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Their secession announced by Wyndham
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Walpole and the Opposition both blameable
HISTORY OF ENGLAND
THE PEACE OF UTRECHT.
In the spring of 1720, the administration of Lord Stanhope had attained a high pitch of success and renown. By negotiation, he had driven Alberoni from Madrid ; by force, the Spaniards from Sicily. The authority of the Regent had been secured in France, and his friendship with England confirmed; and some fresh difficulties which arose after Stanhope had left Paris in January, were adjusted by another journey of that Minister in March. At the same time the Cabinet of Vienna had been brought into a concert of measures, and the ancient alliance renewed with the Dutch. In the North, the confederacy against Sweden had been successfully broken; Prussians, Danes, and Poles were disarmed ; and the languid hostilities which the Czar still continued from his want of temper, must, it was evident, speedily terminate from his want of support.* The Jacobites could no longer fix their station, or conduct their intrigues, on the neighbouring coasts ; an edict for their total banish
* The Peace of Nystad between Russia and Sweden was signed August, 1721. (Dumont, Suppl. Corps Diplom. vol. viii. part 2. p. 36.) VOL. II.
ment from France had been granted to Stanhope at Paris.* The Pretender had not left him a single great power to afford him aid or countenance, and was reduced to vague hopes and empty promises — to the prophecies of monks or the dreams of exiles! Thus, therefore, the exertions of Stanhope had happily restored peace throughout Europe ; and it was by pursuing his policy, and treading in his footsteps that Walpole afterwards preserved this blessing for so many years.
At home, the prospect for Stanhope was not less cheering. He had risen to much the highest place in the Royal confidence; a fact so well understood, that we find it publicly mentioned in some foreign State Papers of this period.f The defeat on the Peerage Bill had not shaken him or Sunderland; they were not less strong with Parliament; they were not less trusted by the King; and the party of Walpole, hopeless of overthrowing, consented to join them. This junction was on far from equal terms. It made no change at all in the measures, and but little in the men. Walpole received no higher place than Paymaster of the Forces (out of the Cabinet), nor Townshend than President of the Council; while Methuen was satisfied with an office in the Royal Household. Their support, accordingly, was by no means warm and willing ; they were treated as inferiors, and, of course, behaved as malcontents; but at all events their opposition was disarmed, and their connection with the Tories broken. Another great advantage attending their accession was, healing the breach in the Royal family. Walpole, who had lately ingratiated himself with the Prince of Wales, induced him to write a submissive letter to the King ; Stanhope induced His Majesty to receive it favourably: a meeting ensued, and a recon
* In March, 1720. See St. Simon, Mem. vol. xvii. p. 153. ed. 1829.
† Abbé Dubois to M. Landi, Jan. 19. 1720. (Hist. Regist. p. 76, &c.)
I The vacancies were made by the Duke of Kent, the Earl of Lincoln, and Mr. Boscawen. The latter was rewarded with the title of Viscount Falmouth. Lord Lincoln was a personal friend of Stanhope, had taken office only at his solicitation, and readily relinquished it.
ciliation was effected. This union, both of statesmen and of princes, dashed the best hopes of Jacobitism. Bishop Atterbury writes to James, that, though the reconciliation is far from sincere, it will by degrees become so, or that at least the appearances
and consequences of it will be the same as if it really were. “I think myself
obliged,” he adds, “to represent this melancholy truth, “ that there may be no expectation of any thing from hence, which will certainly not happen."*
Such, then, was the prosperous aspect of affairs, when in June the King, attended by Stanhope, set out for his German dominions. But the happy calm was not of long continuance. It is now for me to relate how that glittering and hollow bubble, the South Sea Scheme, rising to the surface, broke the tranquillity and troubled the clearness of the waters.
The South Sea Company was first formed by Harley in 1711, his object being to improve public credit, and to provide for the floating debts, which at that period amounted to nearly 10,000,0001. The Lord Treasurer, therefore, established a fund for that sum. He secured the interest by making permanent the duties on wine, vinegar, tobacco, and several others; he allured the creditors by promising them the monopoly of trade to the Spanish coasts in America ; and the project was sanctioned both by Royal Charter and by Act of Parliament. Nor were the merchants slow in swallowing this gilded bait; and the fancied Eldorado which shone before them dazzled even their discerning eyes. The exploits of Drake were quoted, and the dreams of Raleigh renewed. This spirit spread throughout the whole nation, and many, who scarcely knew whereabouts America lies, felt nevertheless quite certain of its being strewed with gold and gems. Meanwhile the partisans of Harley zealously forwarded this illusion, as tending to raise the reputation and secure the power of their chief; and they loudly vaunted the South Sea Scheme as the Earl of Oxford's master-piece, and as not unworthy of Sully or of Colbert.
The negotiations of Utrecht, however, in this as in
* Bishop Atterbury to James, May 6. 1720, Appendix. See also the Marchmont Papers, vol. ii. p. 409.