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THE REIGN OF LOUIS XV.
and forthwith a howl arose from the whole | sweeping reforms arrayed against him the
most inveterate prejudices of the native On his accession to office he found the of his downfall has attached to him a most Spanish party; and the marvelous celerity whole of Northern Europe, Russia, Poland, undeserved reptutation for temerity and shalPrussia, and Denmark, combined against lowness. It is not too much to say, that Sweden. Upon the refusal of Charles XII. the scale of the comprehensive improveto agree to proposals known in diplomatic ments which he projected, and the practical history as "the Concerts of the Hague," character of their details, can nowhere be for the neutrality of the German territory, paralleled, except in the year of Cæsar's George I. of England, as Elector of Hano- Dictatorship, or in the reorganization of the ver, also joined the league against him. French Republic by Napoleon, which M. This assistance was to be rewarded by the Thiers so strikingly depicts in the opening cession of Bremen and Verden, of which a chapters of the Histoire du Consulat. But late campaign had put Denmark in posses- at Rome and at Paris the shock of an orsion; in return for which, it may be observed, ganic revolution had already cleared a free that the latter crown ultimately received the space for the exertions of statesmen; while English guarantee for Sleswig, though only the slow decay, which for a century had against the claims of the Duke of Holstein-Got- crippled the Spanish government, had only torp. Goertz was bent on breaking up the co- additionally cumbered the ground with the alition, and on gratifying his master's exasper- fragments of condemned institutions. Alation against George I. By ceding to Russia beroni was hampered at every turn by the the provinces she had already conquered, he parasites of the abuses he attacked. All the intended to purchase the help of his most sacrosanct etiquette of that formal Court, formidable enemy; and then, by rousing the the rigid machinery of the Councils, the endCatholic courts, in their favorite scheme of less multiplication of subordinate officials, the subverting the Protestant Succession in Eng- privileges of exclusive access to the Royal land, to divert the stream of Russian conquest to the South and West. In the mean- defence against such a reformer; and renewperson, were all of them available points of time, Russia was ready for the change. Her ed, one after another, the promise of disGerman allies had begun to dread the pres- heartening and exhausting him. ence of her armies; and the English govern- beroni had marked the vulnerable point of But Alment, true to the principle which makes it the Spanish government. Without waiting the interest of a maritime Power to prevent to take each stronghold in detail, or to corthe total depression of any continental state,rupt their garrisons, he struck boldly at the had refused to guarantee to the Czar those very Swedish conquests which Goertz now volunteered to cede. But, for the success of this scheme, it was necessary that France should separate from England, by the voluntary act, either of the Regent, or of the party whose success would follow his overthrow. We have seen how Peter the Great failed in accomplishing the former alternative. The hopes of the northern Allies were now turned to the younger branch of the Bourbons, at that time pining in reluctant submission to the Articles of Utrecht; which decreed their exclusion from Italy, and from the reversionary prospect of the French succession.
While Goertz was thus occupied in the North, the young King of Spain and his wife, Elizabeth of Parma, had reposed their absolute confidence in Alberoni. He was perhaps the last statesman whom the discipline of the Roman Church has trained for a political career, and whose claims to the very highest rank are undeniable. His
tween his master and the Roman court. But | his position had, of course, the weakness, as well as the strength of favoritism. In all Spain there was no one, except perhaps Ripperda, the Dutch ambassador, to whom he trusted for co-operation; and he complained that, with all the weight of the empire on his shoulders, he was often reduced to do the work of a common clerk. five years of peace," he is said to have exclaimed, "and I will make Philip V. the most formidable King in Europe." But he dared not slight Elizabeth of Parma; her ambition forced him prematurely into a war; and at last, after defying the French and English courts, the grandees of Spain, and all the terrors of the Vatican, he fell before the vulgar craft of the Queen's nurse, Laura Pescatori!
Still the work that he actually accomplished was immense. It is no small praise for an Italian priest to have anticipated Chatham and Turgot in two of their most characteristic measures. As the former, when the Highlands were on the point of revolt, and the English armies were exhausted, "looked for merit and found it in the mountains of the North," so Alberoni had the noble courage to attach for the first time the disaffected Catalonian Miguelets, by enrolling them in the royal forces: And sixty years before Turgot's ministry, Alberoni gave the first impulse to the languid production of Spain, by removing the customhouses that checked the communication between the inland provinces. Abruptly as his reign was terminated, he had already created a navy, recruited the army, and provided for its regular payment. He had centralized all the branches of official administration, and organized, for the first time since the reign of Philip II., the vast provinces of Spanish America. Reversing the fatal policy which had enriched the Protestant North with the expelled French and Spanish artisans, he invited Dutch and English families to establish woclen and linen manufactures in Spain. But the King and Queen of Spain, additionally displeased at the confirmation of the renunciations by the treaty of 1715, insisted on pressing their grievances against Austria to an armed decision, and Alberoni only saved himself by yielding. He answered the Triple Alliance, however, by a descent on Sardinia, at that time Austrian. He attempted, and with some success, to ally himself with the House of Savoy. But this double manoeuvre only expedited the conclusion of the Quadruple Al
liance, by which Savoy was compelled to exchange Sicily for the barren island of Sardinia. The great Powers were determined, at any risk, to prevent a general war. English government was ready to support Austria; and the fleet which Alberoni had dispatched to conquer Sicily, was destroyed off Palermo by Admiral Byng. But Albe
roni still held the threads that were to move the extensive organization projected between himself and Goertz. Faithful to his task of continuing the work of Louis XIV., he threw himself into the Russian and Turkish policy, which the Regent had not dared to adopt. He paralyzed the Austrian and Roman diplomatists by the ostentation of a high Catholic design; and actively co-operated with the existing cabals of the Duchesse du Maine and the French Royalists.
"Before you take your leave," he wrote to the Prince of Cellamara, his representative in Paris, "recollect to spring your mines." And the mines exploded in the most fantastic intrigue that even France has ever seen. The Fronde has been called the Comedy-Cellamara's conspiracy is the burlesque, of civil war. The Duchesse du Maine, searching for precedents through a pile of folios under the guidance of Boivin the antiquary, "qui ne connaissait d'autre cour que celle de Semiramis,"-Count Laval, in a coachman's livery, driving her to midnight interviews with the Spanish Ambassador,Malezieu composing addresses from the King of Spain to the Parliament of Paris, and at his wit's end for terror at having mislaid the copy,-Mademoiselle de Launay holding a levee of any fortune-tellers and adventuresses who chose to profess themselves in possession of secret information,-all form a picture which resembles nothing but one of Scribe's involved and perplexing dramas. The musical conspiracies of Gustave or Lestocq are not more inexhaustible in the imbroglio, more varied in incident, more successful in scenic attitude. The punishment of the detected criminals was in keeping with the gay make-believe of the plot. It is a bright silken thread shot across the gloomy web of the Chronicles of the Bastille. Waiting-maids, peers of France, gardes-du-corps, were all hurried under the frowning portals of Charles V. But when once there, they flirted, and amused themselves with jeux-desociété; Mademoiselle de Launay sang airs at the window from the opera of Iphigénie, and the Duc de Richelieu answered her from his neighboring dungeon, as Oreste! While Alberoni's support thus crumbled away in
France, and his hopes in the North were | Pragmatic Sanction, which gave the undiruined by the fall of Charles XII. in the vided succession of the whole Austrian dotrenches before Friederichshamm, the minis- minions to Maria Theresa, the emperor's eldters of France and England continued inflex- est daughter. On these terms a general ible in their measures for restoring peace. peace was at last signed; and thus ended Alberoni's dismissal was sternly exacted; the long controversy of the Spanish Succesand at that price the King of Spain was to sion, which for seventy years-ever since the have the terms originally offered him by the marriage of Louis XIV. with Maria Theresa Quadruple Alliance. Alberoni was accord- of Spain in 1660-had agitated Europe. ingly sacrificed; with the same odious disregard of humanity and justice which the Spanish Court had shown to Madame d'Orsini, his predecessor in the royal favor. The reversion of Tuscany and Parma, on the approaching extinction of the Houses of Medici and Farnese, was assured to Don Carlos, the eldest son of Philip V. by Elizabeth of Parma: And on this the King of Spain at last consented to renounce his claims to those portions of the old Spanish empire of which Austria was then in possession. A few minor points were reserved, preparatory to the conclusion of a general peace, for the Congress of Cambray.
