Dunkirk in possession of the English until the peace, and Ormonde also took possession of Ghent. The allies had protested in vain against the desertion of the English. The Dutch, as St. John put it (20 June), ‘kick and flounce like wild beasts caught in a toil; yet the cords are too strong for them to break’ (Committee of Secrecy); and, although the foreign forces under English orders declined to abandon their allies, they were told that they were no longer to receive pay from the English. Upon the French victory at Denain (24 July N. S.) Torcy congratulated the English minister upon an event which was calculated to diminish the old obstinacy of their allies. Ormonde's behaviour was warmly approved by the English tories (see Journal to Stella, 19 July 1712). Meanwhile the prospects of a satisfactory peace had been announced in the queen's speech at the end of the session (6 June). One of the last measures was the imposition of the stamp upon newspapers, by which St. John hoped to destroy the influence of ‘Grub Street.’ As a reward for his services, he was created, on 7 July, Viscount Bolingbroke and Baron St. John of Lydiard Tregoze, with special remainder to collaterals. The earldom of Bolingbroke, held by the elder branch of his family, had expired in the person of Paulet St. John, third earl, on 5 Oct. 1711; and he was greatly vexed at receiving only the lower rank as well as at having to abandon his position in the House of Commons. ‘My promotion,’ he says (23 July), ‘was a mortification to me’ (Corresp. ii. 484). ‘Jack Hill’ was sent soon afterwards to take possession of Dunkirk; the king of Spain had made his renunciation; and in August Bolingbroke was himself sent to Paris to make final arrangements, taking Prior and Gaultier with him. An agreement for a suspension of arms for four months between France and England was signed on 19 Aug., and Bolingbroke considered that the queen was justified, by the conduct of the allies, in withdrawing from the war, and employing her good offices with France as a common friend.
Bolingbroke at once returned to England, visiting Dunkirk on his way, and leaving Prior to finish the negotiations. Bolingbroke would now have been prepared to make a separate treaty of peace (see Torcy, p. 202). He had, however, difficulties at home. Oxford was dissatisfied with a policy which might have led to an actual conflict with our former allies, and at any rate would shock public opinion. After Bolingbroke's return the conduct of the negotiations was for a time put into the hands of his colleague, Lord Dartmouth, though he continued to correspond with Torcy and Prior. He was greatly irritated when, in October, he was passed over in a distribution of the order of the Garter. The allies meanwhile suffered other reverses, and the congress at Utrecht was being distracted by petty quarrels. The French were beginning to take a higher tone than the English ministry could approve, and now endeavoured to obtain Tournay from the Dutch. St. John had declined to support this in the previous autumn, although he had suggested to Torcy the best means of removing the ‘unaccountable obstinacy of the Dutch.’ The Dutch, however, were now on more friendly terms with the English, and Louis, moved by his own ill-health and the precarious state of Anne, became more anxious for peace (Torcy, p. 217), and finally abandoned this claim. The last obstacle was thus removed; though there were various difficulties as to the treaty of commerce still under discussion. Bolingbroke in February again took charge of the negotiations. He was now supported by the queen's favourite, Lady Masham, and, his influence becoming dominant, the Duke of Shrewsbury was sent as ambassador to France. At last everything was arranged; and the treaty of Utrecht was signed by the English and their allies, except the emperor, on 31 March 1713. The peace was announced to parliament, which now met after several prorogations, in the queen's speech on 9 April. The production of Addison's ‘Cato’ on 14 April was made the occasion of a party demonstration, and Bolingbroke turned the point against Marlborough and the whigs by presenting the actor Booth with fifty guineas for ‘defending the cause of liberty against a perpetual dictator.’
The peace of Utrecht became henceforth the object of the constant denunciation of the whigs, and the disgraceful proceedings in connection with the Duke of Ormonde's desertion of the allies admit of no defence. A full account of Bolingbroke's proceedings formed the main topic of the report of the committee of secrecy in 1715. The position in which the ministry had placed themselves undoubtedly enabled the French to obtain far better terms than they could have expected or had previously claimed, and however desirable the peace may have been in itself, it seemed to be an ignominious conclusion of a victorious war. Torcy points out the advantage which the French derived from their knowledge that Oxford and Bolingbroke were not only anxious for peace, but felt that their heads as well as their fortunes might depend upon their success (Torcy,