexpected Ally in Russia. The seizure of Malta, for 
whose Knights the Tsar Paul had long cherished a romantic admira- 
tion, threw him into transports of rage and ended his hesitations as 
to a war with France. His zeal for the expulsion of the French from 
Malta increased, when many of the exiled Knights repaired to Russia 
and, in October, 1798, elected him Grand-master of their Order. At 
once, he prepared to help Turkey with a fleet, and Austria with troops 
subsidised by Great Britain. The news of Nelson's victory at the Nile 
(which did not reach Paris until September I4th> and London on 

1 Le Congres de Rastatt , i. 270. 


October 2nd and 3rd) aroused intense satisfaction in Austria and Russia 
and ecstasies of joy throughout southern Italy, where a French in- 
vasion had seemed imminent. Bonaparte's Eastern expedition was, im- 
mediately, seen to be a gigantic blunder. Besides shutting up in Egypt 
the best Generals and troops of France, it incited Paul to hostility, 
encouraged Austria, and brought on immediate war with the Turks, on 
whom France had always counted to immobilise half the armies 
of the Imperial Courts. Soon, the subjects of the Sultan witnessed the 
strange spectacle of a Russian fleet sailing down the Bosphorus to help 
the Porte in the Mediterranean. What British diplomacy had failed to 
effect, British seamanship accomplished by one mighty blow. Nelson's 
exploit brought to life all the latent elements of opposition to the 
domination of France, and threw back that Power on the defensive. 


Nevertheless, so discordant were the Gallophobe States that neither 
the zeal of the Tsar nor the persistence of Grenville could fuse them 
into lasting union. Now, as ever, the hostility of Austria and Prussia 
was incurable, and Talleyrand counted on it for paralysing the nascent 
league. Of late, he had declared that he did not fear Coalitions, and 
had sent Sieyes to Berlin to keep Prussia quiet. The Envoy so far 
succeeded in working on the fears or covetousness of the Berlin Court, 
that neither the efforts of Russia nor those of Great Britain could effect 
a reconciliation with Austria 1 . Frederick William III professed a 
strong desire to expel the French from the Netherlands, but would not 
move until Great Britain paid him a subsidy and the Habsburgs opened 
the game. They, again, would not stir without money from London. 

Similar requests had also arrived from Petrograd. On July 24th, 
1798, the Chancellor, Prince Besborodko, officially declared to Whit- 
worth the desire of Paul to become a principal, instead of an auxiliary, 
in the war, for the purpose of re-establishing peace on safe and honour- 
able terms, not for the restoration of the Bourbons to the throne of 
France. Russia's cooperation, however, was conditional on the receipt 
of a British subsidy. Grenville, in his reply of August 27th, pointed 
out the straightened condition of the finances of Great Britain, her 
extraordinary exertions in all spheres of the war, and stated that, 
having been disgracefully abandoned by the Habsburgs, she could not 
frame a concert with them. She would, however, accept the Tsar's 

1 Dropmore Papers, iv. 272, 306-313, 350, 358, 363. 


mediation for the re-establishment of such a concert, especially with 
a view to restoring the cantonal system in Switzerland ; and Whitworth 
was empowered to sign a Subsidy Convention for the support of "a 
powerful Russian army " to cooperate with Austrian forces in the west. 
If such action were impossible, Grenville suggested an Anglo-Russian 
expedition to free the Dutch Republic, "exasperated as it is by the 
insulting tyranny of the French." If, however, Austria would help 
the Swiss, equally irritated against the French, we would assist Russia 
in acting conjointly with Austria for their liberation 1 . 

In these suggestions appear the first outlines of the campaigns of 
1799. They proceeded largely on the lines sketched at Downing Street 
a fact which differentiates the Second from the First Coalition. The 
British programme matured very slowly, owing to distrust of Austria 
and to the impossibility of satisfying the pecuniary demands of merely 
potential Allies. Pitt and Grenville agreed that, despite the excellent 
revenue returns, we could not possibly spare more than 2,000,000 
for the three exigent States ; and Pitt sagaciously concluded that the 
best course for the present was to continue "to fight well our own 
battle ; and Europe must probably be left some time longer to its fate 2 ." 
The formation of the new league was, also, hindered by the skill of the 
French Plenipotentiaries at Rastatt in fomenting German jealousies, 
and by Austro-Russian disputes concerning Suvoroff's army destined 
for service under the Habsburgs. 

While diplomats bargained at Rastatt and the Tsar showered angry 
notes on Vienna, Ferdinand IV, King of the Two Sicilies, rushed into 
the fray. He had reasons for prompt action. By the Defensive Treaty 
of May 20th, 1798, with Austria, he would, in case of attack by the 
French, receive help from 60,000 whitecoats, or send 40,000 Neapoli- 
tans to succour the Habsburgs if they were assailed. On July i6th, 
the Court of Vienna ratified this compact, together with two supple- 
mentary articles whereby the Emperor promised to defend Naples, if 
attacked in consequence of opening the ports of the Kingdom to the 
British fleet. That case soon occurred, Nelson with some initial 
difficulty procuring at Syracuse the provisions and water which his 
Instructions from Earl St Vincent entitled him to demand. These 
resulted finally from the understanding with Austria, which involved 
the right of procuring provisions from Austrian and Neapolitan 
ports. As it was Austria which first pressed for the despatch of a 

1 P.O. Russia, 40. Grenville to Whitworth, August 27th, 1798. 

2 Dropmore Papers, iv. p. 355. 


British fleet to that sea, within which there was no British station, 
she was bound to succour the Neapolitans in case of a French attack, 
consequent on their supplying the needed provisions and water ; and 
the aggressiveness of the French (witness their forcible occupation of 
Turin on July 3rd) warranted the belief that they would attack Naples 
on the first plausible pretext. In this respect, then, the despatch of 
Nelson's squadron to the Mediterranean, primarily for the protection 
of Naples, was almost certain to lead to a new war; and Thugut's 
assurances to Eden, especially on June 23rd, pointed to the proffer of 
prompt assistance to that State, if it were assailed in pursuance of 
actions necessarily resulting from Austria's demand. 

Nevertheless, so dependent was she on the Tsar (himself a waving 
reed) that, on October 3rd, Grenville warned Hamilton as to the danger 
of Naples breaking with the French Republic, unless it had "the 
fullest assurances of support from the Court of Vienna." By some 
mischance, this despatch did not reach Hamilton until November igth ; 
and, two days earlier, King Ferdinand had rushed into war. Whether he 
counted on armed help from Austria is doubtful. On September 28th 
General Acton assured Nelson and Hamilton that " Naples was deter- 
mined to declare war, not wait for the Emperor ; that they well knew the 
plan of the French against them." His rival, the Marchese di Gallo, in- 
culcated caution and therefore incurred the hot displeasure of Nelson. 
Succumbing to the fascination of Lady Hamilton (herself the favourite 
of Queen Maria Carolina) the Admiral urged instant war. When 
admitted to their councils he roundly scolded Gallo and strengthened 
the party of action. The arrival of the Austrian General Mack, and 
his belief in the soldierly qualities of the 30,000 Neapolitan troops who 
made a fine show at Caserta, clinched the matter. On November i2th, 
Nelson assisted at a council at which it was decided that he should 
carry 4600 men to Leghorn, to menace the French rear, and, on the 
1 7th Mack advanced to attack them at Rome, " trusting to the support 
of the Emperor." The latter plan must, however, have been formed 
during the absence of Nelson off Valetta (October 24^1-3 ist); for, so 
early as November icth, news from Naples reached Thugut to the 
effect that the kingdom was about to make war; and, on behalf 
of the Emperor, he angrily declared to Eden that if it acted thus, 
it would receive no help from Austria. He had sent a similar warning 
to Naples, which arrived late on the i2th, five days before the Nea- 
politans were to advance ; but the King and Queen, stimulated thereto 
by Nelson, nevertheless resolved to attack. Evidently, the Admiral 


had jumped to the conclusion that the Emperor would act, or must 
be forced to act 1 . 

The result was disastrous. The Neapolitans broke at every en- 
counter, rushed back in rout to the capital; and, on December 23rd, 
Nelson in H.M.S. Vanguard carried the royal family and the Hamiltons 
for safety to Palermo. This ignominious collapse exasperated the 
Emperor ; and on December 22nd he hotly asserted to Eden that the 
precipitate action of his father-in-law, King Ferdinand, in attacking 
France was due to the British Government, which had sought to drag 
Austria into war, though it knew her to be unprepared. The charge 
against the Government is demonstrably false ; if it had been levelled 
at Nelson, it would have contained some measure of truth. In any case, 
the precipitate action of Ferdinand marred the opening of the War of 
the Second Coalition and deprived that struggle both of the momentum 
and the general goodwill which might have assured the overthrow 
of France. Never was she weaker and more hated; never were her 
opponents stronger than after the Battle of the Nile ; and it is a matter of 
enduring regret that the rashness of Nelson at Naples compromised 
the political results of that glorious triumph. 

Meanwhile, the whims of Paul, the narrow suspicions of Francis, 
and the conscientious objections of Frederick William to any forward 
move, let slip the opportunity. While France was arming systematically 
in pursuance of her new Law of Conscription (September 23rd, 1798), 
the three Powers were engaged in futile chaffering. In order to bring 
the Tsar to a point, Grenville on November i6th despatched to Whit- 
worth proposals for an Anglo-Russian Alliance which should form the 
basis of a European League. Taking warning from the fate of the First 
Coalition, he sought to effect a just and stable settlement of Con- 
tinental problems by means of a firm compact between the two Great 
Powers that were but slightly concerned in the central tangles. Great 
Britain and Russia were to lay the foundations of a Quadruple Alliance 
with Austria and Prussia for the master-aim of reducing France within 
her ancient limits, the Allies contracting not to lay down their arms 
until this purpose should be attained. Since, however, its attainment 
might be hindered by the territorial ambitions and mutual jealousies 
of the Central Powers, Grenville sought to exorcise them by a pre- 
liminary understanding, the Habsburgs being invited to look towards 
Italy, in order not to exasperate Prussia. Her monarch was to be 

1 Sir H. Nicolas, Despatches of Nelson, n. 144, 148, 170, 171. See also 
Appendix E. 

w. &G.[I. 19 


invited to indicate his desires for territory a request not calculated 
to placate Vienna. For the rest, Grenville assumed that neither of the 
Central Powers would desire the Belgic lands, and that the best plan was, 
therefore, to add them to the United Netherlands under the restored 
Stadholder, the Prince of Orange. The freedom of Switzerland and the 
restitution by the French of Savoy (Nice was not named) and of the 
Rhenish lands to their former owners were, also, stipulated 1 . 

Viewed at large, the document may be called a rough draft of the 
Treaties of Vienna and Paris of 1814-15; while the almost nervous 
bid for Prussia's aid for the deliverance of the Netherlands associates 
this programme with the Anglo-Dutch-Prussian Alliance of 1788, At 
several points, the outlines are shadowy, notably as relating to the ex- 
pansion of Prussia and the future of the kingdom of Sardinia. The 
latter State is not named, doubtless because it had on April 4th, 1797, 
framed a close Alliance with the French 2 , and was now under their 
control. Nevertheless, the future of Sardinia should have been as much 
a matter of concern as that of the Dutch Republic, which was equally 
in the hands of the enemy. 

Grenville's Instructions of November i6th led to the formation of 
the provisional Anglo-Russian Treaty of December 29th, 1798, which 
stipulated pecuniary support by Great Britain for a subsidised Russian 
army of 45,000 men, to act in the west together with a Prussian force. 
At this time, Grenville cherished high hopes of inducing Prussia to 
take up arms for the liberation of the United Provinces. Cooperation 
with her almost necessarily involved alienation from Austria. Accord- 
ingly, as the Court of Vienna maintained its suspicious reserve, he 
sharply rebuked Whitworth for allowing himself, at the instance of Paul 
and in contradiction to Instructions from home, to be drawn into futile 
pourparlers with that inveterate schemer, Count Lewis Cobenzl 3 . These 
were cut short, and Grenville despatched his brother Thomas on a 
special mission to Berlin, for the purpose of arranging an Anglo- 
Prusso-Russian invasion of Dutch territory, if possible with the help 
of Denmark or Sweden. The family connexion of Frederick William 
with the House of Orange, and his known desire for the liberation of 
that land, told in favour of the scheme; but, finally, Francophil in- 
fluences, added to his innate indecision of character, prevailed. He 
decided to stand aloof, but considered that his profession of benevolent 

1 Dropmore Papers, iv. 377-380. 

2 Sorel, v. 154. On December Qth, 1798, Charles Emmanuel IV abdicated and 
retired to the island of Sardinia. 

3 P.O. Russia, 42, Grenville to Whitworth, January 25th, 1799. 


intentions warranted the payment of a British subsidy. Haugwitz, then 
posing as Anglophil, early in May started a scheme for putting 60,000 
Prussians at our disposal on good financial terms ; but this proposal, 
whether sincere or not, was shelved by Frederick William near the 
end of July, when the adoption of any other extensive plan of opera- 
tions was almost impracticable 1 . Accordingly, the British programme 
of a great Coalition with Russia and Prussia (Austria, Naples and the 
Scandinavian States being accessories) fell through. Nothing, there- 
fore, remained but hastily to adopt more limited schemes for the 
remainder of 1799 a ^ act which goes far to explain the very unsatis- 
factory operations of that year 2 . To these, so far as they resulted from 
British initiative, we must now turn. 

For reasons already stated, no compact was possible with Austria. 
But the provisional Anglo-Russian Treaty of December 29th, 1798, 
was prolonged by a Convention of six months later. Compacts of the 
two Powers with Naples and Turkey added to the scope,, though not 
to the strength, of the Second Coalition. Meanwhile, an Austro- 
Russian Alliance had led to the despatch of Suvoroff s army (finally 
about 60,000 strong) with a view to assistance against the French in 
northern Italy; but disputes between the two Courts delayed, first its 
departure, then its progress, and not until the end of March, 1799, did 
that doughty warrior and his vanguard enter Vienna. At once, disputes 
broke out with the Hofkriegsrath, which regarded him as an Austrian 
Marshal entirely under its control. That any success was ever gained 
under this insensate arrangement is a supreme tribute to his genius. 
Scarcely more promising were the Anglo-Russian plans for the cam- 
paign. Not until the end of April, 1799, on receipt of the British 
ratification of the December Treaty, did the Tsar issue orders for the 
westward march of the subsidised Russian army under Korsakoff 
a delay which hindered the successful opening of the campaign on the 
Upper Rhine. It soon transpired that the effective strength of this 
force was far below what Great Britain was paying for. Disputes also 
arose with Austria as to the objective of this army, she pointing to the 
Palatinate, while we desired the liberation of Switzerland as a pre- 
liminary to an Austro-Russian invasion of Franche-Comte. Finally, 
the British alternative prevailed. 

1 Dropmore Papers, iv. 464, 479, 492, 514, 519-527; v. 3-8, 14, 46, 68, 195-9. 
Wickham Corresp. n. 86. 

2 H. Hiiffer, Der Krieg des Jahres 1799 und die zweite Koalition (2 vols. Gotha, 
1904), has missed this important consideration. 



With the Court of Vienna a close understanding was impossible, 
owing to the mystery in which Francis II and Thugut shrouded all 
their proceedings. Eden surmised that they were considering attractive 
offers from France ; and his suspicion was correct. This obscure situa- 
tion was cleared up by the action of the Directory, which, in March, 
1799, issued what amounted to a declaration of war against Austria. 
Seeing that France then had only 235,000 troops ready for action, her 
aggressiveness can be explained only by the conviction of her Envoys 
as to the weakness of the new Coalition. The long-drawn-out farce of 
the Rastatt Congress now ended in tragedy, when Szekler Hussars 
assassinated two of the French Plenipotentiaries. Such was the 
opening, chaotic and barbaric, of the War of the Second Coalition. 

Thenceforth, British policy was directed chiefly towards the fol- 
lowing objects the healing of Austro-Russian discords, with a view 
to a joint invasion of Franche-Comte, the expulsion of the French 
from Dutch territory, the strengthening of our position in the Medi- 
terranean and the East as a retort to Bonaparte's oriental efforts, and 
the breaking-up of the Armed Neutrality League. It will be well to 
treat these topics in the order here indicated. 

The triumphs of the Russian and Austrian armies in Italy, under 
Suvoroff and Melas respectively, soon brought to a head the discords 
of those Governments. Apart from military disputes, a question of 
high policy soon sundered the two Courts. On the recapture of Turin 
from the French (May 2Oth, 1799), Paul, the self-styled champion of 
divine right and legitimacy, ordered the reinstatement of the King of 
Sardinia at his capital. This behest Francis II countermanded 1 ; and 
the diplomatic efforts of Great Britain and Russia at Vienna elicited 
proofs that he looked to the kingdom of Sardinia as one of his in- 
demnities. Anxious, now that northern Italy was conquered, to be 
rid of Suvoroff, the Emperor concurred in a British proposal for the 
transfer of that army to Switzerland, and a joint invasion of Franche- 
Comte. To humour the Tsar, Grenville first made the proposal at 
Petrograd ; when Paul agreed, Francis II expressed his assent, and for- 
warded corresponding instructions to Suvoroff. The veteran, who was 
planning an incursion into Nice, received the news with astonishment 
and indignation. To force the St Gothard in face of the French defence, 
to find subsistence in the Central Cantons, already impoverished by 
strife, and to join Korsakoff near Zurich signified a succession of 
problems never contemplated by the civilians who drew up the scheme. 
1 R. Gachot, Suvoroff en Italie, p. 192; Hiiffer, pp. 55 et seq. 


In fact, the whole story forms an instructive commentary on paper 
strategy and Coalition campaigns. 

In order to pave the way for the liberation of Switzerland, Gren- 
ville had despatched Wickham (latterly in close relations with General 
Pichegru and other French Royalists) to stir up the Swiss, to concert 
a rising of the malcontents of eastern France, and so far as possible 
to cooperate with the Russian and Austrian commanders in Switzer- 
land. Arriving at Schaffhausen late in June, Wickham found that the 
Austrian Government discountenanced the diversion of the Arch- 
duke Charles's army into Switzerland, and that he felt unable either 
to attack the French or to restore the Cantonal system which the 
majority of the inhabitants desired. It soon appeared that nothing 
would induce Thugut to act promptly in that quarter 1 ; and he alone 
had influence with the Emperor. In truth, the early successes in 
Germany and Italy, and the absence of Bonaparte and his army in the 
East, had conduced at Vienna to a mood of boundless confidence ; and, 
since Great Britain supplied no money and much advice, she counted 
for nothing. 

Yet the importance of her influence ought not to have been ignored. 
It alone had imparted some consistence to the First Coalition, and 
was now needed as much as ever. Her squadrons in the Mediterranean 
not only cut off Bonaparte, but prevented a large Franco- Spanish fleet 
under Bruix (which entered that sea in May, 1799) from achieving 
more than the revictualling of the French garrison besieged in Genoa. 
That single incident should have opened the eyes of Francis II. But 
they were blind, save to the near and the obvious. Concentrating his 
efforts on Italy and the Rhineland, he refused to push on with the 
British plan, which, if properly backed, might have produced great 
results. The secretiveness of Austrian policy exasperated Grenville. 
Deeming Eden somewhat slack in his duties and too subservient to 
the masterful Minister, he recalled him in June, substituting for 
him Lord Minto (formerly Sir Gilbert Elliot) 2 . But the change was 
of little avail. On July i6th, Grenville wrote that Thugut, regarding 
the conquest of Italy as complete, seemed bent on thwarting his friends 
or Allies, and did so as thoroughly as if he were paid by France 3 . This 
was no exaggeration. The uncertainty as to the schemes of Francis 
and the intentions of Paul and Frederick William hampered the 

1 Wickham Corresp. n. 194 et seq. 

2 Dropmore Papers, iv. 515, 523 ; v. 85. Minto did not arrive until August 2nd. 

3 Ibid. V. 147. Cf. 199, 400-6; vi. 254. 


British naval and military plans to an unparalleled extent ; and the key 
to the mistakes committed in both services in that War is to be found 
in the halting or perverse diplomacy of Petrograd, Vienna and Berlin. 

The transference of SuvorofFs army to Switzerland, far from 
ending Austro-Russian disputes, exacerbated them. Jealous of the 
Marshal's fame, the Austrian authorities did nothing to further, and 
much to clog, his difficult task 1 ; and before his heroic Russians could 
struggle across the St Gothard and hew their way down the defile 
of the Reuss, Massena had crushed Korsakoff at Zurich (September 
25th-26th). The Court of Vienna, having ordered the Arch-duke to 
leave Switzerland, only a small Austrian force was left to help that 
Russian army, and it was overpowered. Suvoroff thereupon turned 
aside, and, brushing away the French, forced a passage into the Grisons, 
arriving at Chur on October 8th with an exhausted, but still undaunted, 
army. He swore never again to work for Austria, and all cooperation 
between her and Russia was thenceforth impossible. As for Paul, he 
was beside himself with rage, forthwith declared his Alliance with 
Austria at an end, and sought spasmodically to frame a fantastic union 
with Great Britain, Prussia, Turkey, Sweden and Denmark, for setting 
limits to Habsburg aggrandisement in Italy 2 . 

Thus ended the British plan for the liberation of Switzerland and 
the invasion of Franche-Comte. As a political conception it possessed 
certain merits ; for the occupation of Switzerland by the French had 
given them control over northern Italy, Tyrol and Suabia. To eject them 
thence was the alpha and omega of Europe's liberation. But to attempt 
that task, especially from Italy, without making sure of wholehearted 
support from the valley of the Upper Rhine, bordered on the fantastic. 
Even apart from the tenacious French defence, the achievement 
demanded the most exact cooperation between the armies of KorsakofF, 
Suvoroff and the Archduke Charles. Austrian schemings and jealousies 
disarranged a programme which called for the most energetic and 
punctual performance. But the underlying conception, when carried 
out faithfully and intelligently in 1814, contributed materially to the 
overthrow of Napoleon. 

The liberation of the Dutch Netherlands bulked large in the Anglo- 
Russian schemes for 1799 5 a nd,as has been seen, the help of Prussia long 
seemed a possibility. Had it come to pass, a great Russo-Prussian army, 

1 Gachot, chaps, vi, xvn ; Hiiffer, n. chap. n. Minto thought Thugut's aim was 
to spare the Austrian army (Wickham Corresp. n. 215). 

