« AnteriorContinua »
In 1761 legal proceedings about the commercial monopoly of the Jesuits at Martinique led to decrees by the Parlement against the Jesuits which were practically equivalent to the abolition of the order. In 1764 Louis most unwillingly suppressed the order.
In 1763, after the peace, there began a war over taxation between Louis and the Parlements, a war which had a good deal to do with the revolution. This resulted, in 1771, after many dramatic incidents, such as the prosecution of the Duc d'Aiguillon, who had been Governor of Brittany, by the Parlement of Brittany, supported by Paris and other local Parlements and the refusal of the princes of the blood to stand by the King, in the abolition of the Parlements by Louis and his chancellor Maupeou.
Walpole visited Paris in 1765. He discusses the personnel of the Parlements of France, distinguishing between the able and steady magistrates and the political writers who, under the influence of the Encyclopédie threw off religion and respect for government. The Parlements, he declares, are nothing but Courts of Judicature, the Crown popular, and even in unpopularity powerful, the nobility ignorant, haughty and submissive to the Crown, and the clergy the natural and now the provoked enemy of the Parlements, the military devoted to the Crown, and led by and composed of the nobles. He notices very few men whose abilities were formidable and asserts that the Presidents of the Parlements were open to bribery, which would not be surprising, seeing that the members of these Parlements, when they had not inherited their seats, paid for them very highly. One of the evils arising from the profuse expenditure under the absolute monarch had been the wholesale sale of hereditary offices, with patents of nobility and exemption from taxes attached to them.
Meanwhile Choiseul, Louis' Prime Minister, was increasing forces and supplies with the object of again fighting Great Britain, raising money by reducing by half the interest on the public debts, suspending the payment of pensions, and selling titles. But he was suddenly dismissed in 1770 by Louis XV., who did not replace him, but gave himself up to a street harlot called Madame du Barry.
The immediate result of the suppression of the Parlements was ruinous to the Crown; Louis' servants were unpaid ; trade was at a standstill. When the king abolished the Parlements and suppressed by force the Cour des Aides, an ancient tribunal which decided on questions of taxation, he set up a temporary Parlement of Paris, dividing it by edict into six equal parts, which was a great improvement. But when, in 1774, Louis XVI. succeeded, he restored all the Parlements, greatly lessening their powers, and forbidding them to unite against the Crown.
The weight and method of collection of taxes in France, and the effect on the cultivation of the soil, an evil which alone should have prevented the American from accepting money and supplies for many years from France with which to attack Britain, will be referred to below. The young and impulsive, reforming king, who became the ally of the American rebels, succeeded to the nominal rule of a hopelessly rotten, confused complication of bureaucracy, bankrupt in ideas and in material means, its roots interwoven with the whole life of France, a position from which there was no means of escape by reform, unless through the intervention of some holder of the office who had very exceptional character, using the most pitiless and drastic methods, and employing every reserve of force and diplomacy. Such men come only at very long intervals of time. In Louis' case, who was not such a man, the sins of the fathers were literally visited upon the children, as the task before him was one impossible to be executed by any but a most extraordinary personality acting under the most favourable conditions.
iii. The New Rulers of Europe: William V. of Holland, 1766-95.—The third ally, the Dutch Republic, had a great many ideas in common with the aspirations of the revolted colonies, both political and commercial. It had been in the habit of revolting against and occasionally murdering its rulers and statesmen, and it was at the head of the smuggling trade of the world. Otherwise the Stadtholders of Holland had been so closely connected with Britain, and the political and theological opinions of the two countries were so far agreed, that there would have appeared on the surface to be no cause for friction.
William II., the Stadtholder, in 1641 had married Mary, daughter of Charles I. of England; William III., in 1677, had made a political marriage with Mary, daughter of James II., a wife to whom he behaved very badly, and when the Stadtholdership, which had ceased to exist at his death, was revived in 1747, William IV., who succeeded, had been married in 1734 to Anne, the eldest daughter of George II. He had died in 1751, leaving her regent and guardian of his child, William V. He came of age in 1766, and in 1767 he married Wilhelmina, the niece of both Frederick II. of Prussia and of Louis, Duke of Brunswick, joint guardian with his mother, Anne, during his minority.
