Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

1

who flattered themselves with the hopes of wealth and glory from this expedition. Pointis, steering to the banks of Newfoundland, entered the bay of Conceptione, at a time when a stout English squadron, commanded by commodore Norris, lay at anchor in the bay of St. John. This officer being informed of the arrival of a French fleet, at first concluded, that it was the squadron of M. Nesmond come to attack him, and exerted his utmost endeavours to put the place in a posture of defence; but afterward, understanding that it was Pointis returning with the spoil of Carthagena, he called a council of war, and proposed to go immediately in quest of the enemy. He was, however, overruled by a majority, who gave it as their opinion that they should remain where they were, without running unnecessary hazard. By virtue of this scandalous determination, Pointis was permitted to proceed on his voyage to Europe: but he had not yet escaped every danger. On the 14th day of August he fell in with a squadron under the command of captain Harlow, by whom he was boldly engaged till night parted the combatants. He was pursued next day; but his ships sailing better than those of Harlow, he accomplished his escape, and on the morrow entered the harbour of Brest. That his ships, which were foul, should out-sail the English squadron, which had just put to sea, was a mystery which the people of England could not explain. They complained of having been betrayed through the whole course of the West Indian expedition. The king owned he did not understand marine affairs, the entire conduct of which he abandoned to Russel, who became proud, arbitrary, and unpopular, and was supposed to be betrayed by his dependants. Certain it is, the service was greatly obstructed by faction among the officers, which, with respect to the nation, had all the effects of treachery and misconduct.

§ LI. The success of the French in Catalonia, Flan

ders, and the West Indies, was balanced by their disappointment in Poland. Lewis, encouraged by the remonstrances of the abbé de Polignac, who managed the affairs of France in that kingdom, resolved to support the prince of Conti as a candidate for the crown, and remitted great sums of money, which were distributed among the Polish nobility. The emperor had at first declared for the son of the late king: but, finding the French party too strong for his competitor, he entered into a negotiation with the elector of Saxony, who agreed to change his religion, to distribute eight millions of florins among the Poles, to confirm their privileges, and advance with his troops to the frontiers of that kingdom. Having performed these articles, he declared himself a candidate, and was publicly espoused by the imperialists. The duke of Lorraine, the prince of Baden, and don Livio Odeschalchi, nephew to pope Innocent, were likewise competitors: but, finding their interest insufficient, they united their influence with that of the elector, who was proclaimed king of Poland. He forthwith took the oath required, procured an attestation from the imperial court of his having changed his religion, and marched with his army to Cracow, where he was crowned with the usual solemnity. Lewis persisted in maintaining the pretensions of the prince of Conti, and equipped a fleet at Dunkirk for his convoy to Dantzic in his way to Poland. But the magistrates of that city, who had declared for the new king, would not suffer his men to land, though they offered to admit himself with a small retinue. He therefore went on shore at Marienburgh, where he was met by some chiefs of his own party; but the new king Augustus acted with such vigilance, that he found it impracticable to form an army besides, he suspected the fidelity of his own Polish partisans; he therefore refused to part with the treasure he had brought, and in the beginning of winter returned to Dunkirk.

