Peace of Utrecht

Battle of Denain, by Jean Alaux. In Napoleon’s words, ″Denain saved France.”

In 1711, the War of Spanish Succession was now to take an unexpected turn through some unforeseen occurrences. In the course of 1710 that famous change of administration had taken place in England by which the Whigs were supplanted by the Tories. The influence of Marlborough and Godolphin gave place to that of Harley and St. John; the new ministry were inclined to peace, and were supported by the nation; for the people were weary of the war of which they bore the chief burden. While the English nation were in this temper, the death of the Emperor Joseph I, who died April 17th, 1711, at the age of thirty-two, changed the whole character of the War of the Spanish Succession. As Joseph left no male heirs, the hereditary dominions of the House of Austria devolved to his brother, the Archduke Charles; and though that prince had not been elected King of the Romans, and had therefore to become a candidate for the Imperial crown, yet there could be little doubt that he would obtain that dignity. Hence, if Charles should also become Sovereign of Spain and the Indies, the vast empire of Charles V would be again united in one person; and that very evil of an almost universal monarchy would be established, the prevention of which had been one of the chief reasons of the Whig opposition to Philip V.

The English ministry had already made advances to the French King before the death of the Emperor, and Louis had expressed his willingness to enter into a separate negotiation with them. The terms proposed by the English Cabinet were: security that the crowns of France and Spain should never be united on the same head (a tacit acknowledgment of Philip V); barriers for Holland and the Empire; the restitution of the conquests made from the Duke of Savoy and others; and a vague stipulation for “the satisfaction of all the allies”. As regarded the particular interests of Great Britain, it was required that Louis should recognize Queen Anne and the Protestant succession in the House of Hanover, and dismiss the Pretender from France; that the fortifications of Dunkirk should be razed; that Gibraltar, Minorca, and St. Christopher’s should be ceded to England, and that the privilege of the Asiento, that is, the monopoly of the slave-trade, should also be transferred to her; that the English should be placed on the footing of the most favoured nations in their trade with Spain; and that France should cede Newfoundland and Hudson’s Bay and Straits; each country otherwise retaining its possessions in North America. These articles were signed as the preliminaries of a peace between France and England by Menager, Louis’s envoy to London, October 8th.

The news of preliminaries having been signed between France and England had been received with dismay and dissatisfaction at Vienna, and the Hague; and indeed the conduct of the new Tory ministry in thus separating from their allies can hardly be defended, although Great Britain had just reason to complain that neither the Emperor nor the States-General had borne their fair share in a war conducted chiefly for their benefit. The object of the Tories was to end the war as soon as possible, in order that they should have time to settle the succession question before the death of Anne. The envoys at London of the Emperor, the States-General, and the Elector of Hanover, the last of whom was embittered against Louis as the protector of his rival, the Pretender, strained every nerve to overthrow the new ministry and defeat the peace; but though Prince Eugene came in person to support their representations, their efforts served only to confirm the English Court in its new policy. The majority of the House of Lords, which was adverse to the ministry, was swamped by the creation of twelve new peers; and Marlborough, besides being dismissed from all his offices, was accused of peculation. He was succeeded as Commander-in-chief by the Duke of Ormond.

There was now no alternative but to agree to a conference for a general peace, which was opened at Utrecht, January 29th, 1712. Three French plenipotentiaries, the Marshal d’Huxelles, the Abbé de Polignac, and Menager, who had settled the preliminaries at London, had the difficult task of replying to eighty ministers of the allies; but they were supported by the English plenipotentiaries, the Bishop of Bristol, and Earl Strafford. It had been a principle of the Grand Alliance that the allies should treat jointly for a peace, which the ministers of the Allied Powers interpreted to mean, all together, in one act or treaty. The French, however, insisted that it merely meant at one and the same time, but by separate acts or treaties; and this interpretation being approved by the English envoys, all general conferences ceased, and the ministers of the various States assembled in private to deliberate on their proceedings. The French propositions were in the main conformable to the preliminaries already mentioned as signed at London: viz., the recognition of Queen Anne and the Protestant succession in England; a barrier for Holland; the cession of Landau to the Empire, and of the twoSicilies, the Spanish Netherlands, and the Milanese to the House of Austria; the re-establishment of the Electors of Bavaria and Cologne, and the transfer of the Island of Sardinia to the former as compensation for the Upper Palatinate; finally, Louis engaged to agree to any measures which might be deemed requisite to prevent the union of the crowns of France and Spain. To these propositions the allies, with the exception of England, replied only by counter-propositions still more extravagant than those they had already made. The Emperor demanded to be recognized as universal heir of the dominions of Charles II; the Empire insisted on the restoration of Alsace, the three bishoprics, and Franche-Comté; the States-General required as a barrier all the towns of the Netherlands which France had acquired by the treaties of Aix-la-Chapelle and Nimeguen, except St. Omer and Cambrai; even the Duke of Savoy demanded an accession of territory on the side of Dauphiné and the principality of Monaco. These extravagant demands only further stimulated Louis to make a separate peace with England; but some fatal events which had taken place in France tended to protract the negotiations even between these two countries.