2 Drop-more Papers, vi. 19, 32; Wickham Corresp. n. 329; Huffer, n. chap, n.; 
Waliszewski, Paul /, chap. xn. 


with British and possibly Danish or Swedish contingents, would prob- 
ably have swept the French out of that land, as a composite Allied 
force did in 1814. In May, 1799, the prospects were highly favourable ; 
for the French, owing to their defeats by the Austrian arms, had with- 
drawn most of their troops from the United Provinces 1 . Nevertheless, 
on July 2ist, 1799, Frederick William decided that he would try to 
arrange by negotiation for a French evacuation of that country. It was 
now full late for Great Britain and Russia to prepare adequately for 
the alternative course, a joint landing on the Dutch coast. The prepa- 
rations were, however, hurried on, the most ardent advocate of the 
scheme being the usually cautious Grenville. Indeed, his optimism 
called forth a mild rebuke from Dundas (since held up to scorn as the 
embodiment of ignorant presumption!), who warned him against 
endorsing the hopeful estimate of George III, that the Allies ought to 
occupy the whole of the Netherlands before the advent of winter 2 . 
Dundas promised to do his best to send enough British regiments ; but 
the calls for them in Ireland (now menaced by French raids) and else- 
where were so exacting as to leave only a sprinkling of good troops 
among a number of raw battalions. Admiral Duncan's force, indeed, 
captured 13 Dutch warships at the Helder, thereby completing his 
previous two years' work and putting an end to all fears of invasion 
from that quarter. The land operations, however, miscarried. The 
Batavian troops did not rally to the proclamations of the Prince of 
Orange, as his supporters had led us to expect. First, the late arrival 
of the 17,000 Russian troops, and then their precipitate action in 
the attack at Bergen, marred the whole enterprise, and the Duke of 
York, by the capitulation of October i8th, withdrew the Allied forces. 
This failure, coming soon after the miscarriage of Suvoroff's enter- 
prise, exasperated the Tsar, who in December wrote to VorontzofT at 
London, that he intended to abandon the Coalition and recall his 
troops to Russia. He would, however, during the winter of 1799- 
1 800, leave them in their present quarters, hoping that those in England 
(really in the Channel Islands) might in the spring be used against the 
Biscay coast of France. If he remained in the Coalition, it would be 
on condition of the dismissal of Thugut and the renunciation by Austria 
of her system of unjust and excessive acquisitions. His effort would 
be the last chance of saving Europe 3 . With this characteristic explosion 

1 P.O. Russia, 42. Grenville to Whitworth, May 3rd, 1799. 

2 Drop-more Papers, v. 198, 206-210; Spencer Papers, n. 352; Fortescue, iv. 
Pt II, passim. 

3 Drop-more Papers, vi. 109, 286. 


the Second Coalition collapsed. It is a tribute to the forceful personality 
of Thugut that the fury of the Tsar, the representations of Minto, and 
the fixed hostility of Arch-duke Charles alike failed during six months 
of bewildering change to shake his authority. Hectoring, yet at times 
insinuating, passionate but adroit, the veteran in his "infernal cavern " 
now wore himself out for the aggrandisement of the Habsburgs in 
Italy; and, as Fortune favoured the Habsburgs in 1799 and frowned 
on their Allies, he could defy all the protests that came from London 
and Petrograd. 

But now there befell an event which placed everything at hazard. 
On October 9th, 1799 (the day after SuvorofFs veterans had struggled 
into Chur) Bonaparte landed in Provence. Nelson and Sidney Smith 
considered that his escape from Egypt was due to the strange in- 
activity of the Turkish and Russian squadrons, which ought to have 
helped in patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean 1 . His arrival in France 
and overthrow of the Directory brought about a bewildering change. 
France, latterly divided and dispirited, rallied to his call for unity; and 
Habsburg haughtiness so far abated as to consent to a settlement of 
the wearisome loan dispute with Great Britain, thus opening a prospect 
of an Anglo- Austrian Alliance 2 . The old suspicions, however, hindered 
joint action far into the year 1800, probably because Francis II and 
Thugut were wavering between alluring arrangements held out by 
Bonaparte and a treaty with Great Britain, offered by the long-suffering 
Grenville. In the month of May, Thugut begged for three days to 
consider some of its provisions ; but the three days lengthened out to 
six weeks. This exasperating delay hindered, inter alia, the despatch 
to the Genoese coast of Sir Ralph Abercrombie's force (finally sent to 
Egypt), which otherwise might have doubled the effectiveness of the 
help tendered by the fleet of Lord Keith to the Austrians engaged in 
besieging Massena in Genoa 3 . As it was, that General's defence was 
so prolonged as materially to assist Bonaparte in the re-conquest of 
Italy. The lightning stroke of Marengo (June i4th) blasted the wide- 
spreading designs of Vienna, and reduced that Court to the position 
of a suppliant. 

Shortly before the arrival at Vienna of news of that disaster, Minto 
signed with Thugut a Subsidy Convention for 2,000,000 (June 2Oth, 

1 Nicolas, iv. 44, 76, 89, 131, 140, 145, 171. 

2 P.O. Austria. Minto to Grenville, December loth, 1799. 

3 Drop-more Papers, vi. 163-7, J 74> J 86, 243, 250, 256, 262, 300. Plans of Anglo- 
Russian operations on the Biscay coast also came to naught. See ibid. v. 407-9, 434; 
vi. 53, 60, 85, 89, 146, 151. 

MALTA 297 

1800). As usual, that compact came too late to retrieve the situation, 
and served merely to pay part of the debts heaped up by Habsburg 
ambition. Wickham had signed similar compacts with Bavaria, Wiir- 
temberg and Mainz, in the hope of rilling up the void caused by the 
departure of the Russians. But these scrambling efforts merely dissi- 
pated British treasure, and scarcely even delayed the collapse of this 
ill-knit confederacy. In September, 1800, Francis on the advice of the 
Minister Count Lehrbach, accepted an armistice with the French; 
whereupon Thugut indignantly resigned, and a time of confusion en- 
sued, ending with the Treaty of Luneville (February Qth, i8oi),a replica 
of the compact of Campo Formio. The dependence of Naples on the 
Habsburgs was illustrated by her surrender to the French in the Treaty 
of Florence (March 28th, 1801), whereby she ceded to them her part 
of Elba, excluded British vessels, and admitted French troops to her 
south-eastern ports. The chief Land Power now controlled all Italy, 
and seemed once more about to dominate the Mediterranean. 

While the grandiose schemes of Austria on the shores of the Medi- 
terranean made shipwreck, those of Great Britain gained in strength. 
In 1800 the siege of the French garrison in Valetta went steadily for- 
ward. The native Maltese made no impression whatever on its ramparts ; 
but the blockade by sea became increasingly close, until on September 
4th, 1800, the gallant Vaubois, hard pressed by famine, surrendered 
to the British commander, General Pigot. The Russians and Neapo- 
litans did next to nothing in assuring this surrender. Hitherto, the 
British Government had entertained no thought of retaining the island. 
The restoration of the Knights of St John was more than once stated 
by Grenville to be the aim of his policy 1 . Indeed, the touchiness of 
the Tsar on that subject and his insistence that Russian troops must 
form part of the future garrison of Valetta were alike notorious ; and 
both British Ministers and Nelson were puzzled that he had not sent 
his Mediterranean fleet, with troops on board, to assist in the re- 
capture of the island. Nevertheless, in the hope of humouring Paul, 
Grenville maintained that the island should either revert to the Knights 
or be assigned to him. On the other hand, Sir Augustus Paget, who 
had succeeded Hamilton at Naples, insisted on due satisfaction being 
accorded to that Court, which possessed ancient rights of suzerainty 
over the island ; and he protested against Pigot's conduct in not hoisting 
the colours of Naples and the Knights by the side of the Union Jack. 

1 E.g. Grenville to Whitworth, October 5th; November isth, 1798 ; Grenville to 
Hamilton, October 3rd, 1798. (P.O. Russia, 40, 41.) 


The Home Government, finally, justified Pigot's conduct. These 
incidents revealed the extraordinary difficulty of finding any durable 
settlement of the Maltese problem; but there is no sign, before mid- 
October, 1800, that the British Government desired the retention of 
the island. Dundas, Wickham, Windham and other correspondents 
had long sought to bend Grenville to this decision, but without success 1 . 
It is also noteworthy that the Maltese strongly opposed the rule either 
of Russia, Naples or of the Knights, and more than once solicited 
British sovereignty over the island. By October iyth, 1800, Grenville 
had decided on the retention of Malta, on the ground of the com- 
mencement of hostilities against us by Russia 2 . 

The expulsion of the French from Malta facilitated the despatch 
of a British expeditionary force against their army still holding Egypt. 
This measure had long been urged by Dundas, ever preoccupied con- 
cerning the security of India ; and it is worth noting that on September 
7th, 1798, when news reached the East India House in Leadenhall 
Street of the landing of the French in Egypt, the Directors begged 
Pitt to regard India as the French objective, so that the crisis concerned 
the nation, and not merely the Company. Nevertheless, it was ready 
to advance the sum of 500,000 for the defence of India, trusting, 
however, to be reimbursed by Government 3 . The news of the battle 
of the Nile allayed these fears, and, at the close of 1798, the resourceful 
Dundas advised the despatch of a force from India to aid in the ex- 
pulsion of the French from Egypt 4 . Nothing, however, was done for 
the present. Sidney Smith's brilliant success in beating off the French 
attack on Acre, and his generally successful blockade of their force left 
in Egypt, induced him to conclude with Kleber, Bonaparte's successor, 
the Convention of El Arisen (January 24th, 1800), for the peaceable 
evacuation of Egypt, the condition being exacted that they should not 
serve again during the War. The British Government having previously 
instructed Admiral Keith to insist on unconditional surrender, he dis- 
avowed the action of his subordinate; and, though the Government 
finally decided to honour the Convention, the French, after defeating 
a Turkish army at Heliopolis, resolved on holding Egypt. Bonaparte, 
as First Consul, made repeated, but fruitless, efforts to succour the 
French troops, his persistence serving to convince Dundas of the im- 

1 Dropmore Papers, vi. 75, 187, 199, 207, 385, 400, 421, 430, 449, 452. 

2 See other evidence in Hardman, History of Malta (1798-1815), ed. by J. H. 
Rose, Introd. and chaps, xi, xn; Paget Papers, I. 274. 

3 Pitt MSS. (in Pub. Record Office) 353. 

4 Dropmore Papers, V. 413. 


portance of expelling them from that land. The other Ministers saw 
grave difficulties in the way; and undoubtedly, the imminence of 
hostilities in the Baltic, and the presence of French and Spanish 
squadrons in the Mediterranean, rendered an expedition to Egypt 
highly perilous. The British Government has been sharply censured 
for plunging blindly into the Egyptian enterprise 1 . The Addington Ad- 
ministration actually sent a message to recall the expeditionary force 2 . 
Fortunately, the message arrived too late. Thanks to the skill and 
devotion of Admiral Keith and General Sir Ralph Abercrombie, the 
landing was successfully accomplished. After the death of the latter, 
the enterprise was successfully carried through by General Hutchinson, 
who received the surrender of the French force at Cairo on June 
iyth, 1 80 1, their last garrison, that at Alexandria, surrendering on 
August 3Oth. In both cases, conveyance to France on British and 
Turkish vessels was stipulated, no restriction on the use of those troops 
in the War being imposed 3 . Considering the uncertainty as to the 
advent of peace, the removal of 25,000 veterans from Egypt, where 
they were almost harmless, to France, where they might take part in 
one of Bonaparte's invasion schemes, must be pronounced a singularly 
lame ending to a brilliant exploit. 

Meanwhile, Great Britain had confronted a formidable confederacy 
in the North. Its soul was the Tsar Paul. His unaccountable whims, 
unbridled wilfulness and frequent convulsions of rage had long been 
the despair of his advisers, who from the first noted the dominion of 
mere trifles and baubles over him. The Order of the Knights of St John 
shared with a new mistress and an intriguing valet the chief place in 
his fancies. " The rock of Malta " (wrote Whitworth) " is that on which 
all the sufferers split 4 ." As his wrath at Bonaparte's seizure of Malta 
largely accounts for Russia's participation in the Second Coalition, so, 
too, his childish joy at receiving the island as a present from Bonaparte 
when it was certain to surrender to the British goes far to explain Paul's 
swing round from friendship to hostility in the summer of 1800. Bona- 
parte further incited him by tales of English maritime tyranny and hopes 
of the conquest of India. The Swedes and the Danes, noting his change 
of front, plied him with complaints of the rigours of British maritime 
law; and, when his hope of controlling the Mediterranean from Corfu 

1 J. W. Fortescue, iv. Pt II, chaps, xxvni, xxix. 

2 Parl. Debate of December 8th, 1802. 

3 H. Bunbury, The Great War with France, pp. 139-168 ; Diary of Sir J. Moore, 
n. chaps, xvm, xix; R. T. Wilson, British Expedition to Egypt, pp. 157 et seq. 

4 P.O. Russia, 41 ; Waliszewski, Paul I, chap, xn ; Dropmore Papers, vi. 279-287. 


and Malta vanished, he resolved to be at least the guardian of the 
Baltic and liberator of the seas. This new mood chimed in perfectly 
with the fixed policy of Bonaparte ; and the two potentates began to 
plan a Northern League which should complete the isolation and ruin 
of the islanders. 

Circumstances favoured the renewal of the first Armed Neutrality 
League of 1780. The Danes, the chief carriers of the North, now again 
had cause of complaint against us, especially concerning the capture 
of their frigate Freya and her convoy in July, 1800. The British 
Government instructed Whitworth (now Lord Whitworth) to proceed 
to Copenhagen, with a view to a friendly settlement of this affair. The 
desire of Grenville for such a settlement appears in his note of July 
3Oth, 1800, to the Danish Government; and Earl Spencer instructed 
our cruisers to refrain from looking for neutral convoys, so that we 
might tide over that critical period without further disputes 1 . In order, 
however, to back up Whitworth's negotiations, the Admiralty des- 
patched a squadron to the Sound. Thereupon, on August 27th, Paul 
invited Sweden, Prussia and Denmark to reestablish the Armed 
Neutrality of 1780 ; and, two days later, he proclaimed an embargo on 
British ships in his ports, placing the crews under restraint. This 
hostile action led to no countermeasure by Great Britain, probably 
from a hope that a change of the moon would alter his mood. 
The news of a friendly settlement between England and Denmark 
mollified him for a time ; but, early in October, the tidings of the 
surrender of Valetta to the British threw him into a paroxysm of rage ; 
he reimposed the embargo, rigorously imprisoned the crews and 
expelled the British Embassy. Again, Grenville did not retaliate, and 
he counselled a conciliatory demeanour towards the other Baltic 
States, which had manifested no desire to join the new League. The 
only threatening sign was the occupation of Cuxhaven (a possession 
of Hamburg at the mouth of the river Elbe) by Prussian troops. 
Against this act Lord Carysfort, British Ambassador at Berlin, was 
ordered to make a firm protest. 

On December i6th Russia concluded Conventions with Denmark 
and Sweden, defining the claims of the Armed Neutrals. They were 
in substance the following: (i) All vessels may sail on the coasts of 
belligerents. (2) Goods of belligerents, except contraband, are free 

1 F. Piggott and G. W. T. Omond, Documentary History of the Armed Neutralities, 
* 379-384, 398-439; J- B. Scott, Armed Neutralities of 1780-1800, pp. 478-480; 
Dropmore Papers, vi. 287. 


on board neutral shipping. (3) No port is reckoned as blockaded, 
unless the blockade be effective. (4) Neutral ships may be stopped only 
on adequate cause ; and procedure as to prizes shall be judicial and 
uniform. (5) The declaration of a naval officer escorting a convoy, that 
it carries no contraband, shall guard it against search. In addition to 
these general principles, severe penalties are imposed on officers 
allowing contraband on board their ships, and other neutrals are in- 
vited to join the League 1 . This programme, but for the addition of 
the fifth item, follows in general terms that of the First Armed Neu- 
trality. But Catharine then assured Sir James Harris of her friendship 
for Great Britain and twice termed her league la Nullite Armee. The 
present procedure of Paul was avowedly hostile. Further, in view of the 
readiness with which, in 1793, Russia and Prussia had accepted the 
British policy of excluding all neutral commerce from France, those two 
Powers could not consistently complain of the maintenance of milder 
measures at the end of the same War. The fact that in 1793 they were 
Allies, and in 1800 were neutrals, could not justify their change of 
front if the question at issue were solely one of principle. It proved 
the question to be one, not of principle, but of expediency. 

Here, indeed, was the weak part of the schemes of 1780 and 1800. 
Excellent in theory, in practice they were always infringed by States 
that held, or hoped to hold, command of the neighbouring seas. From 
the time of Philip II of Spain to that of Catharine, such had been the 
case. Besides, experience proved that the carriage of goods by neutrals 
to belligerents brought profits so enormous as to tempt to the breach 
of well recognised rules, and that, in the last resort, these could be 
upheld only by the maintenance of the right of search. In practice, 
therefore, the whole problem centred essentially in two questions: 
(i) Is due consideration shown to neutrals in the method of 
search? (2) Is the tribunal which adjudicates on doubtful cases a 
fair one? 

British Ministers were resolved to uphold our claims, the stern 
and unbending nature of Grenville asserting itself the more markedly 
as the national danger increased. The sudden rally of half Europe to 
the side of France could not daunt him. He knew the fallaciousness of 
a mushroom Coalition well enough to expect that she would fare no 
better, and England would fight far better, for this transference of 
numbers. Nelson had always deemed the Allies a burden. The British 
navy and army were now highly efficient; and, while our seamen kept 
1 Piggott and Omond, i. 385 et seq.; Camb. Mod. Hist., ix. pp. 45-9. 


watch over Brest, Cadiz and Toulon, and were reducing the hostile 
Colonies, it would have been alike weak and foolish to allow neutrals 
to convey unhindered the timber, hemp and tar of the Baltic lands 
to our enemies. "If we give way to them" (so wrote Grenville on 
December 2nd), "we may as well disarm our navy at once and deter- 
mine to cede without further contest all that we have taken as a 
counterbalance to the continental acquisitions of France 1 ." The argu- 
ment was sound. Moreover, we had to do with a semi-lunatic whose 
sudden access of Anglophobia was deplored by most of his subjects. 
A sharp blow would probably bring his ' system,' if not himself, to the 
ground. The preparations, therefore, went on apace for a great ex- 
pedition to the Baltic; and on January i4th, 1801, an order was issued 
for laying an embargo on all Russian, Danish and Swedish vessels in 
British ports. 

But at this moment, when Pitt and his colleagues were defying half 
the world in arms, they were overtaken by a crisis which revealed the 
frail hold on life even of the strongest Cabinet. That Administration 
had weathered eighteen years of storm. In its infancy it had triumphed 
over a parliamentary majority. The nation beheld with wonder and 
delight a mere youth steadily restoring the finances and prestige of 
an apparently bankrupt and discredited State. His Ministry, fre- 
quently changing in personnel, yet ever informed by his master spirit, 
confronted with success both domestic crises and the convulsions of 
the French Revolution. When dragged reluctantly into war, he and 
his cousin framed two Coalitions to limit the overgrown power of 
France. They saw those Coalitions fall asunder, yet they themselves 
stood firm; and their Government aroused the admiration of friends, 
the malicious despair of enemies, and the wonder of all. 

Nevertheless, as is well known, that Administration fell a victim 
to one of its own measures and to the excessive conscientiousness of 
the King. Early in February, 1801, Pitt and most of his colleagues 
tendered their resignations, assuring the King of their desire to facilitate, 
so far as possible, the task of their successors. Thereupon George in- 
vited a dull, safe man, the Speaker, Dr Addington, to form a Cabinet 
which, when completed in March, comprised Lord Hawkesbury at 
the Foreign Office, Earl of St Vincent at the Admiralty, Lord Hobart 
at the War Office. The agitation excited by these events produced a 
return of the King's besetting ailment, lunacy, which induced all 
patriots to seek by all possible means to end the internal crisis, in order 

1 Dropmore Papers, vi. 400. 


unitedly to confront the foreign crisis 1 . It is significant that the secret 
orders issued to Vice-Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, in command of the 
Baltic fleet, were signed on March I5th, 1801, in pursuance of In- 
structions issued the previous day by Henry Dundas. Thus, the policy 
which led to that brief campaign was that of the Pitt Cabinet, though 
its successors reaped the credit of the success achieved both there 
and in Egypt. 

Parker, with Nelson as nominally the second in command, was 
ordered to proceed to the Baltic, guiding his proceedings, while off the 
Danish coast, by the negotiations then pending with that Power. 
Whether peace or war resulted, he was as soon as possible to attack 
Reval and then Cronstadt. If Sweden proved to be hostile, he must 
attack her, or, in the contrary case, protect her from the resentment of 
Paul. Prussia was not named in these Instructions, which further 
evinced a desire to avoid a rupture with Denmark and Sweden. Not 
until late in March did Prussia declare her intention of occupying 
Hanover and closing the mouths of the Elbe, Weser and Ems to 
British commerce. As the Russian and Swedish fleets were still ice- 
bound, the brunt of responsibility fell upon Denmark. With her, efforts 
at conciliation were made by Parker, but without effect. Nelson's 
conduct at this crisis was marked by political insight no less than naval 
daring. Knowing that Russia was the real enemy and the Danes little 
more than her catspaw, he was far more eager to strike at her than at 
them, and he used the first moments of decided triumph at Copen- 
hagen for pacific overtures, couched in the friendliest words. They 
produced a speedy effect, all the more so because the Danish Govern- 
ment had just received news of the assassination of the Tsar Paul. 

In the light of modern evidence, it would be superfluous to refute 
the stupid slander, inserted in the Moniteur, which ascribed that 
tragedy to England. Whitworth, who had long left Russia, was, 
of course, guiltless. The chief conspirators were Pahlen and Platon 
Zuboff, Panin and others having suggested the plot, of which the 
Grand -duke Alexander had but a limited knowledge. But nearly 
everyone welcomed the event. The mot of the occasion was uttered by 
Talleyrand : "Assassination is the usualmethodof dismissal in Russia." 

1 Evidently, this motive prompted the assurance of Pitt to the king, during his 
recovery, that he would not bring forward again in his reign the question of Catholic 
Emancipation. See Dropmore Papers, VI. 443, 445-7, 458, 474 ; G. Rose, Diaries, I 
305-8; Castlereagh Corresp. iv. 10-12, 32, 39-48; Cornwallis Corresp. m. 350; Sir 
G. Cornewall Lewis, Administrations of Great Britain, pp. 151-3 ; J. H. Rose, Pitt, 
II. chap. xx. 


Nelson proceeded to Reval, and had a friendly reception, the new Tsar, 
Alexander, expressing a desire for peace with Great Britain 1 . By the 
subsequent compromise of June iyth, 1801 (accepted by the other 
Baltic States) Great Britain and Russia agreed that in wartime the 
neutral flag should exempt from capture all cargoes except contraband 
of war and enemy property; and that blockade, to be legal, must be 
effective; contraband was defined, the right of search limited, and the 
rules of prize-courts were declared subject to the principles of equity 2 . 
Finality in such a matter was not to be expected, and the usual dis- 
putes soon supervened; but, for the time, this Convention went far 
towards reconciling Continental peoples to the British maritime code 
and put an end to Bonaparte's plans of rousing all nations against 
"the tyrant of the seas." 

Indeed, he had no chance now of overcoming Great Britain, who, 
when rid of embarrassing Allies, displayed her full striking power in 
the two brilliantly successful expeditions of the year 1801 . Apart from 
these major operations, her arms had prospered. Saumarez retrieved 
his failure at Algeciras by a signal triumph over a Franco- Spanish 
squadron in the Gut of Gibraltar (July I2th-i3th, 1801); and the 
capture of several West India Isles crowned the naval triumphs of the 
year. Other signs were propitious. The national finances had acquired 
stability since 1798, the temper of the nation was firm, and Ireland 
under the Union was becoming less unsettled. The supremacy of 
France on land being as incontestable as that of Great Britain at sea, 
peace seemed to be the natural outcome of the equipoise reached by 
eight years of warfare. 

But, while some Britons pointed out the hopelessness of reducing 
the power of Bonaparte, others, noting his high-handed interference 
with the Dutch Republic whose independence he was pledged to 
respect, deprecated a surrender that must be the prelude to endless 
humiliations. Such were the objections of Grenville to any accommo- 
dation with Bonaparte. His implacable spirit (the epithet is Corn- 
wallis's) had been shown in the reply to Bonaparte's pacific overture 
of Christmas, 1799 to tne effect that peace would best be assured by 
the restoration of the French royal House. That reply was evidently 
designed primarily to satisfy the two Imperial Courts and the French 
Royalists, with whom we were then concerting extensive plans ; but 

1 Czartoryski, Memoirs, i. chap. xi. ; Waliszewski, Paul I, chaps, xv, xvi ; General 
Lowenstern, Memoirs, I. p. 75; Nicolas, iv. 370-9. 

