Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

with France against the overpowering naval force of Britain. The excessive absorption by any one nation of military or naval power in Europe was and is always certain to lead to a coalition of the weaker nations against her. To their honour the cabinet, with the exception of Lord Temple, refused to consider intercepted letters as a cause of war. In February, 1762, Pitt and Temple resigned. Spain joined France, and peace seemed further off than ever.

Pitt, on resigning, accepted a pension of £3,000 a year for three lives, and a peerage for his wife, and forthwith allied himself with all the forces antagonistic to the Crown.

The great Protestant hero Frederick, on his part, vehemently supported Pitt, complained of desertion, and employed the pamphleteers in London to run down the new Ministry and depreciate peace. Peter, Duke of Holstein, succeeding on the death of Elizabeth to Russia, Frederick proposed an alliance, offering Peter in April, 1762, to guarantee Holstein to the Russian Crown, though Britain and Russia had both guaranteed it to Denmark. But in July Peter was deposed and murdered by Catherine his wife, who broke off the alliance with Frederick and recalled the Russian troops.

France and Spain in March, 1762, presented an ultimatum to our old ally Portugal, ordering her to expel British shipping, a demand which was nobly met. Thereupon French and Spanish armies overran Portugal. While the negotiations for peace proceeded with France, the war against Spain was vigorously pressed. The British and Portuguese under Count de la Lippe Buckeburgh and Burgoyne defeated them and drove them into Spain. A great expedition was sent to Havana. The navy, as usual, fully did its part, and isolated the city from the sea. It would appear that the land force, under the command of the Earl of Albemarle, could have carried it by a coup de main. But the Earl "could do nothing more original than sit down before the Moro (the castle which commanded the town) in solemn Low Country form," to suffer during a long siege all the horrors to be inflicted by tropical sickness. Havana was taken, but at enormous cost. While less than 1,000 men were lost in the siege, over 5,000 died from sickness. A great number of ships fell into our hands, and an immense sum in plunder and merchandise. Manila with the great galleon was taken by storm by a combined force under General Draper with a fleet from India. In the West Indies, Martinique, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Tobago fell to the British.

vii. Bute and the Treaty of Paris.-On the resignation of Pitt, the Earl of Bute, who had been appointed by George II. as tutor to his grandson, George III., formed a ministry, supported by Newcastle and other Whig nobles, with the avowed object of ending the war. But in May it was becoming clear that the great nobles would not support Bute as Minister. The German War was apparently the chief cause of their differences. The Duke of Newcastle resigned : it became necessary on the retirement of this past master of corrupt government, who had managed the finances of the war for Pitt, to employ another professional briber to carry through the coming peace. Henry Fox, first Lord Holland, one of the most accomplished men of his time in this art, who had married—a runaway matchGeorgiana Lennox, sister of Charles, third Duke of Richmond, was employed to counter the opposition. George Grenville, who was leading in the House of Commons, gave way to Fox.

By the treaty which was finally signed in February, 1763, the French ceded to Great Britain Canada, Cape Breton, and all Louisiana east of the Mississippi, they being given the right of fishery in Newfoundland. Spain ceded to Great Britain all her possessions on the North American continent, and gave the British the right of cutting log wood in Honduras. The British guaranteed the liberty of the Roman Catholic religion to the Canadians, a provision of which use was made later by the Whigs against George III.

In the West Indies the British retained Tobago, St. Vincent and Grenada, and restored Guadaloupe, Martinique, Desirade and St. Lucia. They restored to Spain, Havana, and for a ransom the Philippines.

In Africa Great Britain retained Senegal and restored Goree.

In India the French agreed not to fortify their posts in Bengal, but nothing was said about this for other parts of India.

In Europe Great Britain gave up Belle Isle and Minorca.

The opposition to peace was very powerful, Pitt and the Whig families and Frederick of Prussia and the London Radical

M

mob doing all they could to make peace impossible or at least most unpopular.

We were victorious all over the world, and had every prospect of the continuance of our supremacy. Our enemies were distressed in many ways. For example, timber was exhausted in France. This may sound unlikely in view of the immense tracts of forest over which the French nobles hunted. But a practical acquaintance with forestry will tell you that in these great bodies of woodland there may be very little timber of size and quality for ship building. The expense of ship building was much greater in France. The French had sent to Dalmatia to little purpose; they hoped to get timber from Spain and Portugal.

It is very difficult, in view of the virulence of the opposition to this treaty shown by contemporary writers, for those who are still feeling the effects on commerce of the treaties of 1919 and the results of the policy of M. Poincaré in the Ruhr, to treat of the Peace made by Bute in 1763 with an equal mind.