The Dauphin had died in April, 1711, and was succeeded in that title, as heir of the French monarchy, by his son, the Duke of Burgundy, the elder brother of Philip V of Spain.

The Duke of Burgundy had been the pupil of Fenelon—the Telemachus for whom the precepts of Mentor had been elaborated—and his talents and virtues had caused him to be regarded, both by his grandfather and the French nation, with joy and hope as the future king of France. Unfortunately, however, in February, 1712, he died of a fever which had carried off, a few days before, his wife, Mary Adelaide of Savoy. Nor was this the whole of the misfortunes of the royal House of France. The two children of the Dauphin were seized with the same disorder which had proved fatal to their parents; the elder, who bore the title of Duke of Brittany, expired in a few days; the younger, the Duke of Anjou, survived indeed the crisis of the malady, but was left in a weak condition. This infant of two years was, therefore, now the only life between Philip V and the crown of France; and the English Cabinet, naturally desirous of fresh guarantees against its union with that of Spain, demanded that Philip should cede his eventual rights to his younger brother, the Duke of Bern. Louis objected that such a renunciation was contrary to the fundamental laws of France; nevertheless the English Cabinet stated that it should be satisfied with such a renunciation, on the ground that it would be regarded in England as valid, and that, at all events, the claims of the prince, in whose favour the renunciation was made, could be justly supported by the parties to the convention. The negotiations on this subject, which were confined to the English, French, and Spanish Cabinets, were protracted several months. Philip at length consented to abandon the country of his birth for that of his adoption. In November, 1712, in presence of the Cortes assembled at Madrid, and of Lord Lexington, the English ambassador, he publicly renounced the rights and pretensions of himself and his posterity to the crown of France, to which the Duke of Berri was named next in succession after the Duke of Anjou; and in default of male heirs, the Duke of Orleans, Philip’s uncle, the Duke of Bourbon, his cousin; and the remaining French princes in their order. The Dukes of Berri and Orleans also renounced in turn their claims to the Spanish monarchy; the succession to which, in default of heirs of Philip V, was assured to the House of Savoy, as descended from Catharine, sister of Philip II. Philip’s renunciation was registered by the Parliament of Paris, and Louis cancelled the letters patent by which he had reserved to Philip his eventual claim to the French throne.

Louis XIV had acceded to these terms several months before, upon the English ministry showing a resolution to adopt vigorous measures. Meanwhile the allied armies had taken the field as usual in May; but Ormond had declined all active co-operation with Eugene; and in June, on receipt of intelligence that Louis had agreed to the proposed terms, he announced to the Germans in the pay of England an armistice of four months with France. On July 17th Ormond and the English troops separated from the allies; and about the same time a body of 5,000 English took possession of Dunkirk as the price of the truce and a pledge of the fulfillment of the promises made by the French King. Eugene, left to contend alone against Marshal Villars, soon felt the disastrous consequences of the defection of his allies. On July 24th he was defeated by Villars at Denain, who pursued this success by the recapture of Douai, Le Quesnoi, andBouchain. In other quarters the war this year was wholly unimportant.