2 Scott, pp. 595-606. For Grenville's criticisms see Dropmore Papers, VH. 3-3- 


it, undoubtedly, tended to rally all Frenchmen around the First Consul. 
Pitt, at that time, probably shared Grenville's animosity; for passion 
pervaded his speech of February 3rd, 1800, in which he recounted the 
aggressions and perfidies of Bonaparte. The great work of reconstruc- 
tion accomplished by the First Consul had now altered the whole 
situation; and Pitt did not oppose the proposals for peace, which took 
form in September, 1801. His conduct was not consistent; for the 
Netherlands, which, alike in 1793, 1796 and 1797, he had declared to 
be essential to Britain's security, were now virtually at the disposal of 
France. But his change of front was probably due to war- weariness 
or hopelessness. He was in honour bound to support the Addington 
Ministry ; yet he knew it to be unequal to the struggle with Bonaparte. 
Better, then, to end the War while we could do so without discredit. 
Such seem to have been his views. They clashed with those of Gren- 
ville ; and the two kinsmen were destined never again to act together. 
The Addington Ministry lent a friendly ear to pacific overtures 
from Paris. They were begun, in March, 1801 , by Otto, deputed to this 
country for the exchange of prisoners ; and they continued in London 
intermittently until the early autumn . Then , negotiations were resumed 
in earnest. On September i7th, Bonaparte issued Instructions to hurry 
them on, because he conjectured that Menou and the French garrison 
could not hold out at Alexandria beyond September 23rd (in point of 
fact, they had surrendered on August 3Oth), and, therefore, he desired 
to finish with England before the arrival of those tidings. The Addington 
Cabinet, weak in procedure, unlucky in regard to news, and eager for 
the French evacuation of Egypt, was conceding point after point, in 
order to secure this illusory advantage. It held out for the retention 
of that mainly British island, Tobago ; but Bonaparte opposed a stiff 
refusal to this and other contentions, and ordered Otto to present the 
alternative of signature before October 2nd or war 1 . Hawkesbury 
signed, on October ist, the very day before the arrival of news of the 
French surrender at Alexandria and the forthcoming evacuation of 
Egypt. In no important British Treaty of modern times have haste 
and secrecy played so prominent a part; and there is little definite 
evidence as to the motives which led to so singular a compact. It may 
be thus summarised. All the British conquests overseas were restored 
to France, Spain and the United Provinces, except Trinidad (Spanish) 
and the Dutch settlements in Ceylon. The restitution of the Cape to 
the Dutch was conditional on its being opened to British and French 

1 Nap. Corresp. vn. 255. 
W.&G.I. 20 


commerce. Malta was restored to the Knights of St John, subject to 
various conditions. The French agreed to evacuate the kingdom of 
Naples and the Roman States, also Egypt, which reverted to Turkey, 
the British retiring from Elba. The integrity of the Turkish and Por- 
tuguese dominions was reaffirmed. The Signatories further recognised 
the independence of the Republic of the Seven Islands (the "Ionian 
Islands"), and reasserted the former rules as to the Newfoundland 
fisheries, leaving room, however, for new arrangements by mutual 

The complacency of Hawkesbury appears in the fact that he at 
once sent news of this compact to Grenville, who received it with the 
utmost concern and indignation. "At no period of the greatest diffi- 
culty" (so he wrote to Dundas), "did I ever entertain an idea of 
agreeing to concessions that can be named with these." And he declared 
that he could not remain silent respecting sacrifices which would bring 
only a short interval of repose. Thomas Grenville thought the main- 
tenance of a strong navy to be far more important than the details of 
the compact. Pitt, also, regarded peace as very precarious ; but, while 
regretting the surrender of the Cape and the vagueness of the Maltese 
settlement, he pronounced the Treaty honourable 1 . This verdict he 
amplified during the debate of November 3rd. Grenville and several 
other Pittites having bitterly attacked the Peace, the ex-Prime- 
Minister declared that the retrocessions of the Cape and Malta were 
matter for regret; but certain authorities held them to be of secondary 
value (a statement backed by the vigorous assertions of Nelson in the 
Upper House), and he believed Ceylon to be far more important than 
the Cape for the defence of India. As to the Mediterranean, that was 
a sphere of secondary import, when compared with the East and West 
Indies. In these last, we had secured Trinidad, more valuable for its 
wealth and its strategic position than Martinique, Guadaloupe or 
St Lucia. With respect to our former Allies, Naples, Sardinia and 
Portugal had made peace with the enemy, and we were not bound to 
do more for them; also, the claims of the House of Orange were still 
under consideration. As regards the French Royal House, we had never 
insisted on its restoration, but merely declared such a settlement to be 
the best safeguard for peace and security. In conclusion, he predicted 
that, if Bonaparte wished to establish a military despotism, this nation 
had proved itself so redoubtable that it would not be the first object of 
his attack. If the wishes of France corresponded to our own, we might 

1 Dropmore Papers, vn. 47-50. 


hope for a long term of peace. The motion in favour of the Treaty, 
in spite of sharp attacks, was carried without a division. Pitt's pro- 
nouncement, while unsatisfactory even on the score of consistency, 
evinced small strategic insight and a lamentable lack of political fore- 
sight. At nearly every point, Grenville's sagacious pessimism was 
destined to be justified, at the expense of Pitt's kindly optimism. 
Public opinion was sharply divided as to the terms of peace. The Times, 
Sun, Herald and True Briton defended them, while sharp criticisms 
came from the Morning Post, Morning Chronicle, Courier, Star, 
St James's Chronicle, and, most of all, from Cobbett's Porcupine. 
Canning declared that the unreflecting multitude welcomed peace, 
while, after conversation with "many persons, merchants, planters 
and gentlemen," he found a universal condemnation of its conditions 1 . 
But worse was to follow. The Addington Cabinet now added to 
its mistakes by sending to Amiens, for the redaction of the definitive 
Treaty, the Marquis Cornwallis, who had lately described himself to 
a friend as out-of-sorts, low-spirited, and tired of everything 2 . Though 
well supported by Merry, this weary negotiator utterly failed to 
hold his own against Joseph Bonaparte and Talleyrand ; and the serious 
rebuffs sustained at Amiens were with reason ascribed to the " drowsi- 
ness" and utter want of experience of Cornwallis 3 . It is impossible 
within our limits even to refer to the negotiations. After numerous 
surrenders by Cornwallis, the terms of the Treaty of Amiens (March 
25th, 1802) repeated those of the Preliminaries of London, except that 

(1) Portugal now surrendered part of her Guiana territory to France ; 

(2) the Maltese compromise was defined in Article X, consisting of 
13 clauses, the purport of which will appear later; (3) the Cape was 
ceded to the Dutch " in full sovereignty" ; (4) the House of Orange was 
promised an indemnity, not at the expense of the Dutch Republic. It 
soon transpired that the indemnity would be found in the Germanic 
body, then in a state of flux owing to the Secularisations. 

The omissions from the Treaty were also remarkable. It did not 
require that Bonaparte should evacuate Dutch territory or recognise 
the independence either of that Republic or of the Helvetic and 
Ligurian (Genoese) Republics. In his Treaty of Luneville with 
Austria, he had undertaken to respect their independence ; but events 
were to prove that the Addington Government erred in not insisting 

1 The Windham Papers, n. 174. 

2 Cornwallis Corresp. HI. 382. 

3 Malmesbury, Diaries, iv. 71, 261 ; Eng. Hist. Rev. April, 1900. 

20 2 


on a similar contract. Neither did the Treaty of Amiens stipulate the 
renewal of a treaty of commerce with France, Addington declaring on 
May 3rd that he opposed such a measure. Therefore British merchants 
soon saw their products virtually shut out not only from France, but 
from the French Colonies which Great Britain now restored. The 
Treaty, also, effected little for the House of Orange, and nothing for 
that of Savoy, both of which, in 1793, we had undertaken to uphold. 
Above all, in face of the well-marked trend of Bonaparte's oriental 
policy, the Peace of Amiens surrendered the keys of India, viz., the 
Cape and Malta, to weak authorities over whom he could readily 
acquire complete control. It reestablished at Valetta the Order of 
the Knights of St John (much enfeebled by recent events), required 
the speedy withdrawal of the British garrison and the temporary 
admission of 2000 Neapolitan troops, and placed the island under 
the guarantee of the Great Powers. Obviously, these arrangements 
were precarious ; and the events of the next few months proved that, 
while extending his power in Europe, Bonaparte was resolved to make 
the Mediterranean a French lake and to recommence the plans which 
had been shorn asunder by the genius of Nelson. 




A TREATY of peace has small chance of surviving, unless it corres- 
jT\ ponds to the vital needs of the signatories. If it cramps the 
expansive energies of great nations, it will prove to be but an uneasy 
truce. In these fundamentals, as also in lesser details, the Peace of 
Amiens was radically defective. It concluded a War in which Great 
Britain and France parted on even terms. The British, triumphant at 
sea, had taken all the Colonies of France, besides expelling her troops 
from Egypt. The French had conquered the Belgic Provinces and 
large parts of Germany and Italy, but had failed to acquire any British 
territory. Their primacy in western and southern Europe was more 
than balanced by the world-supremacy achieved by the British Navy. 
Their commerce and industries had been held as in a vice, while, 
thanks to the Industrial Revolution and Sea Power, those of the United 
Kingdom continued steadily to advance. Strategically, the combatants 
had come to a stalemate. Economically, the advantage lay with the 
Island Power. 

Nevertheless, the Addington Administration had concluded the 
Peace " in such an unskilful, hasty and conceding way " (the words are 
those of Pitt 1 ), as to lead to the restitution of all the French Colonies, 
leave Bonaparte almost a free hand in Continental affairs, and fetter 
British industries and commerce. The Treaty of Amiens repeated and 
even exaggerated the characteristic defects of that diplomatic dead- 
lock, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748 ; for, while sacrificing the 
conquests achieved by the British Navy overseas, it failed to assure the 
Balance of Power on the Continent. Consequently, the military and 
political energies of France, now directed by the untiring brain of 
Bonaparte, were to have free play on the weak and crumbling States 
on her borders ; whereas the industrial energies of the British people, 
far from gaining the full advantages expected from a peace, in certain 
quarters experienced a check; for, owing to the strange dislike of 

1 Malmesbury, Diaries, iv. 76 


commercial treaties entertained by Addington and Hawkesbury, no 
condition as to the renewal of commercial relations was stipulated at 
Amiens. Accordingly, Bonaparte was free to exclude British products, 
not only from France and the States subject to her, but also from the 
French Colonies, which Great Britain restored at the Peace. On June 
3oth, 1802, he instructed General Andreossi, about to proceed to 
London as his Ambassador, that he would accord "if not a Treaty of 
Commerce, at least a series of private arrangements and compensa- 
tions"; and to this end he sent over commercial agents, who were to 
visit the chief British centres. But the Addington Government, 
regarding them with suspicion, refused to let them proceed in their 
official capacity, because there was no Treaty of Commerce between 
the two nations; while Bonaparte declared their investigations a 
necessary preliminary to any such compact. Accordingly, a deadlock 
ensued on this important question. 

Equally serious was the failure of Addington and his colleagues to 
require in the Treaty the recognition by Bonaparte of the indepen- 
dence of the Batavian, Helvetic, Cisalpine and Ligurian Republics. 
They regarded those questions as settled by Article 13 of the recent 
Austro-French Treaty of Luneville, which stipulated the independence 
of those States. He, on the contrary, maintained that those stipula- 
tions concerned France and Austria, not Great Britain; and he 
instructed Andreossi that his "first care" must be "to prevent on 
every occasion any intervention of the British Government in Con- 
tinental affairs." In fact, before the signature of the Treaty of Amiens, 
he had intervened in the affairs of the Batavian and Cisalpine States, 
retaining his troops in the former, securing his nomination as 
President of the latter (now entitled the Italian Republic), and largely 
deciding the character of their Constitutions. The weakness of 
Addington, in not formally protesting against these actions before 
the signature of the Peace, deprived him of the technical right of 
protest against further proceedings consequent upon them. But the 
affairs of nations are not decided by technicalities ; and Bonaparte's 
claim to exclude Great Britain from all participation in Continental 
affairs was certain, if persisted in, to lead to war; for such a claim, 
when emphasised by the continuance of French troops in Dutch 
territory, implied French control of the ports facing our eastern coast 
and of the Cape of Good Hope. The Preliminaries of London had 
stipulated that Cape Town should become a free port belonging to the 
independent Batavian Republic ; but by the Treaty of Amiens it was 


ceded to the Dutch "in full sovereignty"; and they were, therefore, 
free to dispose of it as they thought fit. Great concern was expressed 
on this head by Windham, Grenville and others in the debates of 
May 3rd-i3th, 1802; and the bland optimism of Addington and 
Hawkesbury failed to restore confidence. Much concern was also 
felt at the cession by Spain of the vast territory of Louisiana to 

Passivity or timidity also characterised the policy of the Continental 
monarchies ; and Napoleon (his Christian name was officially used after 
the assumption of the Consulate for Life in August, 1802) pushed on 
his designs without hindrance. Supreme in the Ligurian and Italian 
Republics, he assured his control over that Peninsula by annexing 
Piedmont, Parma and Elba, in September and October respectively. 
Against these encroachments the British, Austrian and Neapolitan 
Governments alike failed to proffer any effective protests. The Tsar 
Alexander, preoccupied in domestic affairs and annoyed at the Maltese 
settlement effected at Amiens, treated Great Britain with marked cold- 
ness; and Napoleon, for a time, successfully flattered his vanity by 
arranging with him many of the details respecting the Secularisations 
of the German Ecclesiastical States. Francis II, cowed by the defeats 
of 1793-1800, acquiesced in the tame counsels of dull but acquisitive 
bureaucrats of his own stamp. At Berlin, Frederick William III fol- 
lowed suit. " The King's chief happiness" (wrote the British Charge 
d'affaires, Sir George Jackson), " consists in the absence of all trouble. 
...He is guided by his fears and distrusts his own powers." Further- 
more, in view of the Francophil tendencies of President Jefferson, the 
precarious mental condition of George III, and the subservience of 
Charles IV of Spain to his consort's paramour, the world seemed to 
lie prostrate at the feet of Napoleon. 

The first sign of a revival of spirit occurred early in October, 1802, 
when Napoleon intervened in the civil strifes of the Swiss, marched 
a French column into their land and bade them send delegates to Paris 
to accept his mediation. On this question, the Addington Cabinet 
acted with a show of firmness. On October Qth, Hawkesbury drew up 
a note expressing regret at this infraction of the Treaty of Luneville, 
and a hope that France would not "further attempt to control that 
independent nation in the exercise of their undoubted rights." He 
also instructed Paget (now at Vienna) to enquire whether that Court 
would aid the Swiss to resist ; and he despatched an agent, Moore, to 
concert plans with the leaders of the Federals. Both overtures failed. 


Vienna, expectant of further favours from Paris, declined to move on 
behalf of Helvetic Independence ; the Tsar was equally inert ; and the 
Swiss Federals, overawed by a large French force, acceded to the 
demands of Napoleon 1 . 

That these events caused a marked change in Anglo-French rela- 
tions, appears in the difference of tone between the Instructions of 
September loth and those of November i4th, issued to Lord Whit- 
worth when proceeding as Ambassador to Paris. The former emphasise 
4 'our desire to give proof on all occasions of our sincere disposition 
to cultivate a good understanding between the two countries." The 
latter authorise Whitworth to " state most distinctly His Majesty's 
determination never to forego his right of interfering in the affairs of 
the Continent on every occasion in which the interests of his own 
dominions or those of Europe in general appear to him to require it." 
Further, Hawkesbury pointed out that, as Talleyrand had recognised 
the reasonableness of Great Britain acquiring compensations for the 
recent extensions of French territory and influence, she might now 
justly claim the retention of certain of her conquests. In particular, 
Whitworth was charged to protest against the continued occupation 
of Dutch territory by French troops, seeing that we had restored 
important Colonies to that Republic, on consideration of its remaining 
entirely independent. He was to keep silence respecting the aims of 
British policy, especially respecting Malta ; for, though we should be 
justified in holding that island as some counterpoise to the immense 
increase of French power, no decision had yet been reached on that 
subject. Instructions of this character proved that the Peace of Amiens 
was hanging by a thread. In part, the dispute resembled that which 
had brought the two nations to war ten years before : had the French 
the right to interfere with the independence of the Dutch Republic? 
On the present occasion, however, the menace to this independence 
was far more serious than in 1792-3. Then, Pitt and Grenville had 
resisted the French attempt to abrogate the treaty rights of the Dutch 
to control the Scheldt estuary. Now Addington and Hawkesbury 
were protesting against Napoleon's endeavour to control by armed 
force the policy of that people. 

Moreover, the extension of his power over Italy, his keen interest 

in the recovery of Egypt and the partition of the Turkish empire 

brought Mediterranean questions to a prominence undreamt of in 

1793, and made Malta a storm-centre no less threatening than that of 

1 Cobbett's Arm. Reg. (1803), pp. 1018-20; Dropmore Papers, vn. 128. 


the Dutch Netherlands. Malta was an outpost of Egypt, as Egypt was 
of India. If the island were held only by the moribund Order of the 
Knights of St John, then the overland route to India would speedily 
pass into the hands of Napoleon. If he continued to control the Dutch 
Republic, then the Cape of Good Hope, and with it the sea route to 
the East Indies, would be at his disposal. Thus, the increase of French 
power in the Netherlands and on the shores of the Mediterranean in 
time of nominal peace was bringing within his grasp the two alter- 
native schemes for the ruin of Great Britain which the events of 1798 
seemed to have wrecked, viz. an invasion from the coast whence it 
can bes^ be attempted, and a resumption of the oriental adventures 
cut short by the exploit of Nelson. 

By the autumn of 1802, so clear were the danger signals that 
Addington assumed a firm tone ; but, by this time, so accustomed was 
Napoleon to submission or complaisance that he abated not one of his 
demands. The protests of the Dutch Ambassador against the retention 
of French troops in his country were disregarded. Delegates from the 
Swiss Cantons were summoned to Paris to receive eventually at the 
hands of Napoleon the Act of Mediation, sagaciously designed by him, 
as Mediator, for healing their schisms and assuring his control. Spain 
was sinking under his control. The Turks were alarmed by. French 
intrigues in Corfu, the Morea and the Levant, which portended a 
partition of their empire. Early in the year 1802, Lord Elgin, our 
Ambassador at Constantinople, wrote as follows: "The Porte con- 
siders her interests and tranquillity secure while England possesses 
Malta, but not so after our abandoning it." Whitworth, also, reported, 
in December, 1802, that Egypt was the great object of Napoleon's 
ambition and that he might acquire it by coercing or bargaining with 
the Turks 1 . 

So threatening was the outlook that public opinion in these 
Islands began to harden. Protests against the overbearing conduct of 
Napoleon multiplied in the Press and called forth angry retorts in the 
Moniteur, often from the First Consul himself. He, also, complained 
of the deference shown to the Comte d'Artois at Holy rood and the 
harbouring of French Emigres. Nevertheless, Ministers, while refusing 
to fetter the Press or expel refugees, endeavoured to humour the First 
Consul. Even after the Swiss embroglio, Otto, the French agent at 
London, could write as follows : 

1 P.O. Turkey, 35. Elgin to Hawkesbury, January 5th, 1802; Paget Papers, II. 
61, 72; O. Browning, England and Napoleon, pp. 6-10, 16, 25-9. 


I have received the most peaceful assurances from the Cabinet, who mark 
with the greatest satisfaction anything which is likely to strengthen the 
control of the First Consul in home affairs, and would even wish to see his 
family secure the hereditary tenure of his office, a wish that is very generally 
felt in this country ; but anything that tends to the external aggrandisement 
of this power must necessarily claim the attention of the British Minister 1 . 

Andreossi, who arrived early in November, had a friendly reception 
from the King and the Prince of Wales, who manifested a keen desire 
for peace, even while expressing some apprehensions, because Bona- 
parte was "still greater as a politician than as a warrior." Andreossi 
reported that the fimigrh in England were losing all hope. Another 
reassuring fact was that, on November 2Oth, the British Government 
despatched orders to the Cape of Good Hope for the withdrawal of 
British troops. 

It is clear, then, that the Court and Cabinet were not opposed to 
Napoleon on personal grounds, and during some time hoped for the 
resumption of friendly relations with him. The King's Speech, read 
on November 23rd to the newly-elected Parliament, dwelt on the 
national prosperity (increased by a bounteous harvest), and the need 
of watchfulness in European affairs and of measures to guarantee our 
security. Thereupon, Fox, while deploring the immense aggrandise- 
ment of French power, deprecated any increase of armaments ; but he, 
Wilberforce, Whitbread and Burdett stood alone in offering deter- 
mined opposition to an increase of the army. In the ensuing debates, 
Lord Hobart, Secretary at War, stated that it had been reduced from 
250,000 men at the end of hostilities to 127,000, whereas that of France 
numbered 427,000 men, and that, in face of her hostile proceedings, 
it was desirable to raise our total to 200,000 exclusive of the forces in 
India. The discussion was rendered remarkable by a speech of Sheridan, 
in which he declaimed vehemently against Bonaparte's encroachments, 
as aimed at the enslavement of Europe and the destruction of British 
commerce. Earl Temple and Windham complained of the apathy of 
Ministers and their belated and clumsy intervention on behalf of the 
Swiss. Grenville, also, adverted to the increase of the French and 
Dutch navies and to our exclusion from every port in the Mediterranean 
except Valetta, which therefore it was an urgent necessity for us to 
retain. In reply, Addington admitted the gravity of the situation, but 
stated that, as France, Spain and Holland together could muster only 
131 sail of the line, while we possessed 196, there was no serious danger 

1 Coquelle, Napoleon and England (Eng. edit. p. 5) ; Lettres inedites de Talleyrand, 
p. 24. 


of invasion. Hawkesbury advised the country to " try the experiment 
of continuing the Peace," because the maintenance even of the pro- 
posed large forces would cost 25,000,000 a year less than war. In 
the main, the debates showed the rising indignation of the people at 
the overbearing conduct of Napoleon a feeling that pervades the 
Sonnets of Wordsworth of the autumn of 1802. It is, indeed, un- 
questionable that Napoleon's interference in Swiss affairs, now as in 
1798, contributed, even more than issues of greatest practical import, 
such as the subjugation of the Dutch, to inflame popular resentment 1 . 
It found expression in newspaper articles couched in terms so dis- 
respectful as to elicit formal and bitter complaints. Despite the reply, 
that the Press of this country was free, and that its alleged insults were 
no more objectionable than those against England which appeared in 
Napoleon 'sown official Moniteur, he raised the affair to the level of high 
policy, until, as will duly appear, the Addington Ministry, in its desire 
of placating him, prosecuted one of the most conspicuous offenders. 
The year 1803 opened gloomily. As Windham phrased it, France 
was roaming at will all over the world, and the Addington Cabinet 
said in effect: " Go where you please, so that you keep your hands off 
us." Our troops were about to evacuate Egypt and the Cape, and 
arrangements were proceeding for their withdrawal from Malta, when 
an alarming incident occurred. On January 3Oth, the Moniteur pub- 
lished a menacing Report of Colonel Sebastiani on his mission to the 
East. Though ostensibly he was merely one of Napoleon's Commercial 
Commissioners, his Report contained next to nothing about commerce 
and much that portended a resumption of hostilities. It set forth the 
utter weakness of Turkey, her deadly feud with the Mamelukes, her 
discord with General Stuart, commanding the British force still in 
Egypt, the conclusion being that 6000 French would easily reconquer 
that land. The official publication of so warlike a document caused a 
great sensation. It was probably due to Napoleon's desire of glozing 
over the lamentable failure of his attempt to reconquer Hayti. The 
ravages wrought by fever in that expeditionary force rendered further 
efforts in the West Indies impossible; and, in face of the determined 
opposition of the United States to the French acquisition of Louisiana, 
he now determined to sell that vast domain to them (as he did soon 
after) and to concentrate on Oriental schemes that were nearer his 
heart. The Turco-Mameluke feuds provided an opportunity. He now 
turned the energies of France Eastwards by publishing Sebastiani's 
Report. That it would provoke Great Britain, he must have surmised. 