The immediate cause of war was the journey of Henry Lawrence to Amsterdam to negotiate a loan for the American colonies in September, 1780. He was captured by an English frigate on the way, and his papers showed negotiations for an alliance with the Dutch, who were at that time the chief financiers of Europe. The Dutch, devoting themselves to commerce and the carrying trade of the world, and latterly to banking on a large scale, had allowed their military and naval forces to decay, looking for neutrality in the war between Great Britain and France. As a result, Great Britain had searched her ships for contraband, seized them as prizes, and destroyed her carrying trade between France and the West Indies. Her ruin was completed when, on December 20, 1780, Great Britain declared war on the Republic. By her entry into the war, her colonies in Guiana, Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo were taken, she was driven out of India and Guinea, and her commerce was driven from the seas. When, in 1778, Hastings, in India, heard of the outbreak of war with France, he seized Chandernagore, and sent orders to seize Pondicherry, Mahé, the last French settlement, being taken in March, 1779. As soon as Holland came into the war, Nagapatam, on the Coromandel coast, was seized, and in January, 1782, Trincomalee in Ceylon fell to the British.
The perpetual friction, caused by the conflict over contraband trade and smuggling, was a chief cause of war. The British, even in 1689, had not been willing, in arranging an alliance with Holland, to give up the Navigation Acts.
Rodney, in the West Indies, at once pounced on St. Eustatius, a barren Dutch island which served as the warehouse for all the valuable illicit trade of the West, so profitable to all parties
if the theory of monopoly would have allowed it, a trade which had been the original cause of the discontent of the American colonies at the time of the passing of the Stamp Act. The spoil was enormous, some three and a half millions sterling and many ships, but Rodney became involved in claims made by British and others who set up licences to trade with the enemy.
Holland played little further part in the war, but the Republic became involved in a dispute with Joseph II., Emperor of Austria, whose dominions, the Austrian Netherlands, now called Belgium, lay between Holland and France. In 1782 he repudiated the Barrier Treaty made when Holland and France were enemies, dismantled the barrier fortresses and drove out the Dutch garrisons. Then, in 1784, he claimed the free navigation of the Scheldt, free trade from Belgian ports to the Indies, and some cessions of territory. Louis XVI. arbitrated, and made a settlement in favour of the Dutch, allowing the Scheldt to be closed.
When peace came, William, like all other rulers, had to fight the political position occasioned by the new doctrines of the Rights of Man; like Louis, he did so handicapped by his assistance to the revolted colonies, whose Declaration of Right had first expressed the theory as a political document. William, like other young European rulers, was what the historian calls
weak,” that is to say, he honestly attempted an impossible combination of autocratic rule with the new theories. Meeting with armed resistance, he was prepared to give way to the revolutionaries, but he had a remarkable wife in an age of remarkable women, who had no intention of surrendering to the mob. In 1787 she set out to the Hague to act for him ; she was stopped on the way by the patriots; whereupon Britain, through Sir James Harris, protested and demanded satisfaction, and Prussia promptly sent 20,000 men who overran the country. Whereupon followed a complete collapse of the patriots, the princess making her own terms for her husband. But the Prussians were alien soldiers, and the revolution was only postponed. In 1788 a treaty was made between Great Britain, Prussia and the Dutch Republic.
When the French republicans invaded Holland and set up their revolutionary government, William, in January, 1795, deserted the country and came to England.
The monopoly of the Dutch trading company in the East had led, as happens in the end with all such monopolies, to debt and ruin. After several attempts to bolster it up, a proposal was made that the state should take over the affairs of the company, but any action was upset by the outpouring of the French republicans.
iv. The New Rulers of Europe: Joseph II. of Austria, 1765-90.--I propose a brief notice only of two others of the new rulers of Europe, Joseph II., the son of the great Maria Theresa, and Louis XVI., the chief ally of the revolted colonies. There is an enormous literature for those who wish to acquaint themselves in detail with the events of this period as it affected these rulers, and some brilliant works dealing with the relations of the lesser princes in Western Europe to the problems which were disturbing their world, such as the volume on Germany and the French Revolution, by Dr. G. P. Gooch.
Francis the First, the husband of Maria Theresa, died in August, 1755. Joseph II., his son, who already had the title of Emperor of Germany, was at once made co-regent of Austria with his mother, Maria Theresa. There was, in fact, a triple regency, Prince Kaunitz, the minister with whom the great queen had worked for more than thirty years for the benefit of her dominions, exercising an equal power with her and her son. The result of such a regency is a strong argument for the position that one person only can govern any country, All three were gifted, and their gifts of mind and heart should have supplemented each other. But the actual effects of the divided duty was a paralysis of action when faced by a critical position. Kaunitz was a diplomatist of very high quality, a tireless brain contriving successive combinations of check and countercheck with or against the neighbouring states to avert war and sustain a balance of power.
The terrible experiences of her youth had made Maria Theresa a confirmed pacifist, so that, so far as her influence and power extended, she held her dominions back from any act which would call for her interference, lest it might force her into war with her powerful neighbours. She could never bring herself to trust Frederick II. enough to pursue any settled policy with him, nor would he, having done her wrong,