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Those who are against any peace without Spain, seem likewise to have been mistaken in judging our victories and other successes, to have been of greater consequence than they really were.
When our armies take a town in Flanders, the Dutch are immediately put into possession, and we at home make bonfires. I have sometimes pitied the deluded people, to see them squandering away their fuel to so little purpose. For example: what is it to us that Bouchain is taken, about which the warlike politicians of the coffeehouse make such a clutter? What though the garrison surrendered prisoners of war, and in sight of the enemy? we are not now in a condition to be fed with points of honour. What advantage have we, but that of spending three or four millions more to get another town for the States, which may open them a new country for contributions, and increase the perquisites of the general@or
In that war of ten years under the late king, when our commanders and soldiers were raw and unexperienced, in comparison of what they are at present, -we lost battles and towns, as well as we gained them of late, since those gentlemen have better learned their trade; yet we bore up then, as the French do now; nor was there any thing decisive in their successes; they grew weary as well as we, and at last consented to a peace, under which we might have been happy enough, if it had not been followed by that wise treaty of partition, which revived the flame that has lasted ever since. I see nothing else in the modern way of making war, but that the side which can hold out longest will end it with most advantage. In such a close country as Flanders, where it is carried on by sieges, the army that acts offensively is at a much greater expense of men and money; and there is hardly a town taken, in the common forms, where the besiegers have not the worse of the bargain. I never yet knew a soldier, who would not affirm, that
any town might be taken, if you were content to be at the charge. If you will count upon sacrificing so much blood and treasure, the rest is all a regular, established method, which cannot fail. When the king of France, in the times of his grandeur, sat down before a town, his generals and engineers would often fix the day when it should surrender: the enemy, sensible of all this, has for some years past avoided a battle, where he has so ill succeeded, and taken a surer way to consume us, by letting our courage evaporate against stones and rubbish, and sacrificing a single town to a campaign, which he can so much better afford to lose, than we to take.
Lastly, those who are so violently against any peace without Spain's being restored to the house of Austria, have not I believe cast their eye upon a cloud gathering in the north, which we have helped to raise, and may quickly break in a storm upon our heads.
The northern war has been on foot almost ever since our breach with France. The success of it is various; but one effect to be apprehended was always the same, that sooner or later it would involve us in its consequences; and that whenever this happened, let our success be never so great † against France, from that moment France would have the advantage.
By our guarantee of the treaty of Travendall, we were obliged to hinder the king of Denmark from engaging in a war with Sweden. It was at that time understood by all parties, and so declared even by the British ministers, that this engagement specially
*This expression admits of ambiguity; a battle seems to point to some particular engagement, instead of battle in general; the article therefore should be left out, and it should be written avoided battle. S.
+ It should be, for reasons before assigned let our success be ever so great.' S. < "
regarded Denmark's not assisting king Augustus. But however, if this had not been so, yet our obli gation to Sweden stood in force by virtue of former treaties with that crown, which were all revived and confirmed by a subsequent one concluded at the Hague by sir Joseph Williamson and monsieur Lilienroot, about the latter end of the king's reign.
However, the war in the north proceeded; and our not assisting Sweden was at least as well excused by the war which we were entangled in, as his not contributing his contingent to the empire, whereof he is a member, was excused by the pressures he lay under, having a confederacy to deal with.
In this war the king of Sweden was victorious; and what dangers were we not then exposed to? What fears were we not in? He marched into Saxony; and, if he had really been in the French interest, might at once have put us under the greatest difficulties. But the torrent turned another way, and he contented himself with imposing on his enemy the treaty of Alt Rastadt; by which, king Augustus makes an absolute cession of the crown of Poland, renounces any title to it, acknowledges Stanislaus; and then both he, and the king of Sweden, join in desiring the guaranty of England and Holland. The queen did not indeed give this guaranty in form; but, as a step toward it, the title of king was given to Sta nislaus by a letter from her majesty; and the strongest assurances were given to the Swedish minister, in her majesty's name, and in a committee of council, that the guaranty should speedily be granted; and that in the mean while it was the same thing as if the forms were passed.
In 1708, king Augustus made the campaign in Flanders: what measures he might at that time take, or of what nature the arguments might be that he made use of, is not known: but immediately after, he breaks through all he had done, marches into Poland, and reassumes the crown.
After this we apprehended that the peace of the empire might be endangered; and therefore entered into an act of guaranty for the neutrality of it. The king of Sweden refused, upon several accounts, to submit to the terms of this treaty, particularly because we went out of the empire to cover Poland and Jutland, but did not go out of it to cover the territories of Sweden.
Let us therefore consider what is our case at present. If the king of Sweden return, and get the better, he will think himself under no obligation of having any regard to the interests of the allies; but will naturally pursue, according to his own expression, his enemy wherever he finds him. In this case, the corps of the neutrality is obliged to oppose him; and so we are engaged in a second war, before the first is ended.
If the northern confederates succeed against Sweden, how shall we be able to preserve the balance of power in the north, so essential to our trade as well as in many other respects? what will become of that great support of the protestant interest in Germany, which is the footing that the Swedes now have in the empire? or who shall answer, that these princes, after they have settled the north to their minds, may not take a fancy to look southward, and make our peace with France according to their own schemes?
And lastly, if the king of Prussia, the elector of Hanover, and other princes whose dominions lie contiguous, are forced to draw from those armies which act against France, we must live in hourly expectation of having those troops recalled, which they now leave with us; and this recall may happen in the midst of a siege, or on the eve of a battle. Is it therefore our interest to toil on in a ruinous war, for an impracticable end, till one of these cases shall happen, or get under shelter before the storm?
There is no doubt but the present ministry (pro
vided they could get over the obligations of honour and conscience) might find their advantage in advising the continuance of the war, as well as the last did, although not in the same degree, after the kingdom has been so much exhausted. They might prolong it, till the parliament desire a peace; and in the mean time leave them in full possession of power. Therefore it is plain, that their proceedings at present are meant to serve their country, directly against their private interest; whatever clamour may be raised by those, who, for the vilest ends, would move Heaven and earth to oppose their measures. But they think it infinitely better to accept such terms as will secure our trade, find a sufficient barrier for the States, give reasonable satisfaction to the emperor, and restore the tranquillity of Europe, although without adding Spain to the empire; rather than go on in a languishing way, upon the vain expectation of some improbable turn for the recovery of that monarchy out of the Bourbon family; and at last, be forced to a worse peace, by some of the allies falling off, upon our utter inability to continue the war.
P.S. I have in this edition explained three or four lines, which mention the succession, to take off, if possible, all manner of cavil; though, at the same time, I cannot but observe, how ready the adverse party is to make use of any objections, even such as destroy their own principles. I put a distant case of the possibility, that our succession, through extreme necessity, might be changed by the legislature in future ages; and it is pleasant to hear those people quarrelling at this, who profess them, selves for changing it as often as they please, and that even without the consent of the entire legis lature.