1 Life of Sir S. Romilly, I. 425. 


All his proceedings were governed by calculation; and one of his 
Councillors deemed this provocation intentional 1 . 

Another of his actions serves to strengthen this inference. In the 
same month, January, 1803, he issued secret instructions to General 
Decaen, now appointed Governor of the French East India Colonies, 
to proceed with a small expeditionary force to Pondicherry, there care- 
fully to investigate Indian affairs and prepare for the future, which (so 
he informed him) might be such as to invest his name with lasting 
renown. He, also, referred to the renewal of hostilities with England 
as probable in September, 1804; and, since they were certain to in- 
volve the Dutch in hostilities with her, he instructed Decaen in that 
case to be ready to occupy the Cape or any other desirable point d'appui. 
The despatch of Decaen's expedition in March, 1803, caused some 
apprehension at London, which was finally to be justified by his 
proceedings at the Cape. 

For the present, the anxiety of Ministers centred chiefly on French 
schemes that threatened the security of the overland route to India. 
From the Mediterranean came news as to movements of French troops 
to its coasts, especially to Corsica; and their agents were reported to 
be very active in the Republic of the Ionian Isles and on the coasts of 
Albania and the Morea. Similar information reached Petrograd. There, 
the sympathies of the Tsar had been Francophil. Annoyed at the 
terms of Article X of the Treaty of Amiens respecting Malta, he with- 
held his guarantee of those arrangements, and in this was followed by 
Prussia. But the French moves against Turkey caused him grave 
concern. On January yth, 1803, Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, 
British Ambassador at Petrograd, reported that, according to Russian 
official advices from Paris, Napoleon was about to notify to Russia 
his resolve to acquire the Morea. Prince Czartoryski, Foreign Minister, 
when confirming that information, added that the Emperor Alexander 
disapproved these projects of partition ; and on January 2Oth he told 
Warren that the Emperor Alexander " wished the English to keep 
Malta." On February 27th, he stated that Napoleon " wished to oblige 
Great Britain to declare war against France." On March 25th, Warren 
reported that the Russian Government " would even be sorry that the 
British troops evacuated the island," and favoured the issue of a 
decisive declaration by us such as would "finish the affair 2 ." 

Apprehensions concerning the Levant were not confined to 

1 Pelet, Opinions de Napoleon , ch. in. 

2 P.O. Russia, 174. See, too, Hardman, History of Malta (chs. xvn, xxi, xxn); 
O. Browning, England and Napoleon, pp. 70 et seq. ; Mollien, Memoirs, i. 334. 


Ministerial circles in London. In a conversation which Pitt had with 
George Rose, he at once entered on the topic of Sebastiani's Report, 
deeming its publication an announcement of the actual designs of 
France on Egypt. The two friends agreed that her acquisition of Egypt 
would seriously imperil British India; also, that the intrigues of 
Sebastiani in the Ionian Islands, with a view to their reoccupation by 
France, warranted a thorough explanation 1 . So general were these 
fears that the Addington Administration assumed a firm attitude. On 
February Qth, Hawkesbury charged Whitworth not to enter into any 
discussion respecting Malta, until the French Government consented 
either to restore completely the status quo at the time of the Peace of 
Amiens, or to admit the reasonableness of our receiving some suitable 
compensation for the recent extensive additions to French territory. 
In reply to this request no satisfactory assurance was forthcoming. 
Talleyrand blandly reasserted that Sebastiani's mission was " strictly 
commercial," and that Napoleon sincerely desired peace, which more- 
over was imperiously dictated to him by the penury of his finances. 
Shortly afterwards, on February i8th, the First Consul sent for Whit- 
worth and treated him, not to soothing falsehoods, but to pugnacious 
half-truths, complaining that all the provocations came from London, 
that we had broken the Treaty by not evacuating Egypt and Malta, that 
we harboured assassins, that every wind which blew from England 
bore nothing but hatred. He declared that he could easily reconquer 
Egypt, but would not do so, lest he should seem the aggressor, besides 
which that land must sooner or later fall to France. Moreover, what 
had he to gain by a war with England ? Why should not the two nations 
come to an understanding and so govern the world ? But nothing (he 
proceeded) would overcome the hatred of the British Government ; 
and the issue now was would we fulfil the terms of the Treaty of 
Amiens or have war? Whitworth, thereupon, temperately set forth the 
material difference between the present state of things and that when 
peace was concluded. Napoleon cut him short : " I suppose you mean 
Piedmont and Switzerland : ce sont des. . . , vous n'avez pas le droit d'en 
parler a cette heure." He added that Sebastiani's mission was necessi- 
tated on military grounds by our infraction of the Treaty of Amiens ; 
but, soon afterwards, he authorised Talleyrand to state that he was 
contemplating a guarantee of the integrity of the Turkish empire, 
which would remove our fears respecting Egypt. 

1 G. Rose, Diaries, n, 18-20; Papers on the Discussions with France (1802-3), 
pp. 377-86. 


Whitworth believed that this softening of tone was due to Russia's 
remonstrances against Napoleon's encroachments and his refusal to 
grant any suitable indemnity to the dispossessed King of Sardinia. 
But it seems probable that the naval unpreparedness of France, and 
the desire of Napoleon to assure the safe return of his unfortunate 
expeditionary force from Hayti, explain his subsequent manoeuvres, 
which the Addington Cabinet henceforth ascribed to a resolve to gain 
time. Hawkesbury now stiffened his demands. He pointed out that 
Russia and Prussia had not guaranteed the Maltese settlement, as was 
required by the Treaty; also, that the confiscation of the Spanish 
Priories of the Order of St John, and other pecuniary losses, must 
incapacitate the Order for the defence of the vast fortifications of 
Valetta and tempt Napoleon to renew his facile exploit of June, 1798. 
True, Article X, relating to Malta, stipulated the presence of 2000 
Neapolitan troops there for a year. But of what avail was a temporary 
occupation by the troops of a Power which itself existed on sufferance ? 
And what chance of survival was there for the truncated Order, now 
that Malta, emerging from happy obscurity, had become the crux of 
the Eastern Question? Indeed, the Maltese compromise of 1802 was 
workable only in an era of sincere goodwill, and Napoleon had made 
peace more dangerous than open war. 

Apprehensions were also aroused by the official View of the State 
of the Republic, issued at Paris on February 2ist, 1803. After dilating 
on the prosperity of France, and referring to the continued British 
occupation of Egypt and Malta, the Report stated that two parties, 
one of them pacific, the other warlike, struggled for mastery in England. 
Therefore, by a deplorable necessity, France must possess an army 
of half a million men, " ready to undertake its defence and avenge its 
injuries.... Whatever success intrigues may experience in London, no 
other people will be involved in new combinations. The Government 
asserts with conscious pride that England alone cannot maintain a 
struggle against France." Even so, the attitude of the British Govern- 
ment was cautious. On February 28th, Hawkesbury instructed Whit- 
worth to point out that Egypt had been evacuated, and all the other 
conditions of the Amiens Treaty had been fulfilled, except Article X; 
and Malta had not been evacuated, because of the refusal of Russia and 
Prussia to act as guarantors, the weakening of the Order of St John, and 
the threatening moves of France in the East. A guarantee of the 
integrity of the Turkish empire by France would, indeed, banish our 
fears regarding Egypt ; but we would not withdraw from Malta until she 


offered some "substantial security." This was an invitation to a com- 
promise, and, on February 28th, Andreossi assured Talleyrand that 
the British Ministers were peaceably inclined. This appeared in their 
prosecution at this time of a French Emigre , Peltier, who in a journal, 
L'Ambigu, had declaimed against the First Consul. Despite a brilliant 
defence by Sir James Mackintosh, the accused was condemned, but, 
when a rupture with France became imminent, punishment was de- 
ferred, and he was finally released. The French also released a few 
British ships that had been unjustly seized 1 . 

These slight relaxations of tension were nullified by the sight of 
the armaments proceeding in French and Dutch ports. Though 
designed, it was said, for Colonial expeditions, they were deemed part 
of the French programme announced on February 2ist. Accordingly, 
on March Qth, a royal message was read to Parliament, inviting it to 
adopt further measures for the national defence, and an increase of 
10,000 seamen was unanimously voted. By way of retort, the First 
Consul issued a Memorandum justifying the retention of French 
troops in Holland and Switzerland and the formation of armed camps 
near Calais. He also, on March i3th, subjected Whitworth to a violent 
tirade before the diplomatic circle at the Tuileries. The Ambassador 
kept his temper, and then privately intimated his resolve to cease 
attending receptions if he received such treatment. Napoleon seems 
afterwards to have regretted his outburst ; for the Russian Ambassador, 
MarkofT, resented it and forwarded to the Tsar unfavourable com- 
ments on the incident. The support of Russia being highly desirable, 
both disputants sought to impress the Tsar with the justice of their 
cause. Of late, Alexander had repelled French offers for a partition 
of Turkey and inclined towards a neutrality not unfavourable to us. 
Malmesbury, however, shrewdly surmised that now, as in the days 
of Catharine, Russia would cajole all the Powers, but act with none 
of them. Addington, more optimistic, cherished some hopes from that 
quarter. The chief reason, however, of his forbearance towards France 
was (as he privately stated to Malmesbury) his resolve to wait "till 
she had heaped wrong upon wrong, and made her arrogant designs 
so notorious, and her views of unceasing aggrandisement so demon- 
strable, as to leave no doubt on the public mind, nor a possibility of 
mistake on the part of the most uninformed pacific men 2 ." That 

1 Cobbett, Pol. Register (1803), pp. 276, 289, 315, 374, 798 ; Coquelle (chs. iv, v) ; 
Dropmore Papers, vn. 140. 

2 Malmesbury, iv. 210, 246, 247. 


Addington's patience and Napoleon's petulance were disgusting the 
nation with the peace became abundantly evident. Canning, an 
enthusiastic admirer of Pitt and a persistent belittler of Addington, 
pointed the contrast between them in his celebrated song : 

And oh ! if again the rude whirlwind should rise, 
The dawning of peace should fresh darkness deform, 
The regrets of the good and the fears of the wise 
Shall turn to the Pilot that weathered the storm. 

Much, however, could be urged in favour of Addington's waiting 
policy. Peace having been concluded, its author had to ensure for 
it a fair trial. Moreover, so impetuously self-willed an opponent as 
Napoleon was likely to put himself in the wrong. Addington, Alex- 
ander I, Fox, Metternich, Hardenberg, Castlereagh and Talleyrand 
were, in succession, to find out the advantage of giving him free rein 
at a crisis; or, as the last named phrased it: // n'y ajamais eu de con- 
spirateur dangereux contre lui que lui-meme 1 . The sole hope for the 
preservation of peace in the spring of 1803 was that he should sub- 
stitute reason for menace, and, admitting that his annexations and other 
proceedings had naturally alarmed Great Britain, should offer either 
to forego one or more of them or to admit the justice of her claim to 
compensation, conceded in the negotiations at Amiens. 
^ This was the gist of Hawkesbury's note of April 3rd to Andreossi, 
which pointed out that France had hitherto refused to give the 
assurances and explanations we had a right to expect; but that a 
settlement was desired on the following bases : Great Britain to retain 
Malta in perpetuity, indemnifying the Knights of St John ; France to 
evacuate the Dutch Netherlands and Switzerland, but to retain Elba ; 
Great Britain to acknowledge the kingdom of Etruria and the Italian 
and Ligurian Republics, provided that the King of Sardinia received 
a suitable indemnity. These demands were large; but Hawkes- 
bury added that, if they were deemed impracticable, the French 
Government should suggest " some other equivalent security by which 
His Majesty's object in claiming the permanent possession of the 
island of Malta may be accomplished, and the independence of the 
island secured." These terms, then, were merely our first word in a new 
negotiation 2 . In reply, Talleyrand, while urging complaints, declared 
that France would accord all possible satisfaction and security, short of 

1 Talleyrand, Memoires, n. 135. 

2 Coquelle, p. 54; O. Browning, pp. 54-7. 


acquiescing in our possession of Malta. But, after he had seen the First 
Consul, his statement became more defiant. Napoleon, he declared, 
would rather be cut to pieces than consent to a British acquisition of 
Malta, and he took his stand on the inviolability of the Treaty of 
Amiens. Talleyrand suggested, as alternative plans of solving the 
Maltese problem, either a mixed garrison of French, British, Italians 
and Germans in Valetta, or (as Joseph Bonaparte, also, suggested) the 
British possession of Corfu or Crete in lieu of Malta. Whitworth 
declared that nothing but the occupation of Malta for a term of years 
would relieve our apprehensions. Privately, however, he outlined 
to Hawkesbury a possible compromise, viz. either the retention of 
Malta for a term of years or the garrisoning merely of the fortifications 
of Valetta, the rest of the island being left to the Knights. 

By this time, a fresh cause for apprehension had arisen. Early in 
April, Napoleon despatched 7000 more French troops into the Dutch 
Netherlands, where they occupied commanding positions. Here was 
an occasion for the British Government to protest against this further 
violation of the Treaty of Luneville; but Hawkesbury let slip the 
opportunity, and allowed the discussion to turn almost entirely upon 
Malta. On April i3th, he approved Whitworth's proposals and sug- 
gested ten years as the minimum term for our occupation of Malta 
which would admit of the construction of docks at Lampedusa, 
with a view to the permanent occupation of that neighbouring islet. 
Joseph Bonaparte, in the absence of the First Consul at St Cloud, 
favoured some such solution; and, on April 1 8th, Whitworth expressed 
hopes of a peaceful settlement. What, then, was his surprise three days 
later to hear from Talleyrand that the crux of the problem was, not 
the reestablishment of the Order of St John, but "the suffering Great 
Britain to acquire a possession in the Mediterranean ! " 

This brought the dispute to a climax; and the British Ministers 
resolved to bring it to a decisive issue. They were moved thereto by 
news as to the concentration of troops on the Northern coasts of 
France and in Zealand as if for an invasion. Further, as the French 
navy comprised only 40 effective sail of the line, a rupture, if it were to 
come, as seemed inevitable, had better come soon, while we possessed 
a clear superiority over the French and Dutch fleets. True, our supplies 
of seamen and naval stores had run dangerously low, owing to the 
economies of the Earl of St Vincent at the dockyards ; but, even so, 
the advantage at sea lay with us in 1803, while in 1805 it would be 
precarious owing to Napoleon's control of nearly all the ports of 

W.&G.I. 21 


western Europe, from Amsterdam to Spezzia 1 . His policy of coast 
control and the avowal of a design to exclude us from the Mediter- 
ranean threatened the national existence ; and no Ministry, however 
pacific, dared run risks on so vital a point. All the advice that reached 
Downing Street was in favour of firmness. From the beginning of the 
crisis, George III, whose influence over the Cabinet was great, had 
been eager for war. The Grenvilles and Malmesbury had throughout 
censured Hawkesbury's proceedings as weak, undignified and certain 
to lead to further humiliations. Pitt, deeming himself privately pledged 
to support Addington, was more tolerant ; but he viewed the European 
situation with "infinite anxiety," and after Napoleon's official Declara- 
tion of February 2ist, 1803, held that we must not give up Malta 
"without fresh and substantial security 2 ." Refusing the suggestions 
of several friends that they should all seek to overthrow the Cabinet, 
he continued to it a general support, and privately advised Lord 
Chatham, Master of Ordnance, to act firmly on the Maltese question. 
This indeed was the general opinion; and Addington, for his own 
credit, could not now retreat. In common with nearly all our leading 
politicians, he and Hawkesbury deeply distrusted Napoleon, believing 
him to be animated by boundless ambition, an inveterate hatred of 
this country and an utter disregard of principle. Thus, personal con- 
siderations, not less than regard tor national security, led Ministers 
to insist on a speedy answer to the alternatives : either the possession 
of Malta for ten years, or war. To this fundamental condition, Hawkes- 
bury on April 23rd, appended articles requiring the consent of France 
to the cession of Lampedusa by His Sicilian Majesty 3 , the evacuation 
of the Dutch Netherlands within a month of the signature of a con- 
vention on these topics, and the provision of a suitable indemnity 
for the King of Sardinia, failing which last Great Britain would refuse 
to acknowledge the Italian and Ligurian Republics. If these conditions 
were not accepted within seven days, Whitworth was to leave Paris. 
The arrival of terms so uncompromising, which in all but name 
formed an ultimatum, surprised Whitworth, who, in the first instance 
stated them informally to Talleyrand ; but, when that Minister declined 
to receive them in this way, he repeated them officially, only to meet 
with a stiff refusal. He then requested an interview with the peace- 
maker, Joseph Bonaparte, who admitted that, in private conversations 

1 Dropmore Papers, vn. 148; Barham Papers, ill. 68, 69; O. Browning, 44, 100, 
174, 191 ; Coquelle, 62-5. 

2 Dropmore Papers, vn. 149, 151. 

3 Ferdinand IV was willing (A. Bonnefons, Marie Caroline, p. 261). 


with the First Consul, three or four years had been named by the latter 
as the longest possible term for a British occupation of Malta. Joseph 
Bonaparte, also, now declared that he found in his brother a dis- 
position to avoid a rupture, and that he was perplexed how to act. 
Whitworth, therefore, considered that negotiation was still possible, 
but that it was likely to be with the sole purpose of gaining time 
for French preparations. The First Consul had just sent off General 
Lauriston to London, with despatches for Andreossi, who would 
probably be recalled, as too Anglophil in sentiment. Talleyrand, how- 
ever, also wrote to Andreossi, urging him to see Hawkesbury and try 
to bring him to a reasonable decision. But the British Cabinet had 
uttered its last word, and was now as inflexible as it had previously been 
complaisant. At Paris, Joseph Bonaparte and Talleyrand worked hard 
for peace ; and their efforts can hardly but have been furthered by the 
arrival of news of the almost complete destruction of the French forces 
in Hayti. Foreseeing the effects of these tidings on the temper of the 
First Consul, Whitworth did not attend the Sunday reception at the 
Tuileries, and thus escaped the tirade prepared for him, which in 
fractions was vented on those present. 

Various expedients were resorted to by the friends of peace for 
the purpose of delaying Whitworth 's departure from Paris, fixed for 
May 3rd. Joseph Bonaparte sent a belated proposal to hand over 
Malta to Russia, which Whitworth declined to consider. Talleyrand 
pointed out, that the final British terms would in any case necessitate 
a consultation of all the Powers named as guarantors in Article X 
a proceeding evidently designed to gain time. The final proposal, that, 
after Malta had been in British hands for a term of years, it should 
revert to Russia, met with some support from Whitworth, as calculated 
to humour Bonaparte, whose violent temper, if crossed at all points, 
might lead to something desperate. Markoff did not think the Tsar 
would accede to this plan, and, on May yth, Hawkesbury brushed 
aside all these proposals as " loose, indefinite and unsatisfactory," 
adding that he had authentic information that Russia would not consent 
to garrison Malta. Nevertheless, he sent to Whitworth Instructions 
practically identical with those of April 23rd. But Napoleon would not 
hear of a longer occupation of Malta than a year or two. In a Council 
of seven persons held at St Cloud on May nth only two, Joseph 
Bonaparte and Talleyrand, were for peace. The others followed the 
First Consul, in approving a course certain to lead to a rupture. 

Unfortunately, the war party was now strengthened by the arrival 

21 2 


of an offer from the Tsar to intervene in the Maltese affair ; and this was 
taken as a sign of his intention to support France. Afterwards, 
Napoleon would not listen to any pacific proposal, even from his 
brother. Accordingly, Whitworth quitted Paris on May i2th, having 
been delayed (as he phrased it) by "infamous chicanery." On the 
morrow, Talleyrand sent after him a note, evidently inspired by the 
First Consul, setting forth with much acerbity the faults of the British 
Government, dilating on his championship of the sanctity of Treaties, 
and declaring that, if France gave way now, she would next be required 
to destroy her harbours, fill up her canals, and ruin her manufactures. 
He charged Great Britain with insulting the French nation and aiming 
at the destruction of the Order of St John ; and he once more offered 
to place Malta under the control of either Russia, or Austria, or Prussia. 
Hawkesbury declined the proposal, as calculated merely to spin out 
the negotiation. Whitworth embarked at Calais on May lyth, and was 
received in London somewhat coolly by Ministers as having exceeded 
his Instructions and listened to dilatory proposals. He, for his part, 
privately criticised Hawkesbury and stated that France, being un- 
prepared for war, would have given way about Malta, if our terms had 
not been so specific. Certainly, Joseph Bonaparte, Talleyrand, and 
a few other leading men, desired peace even at the price of extensive 
concessions; but the British Ministers had become convinced that 
Napoleon's sole aim was to gain time until the naval situation became 
less unfavourable. Talleyrand, finally, declared that, if the British 
Government had humoured Napoleon to some extent, he would have 
made them a present of Malta 1 . No words of the First Consul bear 
out that statement. 

In one important matter, however, the Addington Cabinet had 
offended Russia . If we may trust the statements of Vorontzoff , Russian 
Ambassador at London, he had, previous to the rupture, handed to 
Hawkesbury the Tsar's offer of mediation on the Maltese affair. No 
notice was taken of this offer ; and, after the outbreak of war, Vorontzoff 
was astounded by Addington's statement in the House of Commons 
that, if such mediation had been offered, due regard would have been 
paid to it. To his request for an explanation, Hawkesbury replied that 
he had not had time to bring the matter before the King, but would 
take an early opportunity of doing so. As will shortly appear, Fox 
pressed the House to declare in favour of Russia's mediation, and 
Ministers complied; but, after Hawkesbury's evasion, Alexander, of 
1 O. Browning, 224-69; Malmesbury, iv. 250-4. 


course, refused to deal with the Addington Cabinet. Well might 
Vorontzoff declare that our Foreign Office "spoilt all 1 ." 

In a question so complex as that of the rupture of the Peace of 
Amiens it is not easy to adjust the responsibility with any approach 
to exactitude. That the British Government was, in a technical sense, 
guilty is obvious ; and there is no force in the plea that the terms of 
that Peace were unworkable ; for the men who signed it were also those 
who infringed Article X. Moreover, in the last stages of the negotia- 
tion, their insistence was so rigid as to expose them to the charge of 
breaking the peace of the world in order to acquire Malta. Further, 
their procedure was inconsistent. In the month of April, 1803, they 
assumed an unbending attitude, which was all the more surprising and 
annoying by contrast with their tame acquiescence throughout nearly 
the whole of the year 1802. Doubtless, their intention finally was to 
impress Napoleon with the power of the British Government to make 
out a good case, and of the nation to support it, if need be, by force 
of arms. If so, the change was belated and abrupt. Probably, it seemed 
to him unreal ; for it evoked from him further efforts at intimidation, 
nor did he lower his tone until, to his surprise, he discovered the 
imminence of hostilities which might cost him an expeditionary force. 
There seems, therefore, good ground for concluding that Addington 
and his colleagues never recovered the ground lost by their previous 
tame acquiescence, and that, by the end of the year 1802, Napoleon had 
concluded that they were amenable to methods of intimidation which 
he had found successful in every other instance. A study of history 
should have revealed to him the error of coercing the Island Power over- 
much. But it should, also, have prescribed to the British Government 
the maxim Principiis obsta, in dealing with a man who both in power 
and ambition dwarfed Lewis XIV. Moreover, they took no steps effec- 
tively to explain the British case ; and by failing to bring home to the 
public Napoleon's violations of the Treaties of Luneville and Amiens, 
and by letting the whole stress lie on Malta (the weakest part of their 
case) they appeared before the world as treaty-breakers, while he 
figured as the champion of international justice. No important negotia- 
tions have ever been more signally mismanaged than those of Amiens 
and their sequel by Addington and Hawkesbury. From this censure 
however, the impartial critic will except Whitworth, who, through- 
out, tempered firmness with discretion, manliness with extreme 

1 G. Rose, Diaries, n. 41-4. Vorontzoff detested Hawkesbury. See Malmesbury, 
IV. 192, 247, 253- 


On the other hand, it must be admitted that for a self-respecting 
Power to keep at peace with Napoleon was at all times difficult, and 
in 1803 wellnigh impossible. His military and civic triumphs filled 
him with boundless confidence and swelled his inordinate pride. The 
diplomatic success over Great Britain gained at Amiens transcended 
the fondest hopes of Frenchmen 1 . Yet every month of peace aggran- 
dised his power, and so swift was the transformation as to bewilder 
all beholders. Great Britain, who both could and ought to have pro- 
tested at the first infraction of the Treaties of Luneville and Amiens, 
was informed by him that the former Treaty did not concern her ; and 
her statesmen, intent on the "experiment of continuing the Peace," 
failed to insist emphatically on the maintenance of the order of things 
established by those Treaties. But this technical omission could not 
bind their hands indefinitely ; and, when even the Orient came within 
the sweep of Napoleon's designs, they could not but intervene. They did 
so awkwardly, even clumsily. They took no effective steps to concert 
with Russia measures such as would, probably, have imposed moderation 
on the First Consul. And when her offer of mediation arrived it 
received cavalier treatment, which was destined to postpone for a year 
all hope of an Anglo- Russian alliance. 

These shortcomings, however, arose from slackness and incom- 
petence, not from lust of domination. In view of the Eastern projects 
of Napoleon, it was but reasonable for Great Britain to require the 
occupation of Malta during a period which would admit of the con- 
struction of docks at Lampedusa, which islet would then serve as a 
Mediterranean base, while Malta reverted to the Maltese. In the cir- 
cumstances, nothing short of this could safeguard the interests of Great 
Britain in the Levant. Her retirement from the Mediterranean at the 
end of 1796 had given free play to the Oriental designs of 1798, which 
had been directed against India. Her exclusion from that sea and its 
domination by France were clearly the aims of Napoleon in gaining 
control over large parts of its coastline in 1802-3. A Peace so fertile 
in menacing aggressions was no peace ; and for its rupture he was in 
effect responsible. Doubtless, he would in any case have made war, 
so soon as the French and Dutch navies were ready ; and his Instruc- 
tions to Decaen point to the autumn of 1804 as the probable time 2 . 
Thus, the Addington Administration, notwithstanding all the futility 
of its procedure, was right in its final resolve to bring matters to an 

1 Pasquier, Memoires, I. 161. 

2 For Decaen's doings at the Cape see Eng. Hist. Rev. January, 1900. 


immediate issue. News that arrived from Naples justified their 
decision. Our Ambassador there, a Court, wrote to Hawkesbury, on 
April aoth, that the French Envoy, Alquier, had required the Govern- 
ment to make common cause with France against Great Britain; for 
(said Alquier) "the interests of the two countries are the same.... It is 
the intention of France to shut every port to the English from Holland 
to the Turkish dominions, to prevent the exportation of her merchan- 
dise and to give a mortal blow to her commerce, for there she is most 
vulnerable. Our joint forces may wrest from her hands the island of 
Malta." Acton, in reply, refused to violate the neutrality of Ferdinand 
towards his former Ally 1 . These tidings from Naples clinched the 
evidence that Napoleon was planning a war of annihilation against the 
Island Power 2 . 

The British Government declared war on May i8th; and, on that 
same day, H.M. frigate Doris, after a running fight, captured off 
Ushant an armed French lugger which resisted detention. The conduct 
of the Doris was perhaps a little severe, Admiral Cornwallis, who 
commanded the squadron off Brest, having on May i6th ordered his 
cruisers merely to detain French vessels 3 . Infuriated by this event, 
the First Consul ordered the detention of all British males of military 
age then in France, a tyrannical act which more than anything else 
tended to make our people wholehearted in the War. These incidents 
and the diatribes of Napoleon against la perfide Albion tended to 
popularise a War which the great mass of Frenchmen had previously 
disliked. On this side of the Channel, the contest was at first taken up 
somewhat doubtfully. Parliament was kept in the dark as to the merits 
of the case, and not until May 23rd was it in possession of information 
sufficient for a debate. Fox, Grey and Whitbread protested against 
the rupture. The views of Fox were a curious mixture of fatuity and 
good sense. To his friends he had long been declaring that Bonaparte 
was really afraid of war, and that the French annexation of Piedmont 
and treatment of Germany were defensible. As for Malta and Egypt, 
he belittled their importance, and more than once asserted that the 
question of Peace or War was bound up with that of turning out the 
Addington Ministry. On the other hand, he saw clearly that we could 
not possibly help the Swiss, and that war with France would probably 

1 P.O. Sicily and Naples, 54. 

2 French troops soon reoccupied the heel of Italy, an act which the French 
Foreign Office sought to justify by reference to an alleged secret article of the Treaty 
of Amiens, which had no existence. See Eng. Hist. Rev. April, 1900, pp. 331-5. 

3 J. Leyland, Blockade of Brest, i. 14. 


tend to aggrandise her power 1 . In his speech of May 23rd, he declared 
vehemently that the War was all about " bare Malta, unconnected with 
any great, general, generous interest of Europe " ; but he concluded by 
strongly urging acceptance of the recent proposal of the Emperor of 
Russia to mediate between us and France on the Maltese question. 
Hawkesbury made a lame reply, stating that, while he sympathised 
with the end proposed, yet its realisation must cause hesitation, delay 
and the enfeebling of the nation's effort. Pitt, also, applauded the 
motives of Fox, but advised trust in the Government as to the time 
and manner of giving them effect. Above all, he pleaded for unity in 
the prosecution of the struggle for national security. Finally, Hawkes- 
bury promised to use all possible means for coming to an understanding 
with Russia respecting the subject in dispute. On May 28th, he drew 
up a Note requesting the Tsar to mediate, not merely respecting Malta, 
but also in the affairs of Europe. The following was suggested as a 
basis: Great Britain to retain Malta, unless France would either 
renounce all her Italian possessions and reinstate the King of Sardinia, 
or retire from the Belgic Provinces, placing them under some powerful 
sovereign. The Tsar waved aside these proposals, probably from dislike 
and distrust of the Addington Cabinet. 

The tongue-tied gaucherie of Ministers, when contrasted with the 
effective diatribes of Bonaparte, created so general a prejudice against 
Great Britain as to preclude much hope of her finding an Ally. Con- 
sequently, she had to trust to the pressure of maritime warfare; and 
the course of the War was to reveal the slowness of such methods, 
when contrasted with the swift action of the Land Power, possessing 
the central position and nearly all the strategic points, from the Texel 
to the heel of Italy. The first events of the War, as Fox foretold, at 
once aggrandised the might of Napoleon. Having already massed a 
considerable force in the Dutch Netherlands, he launched it against 
Hanover, despite the Declaration of George III, as Elector and Prince 
of the Empire, on May i6th, that he would maintain strict neutrality. 
The Tsar, though guarantor of the Germanic System, offered no 
effective protest against the invasion of Hanover, and the King of 
Prussia, guarantor of the neutrality of Northern Germany, likewise 
maintained a prudent reserve, probably because he had been cajoled 
or coerced by General Duroc, despatched by Napoleon to Berlin in 
March, 1803. Hanover, therefore, was occupied without opposition 
by General Mortier. He concluded with the Duke of Cambridge, at 

1 Memorials of C. J. Fox, in. 372, 381, 384, 388, 391. 


Suhlingen, a Capitulation, which George III refused to ratify. Mortier 
therefore, treated the Electorate as a conquered land. Its revenues were 
controlled by France and her troops were supported by the popula- 
tion. Napoleon, also, excluded British commerce from the north- 
western coast of Germany, which was, therefore, blockaded by the 
British fleet 1 . The consequent stagnation of trade in Germany induced 
the Tsar to undertake a negotiation for a general settlement, on the 
basis of the evacuation by France of the Dutch Netherlands, Switzer- 
land and all Italy (except Piedmont), Malta also being occupied for 
a time by Russian troops. To these proposals neither belligerent 
acceded, Napoleon deeming them excessive, while the British Govern- 
ment feared to place Malta as a pledge in Russian hands. There were 
some grounds for this mistrust. Alexander had taken the Republic of 
the Ionian Isles under his suzerainty and was now seeking to gain a 
foothold in Albania and the Morea. The designs of Napoleon were 
similar, but far wider, extending to the eventual partition of the Turkish 
dominions. At present, these schemes clashed. But what guarantee 
was there that, so soon as Malta was in Alexander's hands, he would 
not become an accessory to the designed partition? 

In the Mediterranean, circumstances favoured Great Britain far 
more than in the North Sea. True, Napoleon marched a large force 
to hold the heel of Italy and menace Sicily, Corfu, the Morea and 
Egypt. But the menace was hollow, so long as a strong British fleet 
held that Sea. Conscious of the cardinal importance of Levantine 
interests, the Cabinet despatched to Malta a powerful fleet under 
Nelson. His Instructions, of date May i8th, 1803, bade him protect 
Malta, Naples, Sicily, the Ionian Isles and any part of the Turkish 
dominions that was threatened, while preventing Spanish warships 
from joining the French 2 . It soon appeared that there was no im- 
mediate prospect of a Franco- Spanish Alliance; but Nelson was 
fully occupied in covering the Levant and watching the French in 
Toulon and southern Italy. Their designs on Corfu and the Morea 
caused general anxiety. The Porte, alarmed by French and Russian 
intrigues in Albania and the Morea, heard with much satisfaction of 
the arrival of Nelson's fleet at Malta; for its presence at that com- 
manding port sufficed to sterilise the Oriental schemes of the two 
potentates. Fresh light was thrown on Russian designs by a letter 
which Pitt received from the young Earl of Aberdeen, dated Patras, 

1 Garden, vm. 193; Paget Papers, II. 92; Dropmore Papers, vii. 151. 

2 Nicolas, v. 68; also v. 87, 107, no, 166, 282. 


November loth, 1803. The Earl, after a lengthy tour in the Morea, 
expressed his sympathy with the downtrodden Greeks, but added: 
"the Russians are more detested than even the Turks themselves. 
They have conceived such an idea of the ignorance and barbarity of 
that nation as renders it perfectly impossible for the Greeks to view 
their conquests with a favourable eye, notwithstanding their being of 
the same race, and other circumstances tending to promote a friend- 
ship 1 ." 

Seeing that Great Britain regarded the Turkish empire as a 
bulwark against French or Russian moves towards India, accord with 
Alexander I was difficult. And, early in the year 1804, another com- 
plication occurred. The childish behaviour of George III betokened 
a return of his mental malady. The change caused much apprehension, 
not only in England but in every Court friendly to us; for, in case 
of another attack of lunacy, large powers would be wielded by the 
Prince of Wales, still a patron of Fox and the pacifist group 2 . This 
consideration, the political nullity of Ministers, and the coy abstention 
of Pitt from public life, depressed British prestige, and nothing worthy 
of note occurred until the spring of 1804. Then, the participation of 
certain subordinate British Ministers in the Pichegru-Cadoudal plot 
for kidnapping or murdering Napoleon, brought fresh discredit on the 
Administration a farcical sequel to the affair being the fooling of 
Francis Drake, our Envoy at Munich, by an agent provocateur of 
Fouche's, Mehee de la Touche 3 . This affair, and the inefficient 
preparations of Ministers against a French invasion, helped to pre- 
cipitate a crisis which had long been imminent; and, near the end of 
April, Addington advised the King (who had now in some measure 
recovered) to send for Pitt. 

The opportunity now again presented itself of forming a truly 
national Administration, such as had been proposed in 1794. But now, 
as then, the bitter prejudices of the King against Fox led him to veto 
Pitt's proposal to include the Whig leader and his followers. Nothing 
could bend the royal will. The results were disastrous; for the Gren- 
villes and Windham had latterly united with Fox to overthrow 
Addington, and now declined to join a Cabinet formed " on a principle 
of exclusion." Their abstention, especially that of Grenville, was a 
national misfortune ; for it deprived the country of his great experience 

1 Pitt MSS. 104 (Pub. Re'cord Office). 

2 Dropmore Papers, VH. 214, 223 ; G. Rose, Diaries, chs. n, HI; Malmesbury, iv. 
288. 3 For evidence see Rose, Life of Napoleon, I. 450-4. 


and stern objectivity, which in time past had so often corrected the 
sanguine viewiness of Pitt. The Prime-Minister now assigned the 
Foreign Office to the Earl of Harrowby, the Dudley Ryder of Pitt's 
happier days at Cambridge and Wimbledon. In 1789-91, Ryder 
served as Under- Secretary for Foreign Affairs with the Duke of Leeds, 
and afterwards as Paymaster of the Forces and Vice-president of the 
Board of Trade. In the House, his knowledge of currency questions 
and power of exposition gained him repute. He was raised to the 
peerage, as first Earl of Harrowby, in 1803. Uncertain health and 
temper limited the circle of his friends, but these recognised his 
abilities, and augured for him a distinguished career at the Foreign 
Office. Hawkesbury now went to the Home Office, Camden to the 
War Office, and Melville (formerly Henry Dundas) to the Admiralty, 
from which St Vincent gladly retired. Addington was shelved ; but six 
of his colleagues were retained by Pitt. Party spirit was by no means 
assuaged by these arrangements, completed in May, 1804; but the 
genius of Pitt and the recovery of the King's health now encouraged 
our former Allies to regard less unfavourably an Alliance with Great 

Thus, at last, she emerged from the discredit into which the 
Addington Cabinet had allowed her to sink ; but in regard neither to 
home nor to foreign politics was her situation so favourable as it had 
been at the beginning of 1801 , when Pitt and Grenville resigned office. 
The weakness and incapacity of their successors may justly be con- 
sidered as the fundamental cause of the defective Treaty of Peace, of 
its infraction by Napoleon, and of the resumption of hostilities under 
conditions far less propitious than those which had marked the close 
of the Revolutionary War. 


The month of May, 1804, which saw the return of Pitt to office, 
was marked, also, by the proclamation of the French Empire. That 
dramatic event, a sequel to the kidnapping and execution of the Due 
d'Enghien, caused not less satisfaction to the French Jacobins, most 
of whom welcomed the advent of a dynasty stained with the blood 
of a Bourbon, than abhorrence to other Emperors. But, whereas 
Francis II (still German Emperor) resorted to the tame rejoinder 
of declaring himself, Francis I, Hereditary Emperor of Austria, 
Alexander I evinced great indignation and for a time suspended dip- 
lomatic relations with France. There were, however, few signs that he, 


still less that Francis, would draw the sword on behalf of the Bourbons 
or to avenge the Due d'Enghien, as Gustavus IV of Sweden desired. 
In the previous winter, that monarch had received from Paris tempting 
offers for a Franco- Swedish alliance with a view to obtaining the use 
of the Swedish fleet for the invasion of England. In return for this 
help, Napoleon offered him Norway at the cost of Denmark, the latter 
Power to acquire Bremen and Verden. Prussia he tempted by the offer 
of Swedish Pomerania and part of Hanover 1 . Gustavus, then on a 
lengthened tour in Germany, rejected these degrading proposals, and 
made repeated overtures to her leading States for a monarchical 
crusade. His eccentric behaviour and extravagant profession of faith 
did little to recommend the scheme. 

The first signs of a rapprochement between Russia and Great Britain 
appeared early in 1 804 owing to their alarm at the intrigues of Napoleon 
in Albania and the Morea. On March Qth, the Tsar's Foreign Minister, 
Prince Czartoryski, wrote to Vorontzoff, Russian Ambassador at 
London, expressing satisfaction at Great Britain's intention to oppose 
a French partition of the Ottoman Empire. On March loth, Warren 
reported a similar resolve on the part of the Tsar. A Russian force had 
left Sevastopol for Corfu, and it was hoped that Great Britain would 
send troops to Malta to cooperate. Thus, out of the revival of the 
Eastern Question sprang the Anglo-Russian accord of i8o4 2 . It was 
furthered by sympathy with the dispossessed King of Sardinia and 
anxiety respecting the kingdom of Naples. Here, the royal authority 
existed on sufferance only. Soon after his rupture with Great Britain, 
Napoleon ordered French troops into Neapolitan territory in defiance 
of his Treaty of Florence with Ferdinand IV. Moreover, by occupying 
the heel of Italy the French threatened the Russians at Corfu and the 
anarchic western provinces of Turkey. British and Russian policy, 
therefore, began to converge on the object of expelling the French 
from southern Italy. Since Russia could do little in the Mediterranean 
without the protection of the British fleet, which needed Malta as base, 
Alexander ought to have acquiesced in Britain's occupation of that 
island, which he alone could not possibly hold against the French fleet. 
Naval considerations, therefore, should have led him to forego his 
claim to Malta; but, as will duly appear, he revived it, thereby nearly 
ruining the Anglo-Russian entente. Moreover, Russia's demands for 
subsidies were lofty, and on so vast a problem as the future settle- 

1 P.O. Austria, 73. C. Stuart to Hawkesbury, March loth, 1804. 

2 Rose, Third Coalition, pp. viii-x. 


ment of Europe there arose certain differences of opinion. During 
the summer of 1804 discussions proceeded satisfactorily, but, on 
October loth, Harrowby wrote that Russia and Austria seemed not 
disinclined to join in schemes for a partition of Turkey which 
Napoleon was dangling before them 1 . Accordingly, Russian overtures 
were scrutinised closely, especially when they were followed by a 
demand for the evacuation of Malta. Apparently, Alexander hoped 
that the increasing power of Napoleon and the growing difficulties of 
Great Britain would induce her to surrender that island. 

The general situation was complicated by Napoleon's seizure of 
Sir George Rumbold, British Minister-resident in the Free City of 
Hamburg ; and by the rupture between Great Britain and Spain. The 
former incident illustrates the methods of the Land Power, the latter 
those of the Sea Power. On the flimsy pretext that British Envoys on 
the Continent had conspired against him, Napoleon, on October yth, 
ordered Fouche, Minister of Police, to prepare to carry off Rumbold 
from his residence on the river-front at Hamburg 2 . On the 24th, the 
seizure was skilfully effected, and Rumbold, with all his papers, was 
hurried off to Paris. Not even the eagerness of Bonaparte and the 
guile of Fouche could detect signs of conspiracy in the papers. More- 
over, the violation of the territory of a Free City, which was under the 
protection of the Tsar and the guardianship of Frederick William, con- 
stituted a challenge to both those potentates. The Prussian monarch, 
as Protector of the Circle of Lower Saxony, sent to Paris a pressing 
request for Rumbold 's liberation, with which the French Emperor 
ungraciously complied 3 . The incident showed that the Corsican ven- 
detta spirit, incarnate in Napoleon, would stoop to any outrage 
calculated to wreak revenge upon the hated islanders and drive them 
from the Continent. 

The same month, however, witnessed a high-handed infraction 
of the law of nations by Great Britain at sea. True, she had grave cause 
of complaint against the Court of Madrid for its breaches of neutrality 
in the present conflict ; but it could plead force majeure. By the Con- 
vention of October igth, 1803, Spain had agreed to pay to Napoleon 
the yearly sum of 72,000,000 francs. Further, the Aigle, a French '74, 
had long been in harbour at Cadiz, and five French warships took refuge 
at Corunna, remaining in harbour for months, and necessitating the 

1 Third Coalition , p. 47. 

2 Nap. Corr. No. 8100. 

3 G.Jackson, Diaries, I. 242-52; Malmesbury, Diaries, iv. 330-5; Hardenberg, 
Denkwiirdigkeiten, n. 94 et seq. 


presence of British ships under Cochrane to observe them. Indeed, 
Napoleon acted in a way which implied control over those dockyards ; 
and Melville, in a review of the naval situation on July 3rd, stated that 
we must regard the Spanish fleet as a probable enemy 1 . The repeated 
protests of Frere, British Ambassador at Madrid, against Spain's 
infraction of neutrality, were ignored or explained away, until, in 
September, news arrived that some 1500 French troops were marching 
from Bayonne to Corunna to reinforce the crews of the five ships ; and 
Cochrane forwarded information as to extensive naval preparations 
there and at Cadiz. The British Government, thereupon, sent orders 
to Frere to leave Madrid unless he received satisfactory assurances. 
But it, also, resolved to seize four Spanish treasure-ships which were 
reported as soon due at Cadiz. On September i8th, the Admiralty 
issued orders to Admiral Cornwallis, commanding the British fleet off 
Brest to detach two frigates, which, with other ships from the Straits 
or off Cadiz, were to detain the treasure-ships. Unfortunately, Captain 
Graham Moore of the Indefatigable could pick up only two more 
British frigates before October 5th, when he sighted the four armed 
Spaniards ; and Spanish pride scouted the thought of surrender to a 
nearly equal force. In the ensuing conflict, one of the Spaniards blew 
up, and the others were overpowered and captured. The Admiralty 
Instructions clearly contemplated the muster of enough British ships 
to banish all thought of resistance. Even in that case, to capture 
four armed treasure ships before a declaration of war constituted a 
breach of the Law of Nations. The British Government, therefore, 
erred, first, in not taking an earlier opportunity to bring matters to a 
decisive issue ; secondly, in deferring action until the Spanish treasure- 
ships were nearing home ; thirdly, in not assuring the despatch of a 
sufficient force to satisfy the amour propre of the Spanish commander. 
Frere did not leave Madrid until November loth, and was of opinion 
that, apart from this unfortunate incident, a rupture must have 
occurred 2 . But it came about in a way detrimental to British prestige, 
and made an unfavourable impression on the Tsar, thereby increasing 
the difficulty of an Anglo-Russian rapprochement. 

This development was to be furthered by the arrival at Petrograd 
of a far abler Ambassador than Warren, who begged to be recalled 
for service afloat 3 . Lord Granville Leveson-Gower, first Lord Gran- 

1 Nap. Corr. 7007, 7098, 7113, 7742; Nicolas, v. 484; Barham Papers, in. 42. 

z J. Leyland, Blockade of Brest, n. 34, 36, 64, 87-9, 126; Nicolas, v. 241 ; Parl. 

Debates, HI. 74, 89, 91 . 3 Czartoryski, Memoirs, 1.319; Malmesbury, Diaries, iv. 254. 


ville (1773-1846), was a devoted Pittite, who in 1800 had been 
appointed a Lord of the Treasury. He arrived at Petrograd early in 
November, 1804. His Instructions, dated October loth, bade him 
assist in the Austro-Russian accord, arrange for a suitable compromise 
between Austria and Sardinia in North Italy, and set right a mis- 
understanding that had arisen as to the proposed Anglo- Russian 
operations in South Italy. Harrowby pointed out that, if the French 
seized the whole of southern Italy, and perhaps Sicily also, the pro- 
visioning of Nelson's fleet would become so difficult as greatly to 
increase the chances of the Toulon fleet capturing the Russian force 
at Corfu, and gaining a foothold in the Morea. Even these arguments 
produced little effect at Petrograd ; for larger questions now arose to 
overshadow them. 

