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CONDUCT OF THE ALLIES, &c.
THE Composition of this tract was one of the most effectual services which Swift rendered to Oxford's administration. The brilliancy of a long and unvaried current of success, and a tacit feeling of shame, had hitherto withheld the Tories from openly opposing the Duke of Marlborough, or gravely impeaching the conduct of a war, which, under his guidance, had added so many victories to the military annals of England. But the most successful general that ever lived, was doomed finally to experience, that even a long train of victory, will, like manna, pall upon the public taste. Envy, and malignant faction, whom the glare of successful services had long dazzled, at length claimed their victim. The Tories were inimical to the cause for which Marlborough fought, and still more to the domestic influence of his Duchess, on which his greatness had arisen. The nobles felt themselves overshadowed; the new ministry were conscious of a controul which they durst not own. While the war lasted, it was impossible to dismiss Marlborough without the most awful responsibility; and the only alternative which remained, was to render the war unpopular. With this view, Swift's Conduct of the Allies was published, and produced the deepest sensation upon the public mind. It was immediately regarded as an annunciation of the minister's disposition to make a separate peace, which some papers in the Examiner had already hinted at.* The merits and defects of this pamphlet, we have endeavoured to discuss in our account of the life of the author. It continued to be a sort of Shibboleth of party, so late as the days of Dr Johnson, who declares that it tore the veil from the eyes of the people," who having been amused with bonfires and triumphal processions, looked with idolatry on the general and his friends," and were confounded between rage and shame, when they found that, "mines had been exhausted and millions destroyed," to secure the Dutch, or aggrandize the Emperor without any advantage to ourselves; that we had been bribing our
"The faction have at last discovered themselves, and give broad hints that they are for a separate peace. They begin to sift us in that point, and see how it will go down. Though the present examiner has no one qualifi cation of his predecessor, but lying, and impudence; yet they make use of him as a tool, to prepare the way for some more able pen, to offer what no one else would dare to mention.”—The Dutch Barrier our's. Lond. 1712. p. 37.
neighbours to fight their own quarrel, and that among our enemies we might number our allies." But the Whigs viewed the influence of the pamphlet, as equally dishonourable and baleful to the nation. They exclaimed, that the designs of Harley's ministry were now manifest; that a separate peace was their object, which, while it detached Britain from her continental allies, lost the fruits of a long war, and threw her into the arms of France, was, in fact, to prepare the road for the restoration of the exiled family of Stuart. It was strongly insisted, that nothing but foreign assistance could secure the protestant succession. But the reason assigned, though plausible in itself, was not at all palatable to the nation. Again it was said, that France's disclamation of supporting the pretender, could not be depended upon; and that if she chose to enforce his claim, England was unequal, single-handed, to cope with France. This is an argument which the experience of modern times has fully confuted, and although long urged to keep Britain in a miserable dependence upon petty continental alli ances, was never in unison with the feelings of the British people. Yet it may be well doubted, whether the Tories, in their precipitate resolution to make peace, did not forfeit the advantages they had derived from the victories obtained during the war.
The progress of this pamphlet can be plainly traced in the Journal to Stella:
30th October, 1711, Swift declares himself busy about something to open the eyes of the nation, who are half bewitched against a peace; and is in great hopes to prove, that Britain is the most undone nation in Europe. And from that time, down to the 24th of November, are several allusions to the same task. On that day he writes that the pamphlet is finished, and on the 27th he announces that it it is finally published.
30th November, Stella is informed, that the pamphlet makes a world of noise, and communicates many most important facts, not before known. On the same day the second edition was published, a third upon the 2d, and a fourth upon the 6th of December following. The tract was not long unanswered. The most forward in the contest, was Dr Hare, the Duke of Marlborough's chaplain, who published "The Allies and the late Ministry defended against France, and the present friends of France," in four parts. But, there are many other answers to the Conduct of the Allies, and it is mentioned in all the Whig tracts of the day, with an appearance of irritation suitable to the injury it had done their cause.
I CANNOT Sufficiently admire the industry of a sort of men, wholly out of favour with the prince and people, and openly professing a separate interest from the bulk of the landed men, who yet are able to raise at this juncture so great a clamour against a peace, without offering one single reason, but what we find in their ballads. I lay it down for a maxim, that no reasonable man, whether Whig or Tory, (since it is necessary to use those foolish terms,) can be of opinion for continuing the war upon the footing it now is, unless he be a gainer by it, or hopes it may occasion some new turn of affairs at home, to the advantage of his party; or, lastly, unless he be very ignorant of the kingdom's condition, and by what means we have been reduced to it. Upon the two first cases, where interest is concerned, I have nothing to say: but, as to the last, I think it highly necessary, that the public should be freely and impartially told what circumstances they are in, after what manner they have been treated by those whom they trusted so many years with the disposal of their blood and treasure, and what the consequences of this management are likely to be, upon themselves and their posterity.
Those, who, either by writing or discourse, have undertaken to defend the proceedings of the late ministry in the management of the war, and of
the treaty at Gertruydenburgh, have spent time in celebrating the conduct and valour of our leaders and their troops, in summing up the victories they have gained, and the towns they have taken. Then they tell us, what high articles were insisted on by our ministers, and those of the confederates, and what pains both were at in persuading France to accept them. But nothing of this can give the least satisfaction to the just complaints of the kingdom. As to the war, our grievances are, that a greater load has been laid on us than was either just or necessary, or than we have been able to bear; that the grossest impositions have been submitted to, for the advancement of private wealth and power, or, in order to forward the more dangerous designs of a faction, to both which a peace would have put an end; and that the part of the war which was chiefly our province, which would have been most beneficial to us, and destructive to the enemy, was wholly neglected. As to a peace, we complain of being deluded by a mock treaty; in which, those who negociated took care to make such demands, as they knew were impossible to be complied with; and therefore might securely press every article as if they were in earnest.
These are some of the points I design to treat of in the following discourse; with several others, which I thought it necessary at this time for the kingdom to be informed of. I think I am not mistaken in those facts I mention; at least, not in any circumstance so material as to weaken the consequences I draw from them.
After ten years war with perpetual success, to tell us it is yet impossible to have a good peace, is very surprising, and seems so different from what has ever happened in the world before, that a
man of any party may be allowed suspecting, that we have been either ill used, or have not made the most of our victories, and might therefore desire to know where the difficulty lay. Then it is natural to inquire into our present condition; how long we shall be able to go on at this rate; what the consequences may be upon the present and future ages; and whether a peace, without that impracticable point which some people do so much insist on, be really ruinous in itself, or equally so, with the continuance of the