In spite of M. de Tocqueville's lamentation over the decline of French influence at this period, he has furnished in his narrative of Alberoni's fall, the best justification of the Regency: "Il échoua, parce qu'il n'apprécia pas la tendance de son époque, toute dirigée vers le repos.' Distasteful as the Treaty of Utrecht was to both France and England, it was simply impossible for either nation to renew the struggle to which it put an end. an end. It was eminently impossible for France; drawn to the very verge of bankruptcy by the extravagant reign of Louis XIV., and additionally distressed by the famine which followed the War of the Succession, by the great Plague of Marseilles in 1720, the burning of Châlons and Rennes, and the gigantic swindling of Law and his System. But though France is represented as at this period habitually and criminally subservient to England, the English cabinet had, at the same time, to defend itself against similar imputations.
Dubois died, three years afterward; vomiting blasphemies at his physicians, for their ignorance of the ceremonial which should have accompanied the administration of the last Sacraments to a Roman cardinal! The Duke of Orleans soon followed him; stricken with apoplexy in the very arms of the beautiful Duchesse de Phalaris. But the negotiations for a final pacification, commenced at The popular idea of Walpole, as a Foreign Cambray, were not concluded till what is Minister (and we repeat, that we use his known as the Second Treaty of Vienna, in name in speaking of this epoch because, 1731. They had been interrupted in 1725, though for a time in opposition, he so zealunder the influence of Alberoni's vain and ously espoused the policy of his predecesloquacious imitator, Ripperda, by an intrigue, sors on his return as to make it fairly his which is still one of the darkest and most own), is, we believe, very nearly this: that singular in the annals of diplomacy. For a he deliberately, and on principle, sacrificed moment, Europe seemed on the brink of a our foreign relations to his party or personal general war. Catholic and Protestant pow-interests. Many people may think that ers were again opposed to each other, with a there was no great harm, if he did so. novel distribution of the parts. The League it would be difficult to say which half of this of Hanover (or, as it is sometimes termed, of opinion, combining, as it does, the cant of Herrenhausen) combined England, France, the craftsman with the recent cant of the repand Prussia, with the addition afterward of resentatives of the Anti-Corn-Law League, Sweden and Denmark, in opposition to Spain is most preposterously false. It is undeniand Austria. It was surmised that the lat-ably true that, in the face of an opposition, ter Powers contemplated a still closer union, which might have resulted in reconstructing the empire of Charles V. But compliance with the family affections either of Elizabeth of Parma, or of the Emperor Charles VI., was at that time an unfailing talisman for charming to repose the most alarming tempest. Don Carlos was confirmed in the inheritance of the Italian duchies; while England and the States-General guaranteed the
in which the Tories, smarting under the dread of perpetual exclusion from office, were reinforced by impracticable and disappointed Whigs, the Whig Government, led successively by Stanhope and by Walpole, did preserve us for five-and-twenty years from a European war. But it is also true that they succeeded in doing so, mainly by the proofs, everywhere presented, of their diplomatic ability; by the profound policy of
their combinations, and the readiness with which, when it was necessary to strike, they struck boldly and at once. For it is well observed by Professor Heeren, that the great merit of the English Government at this time, consisted not, indeed, in evading war, but in employing every means which negotiation or demonstrations could supply for avoiding it.* War, indeed, is, for the most part, but the vulgar resource of inexperienced workmen; and real statesmanship is best shown by neither abdicating a diplomatic position, nor yet breaking through it by force; but in making the voice of our country heard whenever European interests are in discussion, and by our just appreciation of new situations as they arise-presenting her, in her unbroken power, either as a mediator or an example. And it behoves the modern despisers of diplomacy to recollect that this is a part doubly suitable to a maritime and commercial nation; which cannot repair the inaction of one year by a successful campaign or the acquisition of a new province. In most cases, indeed, we can make ourselves felt only diplomatically, if we are to be felt at all; and must either so interpose as to appear to give law to the Continent, or be isolated from it. Such was the policy of our great Elizabeth; who never fired a single gun for thirty years; and yet it is from her reign that our continental influence is dated. Such, too, is the consummate policy which has guided us clear of the war which the most skillful observers pronounced inevitable in 1830; and such also was that of the English Government from 1715 to 1740.
Our understanding with the Regent, however, was then almost as unpopular in England, as it had been in France. If the Catholic party in the latter country saw in the Triple Alliance a desertion of the policy of Louis XIV., to many of the English Whigs it appeared an affront to the memory of William and Marlborough. The men who had just driven into exile the authors of the Utrecht Treaty, looked coldly on an alliance which not only confirmed that compromise, but put it forward as the chief security for European peace. Any approximation of England to France was, of course, disliked by the Austrian legation; and a letter of Count Gyllenborg's is given in the Historical Register, which seems to imply that the acquisition of Bremen and Verden, to which we have already referred, was an additional
* Heeren's "Historical Essays" (Engl. ed.), p. 280.
| ground of jealousy. It was represented as an attempt to balance the House of Austria by the creation of a second great Protestant power in the north of Germany: and the domestic enemies of the Hanoverian dynasty pounced at once on the bargain about those provinces, as a first instance in which England was sacrificed to the Electorate. We know that the elder Horace Walpole disapproved of the Triple Alliance; and shortly afterward his party in the Cabinet resigned on the cognate question of a subsidy against Sweden.
But putting aside the whole question of our relations with Northern Europe, where we repeatedly mediated fair terms of pacification which will well repay a separate examination; it can scarcely be denied that our diplomatic position through the first five and twenty years of the Hanoverian Dynasty, was rewarded by most solid advantages. First, and above all, the regular development of English commerce was unimpeded and progressive during those long years of peace. In the next place, we succeeded in correcting some of the most fatal errors of the Utrecht Treaty;-and this in face of its authors, who were not ashamed to taunt Walpole with subservience to the Prince whom they had themselves seated on the throne of Spain. The exchange of Sicily for Sardinia diminished the Italian influence of the House of Savoy,-an influence at that time invariably exercised against England. We separated, for a season, France from Spain. We destroyed the Spanish fleet, which Alberoni's genius had created. We provided by direct stipulation against the increase of the French navy. And, finally, as far as the faith of treaties could insure it, we insured the transmission to an ally, of the undivided Austrian dominions.
We are glad to find that M. de Tocqueville keeps clear of the common error of over-estimating the merits of Cardinal Fleury. Because his administration was something better than the intolerable misgovernment which preceded and followed it, it has become the fashion to extol him as a really wise and conscientious minister. But there are features in his personal career to us peculiarly revolting. He had all the patient subservience of a priest; at the same time that he acquiesced in moral wickedness with a readiness which could not be surpassed by the mature courtiership of the Duc de Richelieu. At an age when ambition is dying in the breasts of most men, after a life singularly free from its temptations, the one governing principle of his conduct was,
possible not to contrast the indolent monotony of Choisy, Madame de Mailly's favorite retreat, with the traditions of that gorgeous chivalry which had grouped itself round the young and martial figure of Louis XIV. This discontent grew gradually stronger, till it broke out on the death of the Emperor Charles VI. in 1740; and found an admirable representative in the brilliant adventurer Belleisle-who played a part of such importance as to justify us in going a little back into his genealogy.
a vigilant concern not to break in on the capital of his authority. To Fleury's anxiety to become at last the inevitable minister, France owed the two years for which she was delivered over to be pillaged and tormented by the Duc de Bourbon and Madame de Prie. To the same ignoble ambition we must trace the regular degrees by which Louis XV. was taught to lull his heart and conscience in progressive abasement, the incestuous horrors of the House of Mailly, the mean concession by which the Minister purchased Walpole's forbearance, the unprin- There is not a more curious episode in cipled facility with which, rather than part French history than the career of Nicholas with his darling power, he joined in the con- Fouquet, the superintendent of Finance, at spiracy to despoil Maria Theresa. There is the opening of Louis XIV.'s reign. From a painful difference between Fleury's be- an humble post in connection with the local havior to his royal pupil, and the care with Parliaments of Brittany, he had risen to a which Mazarin had educated Louis XIV. power and opulence which placed him on a "Never," justly exclaims M. de Tocqueville, level with the proudest of the nobility. His "never was that icy heart warmed with the arrogant love of display kept pace with his ambition of creating a great king." As real authority. He had purchased from the Louis XV. rose to man's estate, his reverend family of De Retz the rocky island of Belleguardian was at the pains of forming the se- isle, off the coast of his native province; and raglio which was to consume the energies and there were not wanting voices to warn Louis promise of a reign. He selected for the first against the danger of allowing an ambitious sultana a lady whose gentle nature preclud- subject to retain a fortified port, the possesed any apprehension of her becoming a rival sion of which had been guarded by the Kings to his influence; and when she was after- of France with peculiar jealousy. It was ward supplanted by her own sister, Fleury said, with great reason, that in another cause did not scruple to recognize the new favorite, the superintendent had placed himself in and to steady his hold of power by watch- competition with his master,—and even ing the oscillations of his master's caprices. dared to raise his presumptuous eyes to the Nor, we repeat, were the details of his ad- hand of La Vallière. At the instigation of ministration at all vindicated by their result. Colbert, whose rigid honesty was scandalized The misery of the lower classes was con- by Fouquet's large-handed and prodigal corstantly and frightfully on the increase. The ruption, Louis determined to curb these soarMarquis d'Argenson, himself foreign ministering aspirations. But his measures resembled at a later period of this reign, describes the advance of public distress, till it even invaded the magnificent privacy of Louis XV. The Bishop of Chartres, on one occasion, answered some official inquiries about the state of his diocese, by an assertion that men and women were "eating grass like sheep," and startled the court by predicting a pestilence, which, unlike the famine, would extend its to all classes. In reply to all this, Fleury and his partisans were content to point to the undeniable improvement of the revenue; and to inveigh against individuals who exaggerated the general distress as an opportunity for a parade of charity. But, in spite of the sloth in which Louis XV. himself was buried, the sway of a minister, who from pure selfishness ran so violently counter to the nobler parts of the French character, was impatiently borne by the generation which had grown up under the Regency. It was im
those of a conspirator against an established government, rather than those of a King correcting the excesses of a too powerful subject. Fouquet was suddenly arrested; and after a trial, with which Madame de Savigné has made every body familiar, was imprisoned for life in the fortress of Pignerol. He died there in 1680; leaving four children, one of whom, the only daughter, married the Duc de Charost. The two eldest sons died without issue; a third fell in love with, and seduced, a daughter of the House of Lévis. The lady's father first married the offending pair, and then turned them out of doors. Of that marriage there were born two sons, respectively known as the Comte and the Chevalier de Belleisle. Till the death of the old Marquis de Lévis, they were never noticed by their mother's family; but notwithstanding the poverty of their early life, the elder of the two boys kept his eye always