Alexander had decided to lay the basis of a new European System, 
and for this purpose despatched to London his confidant and counsellor, 
Novossiltzoff , who was charged to communicate direct with Pitt and 
Harrowby. His Instructions, dated September nth [O.S.] 1804, pre- 
scribe as guiding principles the liberation of Europe from Napoleonic 
control and the establishment of institutions "founded on the sacred 
rights of humanity." France is to be restrained within just limits, 
Sardinia and other States gaining at her expense. A Federal System is 
suggested for Germany. Above all, European Peace will be guaranteed 
by a league of the Great Powers, headed by Russia and Great Britain, 
a Code of International Law being drawn up for the guidance of all 
States, binding them to use their united forces against any member 
guilty of its infraction. A partition of the Turkish empire is hinted 
at as possible ; and the document closes with the suggestion that, if 
other States gain in territory, the two protagonists should secure 
equivalent advantages; Great Britain, however, being urged to 
mitigate her Maritime Code. This ideal programme was corporealised 
by Czartoryski in a secret Memorandum, which placed Alexander on 
the throne of a Great Poland comprising the "kingdom of Prussia"; 
as an equivalent for which Austria was to absorb Bavarian and Suabian 
lands, Frederick William annexing States in western Germany, and 
even the Dutch Netherlands, if necessary. Turkey was to be left alone, 
until she should somehow dissolve into a Federation of States acknow- 
ledging Alexander as " Protector of the Slavs of the East." Whether this 
secret Memorandum received the Tsar's authorisation or was merely 
Czartoryski's pro-Polish gloss on his phrase "equivalent advantages," 
is far from clear. Alexander, more than once, drew up a lofty pro- 


gramme and left to subordinates its reduction to profitable practice. 
In any case, NovossiltzofFs mission bristled with difficulties. He had 
to humour the Anglophil Vorontzoff, and yet lower British maritime 
claims ; to remould the Continent on ideal principles by means of a 
Coalition likely to prove distressingly worldly; and, if possible, to 
arrange for the peaceful demise of Turkey and the resurrection of 
Poland at the expense of the Tsar's expected Ally, Prussia. It is not 
surprising that Czartoryski finally declared that " Novossiltzoff did not 
execute the mission to our satisfaction 1 ." 

His further statement that neither Pitt nor Vorontzoff approved 
all the Russian proposals is open to question ; for there is documentary 
proof that Pitt acceded to the most important of them. Harrowby 
having been injured by an accident just after the preliminary in- 
terviews, Lord Mulgrave at the close of 1804 came to supervise 
affairs at the Foreign Office; but the negotiation for the Third 
Coalition needed the action, not of a locum tenens, but of the 
Prime-Minister. In a long Note of January iQth, 1805, to Novos- 
siltzoff, the British Government declared its fundamental agreement 
with the generous designs of the Tsar for the deliverance of Europe 
and its future tranquillity. The basis of Anglo-Russian union should 
be the restriction of France within her former limits, the adoption 
in the liberated territories of measures calculated to ensure their peace 
and wellbeing and to constitute them a barrier against French aggran- 
disement; also to establish, at the peace, a guarantee for the safety 
of the different Powers and to reestablish in Europe a general system 
of Public Law. For the attainment of these great objects a general 
Coalition must be formed, including if possible Prussia. The Dutch 
and Swiss Republics, the kingdom of Sardinia, and Tuscany and 
Modena should be reestablished, while the other lands previously 
conquered or controlled by France must form part of the new Barrier 
System. For the same purpose, the Sardinian monarchy should be 
strengthened, and Austria and Prussia placed in strong positions 
over against France in Italy and near the Netherlands 2 . The British 
Note made no reference to the vaguer topics named in Novossiltzoffs 
Instructions, nor did it mention Malta and the Maritime Code. Prob- 
ably, he left them unnoticed in these his first interviews, and main- 
tained a discreet silence concerning Czartoryski 's favourite scheme for 

1 Czartoryski, Memoirs, chs. iv, v. The Grand-duke Mikhailovich (UEmpereur 
Alexandra I, I. 38) considers the Novossiltzoff mission the Tsar's first independent 
effort in diplomacy. 

2 C. K. Webster, British Diplomacy (1813-1815), App. i. 


absorbing the original kingdom of Prussia and pushing her westwards. 
Perhaps, Vorontzoff dissuaded him also from naming Austria's acquisi- 
tion of Bavarian and Suabian territories, a notion always firmly opposed 
by George III and his Ministers. 

Distinguishing the chimerical from the practical portions of the 
Russian programme, we may conclude that Pitt laid stress on the 
latter and kept them to the fore in the negotiations; also, that Malta 
and the Maritime Code were not at first mentioned ; for, on or about 
January iQth, Novossiltzoff reported that the British Government 
entirely agreed with the proposals he had hitherto made, especially 
when he characterised them as designed to restore the Balance of 
Power. Pitt, after promising subsidies amounting to 5,000,000 to 
the Allies, declared that the aims of the two countries exactly coincided, 
as indeed will appear from a comparison of the present proposals with 
those made by Pitt and Grenville to Russia in their Note of November 
1 6th, 1798, outlining the programme for the Second Coalition. 
Perhaps the more practical portions of the Tsar's programme were 
inspired by that Note, which, in its turn, focussed Grenville's 
settlement suggested on December 22nd, 1795. There is a marked 
similarity between the British proposals of 1795, 1798, 1805 and 
I8I4 1 . 

NovossiltzofFs caution in holding back some of the more conten- 
tious of the Russian demands probably arose from a desire not to com- 
plicate further an already tangled situation. As had happened at the 
close of 1799, when Great Britain was discussing with her Allies the 
terms of a possible pacification, so again now, early in 1805, Napo- 
leon sent New Year's offers of peace to George III 2 . The King in 
his Speech from the Throne, of January i5th, referred to them 
courteously, but declined further discussion "without previous com- 
munication with those Powers on the Continent with whom I am 
engaged in confidential intercourse, and especially with the Emperor 
of Russia, who has given the strongest proofs of the wise and dignified 
sentiments with which he is animated, and of the warm interest which 
he takes in the safety and independence of Europe." This reply, like 
that of January, 1800, was calculated to reassure our friends that we 
would not lay down our arms without due consultation with them. 
Vorontzoff , in further interviews with Pitt, found him ready to concur in 

1 For the British draft treaties of January 2ist and March isth, 1805, see Third 
Coalition, pp. 90, 119. 

* Nap. Corr. No. 8252. On the same day (January 2nd, 1805) he wrote to the 
King of Spain urging him to make war on England. 

W.&G. I. 22 


the Russian proposals for the settlement of Europe, but " quite decided 
not to give up Malta," and not to relax the British Maritime Code. 
In the month of May, a breakdown of the negotiation seemed in- 
evitable, for Pitt, though deeply grieved at such an issue, would not 
give way, and intimated that Leveson-Gower's hands were tied on 
those two questions. 

Meanwhile, on April nth, 1805, that Ambassador had signed with 
Czartoryski a Treaty which, in the main, corresponded closely with a 
draft sent from London a month earlier. He met with several diffi- 
culties; for, though Novossiltzoff, on his return to Petrograd, gave a 
satisfactory account of British policy, yet Alexander and Czartoryski 
began to insist on modifications. They required that the King of 
Sardinia should acquire the Genoese Republic, to which Leveson- 
Gower demurred as harsh and unjust to its inhabitants. Then, they 
haggled over the conditions of the British subsidies, and demanded 
that Novossiltzoff, who was to go to Paris to present the Allied terms, 
should stipulate the revision of the Maritime Code by a Congress, also 
the evacuation of Malta by the British troops, and its occupation by 
Russian troops, in case Napoleon absolutely insisted on such a clause 
as a sine qua non of peace. The British Ambassador fought these two 
proposals and finally procured the abandonment of the former, the other 
being made conditional on the consent of the British Government, which 
of course, would not be forthcoming. Leveson-Gower counted the 
insertion of this proviso a diplomatic triumph ; but he had not reckoned 
on the pertinacity of Alexander, who finally demanded the inclusion of 
the original demand. It met with an equally firm refusal at London, 
Mulgrave declaring, on June 5th, that Great Britain was ready to give 
up important conquests in the East and West Indies, but could not 
now surrender Malta, which protected the Levant and the kingdom of 
Naples. The island in British hands was a purely defensive station, but 
in those of France would be a constant menace to Sicily, southern 
Italy and the East 1 . Moreover, in April, 1805, Great Britain had 
despatched about 7000 troops, under General Sir James Craig, to the 
Mediterranean over a sea not under her control 2 ; while the Tsar was 
sending from Sevastopol and Corfu a larger force, under General Lacey 
(Lasci), which depended largely upon British transports. How Great 
Britain was to support these forces in southern Italy if she gave up 
Malta, was not explained by Alexander and his advisers. 

1 Third Coalition, pp. 127-40, 155. 

2 Gen. H. Bunbury, The Great War, pp. 181-97. 


In a final effort to placate them, Pitt and Mulgrave consented to 
the eventual admission of a Russian garrison to Valetta, provided that 
the States bordering on France should be strengthened sufficiently to 
form a solid barrier against French aggression, and, also, that arrange- 
ments could be made with Spain for the cession of Minorca to Great 
Britain in place of Malta. This last provision found definite expression 
in Mulgrave's despatch of June yth, while Pitt, in a majestic survey of 
the services of Great Britain to the common cause, set forth cogent 
reasons why the transfer of Malta to Russia would not strengthen her 
efforts. Yet, very reluctantly, he consented to accept some other station 
in the Mediterranean, provided that Sardinia were greatly strengthened, 
that Switzerland gained entire independence, and that Prussia acquired 
Luxemburg and the country between the Moselle, Rhine and Meuse, 
so as to interpose a strong military barrier between France and the 
Dutch Netherlands 1 . The scheme adumbrates that which came about 
in 1814. 

Long before the British despatches of June 5th and yth reached 
Petrograd, Novossiltzoff had left for Berlin, en route for Paris 2 . The 
situation accordingly was complex and obscure. Ostensibly, he was 
about to offer to Napoleon, in answer to his New Year's appeal, the 
Anglo-Russian terms for a general pacification; but the two Powers 
disagreed on important topics; and their disagreement could hardly 
escape his eager scrutiny. We now know that Napoleon was resolved 
not to listen to Russia's mediation 3 . 

Indeed, during his Italian tour of the early summer of 1805, his 
deeds and writings betrayed supreme contempt for the other Powers. 
A prey to megalomania, he expressed complete belief in the success of 
his schemes for the invasion of England or Ireland, adding that, as a 
result, " the Indies are ours when we want to take them." He scoffed 
at the Anglo- Russian negotiations and ridiculed the notion that another 
Coalition could be formed 4 . Yet he took the steps that were best 
calculated to provoke it. First, he declared himself King of Italy 
a signal infraction of the Treaty of Luneville and, soon afterwards, 
he framed the daring plan of annexing to France the Ligurian or 
Genoese Republic, which he carried into effect on June 4th 5 . This 

1 Third Coalition, pp. 165-74; Corbett, Campaign of Trafalgar, App. A. The 
Minorca proposal has been overlooked by Sorel (vi. 417) and most writers. 

2 He left Petrograd on June nth and reached Berlin on June 23rd (G. Jackson, 
Diaries, I. 300). 

8 Lettres inedites de Talleyrand, p. 121. 

4 Nap. Corr., Nos. 8788-92, 8807, 8813. 

5 E. Driault, Austerlitz, p. 179. 


coup defoudre at once cleared away the murk that hung over the Con- 
tinent. The timid acquiescence of Francis in threats that came from 
Paris, and his peevish exaggeration of trifling differences with the 
Courts of London and Petrograd, gave place to a secret resolve to end 
the humiliating subservience to France. 

Even more marked was the change in the Tsar. Annoyance at the 
stiff resistance of Pitt was overborne by fierce resentment at the 
rapacity of Napoleon ; and he sent off Instructions to Novossiltzoff at 
Berlin, to return to the Prussian officials the French passports which 
they had procured for him and to break off the overture to Napoleon. 
The Envoy, in doing so on July loth, informed Hardenberg that the 
French annexation of Genoa and the manner of its accomplishment 
ended all hopes of peace. He, also, wrote to Vorontzoff at London, 
stating that the selfishness and isolation of Prussia precluded all hope of 
assistance from her, but that Austrian troops would be ready to march 
westwards by the middle of August. As for the North- Germans, they 
now saw that Napoleon was "no angel but a devil," ready to swallow 
Germany if she remained inactive. At Petrograd, also, after a final 
protest on the Maltese affair, Czartoryski consented to shelve both it 
and the Malta- Minorca exchange proposal. Accordingly on July 28th, 
the Anglo-Russian Treaty of April i ith was ratified, the former article 
respecting Malta being omitted. On August Qth, Stadion, the Austrian 
Ambassador, signified secretly the accession of Francis II to that 
Treaty 1 . Thus, within nine weeks the Genoese incident brought about 
the formation of a Coalition which British diplomacy had failed to 
effect during twenty-six months. 

The Treaty of April nth, 1805, forms the first official attempt at 
reestablishing the European System on firm and just foundations. Its 
main object is to form a General League of European States in order 
to restrict France within her ancient borders, and restore the Balance 
of Power on the territorial basis noted above, so as to "guarantee the 
safety and independence of the different States and oppose a solid 
barrier to future usurpations." For this purpose, Great Britain will 
supply her sea and land forces and her transports where necessary, and 
will aid her Allies throughout the War by subsidies at the yearly rate 
of 1,250,000 for each body of 100,000 regular troops, also by pre- 
liminary subsidies. The Allies agree not to lay down their arms before 
the conclusion of a General Peace. Ten separate articles provide for 

1 Third Coalition, pp. 189-97, App. I, n; Paget Papers, 11. 186; G. Jackson, 
Diaries, i. 458. 


the accession of " the Emperor of Germany " and the King of Sweden, 
if they will act against France within four months ; also of Prussia and 
Denmark ; the addition of the Belgic Provinces to the Dutch Republic, 
and of Geneva (then French) to the Swiss ; the furnishing of 250,000 
troops by Austria and 1 15,000 (finally increased to 180,000) by Russia, 
" besides levies raised by her in Albania, Greece, etc." other con- 
tingents raising the total to 500,000 men; also, the accession of Spain 
and Portugal, Great Britain using Russia's mediation to make peace 
with, and win over, Spain. By the sixth and seventh separate articles 
the Allies bind themselves not to interfere with the desire of the French 
respecting the form of government, or with that of other countries 
where their armies shall act, not to appropriate to themselves con- 
quests made before the Peace, but on its conclusion to assemble a 
Congress to discuss and fix the bases of International Law. They also 
assign to Prussia, in case she joins them, her former lands west of the 
Rhine, with an addition "more or less great," which will extend her 
dominions to the French frontier on the side of the Belgic Provinces 
(Cologne and Juliers are implied). By a separate and secret article they 
agree to respect the agrarian settlement effected by the French Revolu- 
tion, and state that, though monarchy will best assure the repose of 
France and of Europe, they will seek its restoration by spreading that 
conviction in France, not by a preliminary and formal proclamation. 
They leave the Dutch and Swiss free to choose their Governments, 
but will see with pleasure the choice of the House of Orange by the 
former, and will advise the King of Sardinia to grant to his people 
suitable institutions. They also express the hope that a System of 
International Law may be "guaranteed by general assent and by the 
establishment in Europe of a federal system assuring the independence 
of weak States and presenting a formidable barrier against the ambition 
of the stronger." 

The proposals for the assembly of a Congress for the redaction of 
principles of International Law and the foundation of a European 
Federal System were due to the generous initiative of Alexander ; but, 
according to the testimony of Czartoryski, Mulgrave and Leveson- 
Gower, they met with complete sympathy and support from the 
British Government. The statement just quoted respecting the French 
monarchy also accords with Pitt's earlier declarations; and, but for 
some trace of resentment in Alexander's mind about Malta and Mari- 
time Law, the agreement between the British and Russian Governments 
was complete. By insisting on the differences between the British 


draft treaty of March i5th, 1805, and the elaborate document that we 
have now summarised, Thiers and other historians have been led to 
expatiate on the distinction between the generous spirit of Alexander 
and the narrowly insular aims of Great Britain. That distinction is 
overdrawn. The early drafts of a compact generally differ greatly from 
its final form ; and the British Foreign Office was not accustomed to 
insert ideal aspirations in its treaties. Moreover, in this case it sought 
to provide primarily for the establishment of peace and security. But 
popular liberties were also to be safeguarded and, as we have seen, 
Leveson-Gower championed those of Liguria against Czartoryski 
There is, also, good reason for thinking that, except in regard to 
Maritime Law, Pitt and his colleagues did not fall short of Alexander 
in desiring the foundation of an International System. Where they 
differed was in facility of expression. 

To root ideas in actuality is the test of statesmanship. The task 
was peculiarly difficult in the year 1805. Great Britain could act only 
through the slow and indirect method of maritime blockade. Russia 
could act only by means of the territories of Austria or Prussia, the 
latter of whom clung to. a profitable neutrality, while the former was a 
prey to poverty, nervousness and divided counsels. The Habsburg 
Power joined the Allies under the impulse of the news from Genoa, 
which yielded one more proof that peace with Napoleon was more 
dangerous than war. Towards Paget, the British Ambassador, the 
Court of Vienna maintained extreme reserve, and, perhaps for the sake 
of secrecy, it conducted all its negotiations with us at Petrograd, finally, 
after much insistence, securing the offer of an initial subsidy. The 
Chancellor, Count Lewis von Cobenzl, entreated that negotiations 
with France might be kept up to the last so as to avert the danger of 
an attack from Napoleon before the Russians arrived. Yet Austria's 
plan of campaign, first sketched in outline on July iQth, erred in two 
important respects. Believing Napoleon to be absorbed in his scheme 
of invading England, the Hofkriegsrath assigned to the chief army 
under Arch-duke Charles the operations in North Italy ; while General 
Mack, with whom he was on bad terms, was to advance with a smaller 
force into Bavaria. Still more serious was the miscalculation as to 
time, 80 days being reckoned as the minimum within which Napoleon's 
Grand Army could march from Boulogne to the Upper Danube, and 
60 days for the Russian army cantoned near the Galician border to 
arrive in support of Mack. The latter calculation was nearly correct; 
the former was too long by three weeks ; and in that error lay the chief 


cause of the disaster of Ulm which struck the Third Coalition to the 
heart 1 . 

Other causes, however, contributed to this event. Austria counted 
on the aid of the Elector of Bavaria, but wrongly ; for, after dissembling 
his intentions, he joined Napoleon so soon as the vanguard of the 
Grand Army appeared on the River Main. Consequently, the Allies 
were unexpectedly weak at their centre; and it soon appeared that 
they had spent too much strength on enveloping moves at their extreme 
right and left. Russia and Great Britain sent large contingents into 
northernGermany. After wearisome negotiations with Sweden concern- 
ing the choice of Stralsund in Swedish Pomerania as base 2 , an Anglo- 
Russo- Swedish force began to assemble on the lower Elbe, much to 
the annoyance of Frederick William, who, besides being on the worst 
of terms with Gustavus, regarded Hanover as his by reversion. Pitt 
and Mulgrave, hoping to bribe Prussia into active support of this 
expedition, expected that in the spring of 1806, at the least, 250,000 
Allies would sweep the French from the Netherlands and attack 
France through the northern plain a dream cherished in 1794 and 
1799, but not destined to fulfilment until 1814. 

Nor was this all. The Anglo-Russian expedition destined for 
southern Italy was to assist in driving the French from the Peninsula. 
As a political move the plan had some merit ; but on naval and military 
grounds it was open to censure. For it was clear that, if (as sound strategy 
required) Napoleon recalled his troops from the heel of Italy in order 
to concentrate in her northern plain, the expedition would merely 
beat the air. This is what happened and not only in south-eastern 
Italy, but also in Hanover. Recalling his troops from those extremities, 
the great captain massed them in central positions where they would 
act with telling effect. Thus, as happened in the case of all the Coalitions, 
France opposed swift concentration to the enveloping and ill concerted 
movements of Allies, who greatly outnumbered her except at the one 
essential point. 

The danger of Austria succumbing before the arrival of Russian 
succours ought to have stirred Prussia to prompt action. This the 
British Government sought to assure. So soon as Napoleon's moves 
towards the Danube were fully ascertained, it despatched Harrowby 
on a special mission to Berlin, for the purpose of bringing that Court, 
and if possible those of Denmark, Saxony and Hesse-Cassel, into line 

1 Third Coalition, pp. 190, 283. 

2 Koch and Scholl, 11. 366, 370, 


against France . ^.lopeus , Prussian Ambassador in London , had already 
been sounding the Pitt Administration about pecuniary help; and, 
on October 27th, Mulgrave instructed Harrowby to offer Prussia 
2,500,000 a year in subsidies for the support of 200,000 men in 
active service, the purpose being to drive the French from the Dutch 
Republic and to protect Dutch and North German territory during 
the war. In order to complete the Barrier system, the Belgic Provinces 
were to be offered to Prussia, intermediate districts between them and 
her present domains being added, so as to facilitate her communica- 
tions with this new territory. These offers were subject to the approval 
of the Tsar and his representative at Berlin, who would also discuss 
with Harrowby the additions to Austria's territories, if she manifested 
jealousy at Prussia's proposed acquisitions. Great Britain, for her part, 
while vetoing all discussion of her Maritime Code, was prepared to 
forego her colonial gains except Malta and the Cape of Good Hope 1 . 

The choice of Harrowby for so difficult a mission is unaccountable ; 
for his accident had shaken a constitution naturally infirm ; and Jack- 
son, with a spice of jealousy, pronounced him a peevish invalid, often 
incapacitated by fits and incapable even of ordinary duties 2 . He arrived 
at Berlin on November i6th, a stranger to its intrigues, and needing 
constant instruction from Jackson, whom for the time he superseded. 
The situation at that capital was highly critical. The Tsar had arrived 
there three weeks earlier , for the purpose of gaining permission (hitherto 
firmly refused) for his troops to enter Prussian territory. In this he 
now succeeded, thanks to the effrontery of the French in violating the 
principality of Ansbach (ceded to Prussia in 1791). Under the sting 
of this insult, Frederick William seemed inclined to act with vigour 
against France. He allowed the Russians to enter his territory and 
entered into friendly discussions with Alexander as to cooperation with 
the Allies, in case Napoleon should refuse to accept the armed media- 
tion of Prussia. Meanwhile, the French having evacuated Hanover, 
in order to concentrate against Mack, he ordered a Prussian force 
to occupy that Electorate. The news followed of the surrender of 
practically the whole of Mack's army at and near Ulm. It clinched 
the predominance of Prussia, and enabled her to raise her terms, while 
the Tsar felt bound to humour her, in order to ensure speedy and 
vigorous action against Napoleon's flank or rear. 

These circumstances explain the conditions which Prussia virtually 

1 Third Coalition, pp. 207-20. 

z G. Jackson, Diaries, I. 377; Rose, Pitt, p. 545, Pt II. 


dictated to the Tsar in the Secret Treaty of Potsdam (November 3rd, 
1805). With 180,000 troops, she would join the Allies, if within four 
weeks Napoleon should refuse her terms for a general settlement on 
the following lines : for France, the boundaries of the Peace of Luneville 
(i.e. "the natural frontiers," with the exception of the south of the 
Dutch Netherlands); an indemnity for the King of Sardinia at the 
expense of the " kingdom of Italy " (a clause which implied the reten- 
tion of Piedmont by France) ; the withdrawal of French troops from 
Germany, the Dutch and Swiss republics and Naples ; the indepen- 
dence of the kingdom of Lombardy; the line of the Mincio, with 
Mantua, for Austria in northern Italy ; and a surer frontier for Prussia. 
One or two phrases pointed to a more rigid restriction of French power, 
should Fortune favour the Allies. But the sting of the Treaty lay in 
the first secret article, which stipulated Prussia's eventual acquisition 
of Hanover either by exchange or other arrangement. For the attain- 
ment of this object the Tsar promised, very reluctantly, to use his good 
offices. As for the exchange, Prussia's principality of East-Frisia was 
named ; and Hardenberg (who disliked the whole proposal) spoke of 
the possible acquisition by the House of Brunswick of Upper Gelder- 
land and Juliers the latter of which Harrowby was about to offer to 
Prussia 1 . 