The defeat of the allies at Denain greatly modified the views of the Dutch; while Louis felt the advantage of his position and insisted on a considerable modification of the barrier which they demanded. The English Cabinet persuaded the States-General to accept most of these alterations; and on January 29th, 1713, a new Barrier Treaty was signed between the two Maritime Powers. The places destined to serve as a barrier were now reduced to Furnes, the fort of Knocque, Ypres, Menin, Tournai, Mons, Charleroi, the citadel of Ghent, and some fortresses in the neighborhood of that city and Bruges; and Great Britain engaged to procure for the Dutch the right of garrison in them from the future Sovereign of the Spanish Netherlands. There was now nothing to hinder a peace between England, France, and Holland; but it was delayed awhile in order that all the belligerents should, if possible, sign together. The Emperor, who complained that England had betrayed him, still refused to join in the negotiations at Utrecht. He was desirous, however, of effecting a convention for the evacuation of Catalonia, where his army was compromised by the withdrawal of the English forces in the autumn, and subsequently of the Portuguese; whose king, now John V, had signed a truce at Utrecht, November 7th. France and England agreed to such a convention, the neutrality of Italy being also guaranteed, without which peace would have been impracticable; since, if Savoy should be attacked by the Emperor, the Maritime Powers were bound to come to the Duke’s support. An amnesty was stipulated for the Catalans, and Queen Anne promised her good offices for the maintenance of their ancient privileges, or Fueros, a promise, however, which was shamefully neglected. Charles VI having by this convention recovered his troops and his wife, who was still holding her Court at Barcelona, was only the more obstinate in rejecting the peace. The Catalans refused to accept the amnesty without the confirmation of their Fueros, and it became necessary to reduce them by arms. Barcelona was not captured by Marshal Berwick till September 12th, 1714, after a defence of almost unparalleled heroism.

England had fixed April 11th, 1713, as the day by which the allies were to accept the offers of France; after which term neither of those countries was to be bound by them. Count Zinzendorf, the Imperial minister, having rejected a paper containing the French proposals handed to him by the British plenipotentiaries, the latter accordingly signed a treaty with France; and on the same day separate treaties were also signed with that Power by the ministers of the States-General, Prussia, Portugal, and Savoy.

The principal articles of the treaty between France and Great Britain were conformable to those already mentioned in the negotiations between the two countries; viz., the recognition by France of the Hanoverian succession in England, the abandonment of the Stuarts, the acknowledgment of the various renunciations of the French and Spanish Crowns, as before stated, the destruction of the fort and fortifications of Dunkirk, the cession to England of Acadia (Nova Scotia), Hudson’s Bay and Straits, Newfoundland, and St. Kitts. On the same day a treaty of commerce was concluded between France and England, by which the subjects of either Power were placed on the footing of the most favoured nations.

The treaty between France and Portugal related only to colonial possessions, and some cessions were made in favour of Portugal.

By the treaty with Prussia, Louis recognized the Elector of Brandenburg as King of Prussia, consented to give him the title of “Majesty”, ceded to him by virtue of a power from the King of Spain, the Spanish portion of Gelderland, except Venloo, andRuremonde, but on condition that the Catholic religion should be upheld; assigned to him, as representative of the House of Chalons, amalgamated with that of Orange, the sovereignty of Neufchatel and Valengin, in Switzerland, vacant by the death of the Duchess of Nemours, without children, in 1707; when the States of Neufchatel had decided in favour of the King of Prussia’s claims. Frederick William, on his side, renounced his pretensions to the principality of Orange and the lands and lordships belonging to it. He was the only German prince who treated separately and independently in these conferences, with Savoy.

The treaty between Louis XIV and Victor Amadeus II of Savoy, restored to the latter Savoy and Nice, and ceded to him Exilles, Fenestrelle, and Chateau Dauphin. The summit, or water-shed, of the Alps, was henceforth to be the boundary between France and Piedmont, and the plateau of those mountains was to be divided. Sicily, with the title of King, was guaranteed to the Duke; and he and his posterity were recognized as the legitimate heirs of the Spanish monarchy in default of heirs of Philip V. The cessions made to the Duke by the Emperor Leopold in the treaty of Turin (October, 1703) were confirmed.

The treaty between France and the States-General to the Dutch all that part of the Spanish Netherlands still held by the French, which the States were to hand over to Austria so soon as a barrier should have been arranged; and a portion of the French Netherlands was also ceded in like manner through the States to Austria. The States, on their part, agreed to restore certain places to France, as Lille, Orchies, Aire, Bethune, etc. A commercial treaty was also concluded between the two countries.

