Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and that thus two great monarchies might be united under one sovereign.

The first danger appears to us altogether chimerical. Family affection has seldom produced much effect on the policy of princes. The state of Europe at the time of the peace of Utrecht proved that in politics the ties of interest are much stronger than those of consanguinity. The Elector of Bavaria had been driven from his dominions by his father-in-law; Victor Amadeus was in arms against his sons-in-law; Anne was seated on a throne rom which she had assisted to push a most indulgent father. It is true that Philip had been accustomed from childhood to regard his grandfather with profound veneration. It was probable, therefore, that the influence of Louis at Madrid would be very great; but Louis was more than seventy years old; he could not live long; his heir was an infant in the cradle. There was surely no reason to think that the policy of the King of Spain would be swayed by his regard for a nephew whom he had never seen.

In fact, soon after the peace the two branches of the house of Bourbon began to quarrel. A close alliance was formed between Philip and Charles, lately competitors for the Castilian crown. A Spanish princess, betrothed to the King of France, was sent back in the most insulting manner to her native country, and a decree was put forth by the court of Madrid commanding every Frenchman to leave Spain. It is true that, fifty years after the peace of Utrecht, an alliance of peculiar strictness was formed between the French and Spanish governments. But it is certain that both governments were actuated on that occasion, not by domestic affection, but by common interests and common enmities. Their compact, though called the Family Compact, was as purely a political compact as the league of Cambrai or the league of Pilnitz.

The second danger was, that Philip might have succeeded to the crown of his native country. This did not happen But it might have happened; and at one time it seemed very likely to happen. A sickly child alone stood between the King of Spain and the heritage of Louis the Fourteenth. Philip, it is true, solemnly renounced his claims to the French crown. But the manner in which he had obtained possession of the Spanish crown had lately proved the inef

ficacy of such renunciations. The French lawyers declared the renunciation null, as being inconsistent with the fundamental law of the monarchy. The French people would probably have sided with him whom they would have considered as the rightful heir. Saint Simon, though much less the slave of prejudice than most of his countrymen, and though strongly attached to the regent, declared, in the presence of that prince, that he never would support the claims of the house of Orleans against those of the King of Spain. "If such," he said, "be my feelings, what must be the feelings of others?" Bolingbroke, it is certain, was fully convinced that the renunciation was worth no more than the paper on which it was written, and demanded it only for the purpose of blinding the English Parliament and people.

Yet, though it was at one time probable that the posterity of the Duke of Burgundy would become extinct, and though it is almost certain that if the posterity of the Duke of Burgundy had become extinct, Philip would have suc cessfully preferred his claim to the crown of France, we still defend the principle of the Treaty of Utrecht. In the first place, Charles had, soon after the battle of Villa Viciosa, inherited, by the death of his elder brother, all the dominions of the house of Austria. It might be argued, that if to these dominions he had added the whole monarchy of Spain, the balance of power would be seriously endangered. The union of the Austrian dominions and Spain would not, it is true, have been so alarming an event as the union of France and Spain. But Charles was actually emperor. Philip was not, and never might be, King of France. The certainty of the less evil might well be set against the chance of the greater evil.

But, in fact, we do not believe that Spain would long have remained under the government either of the emperor or of the King of France. The character of the Spanish people was a better security to the nations of Europe than any will, any instrument of renunciation, or any treaty The same energy which the people of Castile had put forth when Madrid was occupied by the allied armies, they would have again put forth as soon as it appeared that their country was about to become a province of France. Though they were no longer masters abroad, they were by no means dis

posed to see foreigners set over them at home. If Philip had become King of France, and had attempted to govern Spain by mandates from Versailles, a second Grand Alliance would easily have effected what the first had failed to accomplish. The Spanish nation would have rallied against him as zealously as it had before rallied round him. And of this he seems to have been fully aware. For many years the favourite hope of his heart was that he might ascend the throne of his grandfather; but he seems never to have thought it possible that he could reign at once in the country of his adoption and in the country of his birth.

These were the dangers of the peace; and they seem to us to be of no very formidable kind. Against these dangers are to be set off the evils of war and the risk of failure. The evils of the war-the waste of life, the suspension of trade, the expenditure of wealth, the accumulation of debtrequire no illustration. The chances of failure it is difficult at this distance of time to calculate with accuracy. But we think that an estimate approximating to the truth, may, without much difficulty, be formed. The allies had been

victorious in Germany, Italy, and Flanders. It was by no means improbable that they might fight their way into the very heart of France. But at no time since the commencement of the war had their prospects been so dark in that country which was the very object of the struggle. In Spain they held only a few square leagues. The temper of the great majority of the nation was decidedly hostile to them. If they had persisted, if they had obtained success equal to their highest expectations, if they had gained a series of victories as splendid as those of Blenheim and Ramilies, if Paris had fallen, if Louis had been a prisoner, we still doubt whether they would have accomplished their object. They would still have had to carry on interminable hostilities against the whole population of a country which affords peculiar facilities to irregular warfare; and in which invading armies suffer more from famine than from the sword.

We are, therefore, for the peace of Utrecht. It is true, that we by no means admire the statesmen who concluded that peace. Harley, we believe was a solemn trifler. St. John a brilliant knave. The great body of their followers consisted of the country clergy and the country gentry; two classes of men who were then immeasurably inferior in

respectability and intelligence to decent shopkeepers or farmers of our time. Parson Barnabas, Parson Trulliber, Sir Wilful Witwould, Sir Francis Wronghead, Squire Western, Squire Sullen-such were the people who composed the main strength of the Tory party for sixty years after the Revolution. It is true, that the means by which the Tories came into power in 1710 were most disreputable. It is true, that the manner in which they used their power was often unjust and cruel. It is true, that in order to bring about their favourite project of peace, they restored to slander and deception, without the slightest scruple. It is true, that they passed off on the British nation a renunciation which they knew to be invalid. It is true, that they gave up the Catalans to the vengeance of Philip, in a manner inconsistent with humanity and national honour. But on the great question of Peace or War, we cannot but think that though their motives may have been selfish and malevolent, their decision was beneficial to the state.

It remains

But we have already exceeded our limits. only for us to bid Lord Mahon heartily farewell, and to assure him, that whatever dislike we may feel for his political opinions, we shall always meet him with pleasure on the neutral ground of literature.

WALPOLE'S LETTERS TO SIR HORACE MANN.*

[Edinburgh Review.]

We cannot transcribe this title-page without strong feelings of regret. The editing of these volumes was the last of the useful and modest services rendered to literature by a nobleman of amiable manners, of untarnished public and private character, and cultivated mind. On this, as on other occasions, Lord Dover performed his part diligently, judiciously, and without the slightest ostentation. He had two merits, both of which are rarely found together in a commentator. He was content to be merely a commentator to keep in the background, and to leave the foreground to the author whom he had undertaken to illustrate. Yet, though willing to be an attendant, he was by no means a slave; nor did he consider it as part of his editorial duty to see no faults in the writer to whom he faithfully and assiduously rendered the humblest literary offices.

The faults of Horace Walpole's head and heart are indeed sufficiently glaring. His writings, it is true, rank as high among the delicacies of intellectual epicures as the Strasburgh pies among the dishes described in the Almanach des Gourmands. But, as the pâté-de-foie-gras owes its excellence to the diseases of the wretched animal which furnishes it, and would be good for nothing if it were not made of livers preternaturally swollen, so none but an unhealthy and disorganized mind could have produced such literary luxuries as the works of Walpole.

He was, unless we have formed a very erroneous judg ment of his character, the most eccentric, the most artificial,

* Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, to Sir Horace Mann, British Envoy at the Court of Tuscany. Now first published from the Originals in the possession of the EARL of WALDGRAVE. Edited by LORD DOVER. 3 vols. 8vo. London, 1833.

« AnteriorContinuar »