« AnteriorContinua »
voted a loan of £300,000, King George, without consulting his ministers made treaty for a year's neutrality for Hanover, agreeing to give no assistance to Maria Theresa, and to cast his vote against her husband at the coming election for Emperor.
Her condition was very desperate. The allies took Linz, and Passau, and overran Bohemia and Silesia. The French advancing towards Vienna, the Queen, far advanced in pregnancy, retired to Hungary, leaving her husband and her brother-in-law, Charles of Lorraine, to defend the city. Now follows one of the few episodes of human interest in this vile war.
The marriage of Maria Theresa with Francis of Lorraine had not been palatable to the Hungarians, a people always insistent upon the rights and privileges attaching to their nationality. It was uncertain how she would be received. Her German advisers recommended refusal of any concessions to the Hungarians. But the young Queen took the safer course of showing absolute fearlessness and a reliance on the loyalty of her people. She invoked the Diet, appeared with her child on the throne, and appealing to the ancient traditions of the monarchy, called on the clans for their assistance She adopted an act which appeared to her German advisers one of extreme rashness, an ancient law of Hungary called the “ Insurrection,” empowering every man capable of bearing arms, if the country was in extreme danger, to rise in its defence. The effect was to create a very strong feeling in her favour. The Hungarians admitted Francis of Lorraine as co-regent; a levy of thirty thousand irregular infantry was made, forces unfortunately of no great military value.
The French and Bavarians, instead of marching on Vienna, turned aside to attack Prague, to the relief of which Maria Theresa brought her Hungarian levies. But it was captured by surprise before she could relieve it. In her distress she made liberal offers to France, to Bavaria, and to Frederick, but they were refused. After the capture of Prague the Elector of Bavaria was crowned King of Bohemia, and then at Frankfort was crowned Emperor as Charles VII.
From this time the fortunes of the war rested on the welldrilled armies of Frederick, as he turned from the one side to the other for his advantage. By his shameless changes of front, he prolonged the war for years, he inflicted the most terrible sufferings on the inhabitants of Germany, which was reduced almost to the condition of a desert, and in the result he caused the spread of the Seven Years' War to Central Europe. His first action in the Seven Years' War was to attack another Protestant Prince, the Elector of Saxony, and to lay waste his dominions.
In December, 1741, Anne, Empress of Russia, was succeeded by Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great and Catherine I.
In February, 1748, the British Parliament dissolved, and Walpole resigned. A secret committee to investigate his corrupt methods fell flat. He had been the subject for the last two years of violent attacks from the Opposition, owing to the severe losses of shipping in the war of Jenkins' Ear, and to the unpopularity of the neutrality of Hanover.*
He was succeeded in 1748 by Pelham.
The Austrians fought under the disadvantage of having to meet their enemies on several fronts, Flanders, the Rhine, and Italy, as well as in Germany, so that Frederick, by throwing his power into either scale, could incline the balance to the side he favoured.
Without appearance of assistance either from Holland or Britain, the Queen in her distress made a secret convention with Frederick, engaging to give him Lower Silesia with Breslau and
• Walpole's opinion of the Opposition which attacked him may be summed up in a saying which is equally appropriate to the Opposition in the succeeding reigns. A patriot, Sir! Why, patriots spring up like mushrooms! I could raise fifty of them within the twenty-four hours. It is but refusing to gratify an unreasonable or an insolent demand, and up springs a patriot!"
“ Wedderburne," says Horace Walpole in 1769,“ broke out with all the rage of patriotism that had missed the wages of profligacy." In 1755 Walpole says of the corruption of parties in Ireland, “A flying squadron of the patriots, the smallest body of the four, and composed as usual of the discontented—that is, of all who had been too insignificant to be bought off, or whose demands had been too high-and of a few well-meaning men. “I think," writes Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, in 1738, “ that all the people in places, and those of the patriots who have a mind to have them, will keep and get all the employment they can to the last moment, without any regard to what may happen to England.” To tell my thoughts freely,” said the Hon. James Erskine (1739), “ the nation does, and posterity will, despise and think their curses due to those called patriots, for their disconcerted, vile, ridiculous conduct, and for the villainous behaviour of some, which all who are not blind must see through." Charles James Fox was in 1773 still a violent Tory ;
But,” says Gibbon, "he is attempting to pronounce the words country, liberty, corruption and so forth, with what success time will discover.”
Neisse, if he would desert the French and Bavarians. He accepted her terms for so long as it suited him, withdrew his troops and waited to see which would be successful. Then the Austrians recovered Bohemia, drove the Emperor Charles out of Bavaria, and captured a French army at Linz. This success was too much for Frederick. He turned again and, joining the Emperor Charles, inflicted a severe defeat on the Austrians. Still on the principle that 'needs must when the devil drives,' Maria Theresa sought to detach him from her enemies.
She succeeded in doing so for the time being. A treaty was signed at Breslau on July 28th, 1743, between Frederick, Maria Theresa, and the Elector of Saxony, by which Frederick agreed to acknowledge her, and she gave up to him most of Silesia. Frederick now turned to Austria and brought victory to Maria Theresa. The small German states began to swing over to her side. Owing to the close investment of Prague famine came so near that the French were forced to escape by night from the town. They made a masterly retreat by a twelve days' march to the Rhine, but only eight thousand out of forty thousand men recrossed the river.