To judge fairly on Pitt's violent opposition to peace, you must consider the conditions resulting from nearly 70 years of Whig aristocratical rule under Kings who looked only to the Continent, when he took hold in 1756; Hanover overrun by the French, Prussia fighting alone against half Europe, our armies weak and ill-led, our navies commanded by men who feared to face odds. Trade was hampered by swarms of privateers, the American Colonies were barely defending themselves against the French and the Indians, and in India our affairs were most critical. The position called for a man independent of party favour, who could act the despot for carrying on the war. Pitt had the temper of a despot and acted as one with success. On resigning, he wrote to the city of London, then in the hands of men who fomented the outrages of the mob, that he had not been allowed to "guide." It was argued in his defence that it was necessary to have one minister; to which George Grenville replied : Prime Minister was an odious title : he was sorry it was now thought an essential part of the Constitution. Yet it is very doubtful if we should have had success in the war, if the nepotism of men such as Newcastle had continued, or if the despotism of Pitt had been checked.

The provisions of the peace, if it is once admitted that

moderation in terms to a defeated enemy is wise, would appear to have been good and sensible.

There was the ever-present weight of Hanover, where the fortunes of the war might at any time turn to our disadvantage. We had to subsidize for its defence allies equally open to attack. This point was urged by Stanley in the House of Commons, that none of our allies were in a position to make conquests, and therefore we must part with some of ours to obtain tolerable conditions for them.

The country was undoubtedly much exhausted, and the taxation enormous : the national debt, begun with the Bank of England in 1694, had grown to 145 millions, a huge sum for those days : it was not the fashion then to push victory to extremes : such a policy might react on ourselves as not immune from attack: we had acquired vast areas both East and West, for which our powers of digestion were hardly sufficient.

The population of the Islands was probably about six millions in 1760. In 1801 the census showed nine millions. By the cession of the Spanish and French possessions on the North American continent our Colonists were free to expand their settlements to the Pacific ; by the defeat of the French in India the whole continent was open to us for subjugation of the various peoples subject to the coming conflicts, obvious, no doubt, to the men on the spot, but of which Pitt seems to have had no inkling, with the Rulers of Mysore, the Mahrattas, the Rajputs, and others. From now on, the record in both continents was one of active advance of a people few in number but virile and aggressive, an advance only limited by the number of men who could be spared to fight. There was no advantage to be gained to ourselves by the continuance of a war in which the only benefit would be the conquest of more territory.

You must consider the effects of war and peace from another angle, the effect on commerce, especially as it touched neutral trade. We were not loved in Europe. It is not likely that a naval power, especially an aggressive naval power having such great superiority, ever could be liked by the European nations. The interference with trade by naval war is infinitely more disturbing than the limited injury of a campaign on land. The neutral nation whose trade is checked by the provisions necessary by one belligerent for defeating the other, only waits the moment when the necessity for submitting to the belligerent strength can be avoided. The great outburst against Great Britain's supremacy came later, but the materials for the discontent existed in the competition of trade. For instance, the Empress of Russia in February, 1767, writes to her ambassador in Portugal, on opening a trade between Russia and Portugal, to supply the latter with hides, sailcoth, hemp, cables and brass immediately from the ports of Russia, which commodities they have hitherto had from England at an advanced price. (Lansdowne MS., Vol. 3 of Report of Historical Commission.)

The howl of the Beckford mob, and the glorification of Pitt for the victories of Wolfe and Clive and the sweeping of the seas by our navies has destroyed the sense of proportion by which such settlements as these peace treaties have to be judged. It would appear to me that Bute made a good peace, in no way injurious to the country (unless by the cession of St. Lucia ?), and likely to lead to the quick resumption of commercial relations with the enemy nations.

A better peace might possibly have been made if, when in March, 1761, France made earnest overtures for peace, Mr. Pitt had not so vehemently opposed it, thereby throwing France into the arms of Spain, not even allowing his ultimatum to be debated. Spain represented that France had been sufficiently humbled, and should not be ruined. Speaking in the debate on the Civil List deficit in 1769 Lord North said: "It never was my idea to cry up the peace as the chef d'æuvre of a great minister. The peace was an advantageous one ; because in the situation in which the country then stood it was better to come to such a peace than to run the risk of another campaign," an opinion borne out in 1780–81. But as a contemporary writes, if he had negotiated it, the “peace, however good, would have given a shock to Mr. Pitt's credit from the impossibility of contenting all mankind.” A just estimate is probably that of Carteret, just then on his deathbed. “The war," he said,

had been the most glorious and the peace the most honourable this nation ever saw."

The character of the man who made the peace has, I think, been more disgracefully treated by the historian than almost any character I know of in history. He was attacked both

« AnteriorContinua »