Spain could not take part in the general pacification till Philip V had been recognized, and the Spanish ministers therefore did not appear at Utrecht till the treaties had been signed by the other Powers. The peace between Spain and Great Britain was retarded by the difficulties raised by Philip V respecting the renunciation of Sicily; but these having been at length removed, a treaty was signed between those Powers, July 13th, 1713. The principal articles were the recognition by Spain of the Hanoverian succession, the cession of Gibraltar and Minorca to England, but on condition that no Moors nor Jews should establish themselves in either, and the assignment of the Asiento to an English company for a period of thirty years from May 1st, 1713. In a previous assignment of this privilege by Philip V to a French company in 1701, a fourth part of the profits of this trade had been reserved for the Kings of France and Spain, and similar shares were now assigned to the sovereigns of Spain and England. The number of negroes to be imported yearly into Spanish America was fixed, as before, at 4,800. At the intercession of the Queen of England, the Catalans were to have an amnesty, and all the privileges enjoyed by Castilians: a virtual abolition of their Fueros, or ancient and peculiar liberties.

By the treaty with the Duke of Savoy, August 13th, 1713, Spain ceded Sicily to that House as a kingdom, and Victor Amadeus II was crowned at Palermo, November 14th, 1713; but both the Pope and the Emperor refused to recognize him. Subsequently, by the Treaty of Quadruple Alliance, 1718, the Duke was forced to exchange Sicily for Sardinia.

The peace between Spain and the States-General was delayed till June 26th, 1714, chiefly through the extravagant ambition of the Princess des Ursins, who wished to persuade Philip V to erect some part of the Spanish Netherlands into an independent sovereignty in her favour, to which both the Dutch and the Emperor were opposed. The treaty between Spain and the United Netherlands relates chiefly to colonies and commerce.

The last treaty signed at Utrecht was that between Spain and Portugal (February, 1715), which had been delayed by the mutual animosity of the two nations. Everything taken during the war was reciprocally restored, so that the limits of the two kingdoms remained the same as before. Spain ceded the colony of St. Sacrament, on the north bank of the river La Plata.

All these treaties together form the Peace of Utrecht. As it consisted of so many particular conventions, which might be violated without the parties to them being in a condition to claim the help of their former allies, the Grand Alliance was consequently dissolved, and the Emperor, who was the centre of it, was left without support. A delay, till June 1st, 1713, was accorded to him to accede to the peace; but he could not yet digest the terms offered to him by France, and especially the proposal to give Sardinia to the Elector of Bavaria, by way of compensation for the Upper Palatinate, which had been restored to the Elector Palatine. He therefore resolved to continue the war, in the hope that the talents of Prince Eugene might procure him a victory, and enable him to treat on better terms. With this view he assembled all his forces on the Rhine; but the campaign turned out very much to his disadvantage. Eugene could not prevent Villars from taking Landau (August), and subsequently Freiburg, the capital of the Breisgau(November). Charles VI now consented to treat. Eugene and Villars, so lately opposed in the field, met at Rastadt for that purpose; and their negotiations proceeded much more rapidly than those of professional diplomatists. The Peace of Rastadt, signed March 7th, 1714, was the last service rendered by Villars to Louis XIV, who told him that he had crowned all his laurels with that olive branch. The definitive treaty, however, was not signed till September 7th, at Baden, in Switzerland. The treaty was formed on the basis of that of Ryswick, and no regard was paid to the protests of the German States against the fourth clause of that treaty, so prejudicial to the interests of Protestantism. The Pope had exhorted Louis not to abrogate the clause; but it has been only lately known that Clement was incited to this step by the Court of Vienna. All places on the right bank of the Rhine were restored to the Empire; but Landau and its dependencies were ceded to France. The House of Austria was allowed to take possession of the Spanish Netherlands, according to the stipulations in the Treaties of Utrecht; that is, reserving a barrier for the Dutch, and also Upper Gelderland, which had been ceded to Prussia. Charles VI was permitted to retain possession of all the places he occupied in Italy; as the Kingdom of Naples, the Duchy of Milan, Sardinia, and the fortresses on the Tuscan coast. The Electors of Bavaria and Cologne were reinstated in their dominions and dignities; but the Emperor preferred to restore the Upper Palatinate to the former, rather than give him the Island of Sardinia. This island was promised to the Elector Palatine by way of compensation for the Upper Palatinate; but the promise was never performed. Such was the treaty which the House of Austria, through its stubborn obstinacy, was at length compelled to accept, instead of the infinitely more advantageous terms offered by Louis XIV at the Hague andGertruydenberg!

