Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/144

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Mackintosh show that this was actually the case, although Torcy in his ‘Memoirs’ gives an apparently inconsistent account. After some communications had passed, Gaultier came to London with definite proposals for a separate negotiation, dated 22 April 1711. St. John informed the Dutch pensionary of the proposals, with assurances that he would act in concert with the states. On 1 July Prior was sent with Gaultier to Paris, with definite propositions, and returned in August with Gaultier and with M. Mesnager, who had powers to treat with England or her allies. At the request of St. John, however, he was instructed to treat separately with the English. Although the Duke of Shrewsbury, as lord chamberlain (Corresp. i. 335), expressed alarm at the probable jealousy of the allies, the difficulties were overcome, and preliminaries of peace were finally signed on 27 Sept. Those relating to the English interests were kept secret; while more general articles were signed at the same time for communication to the allies. The English ministers were anxious for secrecy, in order, as Torcy observes (Torcy, p. 36), that the Dutch might not be aware of the advantages to be obtained for English commerce. The English ambassador, Thomas Wentworth (Lord Strafford) [q. v.], was instructed on 1 Oct. to propose to the Dutch to join a conference for a peace based upon these preliminaries. The allies were naturally alarmed at the separate understanding with France. Buys, the pensionary of Amsterdam, was sent to ask for explanations. Count Gallas, who represented the emperor at London, complained loudly, published the copy of the preliminary articles which had been communicated to him, and was forbidden the court (Corresp. i. 449). Marlborough and Godolphin were indignant; and the whigs arranged that Prince Eugène should come to England. St. John retorted by complaining that England had taken an excessive share of the burdens of the war, and intimated that unless the Dutch agreed to the conferences, she would cease to take the same part in the operations. The allies finally consented to the meeting of the congress at Utrecht on 1 Jan. 1711–12 [cf. Robinson, John (1650–1723)]. The whigs were furious, and a fierce paper war was raging. St. John boasted to the queen that he had seized thirteen libellers, and was at the same time inspiring Swift to write his ‘Conduct of the Allies.’ When parliament met on 7 Dec., a motion was carried by the lords condemning any peace which should leave Spain and the West Indies to the house of Bourbon. The preliminaries had stipulated that the crowns of France and Spain should not be united upon one head, which was understood to imply the abandonment of all attempts to expel Philip from Spain. The English ministry had, in fact, made up their minds to this practically inevitable condition; and they met the vote of the lords by the creation of twelve peers and the dismissal of Marlborough. A promise was made to St. John of a peerage at the end of the session, though he could not be as yet spared from the commons (Journal to Stella, 29 Dec. 1711).

During the following session attacks upon the corruption of the previous ministry were carried on, and upon one charge Walpole was expelled and committed to the Tower (17 Jan. 1711–12). A ‘Representation of the State of the Nation,’ drawn up by Sir J. Hanmer with the help of St. John and Swift, was presented to the queen on 4 March, attacking the ‘Barrier Treaty,’ and arguing elaborately that we paid most of the expenses while our allies were getting the chief benefits of the war. This view was best represented by Arbuthnot, another ‘club’ friend of St. John, in his ‘History of John Bull’ (1712). Meanwhile, the full explanation of the French proposals in February, at Utrecht, had again roused the indignation of the allies; while the English ministry were still communicating on friendly and confidential terms with the enemy. The death of the dauphin (14 April 1711) and of his eldest son (18 Feb. 1712) produced new difficulties. If the infant prince (afterwards Louis XV) should die, the king of Spain would become heir to the French throne. St. John proposed to the French that Philip should renounce his right to succeed; to which the French minister replied that, as the king ruled by divine right, any renunciation would be invalid. After some correspondence St. John (29 April) proposed an alternative scheme; and Torcy finally replied (18 May) that one of the two schemes should be adopted. The king of Spain was to decide which course he would take; and, meanwhile, he suggested, it would be very sad if any event should happen to destroy the good feeling. St. John was satisfied, and on 10 May, the day after receiving the despatch, wrote to Ormonde, who had succeeded to Marlborough's command, telling him not to engage in any battle. Ormonde was directed to keep these orders secret from the allies, and was told at the same time that the order had been communicated to the French court (Corresp. ii. 317, &c.). St. John told Prior afterwards that he believed that this order had saved the French army (ib. iii. 78). The French, by way of security, agreed to put