These last proposals were kept secret from Harrowby ; but a Russian 
Special Envoy, d'Oubril, was charged to present the whole Treaty to 
the British Government. Its disclosure came as a shock to Pitt and 
Mulgrave. That Prussia should angle after Hanover was not surprising, 
though their offers to her (if in time) might have caused some sense 
of shame at her present demand; but that the Tsar should, however 
reluctantly, support a scheme for despoiling his Ally to benefit a 
calculating trimmer, passed belief. The proposal was made shortly 
after the news of Trafalgar had sent a thrill of sorrow but also of 
exultation through these islands. Well, therefore, might Pitt remark 
to Vorontzoff that, if England had been beaten at sea and compelled 
to sign a separate peace, such a proposal would have been out of the 
question. He refrained from so much as naming it to the King, for 
fear of killing him or driving him mad. Vorontzoff regarded it "with 
inexpressible astonishment " and begged that he might be spared the 

1 Hansing, Hardenberg und die dritte Coalition, ad fin. ; H. Ulmann, Russisch- 
preussische Politik (1801-6), pp. 237, 270-2; Hardenberg, Denkwiirdigkeiten (n, 
P- 353) stated that Harrowby offered the Dutch Netherlands to Prussia; but he 
offered " such acquisitions on the side of Holland and the Low Countries" as would 
strengthen her influence upon them (Third Coalition, pp. 226, 227). 


humiliation of presenting a formal demand on this head. If he felt the 
shock, how much more did Pitt! Cut to the quick by Mack's disaster 
at Ulm, though hereupon cheered by the triumph at Trafalgar, he was 
once more struck down by Prussia's demand, backed as it was by 
Alexander. Collecting himself by a visible effort, he declared to 
Vorontzoff his readiness to make great sacrifices to satisfy Prussia, but 
never at the expense of the patrimony of George III. He, also, pro- 
tested against the utter indifference of our Allies to the sentiments and 
interests of Great Britain 1 . 

With a last rebound of his sanguine nature, he sought to satisfy 
Prussia's land-hunger by some other means and thus bring about her 
armed mediation at Paris, which Napoleon, full-blown with triumph, 
would certainly reject. Then Prussia and the Allies might liberate the 
Dutch Netherlands, and a general peace might come to pass, Great 
Britain restoring all her conquests except Malta and the Cape. Or, 
at the worst, she could fight on, leaving " our perfidious Allies " to do 
what they could for themselves. On December 5th, he wrote more 
fully in the same strain. Criticism of Pitt's plans in 1805 is generally 
based on the assumption that they were fantastic and unsound. But 
all the dictates of sound policy should have induced Prussia to take 
up arms against the French Emperor, whose enormous power and 
unconcealed contempt for her threatened her overthrow. It was the 
conduct of Frederick William and his advisers that ran counter to the 
reasonable expectations on which statesmanship is based. Who could 
have foreseen the surrender of Frederick William to Napoleon, his 
mean acceptance of Hanover at the Emperor's hands, and the sequel- 
Jena, with the countless humiliations that followed ? 

For a time, Frederick William prepared to draw the sword ; Harden- 
berg (always a friend to England) strove to find some compromise as to 
Hanover ; Harrowby , though now exceedingly ill, made tempting offers 
to Prussia ; and her General Staff not only took under Prussian pro- 
tection and control the Allied forces in Hanover, but also held in leash 
a great army of veterans ready to spring at Napoleon's rear, so soon 
as he should reject the conditions offered by Haugwitz, her Plenipo- 
tentiary, at the sword's point. Through this web of schemes the French 
Emperor struck at Austerlitz. Four days later, Austria concluded with 
the conqueror an armistice on the basis of the withdrawal of the Russians 
from her territory. The Tsar now appealed for help to the King of 
Prussia, who, during a few days, seemed about to grant it. But, mean- 

1 Czartoryski, Memoirs, II. ch. ix. 


while, the Allied cause had been betrayed by Haugwitz. That time- 
serving politician was only too ready to rise to Napoleon's bait, Hanover, 
and, bringing with him the attractive offer of peace and the Electorate, 
he returned to Berlin. 

Tidings of these disasters filtered through slowly to the British 
Government in the closing days of the year. Pitt had gone to Bath 
to recover from a sharp attack of the gout and to gain strength for the 
struggle with the Foxites and Addingtonians in the coming session. 
Their recent attacks on Lord Melville (accused of malversation at the 
Admiralty), and their arraignment of the Government's lavish expen- 
diture in aid of uncertain Allies, had already been so fierce that 
Huskisson taunted them with building their hopes of place and power 
on the ruins of Europe 1 . Now their opposition bade fair both to 
overthrow Ministers and to reverse their foreign policy. Pitt alone could 
defend it adequately before the half-doubtful, half-hostile Commons; 
and even his oratory would pale if Fortune frowned on all his enter- 
prises. The Grenvilles had bitterly censured his sending a large force 
to Hanover on the chance of Prussia's cooperation, and so did the 
Army itself 2 . And now there came news of the havoc dealt by a storm 
to the expeditionary force, then of the defection of Austria and retreat 
of the Tsar, lastly, of the sinister behaviour of Prussia. Surmising 
the truth, that Hanover was her overmastering desire, Mulgrave on 
January 6th, 1806, urged on Pitt the necessity of tempting her to 
immediate action by the offer of the Dutch Netherlands 3 . This 
degrading suggestion elicited no reply. A week later, there fell on 
Pitt the last blow of all, the news that Frederick William had acceded 
to Napoleon's terms. It was true. That monarch, as usual, had 
resolved to take the easiest and most profitable course. His decision 
to accept peace with dishonour was fraught with momentous results. 
On Prussia, it entailed a loss of moral worse than a dozen defeats in 
the field. For the Allies, it involved the reversal of their plans for the 
liberation of the Dutch Netherlands and their withdrawal from Hanover 
at the fiat of Berlin. For Pitt himself, it meant death. On January 23rd 
he sank to rest. 

The political causes of the collapse of this imposing Coalition are 
not far to seek. The inveterate jealousy between Prussia and Austria still 
defied the utmost efforts of Great Britain and Russia to bring those 

1 Horner, Corr. I. 347. 

2 Dropmore Papers, vn. 316-20. 

3 See Appendix F. 


Powers to accord. For a short space after the Ansbach incident, a 
union of the four Great Powers appeared to be near at hand ; and if 
Hardenberg had been sovereign of Prussia, her splendid army, 
launched against Napoleon's rear, might have altered the course of 
history. But short-sighted selfishness then dictated her policy; and 
the Coalition, strong at the wings but weak at the centre, reeled under 
the home-thrust of a master of war whose expansive policy in time of 
peace had not yet betrayed him into a diffuse and ineffective strategy. 
Eight years were to pass before adversity grouped them in a compact 
phalanx, and prosperity relaxed his grip on both political and military 


The Pitt Administration was succeeded by an ill-assorted union 
of the Grenvilles with Foxites and Addingtonians, soon to be dubbed 
" the Ministry of all the Talents." Lord Grenville became First Lord 
of the Treasury, and in September, 1806, his brother Thomas suc- 
ceeded Grey at the Admiralty ; Fox took the Foreign Office ; Spencer, 
Home Affairs, and Windham the War and Colonial Office. Addington 
(now Lord Sidmouth) became Lord Privy Seal, and, in October, 1806, 
Lord President. The Grenville Ministry, as it should be called, carried 
the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and some other useful measures of 
late postponed by Pitt. But its raison d'etre was, first, opposition to 
his policy of European Coalitions, and, second, the conclusion of 
peace, if it could be secured without too great sacrifices. Accordingly, 
Ministers sought to withdraw from Continental entanglements and to 
embark on a more purely British policy. Trafalgar, Austerlitz and the 
defection of Prussia pointed the moral of the situation. The three 
Coalitions against France, sapped by mutual distrust and jealousy, had 
, served but to aggrandise her power. Thanks to the First Coalition, 
she had acquired "the natural frontiers" together with a firm control 
over the United Netherlands and northern Italy. The Second Coalition 
yielded to her Piedmont and the hegemony of Switzerland. And now, 
the pitiful collapse of the Austro-Russian defence enabled her to 
acquire from the Habsburgs eastern Venetia, Istria, and Dalmatia, to 
drive them out of Germany and exalt their rivals, Prussia and Bavaria. 
Well might Napoleon defy Great Britain to attempt to form yet 
another Coalition 1 . 

1 Nap. Corr. 9929. 


The diffuse efforts of the Allies against southern Italy and Hanover 
were now speedily reversed. Napoleon's swift centripetal moves from 
those outlying parts having won decisive triumphs in the valleys of the 
Danube and the Po, he now prepared to reoccupy southern Italy and 
to make profitable use of Hanover in the hitherto unratified compact 
with Prussia. In both cases, as also in the crushing terms imposed on 
Austria, there appears the new Leitmotif of his policy, his "coast- 
system," soon to be re-named the Continental System. A note of 
intense eagerness pervades all his references, early in the year 1806, 
to southern Italy and Sicily. As Ferdinand IV and Maria Carolina 
had thrown off the mask of neutrality and admitted the Anglo-Russian 
expedition, he now accused them of perfidy, declared them deposed, 
and ordered Massena and Joseph Bonaparte with a large French force 
to drive the Allies into the sea. "Above all do not lose a moment in 
trying to capture Sicily 1 ." The Crown of the Two Sicilies was held out as 
the prize for Joseph. On the collapse of the Neapolitan defence, General 
Craig determined to embark for Sicily, which his original Instructions 
pointed out as far more important than Naples; and, despite the 
clamour of Maria Carolina and the representations of our Ambassador, 
Hugh Elliot, he withdrew the British force to Messina. Lacey also 
retired with his Russians to Corfu. The King, Queen and H. Elliot 
sought refuge at Palermo, where General Acton (latterly out of favour) 
resumed his position as Chief Minister. There can be little doubt that 
Craig's prompt withdrawal and the measures taken by Collingwood 
to protect the Bourbons at Palermo saved Sicily from French domina- 
tion. The Sicilians detested the Bourbons and longed for British rule, 
a fact which partly explains the tortuous intrigues of Maria Carolina 
against our officials in Sicily. A British victory at Maida in Calabria 
(July, 1806) averted all danger of a speedy French conquest of that 
island 2 . 

Though Great Britain thus retained in the Mediterranean two 
islands which prevented Napoleon's domination of that sea but 
principal de mapolitique yet on the coast of the North Sea he achieved 
over her a bloodless triumph, the fruit of his masterly bargainings with 
Prussia. That Power, having occupied Hanover and assured the 
ignominious retirement of the Anglo-Russian forces, demobilised, as 
though peace were secure. Never was there a worse blunder. Napoleon, 

1 Nap. Corr. 9781, 9788. 

2 Bunbury, The Great War with France, pp. 210-56, 415-36; Collingwood, 
Memoirs, 183-96; Diary of Sir John Moore, n. ch. xxn. 


encouraged by this news and by the appointment of Fox as British 
Foreign Minister, believed that he had the game in his hands ; and, 
when Haugwitz at Paris in February, 1806, sought to gain his consent 
to certain changes in the Franco-Prussian compact of December, 1805, 
he found the Emperor inexorable. Finally, on February i5th, 1806, that 
luckless statesman had to sign what was in effect a new Treaty, whereby 
Prussia ceded Ansbach to the Elector (now King) of Bavaria, and was 
forced to agree to the immediate and definitive acquisition of Hanover, 
and to close all that coastline to British trade. Frederick William 
must now have seen the significance of Napoleon's " Greek gift" of 
Hanover. Eventually, it must involve war with Great Britain. Never- 
theless, on March Qth, he ratified the new Treaty, and sought to 
placate George III by offering him East-Frisia and certain other 
districts. In reply, King George protested against the spoliation of his 
ancestral territory, urged the King of Prussia not to " set the dreadful 
example of indemnifying himself at the expense of a third party,'* 
and concluded by appealing to the Head of the Empire, and to the 
Tsar as guarantor of the Germanic System. Nothing came of this 
appeal ; for the Holy Roman Empire was tottering to its fall. But Great 
Britain, already indignant at Prussian perfidy, promptly retaliated 
against exclusion from the most valuable corridor still open to British 
commerce. On May i6th, Fox ordered the blockade of the estuaries 
of the Trave, Elbe, Weser and Ems, and this was soon extended to the 
whole coastline between the Elbe and Brest. This "paper blockade" 
caused great annoyance to neutrals, especially to the United States ; 
and the blockade of Prussia's new territory led to a state of hostility 
which was formally recognised on June nth. Thus did Napoleon 
extend his coast-system. He had " thrust Prussia into the North " and 
compelled her to annex Hanover, in order to embroil her with the 
Island Power 1 . 

When peace aggrandised the Napoleonic System no less swiftly and 
surely than war, it might have seemed futile to enter into negotiations 
for a general settlement. Yet, so sanguine was the nature of Fox that he 
made the attempt. The warm sympathy that endeared him to all his 
friends had welled forth to all the manifestations of French democracy ; 
and an admirer noted that his excessive hopes for that movement 
sprang from his habit of giving free rein to sentiment and too little 
time to enquiry and reflexion. The same generous failing, probably, 
accounts for his predilection for Napoleon. After a visit to Paris in 
1 Nap. Corr., 9810, 9811. 


1802, the Whig leader expressed the belief that the First Consul, 
however hostile to this country, desired to reduce the military spirit 
and to make the French a commercial people 1 . Romilly, who was also 
in Paris, came to an opposite and far saner conclusion 2 . The belief 
that Napoleon was wedded to peace and "afraid of war to the last 
degree " was another of Fox's delusions, worthy of a place beside his 
conviction that, if war came, Grey was "literally" the only Briton 
who could conduct it 3 . The situation was therefore piquant, when Fox, 
with his fervid aspirations after peace, sought to compass it under a chief 
whom he had firmly opposed because of his bellicose and reactionary 
tendencies. Unfortunately, his letters are rare in these last nine months 
of his career ; but his actions betoken so unruffled a dignity amidst 
countless disappointments, so firm a resolve to tread the path of 
honour, as to reveal the loss which the nation sustained through his 
exclusion from office in 1794 and in 1804 by the fiat of George III. 
On February 2Oth, 1806, Fox prepared the way for the negotiations 
by revealing to Talleyrand the details of an alleged plot for the murder 
of Napoleon, which had been mooted to him. The Emperor replied 
in suitable terms and, in his speech of March 2nd to the Corps 
Legislatif, offered peace to Great Britain on the basis of the Treaty 
of Amiens. Conscious, perhaps, that this Treaty was now defunct, 
he modified the offer in his survey of French affairs to the Senate 
(March 5th). True, he spoke in terms which implied the continuance of 
French domination over the Netherlands, the Rhineland and Italy, the 
annexation of Genoa being also explained as a necessary result of that of 
Piedmont. He further alluded to the extension of his federative system 
over the Dutch Netherlands, Istria and Dalmatia as indispensable 
to French power, and therefore irrevocable ; but he proposed a pacifica- 
tion on the general principle of recognising our recent acquisitions in 
the Indies as an equivalent to the extension of his power in Europe 4 . 
Here was a conceivable basis for a settlement; and, on March 26th, 
Fox replied, stating that some of the Amiens terms were vague, but 
expressing the hope of the British Government for an equitable com- 
promise between the two Powers and their respective Allies. He added, 
however, that he could not negotiate, still less conclude, a treaty 
without the participation of Russia. To this statement, Talleyrand, on 
April ist, sent the rejoinder, that Napoleon attributed the rupture of 

1 F. Horner, Memoirs, i. 255, 348. 

2 Life of Sir S. Romilly , I. 415-23. 

3 Corr. of C.J. Fox, ill. 372, 381, 385, 391, 406. 

4 Nap. Corr. No. 9929; Moniteur, March 6th, 1806. 


the Peace of Amiens, not to this or that article, but to his refusal to 
conclude with Great Britain a treaty of commerce such as would harm 
French industries ; that she must give up all thought of interfering 
in French arrangements (presumably those relating to commerce); 
that she was a great Sea Power, while France was a great Land 
Power; therefore, the participation of another Land Power (Russia) 
would be unfair, and he would never place himself, as regards 
Continental affairs, at the discretion of Great Britain and that of Russia 
operating conjointly. 

This reply augured ill for an accommodation. Under the specious 
plea that Great Britain and France were equal in strength on their 
respective elements and therefore must meet each other alone, 
Napoleon was about to eliminate our Ally from the negotiation which 
Fox had declared must proceed conjointly with her, or not at all. 
Besides, it was certain that Napoleon would bring in his Spanish, 
Italian and Dutch Allies; otherwise the peace would be partial. Accord- 
ingly, Great Britain must, in honour, include Russia and Sweden in the 
negotiations. Such was the purport of Fox's answer on April 8th ; and 
he further stated that, while deeming a treaty of commerce advantageous 
to both countries, he would postpone it as a matter for future arrange- 
ment. Napoleon, however, absolutely declined to discuss matters with 
the Coalition and insisted on treating with Great Britain alone. To 
this demand Fox, on April 2ist, sent a firm refusal, repeating it on 
June 1 4th, with the expression of a hope that the negotiation might 
secure the tranquillity of Europe. Meanwhile, Talleyrand had sent 
for the Earl of Yarmouth, who was then at the depot for British 
prisoners at Verdun, and proposed through him to make secret com- 
munications to Fox 1 . With this proposal Fox concurred. Talleyrand, 
therefore, when pressed by Yarmouth, stated that Napoleon would 
make no difficulty about the restitution of Hanover by Prussia to 
George III. As for the Bourbons and Sicily, "vous Vavez ; nous ne vous la 
demandonspas" Asked whether France would guarantee the integrity 
of the Ottoman empire, he replied in the affirmative; but it must be 
soon; for "beaucoup se prepare, mais rien n'estfait." 

The hint gained in significance from the weekly extensions of 
Napoleon's authority. After aggrandising his South-German Allies 
and proclaiming Joseph Bonaparte King of Naples, the Emperor 

1 Francis Seymour, Earl of Yarmouth and second Marquis of Hertford (1743- 
1822), sat in Parliament from 1766 to 1794, and was Plenipotentiary to Berlin and 
Vienna in 1794 (see ch. u). The despatches summarised above are in Parl. Papers 
(December 22nd, 1806). See, too, Ann. Reg. (1806), pp. 708-91. 


declared his brother Lewis King of Holland, a project dating from 
March 8th, 1806, and carried into effect on June 5th. On the same 
day, he appropriated the Papal enclaves of Benevento and Ponte- 
corvo, assigning them as dukedoms to Talleyrand and Bernadotte 1 . 
Meanwhile, he was pressing on with his German lieges the scheme of 
the Confederation of the Rhine ; and on July i^th he secretly signed 
with the Kings of Bavaria and Wurtemberg, and certain lesser Princes, 
a Treaty to that effect 2 . For the present, he concealed it, probably in 
the hope of inducing Great Britain and Russia to sign separate treaties 
of peace before they heard of this revolutionary change in Central 
Europe. Thus, partly by intimidation, partly by secret diplomacy, he 
intended to separate his opponents and compel them to surrender at 

His intentions appear clearly in his Correspondence. On May 3 ist 
he writes to Talleyrand, complaining that the extreme weakness of 
Prussia leaves him little hope that she will assist him in compelling 
England to make peace. She will not even close the Sound to British 
ships. Therefore, he must go on with the British negotiation and look 
about for some other lands to grant to Prussia, in case she has to give 
back Hanover to George III. Some domain of 300,000 inhabitants, 
say, Hesse-Cassel, will do for her. Further, he urges King Joseph to 
prepare to seize Sicily ; for peace will be made with the British when 
that island is secured. By July 4th, he decides never to allow Great 
Britain to keep Malta and maintain control over Sicily ; for this would 
form an "impassable barrier" to French communications with the 
Adriatic and the Levant. She must therefore give up either Malta or 
Sicily ; and in either case, he will humour her about Hanover. Similarly, 
he will grant a separate peace to Russia, reluctantly leaving Corfu to 
her 3 . These letters explain why neither Great Britain nor Russia could 
make peace with him, and why Prussia broke with him. For the 
present, his divulsive plans prospered. The Russian Plenipotentiary, 
d'Oubril, who arrived at Paris on July 6th, was so dazzled by his 
splendour, or cowed by his threats, as to sign with Talleyrand a separate 
Treaty, a secret article of which stipulated the cession of Sicily to 
King Joseph, Ferdinand IV receiving from Spain the Balearic Isles 

1 Nap. Corr. 9944, 10314, 10316. 

2 H. A. L. Fisher, Napoleonic Statesmanship: Germany, ch. v; E. Driault, 
Austerlitz, pp. 376-88. On August 6th, Francis II abdicated as Head of the Holy 
Roman Empire; and that venerable organism expired. 

3 Nap. Corr. Nos. 10396, 10409, 10416, 10448, 10499. For Gentz's comments 
on the negotiations of 1806, see Sir R. Adair, Mission to Vienna, ad fin. 

W. &G. I. 23 


for his son Francis, the former Prince Royal (July 2Oth). Believing 
that he had saved Germany from the projected Napoleonic League 
and Austria from ruin, d'Oubril hurried back to Petrograd, there to 
meet with an indignant reception by his master, who repudiated this 
degrading compact. 

Yet Napoleon had won a respite of some weeks, and had for the 
time separated the Allies. He now turned against Great Britain, 
resolved to wrest Sicily from her at all costs : witness the last sentence 
of his letter of August 6th to King Joseph " Peace or war, you shall 
have Sicily 1 ." Accordingly, his Plenipotentiary, General Clarke, 
declared to Yarmouth that, since France had gained a signal success 
by separating the Allies, she must now raise her terms. Yarmouth 
being so indiscreet as to produce his full powers for treating in regular 
form, the negotiation promised to be short. But Fox, rebuking 
Yarmouth for this lapse, sent out to Paris a statesman known for his 
pacific views, the Earl of Lauderdale, to assist him and finally to take 
over his duties. 

The conferences with Clarke during the month of August revealed 
the hopelessness of coming to an accord. Napoleon now scornfully 
rejected the original basis of uti possidetis , which implied Great Britain's 
retention of St Lucia, Tobago, the Cape and Surinam. True, early 
in September, on hearing that Alexander I refused to ratify the Oubril 
compact, he seemed inclined to lower his tone. But now, as ever, the 
crux was Sicily. The principle of good faith to our Neapolitan Ally 
and the dictates of naval strategy alike forbade the surrender of that 
island to Joseph Bonaparte. Moreover, Fox is said to have attached 
great importance to the maintenance of British power in the Mediter- 
ranean 2 . Unfortunately, early in August, he fell seriously ill of the 
dropsy. The symptoms, perhaps, were aggravated by despair at the un- 
favourable turn of the negotiation. When his nephew, Lord Holland, 
ventured to suggest that, after all, some indemnity might be found for 
the Bourbons in lieu of Sicily, he replied : " It is not so much the value 
of the point in dispute as the manner in which the French fly from their 
word that disheartens me. It is not Sicily, but the shuffling, insincere 
way in which they act that shows me they are playing a false game ; and 
in that case it would be very imprudent to make any concessions which 
by possibility could be thought inconsistent with our honour, or could 

1 Nap. Corr. 10657. 

2 Lord Holland, Memoirs of the Whig Party, n. 340; also, Ann. Reg. (1806), 
ch. ix, which is by him. i?f "Car'n**il* " Vil IT. 


furnish our Allies with a plausible pretence for suspecting, reproaching 
or deserting us 1 ." 