The ministers of the Emperor and the States-General met at Antwerp to carry out the stipulations respecting the Dutch barrier, under the mediation of George I, who had now ascended the throne of England; and the Third Barrier Treaty was signed November 15th, 1715. It was agreed that after the surrender of the Spanish Netherlands to the Emperor, a body of troops should be maintained in them, of which three-fifths were to be provided by the Emperor, and two-fifths by the Dutch. Dutch garrisons were to be placed in Namur, Tournai, Menin, Furnes, Warneton, Ypres, and the fort of Knocque, and a mixed garrison of Spaniards and Dutch in Dendermond; the Dutch commandants taking an oath to hold these places for the House of Austria. The Emperor ceded Venloo and some other places, and especially such as were necessary for inundating the country in time of war. England guaranteed the treaty, and engaged to support it by arms. The Dutch delivered, in February, 1716, to the Emperor the Spanish Netherlands, as possessed by Charles II; but not till 1719 the places ceded by France.

Thus was at length terminated the war of the Spanish Succession, the greatest which had agitated Europe since the Crusades. Its effect was to modify considerably the situation of the different European States. Spain herself was apparently the greatest loser, having been deprived of her dominions in the Low Countries and Italy, and compelled to allow England a settlement in one of her islands, and even on her very soil. But, on the other hand, she retained her American possessions; and the loss of her outlying territories in Italy and the Netherlands strengthened her. From this period she began slowly to revive: and the decrease in her population, which had been gradually going on since the time of Charles V, was now arrested. Austria, though compelled to renounce the hope of reaping the whole Spanish Succession, acquired the greater part of those territories of which Spain was deprived; yet as these acquisitions lay not contiguous to her, it may be doubted whether they were not rather a cause of weakness than of strength, by increasing her danger in a greater ratio than they multiplied her resources. France lost a portion of the frontier which she had formerly acquired, while the fear with which she had inspired the different States, drove them to unite themselves more closely with Austria. But these losses were nothing in comparison with her internal ills—the disorder of her finances and the exhaustion of her population. After the Peace of Utrecht, France, though still one of the principal elements of the European system, required a long period of rest before she could take an active part in European politics. In the great struggle with the Habsburgs, Louis XIV had been successful. He had placed his grandson on the throne of Spain, and had confined the Habsburgs to Germany. The influence and reputation of England, were much increased by the results of the war, in which she had proved herself able to counterbalance the power of France and Spain. Holland, on the other hand, gained nothing besides her barrier, and from this time her commerce began to fall into the hands of the English. Death of Neither Louis XIV nor Queen Anne long survived the Queen Peace of Utrecht. Anne died on August 1st, 1714. She was succeeded by the Elector of Hanover, with the title of George I, a prince whose chief political tenet was, like that of his predecessor, William III, hatred of Louis XIV. One of his first acts was to dismiss the Tory Ministry, whom he regarded with abhorrence, as the advisers of the Peace of Utrecht. The Whigs were reinstated in office, and Marlborough, who at this very time was intriguing with the Pretender, was again made Captain-General and Master of the Ordnance.

Louis XIV survived the English Queen thirteen months; but it would have been better for his fame if he had preceded her to the tomb. He was now sunk in bigotry and intolerance. Since the death of his confessor, Father la Chaise, in 1709, Louis hadintrusted the keeping of his conscience to Father le Tellier, a Jesuit, whose religion was tinctured with pride and malignancy, instead of the Christian virtues of humbleness and charity. One of the first acts of Le Tellier was to procure the destruction of the celebrated convent of Port Royal, the refuge of the Jansenists, the enemies of his Society (November, 1709). He also obtained from Pope Clement XI the celebrated bullUnigenitus (September, 1713), by which were condemned 101 propositions extracted from the Reflexions Morales sur le Nouveau Testament, an esteemed work byQuesnel, now the head of the Jansenists—a book which had received the approbation of Father la Chaise, and even of Clement himself. It would have been fortunate, however, if Le Tellier had confined himself only to attacking speculative doctrines. He persuaded the King to revive the intolerant spirit which had prompted the repeal of the Edict of Nantes, and to invade the privilege of conscience and the sanctuary of domestic life. In 1712 a royal ordinance was published prohibiting physicians fromsuccouring, after the third day, patients labouring under dangerous maladies, unless they could produce from an ecclesiastic a certificate of confession! This atrocious edict was followed, in 1715, by another, which denied those who died without receiving the sacraments the rites of sepulture.

Yet the political conduct of this royal zealot was marked in his last years by the grossest perfidy. Although he literally fulfilled his engagement to fill up the port of Dunkirk, he endeavored to evade the spirit of it by causing to be made between that place and Mardyck a huge canal, a league in length, and capable of sheltering vessels of 80 guns. This was done on the pretence of providing an outlet for some canals previously emptied by the sluices at Dunkirk, and it was only after some threateningremonstrances from the English Government that the undertaking was suspended. Again, by the Peace of Utrecht Louis had solemnly recognized the succession of the House of Hanover in England, and had promised to withdraw his protection from the Stuarts; yet he secretly encouraged the pretended James III’s ill-judged and abortive expedition to Scotland in 1715, by procuring for him a vessel, arms for 10,000 men, and a loan from Philip V of 1,200,000 francs, which he was not able to advance out of his own funds. If these are bad specimens of Louis’s political honesty, his legitimatization of his children by Madame de Montespan, his endowing them with the rights of princes of the blood, and making them capable of succeeding to the crown, are no less open to criticism.

It is not improbable that Louis’s efforts in favour of the Pretender might have again precipitated France into a war with England had the King’s life been prolonged. But in August, 1715, he was seized with a slow fever, which put an end to his life, September 1st. In the last days of his existence this mighty King was abandoned by all his family and courtiers, and died in the presence only of priests, physicians, and attendants. He had attained the age of seventy-seven years, during seventy-two of which he had sat upon the throne, the longest reign on record. He died with constancy and resignation, and the last days of his life show him to more advantage as a man than the season of his greatest glory and prosperity. It had been well for his people had the aged monarch been impressed at an earlier period of his reign with those words of counsel which he addressed on his deathbed to the youthful Dauphin. “My child”, said he, “you will soon be the sovereign of a great kingdom. Do not forget your obligations to God; remember that it is to Him you owe all that you are. Endeavour to live at peace with your neighbors; do not imitate me in my fondness for war, nor in the exorbitant expenditure which I have incurred. Take counsel in all your actions. Endeavour to relieve the people at the earliest possible moment, and thus to accomplish what, unfortunately, I am unable to do myself”.

These words, which were afterwards inscribed on the bed of Louis XV by order of Marshal Villeroi, are, in fact, a condemnation by Louis himself of his whole reign. In that retrospect of conscience, he denounces his constant wars, his profligate expenditure, his uncontrollable self-will, and regrets that no time was left him to repair the misfortunes which they had produced. This condemnatory review was confirmed by the French people. The day of his funeral was a day of rejoicing and holiday; the procession was greeted with laughter and songs by the carousing populace, who added another article of reproach, over which the royal conscience had slumbered. Some proposed to use the funeral torches to set fire to the houses of the Jesuits; but Louis had expired without giving the slightest indication that the course which he had pursued in religious matters gave him any compunction. In spite, however, of his defects, Louis XIV must be allowed in many respects to have possessed the qualities of a great sovereign. He was generous and munificent; in grace, affability, and dignity of manner, in all that goes to constitute the outward semblance and bearing of a king, he was unrivalled; and all his projects, however unjust and impolitic, were marked by grandeur of conception, and ability and perseverance in their execution. And now that the misery inflicted by his reign has been forgotten, and only the French, its glory and conquests are remembered, it is probable that the image of Louis XIV will continue to occupy a conspicuous niche in the national Pantheon of the French, a nation ever ready to pardon the faults of those who have extended their boundaries, upheld their military reputation, and promoted the fame of their literature and art.


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