§ LII. The establishment of Augustus on the throne of Poland was in some measure owing to the conduct of Peter, the czar of Muscovy, who, having formed great designs against the Ottoman Porte, was very unwilling to see the crown of Poland possessed by a partisan of France, which was in alliance with the grand seignior. He therefore interested himself warmly in the dispute, and ordered his general to assemble an army on the frontiers of Lithuania, which, by overawing the Poles that were in the interest of the prince of Conti, considerably influenced the election. This extraordinary legislator, who was a strange compound of heroism and barbarity, conscious of the defects in his education, and of the gross ignorance that overspread his dominions, resolved to extend his ideas, and improve his judgment, by travelling; and that he might be the less restricted by forms, or interrupted by officious curiosity, he determined to travel in disguise. He was extremely ambitious of becoming a maritime power, and in particular of maintaining a fleet in the Black-sea; and his immediate aim was to learn the principles of ship-building. He appointed an embassy for Holland, to regulate some points of commerce with the states-general. Having intrusted the care of his dominions to persons in whom he could confide, he now disguised himself, and travelled as one of their retinue. He first disclosed himself to the elector of Brandenburgh, in Prussia, and afterward to king William, with whom he conferred in private at Utrecht. He engaged himself as a common labourer with a ship-carpenter in Holland, whom he served for some months with wonderful patience and assiduity. He afterward visited England, where he amused himself chiefly with the same kind of occupation. From thence he set out for Vienna, where, receiving advices from his dominions, that his sister was concerned in managing intrigues against his government, he returned suddenly to Moscow, and found the machinations of the conspirators were already baffled by the vigilance

and fidelity of the foreigners to whom he had left the care of the administration. His savage nature, however, broke out upon this occasion: he ordered some hundreds to be hanged all round his capital; and a good number were beheaded, he himself with his own hand performing the office of executioner.

LIII. The negotiations at Ryswick proceeded very slowly for some time. The imperial minister demanded, that France should make restitution of all the places and dominions she had wrested from the empire since the peace of Munster, whether by force of arms or pretence of right. The Spaniards claimed all they could demand by virtue of the peace of Nimeguen, and the treaty of the Pyrenees. The French affirmed, that, if the preliminaries offered by Callieres were accepted, these propositions could not be taken into consideration. The imperialists persisted in demanding a circumstantial answer, article by article. The Spaniards insisted upon the same manner of proceeding, and called upon the mediator and Dutch ministers to support their pretensions. The plenipotentiaries of France declared they would not admit any demand or proposition contrary to the preliminary articles; but were willing to deliver in a project of peace, in order to shorten the negotiations, and the Spanish ambassadors consented to this expedient. During these transactions, the earl of Portland held a conference with mareschal Boufflers, near Halle, in sight of the two opposite armies, which was continued in five successive meetings. On the 2d day of August they retired together to a house in the suburbs of Halle, and mutually signed a paper, in which the principal articles of peace between France and England were adjusted. Next day king William quitted the camp, and retired to his house at Loo, confident of having taken such measures for a pacification as could not be disappointed. The subject of this field negotiation is said to have turned upon the interest of king James, which the French monarch promised to abandon : others, however, suppose, that the

first foundation of the partition-treaty was laid in this conference. But, in all probability, William's sole aim was to put an end to an expensive and unsuccessful war, which had rendered him very unpopular in his own dominions, and to obtain from the court of France an acknowledgment of his title, which had since the queen's death become the subject of dispute. He perceived the emperor's backwardness towards a pacification, and foresaw numberless difficulties in discussing such a complication of interests by the common method of treating: he, therefore, chose such a step as he thought would alarm the jealousy of the allies, and quicken the negotiation at Ryswick. Before the congress was opened, king James had published two manifestoes, addressed to the Catholic and Protestant princes of the confederacy, representing his wrongs, and craving redress; but his remonstrances being altogether disregarded, he afterward issued a third declaration, solemnly protesting against all that might or should be negotiated, regulated, or stipulated, with the usurper of his realms, as being void of all rightful and lawful authority. On the 20th day of July, the French ambassadors produced their project of a general peace, declaring at the same time, that, should it not be accepted before the last day of August, France would not hold herself bound for the conditions she now offered: but Caunitz, the emperor's plenipotentiary, protested he would pay no regard to this limitation. On the 30th of August, however, he delivered to the mediators, an ultimatum, importing, that he adhered to the treaties of Westphalia and Nimeguen, and accepted of Strasbourg with its appurtenances; that he insisted upon the restitution of Lorraine to the prince of that name; and demanded, that the church and chapter of Liege should be re-established in the possession of their incontestable rights. Next day the French plenipotentiaries declared, that the month of August being now expired, all their offers were vacated: that

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »