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nution of our debts, the security or violation of our liberties, the freedom or dependence of our senates, and the prosperity or declension of our trade, but to examine the state of this nation, with regard to foreign powers; to inquire, whether we are equally feared and equally trusted now as in former administrations; whether our alliances have contributed to secure us from our inveterate and habitual enemies, or to expose us to them; whether the balance of Europe be still in our hands; and whether, during this long interval of peace, our power has increased in the same proportion with that of our neighbours.
France, my lords, is the constant and hereditary enemy of Britons, so much divided from her in religion, government, and interest, that they cannot both be prosperous together; as the influence of one rises, that of the other must, by consequence, decline. Alliances may form a temporal show of friendship, but it cannot continue; for their situation produces a natural rivalship, which every accidental circumstance has contributed to increase. Long wars, for many reigns after the conquest, established a radical and insuperable hatred between us, nor did those wars cease till the reformation produced new occasions of jealousy and aversion. France was, by these reasons, , obliged for many ages to employ all her influence and policy in strengthening herself against us, by treaties and alliances; and in our times, has given us a new reason for jealousy by extending her commerce, and improving her manufactures.
It has been, therefore, my lords, the settled principle of every wise administration, of every Briton, whose opinions were not regulated by some other motives than those of reason, to attend, with the highest degree of vigilance, to all the designs of the French, and oppose, with incessant diligence, every attempt to increase their force, or extend their influence, and to check their conquests, obstruct their alliances, and forestal their trade.
For this great end it has been our constant endeavour to support the Austrian family, whose large domivions and numerous forces make a counterbalance on the continent
to the power of France. For this end we entered into a long war, of which we still languish under the consequences, squandered the lives of our countrymen, and mortgaged the possessions of our posterity. For failing in the prosecution of this purpose, for leaving France too formidable, and neglecting the interests of the emperour, was the treaty of Utrecht censured, and the authors of it prosecuted by the present minister; but how much he has improved the errours of his predecessors to his own advantage, how diligent he has been to rectify the miscarriages of their conduct, and supply the defect, I shall endeavour to explain.
It is well known, my lords, that during the regency of the duke of Orleans, we had nothing to apprehend from French machinations; his interest, a tie which that nation is seldom found to break, held him steady to his engagements with us; nor is it less known how much he distrusted Spain, and how little, by consequence, he favoured her. We had, at that time, no necessity of anxiously attending to every whisper of the French court, which was sufficiently engaged in regulating their domestick affairs, and repairing the ruins of a destructive war; but, my lords, we ought to observe, that it had been happy for us had our minister laboured with equal address at the same employment.
After the death of this duke, the affairs of France were restored to their former situation, her old schemes were revived, her ancient alliances cultivated, and her general interest pursued. Spain was again considered as the power which had the same views with her, and which could never rival, but might always assist her.
This alliance, my lords, was intended to have been unalterably confirmed by a marriage, but as no human policy can form measures certain of success, an irreconcilable hatred was nearly produced by the measure intended to confirm a settled and indissoluble friendship. The infanta was sent back after her arrival in France, an affront which no nation would soon have forgot, but which the general character and habitual sentiments of the Spaniards in
clined them to resent beyond any other people. To any one acquainted with their character in this respect, it will readily appear, that no other insult or injury could so sensibly affect them, or excite so eager a desire of revenge. This, my lords, the sagacity of our minister should have discovered, this opportunity should have been improved with the utmost care, by which Spain and France might possibly have been disunited for ages, and Britain have gained such advantages as would have made her the sole arbitress of Europe.
The Spaniards were not deficient on their side, uor did they neglect to court our friendship, but gave us the highest proof of their confidence by offering us the sole mediation of their differences with the emperour of Germany: but at this time it was, that the gentleman whose conduct I am examining, obtained the chief influence in our councils, and by his peculiar penetration discovered, that nothing was to be done which might give the least offence to the French. We, therefore, refused to mediate, unless French ministers might be associated with ours, which the Spaniards had too much spirit to consent to.
Thus, my lords, was neglected the first opportunity of forming against the French an alliance by which they might have been awed in all their designs, and by which the peace of Europe might have been long preserved.
The Spaniards, finding that we would not undertake to reconcile their differences with the emperour of Germany, and continuing their abhorrence of French mediators, concluded, without the intervention of any other power, a treaty both of peace and alliance with his imperial majesty.
This, my lords, was the famous treaty of Vienna, the source of so many projects and expedients, of so much terrour and solicitude, of such immense expenses, and perplexed negotiations. This treaty, a paper innocent and well-meaning, which related only to the contracting parties, kept, for some time, this nation in alarms, in apprehensions of conspiracies, and expectations of invasions.
To this treaty, had we singly regarded our own affairs,
without applying to France for instructions, we ought to have acceded, by which we should have divided the interest of the house of Bourbon, broken the combination of these pontifical powers, and, by improving one lucky incident, obtained what our arms and our politicks had never, hitherto, been able to accomplish.
But the French, sensible of their danger, and well acquainted with our minister, contrived an expedient which, indeed, would not often have succeeded, but which was so well adapted to the intellects of this gentleman, that it extricated them from all their difficulties.
They told us, my lords, and, what is yet more wonderful, they prevailed upon us to believe, that in this dreadful treaty of Vienna, it was stipulated between the German emperour and Spain, that they should employ their joint forces against Britain, that they should exalt the pretender to the throne, take immediate possession of Gibraltar, and, without mercy, dehar us for ever from our trade both in Spain and in the Western Indies. This his late majesty was advised to assert in his speech from the throne, which I desire may be read. Of which the following clauses were read :
My lords and gentlemen, “ The distressed condition of some of our religious brethren
abroad, and the negotiations and engagements entered into by some foreign powers, which seem to have laid the foundation of new troubles and disturbances in Europe, and to threaten my subjects with the loss of several of the most advantageous branches of their trade, obliged me, without any loss of time, to concert with other powers such measures as might give a check to the ambitious views of those who are endeavouring to render themselves formidable, and put a stop to the farther progress of such dangerous designs. For these ends I have entered into a defensive alliance with the French king, and the king of Prussia, to which several other powers, and particularly the Dutch, have been invited to accede, and have not the least reason doubt of their concurrence. This treaty shall, in a short time, be laid be
“ By these means, and by your support and assistance,
I trust in God, I shall be able not only to secure to my own subjects the enjoyment of many valuable rights and privileges, long since acquired for them by the most solemn treaties, but effectually to preserve the peace and balance of Europe, the only view and end of all my
endeavours. “ It is not to be doubted, but the enemies to my govern
ment will conceive hopes, that some favourable opportunity for renewing their attempts may offer, from the prospect of new troubles and commotions: they are already very busy by their instruments and emissaries in those courts whose measures seem most to favour their purposes, in soliciting and promoting the cause of the pretender; but I persuade myself, notwithstanding the countenance and encouragement they may have received, or flatter themselves with, the provision you shall make for the safety and defence of the empire, will effectually secure me from any attempts from abroad,
and render all such projects vain and abortive. “When the world shall see that you will not suffer the
British crown and nation to be menaced and insulted, those who most envy the present happiness and tranquillity of this empire, and are endeavouring to make us subservient to their ambition, will consider their own interest and circumstances before they make any attempt upon so brave a people, strengthened and supported by prudent and powerful alliances, and though desirous to preserve the peace, able and ready to defend themselves against the efforts of all aggressors. Such resolutions and such measures, timely taken, I am satisfied, are the most effectual means of preventing a war, and continuing to us the blessings of peace and prosperity.”
Who would not have been terrified, my lords, at a treaty like this? Our religion was to be destroyed, our government subverted, and our trade reduced to nothing. What could a ministry, thus intimidated, do, but resign themselves implicitly to the direction of a kind neighbour, that promised to shelter them from the storm?