Page:The American Review Volume 02.djvu/590
A Chapter on Chatham.
Prussia. Frederic the Great, almost single-handed, was fighting the battles of Europe. Spain was, or affected to be, neutral. Early in 1761, the Duke de Choiseul made overtures of peace to Pitt, which were under consideration during the summer. The Spanish Prime Minister was M. Wall. The British minister at Madrid was the Earl of Bristol. The Spanish minister in London was the Count de Fuentes, who arrived and was presented at Court during the reign of George II., (June, 1760.)
The first difficulty that occurred after his arrival—and it is only important as showing the mutual distrust which existed—arose out of the fact of Fuentes' addressing two dispatches to the British Secretary, one in relation to the Newfoundland Fisheries, and the other to the Honduras Settlement, in which he stated that copies had been sent to the court of France. This course the British ministry seriously resented, and, with the full concurrence of his colleagues, Mr. Pitt wrote a very earnest and harsh remonstrance to the Spanish minister. As early as January, 1761, the British ministry deemed it necessary to exercise a more complete vigilance over the Spanish minister, and, by means which then, it is to be presumed, were common, and considered justifiable, to put themselves in possession of his correspondence. In February, 1761 , the Marquis of Grimaldi, (Minister of Spain at Paris,) wrote in cipher to London, that he was busy endeavoring to prevent a general peace—which was much desired by the French nation—or at least, in an effort to postpone it till a previous alliance should be formed between Spain and France. These letters were intercepted and read before they reached their destination. They had no other effect than to stimulate the English ministry to new efforts, and exertions were renewed to dispatch the expedition then fitting out against Belle Isle.
On the 5th March, another less equivocal letter fell into the hands of the ministry. "Three messengers," says Grimaldi, "are already dispatched to our court, in order by degrees to sow the seeds of an alliance with this. I will acquaint your Excellency with the result. It appears to me of the utmost importance for us to assure ourselves of France, and engage her before she makes her peace; for afterwards, I do not know what inclination she may have to go to war again for our sake. I return your Excellency a thousand thanks for your advices concerning the English expedition. They are useful for the ministry here and for our object. The Duke de Choiseul has charged me to thank your Excellency in his name. Send us word of what you know. The notion of making proposals to England for a congress, continues, and, I believe, will be executed. For all this, peace is not yet made."
To this letter Fuentes replied on the 10th, in the same spirit, but, very reasonably, (as is now apparent,) seems to distrust the security of his dispatches. "I say no more," he says, "on account of the badness of the cipher. Your Excellency may be able, by means of some express, to send one more difficult, in order that we may be able to correspond."' On the 17th, he again writes in relation to the modification of the ministry, on the retirement of Lord Holdernesse: "The change of my Lord Holdernesse will be followed by many others, as I informed the court since the king's death. There is a great fermentation, and a Scotch Secretary of State will create much talk. If we behave with proper resolution, as I hope we shall, and if the court of France thinks and acts as it ought, I promise myself great satisfaction; and the greatest of all will be to reduce this nation within proper limits, and to reason, which they do not know. I return my compliments to our friend Choiseul, and shall do what he desires."
On the 26lh of March, the French Prime Minister made a communication to Mr. Pitt, of a desire to attempt to negotiate a separate peace with Great Britain, stating generally no other basis than that of . To this a reply was sent, expressive of an earnest desire for peace, an acquiescence in the terms suggested, but of a full determination, in any treaty, to protect the interests of the King of Prussia, the only and faithful ally of Great Britain.
It would seem that the secrets of diplomacy, at this juncture, were nowhere well kept; for scarcely had the French propositions been made, when the King of Prussia wrote a private and most earnest letter of remonstrance to Mr. Pitt, against any negotiation in which his territories, then overrun by the Allies, might be sacrificed. He trusted to no diplomatic dispatch. He wrote directly to the minister. He signed himself the minister's "very alltictionate friend, Frederic."