In January, 1743, Cardinal Fleury, the minister of Louis XV., died at the age of ninety. In May, Bavaria being subdued, the Emperor gave up all pretensions to the Austrian dominions, and retired to Frankfort. Maria Theresa was crowned at Prague.
Frederick accepted, by the treaty of Breslau, responsibility for payment of a loan borrowed by Charles VI. from private persons
in Great Britain in 1734 and secured by mortgage on the revenues of Silesia. But it was hardly to be expected of such a character that he would hold to his word. Squabbling with King George, he claimed compensation for seizure of ships on which he had furnished naval stores to the French at Emden. In 1753 he refused payment of the loan ; in 1754, in a manifesto to his minister in London, he denied the right of the English nation to “meddle with the domestic affairs of the Empire,” and complained of those among the English “who strive to make their countrymen enter into foreign quarrels that are of no manner of concern to England." His sea-power was contemptible, but he held Hanover as a hostage. His position in the Empire could neutralize any of the little states such as Hesse, the Electorates of Mainz and Coblentz, and the Palatinate which we subsidized.
The British on their part were consumed with a desire to get rid of Hanover and return to the old Tudor and Stuart policy (afterwards called Pitt's system) of using our sea-power for our colonial expansion and for trade, leaving the continental quarrels to settle themselves. This national desire is expressed at this time by men of various opinions.
Bolingbroke, the experienced old statesman, advises (Marchmont Papers) to leave Germany to pacify itself, call home our troops, and turn our whole force to the sea against France and Spain, leaving twelve thousand men in the Low Countries. Murray, Lord Mansfield, writes : “Unless the Dutch would act against France with vigour, we cannot defend Flanders and support the Queen of Hungary and the King of Sardinia, too; and, therefore, we must retire within ourselves to make our best defence against France and Spain, and let the affairs of Europe go to ruin. Hanover is a millstone about our necks and it neither would nor could be borne with.”
Fearing for his beloved Hanover, King George, who played fast and loose with all parties, obtained that sixteen thousand men should be hired at the expense of the British for its defence. Pitt said of this : " It is now too apparent that this great, this powerful, this formidable Kingdom is considered only as a province to a despicable Electorate."
In 1744, according to Lord Hardwicke, we were paying in subsidies £250,000, besides the £500,000 to Maria Theresa and the King of Sardinia.*
From this time forward the policy, which reached its height in the Seven Years’War, of aiming at naval supremacy, with the continental wars of Holland and of Hanover as subordinate issues, grew in strength.
The Dutch, entering the war in 1743, an allied army of fortyfour thousand men, British, Hanoverian, Hessian, Austrian and Dutch, commanded by a competent general, Lord Stair, marched to and crossed the Rhine. They were joined by King George and the Duke of Cumberland. The King, thinking himself a general, took charge of affairs, upset all Lord Stair's plans, gave contradictory orders, and, in fact, made such ruin of the plan of campaign that in the end, pursued by a very superior army of the French, well supplied in every respect, who waited to receive the surrender of the allied force, the allies found themselves cooped up in a narrow valley of the Main, practically surrounded by the enemy, cut off from reinforcements, and living on half rations.
* Sir James Harris tells that Frederick II. asked Sir Andrew Mitchell: “ Is it true that you have at last taken Quebec ? Yes, Sire, by the aid of God." “How ! is the good God one of your allies ?' " Yes, Sire, and the only one to whom we are not paying subsidies."
Trying to retreat they engaged the French at the village of Dettingen on May 27th, 1743. The magnificent courage and discipline of the British infantry gained a complete victory over the French. Their retreat became a rout, with a loss of 6,000 men, the allies losing about 2,500, of which the British loss was 265 killed and 561 wounded. King George's horse, hearing the guns, ran away with him, and Handel wrote a Te Deum on the event.
The allies did not follow up the victory, but quarrelled among themselves. The Dutch did nothing ; Maria Theresa could not reconcile herself to the stealing of Silesia, and would listen to no terms, but made a treaty with the King of Sardinia for an offensive alliance against France ; Frederick prepared to change sides again ; King George, in the interest of Hanover, desired more war at the expense of Great Britain. In the islands the war was thoroughly unpopular, the Hanoverian levies and Sardinian subsidies being strongly objected to.
But the war continued, and took the form of direct war in 1744 between Great Britain and France. Hitherto the British on the continent were not at war with France, but only fighting as auxiliaries of the Austrians. Our operations at sea in the Mediterranean had had some effect on the Spanish King at Naples. But the naval warfare in those days was seldom decisive, the action being as formal and rigid as the conduct of the land campaigns.
The French on their part prepared a great invasion of Great Britain for the Jacobites. The British Admiralty had not taken action against this invasion, nor had the fleet in the Mediterranean succeeded in preventing the escape of the FrancoSpanish fleet, which it was blockading in Toulon. But any chance of success was prevented by our old ally the storm, which sank and scattered the French navy and transports.