Fox died on September i3th. French writers have often represented 
that event as the chief cause for the breakdown of the negotiation, 
asserting that Fox's colleagues and Lauderdale were less peaceably 
inclined than the deceased statesman. Such assertions are at variance 
with the evidence. Holland, who knew both Fox and his colleagues, 
believed that no difference of opinion occurred between him and them 
on this head, and that his death made no difference to the issue of the 
negotiation. Further, with one immaterial exception, the despatches 
sent to Lauderdale after that event deviated neither in matter nor in 
tone from those of March-August 23rd. Moreover, Lauderdale con- 
tinued to make every possible effort to bring about an honourable 
peace, for which since the year 1793 he had consistently striven 2 . He 
remained at Paris until October 6th ; but in vain. On September 24th, 
Napoleon left St Cloud to direct the War to which his insolent treat- 
ment of Prussia had now driven her long-suffering monarch 3 . The 
Instructions left behind for Champagny precluded all hope, either of 
a joint negotiation with Great Britain and Russia or of the retention 
of Sicily by the Neapolitan Bourbons. On September 25th, the French 
Plenipotentiary offered to Great Britain the Cape, Malta, Hanover, 
Tobago and the French settlements in India; but he insisted on the 
cession of Sicily, the Bourbons receiving the Balearic Isles and an 
annuity from the Court of Spain. As these cynical terms were 
Napoleon's ultimatum, the negotiation lapsed. 

Thus, Sicily was the chief cause of the prolongation of the War, 
as Malta had been of its inception. At this point, as at all important 
crises since November, 1792, the Franco- British dispute turned 
essentially on questions of naval strategy. On the surface, there appear 
in 1793, 1797, 1803, 1 806 altercations respecting the Scheldt, Gibraltar, 
Malta, Sicily. What was really at stake was the French control of the 
Dutch Netherlands and mastery of the Mediterranean. A sure instinct 
impelled even peace-loving Ministers to hold out firmly on matters 
that concerned, first, the safety of the East Coast and, finally, the 
communications with India. For the present, Great Britain had to 

1 Corr. of C. J. Fox, iv. 476. Sir Robert Adair, Mission to Vienna (Introd.) 
refutes the assertions of Bignon that Fox had offered to cede Sicily ; but the slander 
has been widely accepted. 

2 Holland, Memoirs of the Whig Party, n. 76-81, 346-52. 

3 The chief cause of the rupture was Hanover (Garden, x. 153). See, too, 
G. Jackson, Diaries, 11. 12-14, 501-11. 



acquiesce in French control of Dutch territory ; but she reduced the 
danger by occupying the Cape; and Napoleon's Levantine schemes 
now warned her to hold on both to Malta and Sicily. 

He revenged himself by overthrowing Prussia. So swift were his 
moves that neither Russia nor Great Britain could help her. Austria, 
who could have done so, remembered Prussia's inaction of the year 
before 1 . Consequently, this second phase of the Third Coalition cor- 
responds closely to the first. Prussia takes the place of Austria. Her 
main army having been utterly beaten at Jena-Auerstadt (October I4th), 
the survivors scatter eastwards; not until February, 1807, do the 
Russo-Prussian forces make a determined stand, at Eylau; and not 
until April 26th is the revived Coalition placed on a firm basis by the 
Treaty of Bartenstein between those Powers. To this Treaty Great 
Britain (who had made peace with Prussia) soon acceded, offering a 
subsidy of 1,000,000 on June 27th, a fortnight after the Russians 
were utterly overthrown in the battle of Friedland. So halting had 
been the moves of the Allies, whereby they threw away the few chances 
left open to them by the perfervid genius of Napoleon. 

The sole interest attaching to Great Britain's policy in these gloomy 
months belongs, not to her dilatory diplomacy, but to the develop- 
ment of the elemental struggle between her and Napoleon. On 
November 2ist, three weeks after his triumphal entry into Berlin, he 
issued thence his famous Decree, declaring the British Isles in a state of 
blockade, and all commerce and communication with them forbidden, 
all British subjects in French or Allied lands subject to imprisonment 
and all British property good prize, the half of it being used to indemnify 
merchants for the losses inflicted by British cruisers. The preamble 
justifies this measure by a recital of the harsh British customs which 
enjoined the capture of the crews and cargoes of hostile merchant- 
men, the blockade of non-fortified harbours, the practice of nominal 
blockade, even over an entire coast, and, in fine, of all her measures 
calculated to ruin the trade of the Continent. All Napoleon's Allies 
are ordered strictly to carry out this Decree, so that a cordon may be 
drawn against the Islanders, from the Elbe to the south of Italy. The 
King of Holland is urged to great activity in enforcing this Decree 
"the sole means of striking home at England and compelling her to 
peace " also, to build 25 sail of the line, so that in four or five years 
Napoleon and his Allies may challenge her maritime supremacy 2 . 

1 Adair, Mission to Vienna, p. 142. 

2 Nap. Corr. 11283, 11377, 11378. 


Such, then, was the Emperor's policy to utilise the resources of 
all lands under his control, to close them to British commerce, and 
finally to mass their fleets for the utter overthrow of the Island Power. 
The construction of warships which he now pressed on in Dutch, 
French, Spanish and Italian ports furnished a telling commentary on 
this Decree. Commercial war was to prepare for political destruction. 
The programme was merely a gigantic development of ideas set forth 
by the French Jacobins. The Report of January ist, 1793, to the 
French Convention insisted on the artificiality of the British Empire 
and the facility with which it might be attacked in so many quarters as 
to ensure the ruin of British credit. This notion inspired Bonaparte in 
his Egyptian Expedition. And now, that avenue being closed by the 
British occupation of Malta and Sicily, he expanded the alternative 
scheme, named in his letter of February 23rd, 1798, of seizing the 
north-western coast of Germany, the probable sequel being the in- 
clusion of Prussia and Austria in his "coast-system." 

His plan of commercial warfare against Great Britain having its 
roots far in the past, we need not take very seriously the diatribes 
against her maritime tyranny in the preamble to the Berlin Decree. 
But her proceedings at sea had aroused much discontent among 
neutrals, especially in the United States. Already, President Jefferson, 
in his official Message of December 3rd, 1805, had protested against 
the depredations of privateers on United States and other shipping 
even close to their ports, declaring that he had armed light squadrons 
to capture the offenders and have them tried as pirates. He, also, 
referred to captures made by warships contrary to the Law of Nations, 
and declared that neutrals had as good a right as belligerents to decide 
what was legitimate trade for a neutral to carry on with belligerents. 
Equally obnoxious to him was the custom whereby "a belligerent 
takes to itself a commerce with its own enemy which it denies to a 
neutral." Probably, he was referring either to the Licence system 
then commencing, or to the Rule of 1756, cited above. But his 
charges were vague, Great Britain not being named. He named her, 
however, in his Message of January I7th, 1806, as infringing the terms 
of the Jay Treaty of 1794-5, and as impressing seamen from United 
States shipping. That practice and the right of search which it involved 
was certainly productive of infinite friction 1 . In April, 1806, Congress 
passed a Non-Importation Act, prohibiting the import of many British 
products. It came into force on November i5th, but, owing to the 

1 See Camb. Mod. Hist., vii. 327-31. 


clamour against it, was soon withdrawn. Negotiations were then on 
foot between Washington and London, and, in December, Jefferson 
announced that they were "proceeding in a spirit of friendship and 
accommodation which promises a mutual advantage 1 ." The blighting 
of these hopes resulted from the Berlin Decree and the retaliation to 
which the British Government resorted. 

The first retort to that drastic measure took the form of the British 
Order in Council of January yth, 1807, which, while asserting the 
inherent justice of retaliating by the prohibition of all maritime trade 
with France, such as she threatened to apply to the British Isles, yet 
restricted such punitive measures to vessels trading between any two 
ports whence British ships were excluded. It therefore aimed at 
stopping all trade, even that of neutrals, from harbour to harbour 
(except in Portugal) between Hamburg and Venice. Inasmuch as 
British cruisers now swept the seas, neutral trade probably suffered 
more from the thorough application of this limited measure than from 
the Emperor's brutum fulmen of a blockade of the British Isles. In 
truth, he must have resorted to that bombastic declaration chiefly as 
a means of intimidation and of spurring on his antagonist to reprisals 
certain to arouse the wrath of neutrals. In this, as will shortly appear, 
he succeeded. 

The month of February, 1807, witnessed the failure of the Sea 
Power to help Russia. Driven from Warsaw by the pressure of 
Napoleon's arms, she was now threatened by her secular rivals, the 
Turks. General Sebastiani, French Ambassador at Constantinople, 
having induced the Porte to declare war on Russia (December 24th, 
1806), the British Government ordered a squadron to force the Straits 
and compel the Turks to make peace. Vice- Admiral Sir James Duck- 
worth with seven sail arrived at Princes Islands, near Constantinople, 
on February 2Oth, 1807. The wind failing, he anchored there and then 
weakly complied with the request of the British Ambassador, Charles 
Arbuthnot, now on board, that he should seek to end the Russo- 
Turkish War by peaceful negotiation. Thereupon, the Turks amused 
him with specious offers, until their preparations were complete 
both on the spot and at the Dardanelles. Then they defied him, and 
he, realising his helplessness, ran for the Straits, passing the repaired 
forts with considerable loss. Subsequently, the Russian squadron 
which should have aided him hove in sight. War with Turkey having 
arisen out of our futile effort to help Russia, the British squadron 
1 Ann. Reg. (1807), p. 679. 


proceeded to Alexandria, where the operations on land completely 
miscarried 1 . Altogether, the naval and military policy of the Fox- 
Grenville Ministry proved a disastrous failure. From Trafalgar to the 
Dardanelles was a plunge from the sublime to the ridiculous. 

The conviction gained ground that " All the Talents " had frittered 
away the national resources on distant and difficult enterprises, when 
they should have struck at France. Deprived as she was, for seven or 
eight months, of the presence of Napoleon and the Grand Army, then 
in Prussia or Poland, she presented a good target 2 . But the genius of 
Chatham appealed in vain to Grenville, Fox and Howick ; and their 
dull, unenterprising regime sensibly contributed to the overthrow of 
the Third Coalition. In March, 1807, Great Britain had, exclusive 
of artillery, 259,000 men under arms. Of these, 93,000 were serving 
abroad, while 165,000 Regulars and Militia were in these islands, 
without reckoning that uncertain factor, the Volunteers. But only 
33 ,000 were deemed ready for foreign service ; and, owing to our diverse 
responsibilities in the Mediterranean, the Cape, and South America, 
it was deemed hazardous to send abroad more than 12,000 men 3 . Pitt 
and Barham had always kept transports ready for the immediate des- 
patch of such a number. But, as their successors discontinued this 
practice, no force could be sent speedily to the help of our Allies. To 
this cause may be ascribed the very discreditable failure to aid Russia 
and Prussia in the spring of 1807, when the scales of war were hovering 
in the balance. 

In March, 1807, the Grenville Cabinet fell, owing to its resolve 
to carry Catholic Emancipation and the King's invincible repugnance 
to that measure 4 . The cares of State now fell on the unimpressive Duke 
of Portland, the equally mediocre Hawkesbury (soon to become Earl 
of Liverpool) at the Home Office, the Earl of Chatham at the Ordnance, 
and Perceval at the Exchequer. Far stronger men were Lord Eldon 
as Lord Chancellor, Lord Castlereagh for War and the Colonies, and 
Canning for Foreign Affairs. In this Tory and Old- Whig Ministry, 
George Canning (1770-1827) alone calls for special notice here. His 
conversational and literary gifts had first shone in the brilliant society 
of Fox and Sheridan; but the French Revolution, fretting the rich 

1 P.O. Turkey, 156, 157; Collingwood, Memoirs, pp. 251-67; Parl. Papers , 
March 23rd, 1808 ; E. Driault, La Politique orientale de Napoleon, pp. 85-1 10 ; Adair, 
Mission to Vienna, p. 223. 

2 See Plain Facts, or a Review of the Conduct of the late Ministers (Stockdale, 
2nd edit. June, 1807). 

3 Castlereagh Memoirs, viu. 46-8; Temperley, G. Canning, p. 72. 

4 Castlereagh Memoirs, iv. 374-92; Dropmore Papers, ix. 100-20. 


vein of sentiment in his nature, ranged him with Burke and Windham 
on the side of Pitt. Admiration of Pitt's genius and hatred of French 
Jacobinism were thenceforth the animating motives of his career. As 
Under- Secretary for Foreign Affairs in 1796-9, he displayed equal 
firmness and imagination. Sympathising with his leader on the Catholic 
claims, he retired with him in 1801, but could not be restrained from 
contemptuous sallies on Addington as responsible for the detested 
Peace of Amiens : 

Hail, thou, on whom our State is leaning! 
O Minister of mildest meaning ! 
Head of wisdom, soul of candour 
Happy Britain's guardian gander, 
To rescue from th' invading Gaul 
Her ' commerce, credit, capital ! ' 

Returning with Pitt to office in May, 1804, as Treasurer of the Navy, 
he flung himself with ardour into the struggle against Napoleon, but 
refused to have a part in the gathering of "All the Talents," with 
"no Elijah near." Such was the statesman, versatile but resolute, 
generous but self-willed and intriguing, who, after four months of 
responsibility, was suddenly called on to solve one of the most complex 
and momentous problems of that age. 

Like his father seven years previously, Alexander delighted 
Napoleon and exasperated his Allies by throwing the weight of Russia 
suddenly into the opposite scale. True, he had cause of complaint 
against us. In the spring and early summer of 1807, we had done 
little to help him in the Baltic except by the tardy despatch of a small 
force under General Cathcart to Stralsund. Three British sloops strove 
hard to harass the French besiegers of Danzig. But of what avail were 
three sloops ? Danzig surrendered on May 27th ; and its fall set free a 
considerable force for service in the field. Exasperation against the 
British was therefore rife at the Allied headquarters 1 , especially after 
the catastrophe of Friedland (June i4th). Despite the arrival of large 
Russian reinforcements, Alexander soon decided to sue for an armistice ; 
and, in a letter of June 24th, he stated to his Envoy, Prince Lobanoff, 
his desire for a Franco-Russian Alliance, which "alone can guarantee 
the welfare and repose of the world.... An entirely new system ought 
to take the place of that which has existed here, and I flatter myself 
that we shall easily come to an understanding with the Emperor 
Napoleon, provided that we treat without intermediaries 2 ." Probably, 

1 G. Jackson, Diaries, n. 148. z Tatischeff, Nouvelle Revue, June ist, 1890. 


this avowal of a desire to break with Prussia and Great Britain became 
known at the Tsar's headquarters at Tilsit. Certain it is that a British 
agent, Mackenzie, who was there on June 23rd~5th, met with a friendly 
reception from the Commander-in-Chief, Bennigsen, and heard him 
exclaim at dinner on the 25th : " The two Emperors have shaken hands. 
Europe has cause to tremble." 

On that day, Napoleon and Alexander met in the friendliest fashion 
on a raft in the middle of the River Niemen at Tilsit ; and the question 
arises How did the British Government come to know of Alexander's t 
volte-facet A fantastic story states that a British spy was on the raft 
and heard all their private converse ; but it is far more probable that 
secrets leaked out through Bennigsen or some other malcontent 
Russian officer. On his way back to London, Mackenzie arrived at 
Memel on June 26th, and brought news of the Armistice and other 
threatening symptoms to a group of British officials, including General 
Sir Robert Wilson, Sir George Jackson, Lord Hutchinson, then on 
a special mission, and the British Ambassador, Lord G. Leveson- 

Nor was this all. Leveson-Gower's earlier despatches to Canning 
had contained warnings that Bernadotte's corps, near the southern 
border of Holstein, might invade that duchy, so as to compel Denmark 
to close the Sound to British ships; and now, on the 26th, he sent off 
by Mackenzie news of the Franco-Russian rapprochement. It reached 
Downing Street on July i6th. Already, our Envoy at Copenhagen, 
Garlike, had reported the Francophil tendencies of that Court. Further, 
the Earl of Pembroke, on proceeding via Copenhagen to take over the 
British Embassy at Vienna, had reported (incorrectly as afterwards 
appeared) considerable activity in the Danish dockyards. Official news 
from Altona also mentioned menacing moves of the French near by. 
Hence, the arrival, on or before July i6th, of very disquieting infor- 
mation from Memel, Copenhagen and Altona aroused intense anxiety 
at the Foreign Office. Were France, Russia and Denmark, possibly 
Prussia also, about to form a League like that of 1800-1 for the closing 
of the Baltic? On this occasion, the problem confronting the new 
Portland Cabinet w r as exceptionally complex ; for a Northern League 
would threaten the communications of the British expeditionary force 
cooperating with our Swedish Allies at Stralsund. Further, the Por- 
tuguese and Danish fleets (the latter consisting of ig sail of the 
line) might easily be seized by the French troops in their vicinity ; and 
the combined Napoleonic fleets, backed by some 20 Russian sail, 


would form an armada equal, at least on paper, to the 103 British sail 
of the line in commission early in iSoy 1 . 

N Such was the problem, as it confronted Canning on July i6th. A 

dull and unimaginative man would probably have decided to await 
further developments before making even preliminary preparations. 
But Canning's was an imaginative mind, keenly patriotic and fired with 
intense hatred of Napoleon. Aware of the impressionable nature of 
Alexander, and piecing together the fragments of information from 
Memel, Copenhagen and Altona, he pictured to himself as imminent a 
vast conspiracy for the ruin of Great Britain. Evidently, the Danish 
fleet was the heart of the problem. Very early on the i8th, F. J. Jackson, 
formerly Ambassador at Berlin, was summoned to Downing Street. 
He found Canning in a state of great perplexity, but convinced that 
Napoleon was about to seize that fleet, with a view to the invasion of 
England. On the same day, he framed his resolve. Mulgrave, First 
Lord of the Admiralty, at once issued most urgent orders 2 for the 
immediate preparation for sea of 22 sail of the line, and 29 smaller 
craft, and this, too, in addition to 13 warships, the commission of 
which he had ordered on July i5th. Those ordered on the i8th were 
for a particular service under Admiral Gambier 3 . The purpose of this 
formidable armament appeared in Canning's Instructions of July i6th 
to Brooke Taylor, whom he appointed successor to Garlike at Copen- 
hagen. The new Ambassador was to proceed forthwith to that city 
and declare to the Danish Government that a British fleet was coming 
to support it in repelling all offers from Napoleon. 

On July 2ist the arrival of news up to June 25th from Tilsit 
(probably brought by Mackenzie) clinched Canning's determination; 
and, on the 22nd, he informed Brooke Taylor that Napoleon had 
proposed to the Tsar the framing of a Maritime League, in which 
Denmark would be included. Distinct and satisfactory assurances 
must therefore be required from her that no such demand had been 
made, or that, if so, it had been rejected. Above all, Brooke Taylor 
would demand the deposit of the Danish fleet in British hands, in order 
to remove the object for which Napoleon was striving. Great Britain 
offered to Denmark her Alliance and the yearly payment of 100,000 
during such time as the fleet was held in pledge. It is clear that 

1 See my articles in Transactions of the R. Historical Society (New Series, vol. xx) 
and in Napoleonic Studies, pp. 133-65 ; also, James, Naval Hist. iv. 201 and App. xv ; 
The Athenaeum, September i7th, 1902. 

2 Journals... of Sir T. Byam Martin, I. 326, 328. 

3 Admiralty (Orders and Instructions), 152. 


Canning offered the Alliance as a device for gilding the pill ; for it was 
extremely unlikely that so spirited a Power would peaceably accept 
terms so humiliating from a State with which its relations were un- 
friendly. Probably, too, he hoped that the arrival of Gambier's 
overwhelming force, finally numbering 25 of the line and many smaller 
craft, would save the honour of Denmark and avert a conflict. If so, 
he was disappointed. The overtures, unskilfully made by Jackson and 
Brooke Taylor, were indignantly rejected, and hostilities ensued, a 
landing force finally on September yth compelling the surrender of 
Copenhagen and the Danish fleet. The latter, comprising 15 sail of 
the line (mostly very old), as many frigates, and 31 smaller vessels, 
was brought away near the end of October. 

Such was this discreditable episode. In seeking to reach an im- 
partial judgment upon it, the enquirer is first faced with the question: 
Was the information as to the designs of Napoleon on Denmark suffi- 
ciently cogent to warrant action so drastic as that taken by Canning and 
his colleagues ? Search in the British Archives (which, though abundant 
on this topic, may not contain all the documents bearing on it) reveals 
the fact that the evidence before them by July 2ist was merely cir- 
cumstantial, and not so complete as to be conclusive. It warranted 
no more than an inference that the seizure by Napoleon of the Danish 
fleet was highly probable. In the ensuing debates on this question, 
Canning referred to sources of information (doubtless those named 
above) and to a British Minister probably, Leveson-Gower as 
furnishing the proofs. But his despatches were not decisive on this 
question ; and Lord Hutchinson, who had been at Memel, denied in 
the House of Lords, on February 8th, 1808, that there had existed 
proofs sufficient to justify the action taken against Denmark. Castle- 
reagh, also, admitted that, so early as July iQth, 1807, Ministers "took 
His Majesty's pleasure as to the propriety of the expedition 1 ." But 
not until August 8th were even the public articles of the Treaty of 
Tilsit known in London; and they contained nothing derogatory to 
Danish Independence. Further, Canning's despatch of August 4th 
urged Leveson-Gower to find out whether there were any secret 
articles 2 . Now, it was the Secret Treaty of Alliance of July yth which 
contained the proviso : that, if Great Britain refused the Tsar's offer 
to mediate for peace between her and France, he would then make 
common cause with the latter ; and Russia and France would summon 

1 Hansard (1808), p. 169 et seq. 

2 P.O. Russia, 70. 


Denmark, Sweden and Portugal to declare war against the Island 
Power 1 . That Canning's keen intuitions divined the beginnings of 
what might have developed into a formidable plan may be granted; 
but his imagination soared high, when, on September 25th, he wrote 
to Paget that the Copenhagen expedition had prevented "a northern 
confederacy, an invasion of Ireland and the shutting of Russian ports 2 ." 
More probably, it hastened the latter proceeding and its sequel, the 
Tsar's Declaration of War against Great Britain, which was issued so 
soon as he believed two of his squadrons to be secure. On the whole, 
the parliamentary debates of January-March, 1 808 , on this topic some- 
what shook public confidence in the Ministry. Its harsh treatment of 
Denmark was reprobated by the Duke of Gloucester, Lord Grenville, 
the Duke of Norfolk, Lords Sidmouth, Darnley, Erskine, Moira, 
Hutchinson and Grey, as also by Windham, Ponsonby and Whitbread 
in the House of Commons. 

To pass censorious judgments on Canning and his colleagues, as 
if the problem of July, 1807, had been a simple one, is unjust. The very 
existence of Great Britain was at stake ; and the evidence which reached 
Downing Street on or before July 2ist rendered it very probable that 
Napoleon would coerce Denmark and compel the surrender of her 
fleet. Moreover, Canning's intentions towards the Danes were, as his 
letters and despatches show, friendly. He even hoped for the formation 
of an Anglo- Scandinavian Alliance, which might save the North from 
the grasp of the two Emperors 3 . All this must be admitted. Neverthe- 
less, the information on which he founded his inference as to Napoleon's 
designs on Denmark amounted, not to proof, but only to a high degree 
of probability; and