This volume of the Calendar contains papers for the years 1671 and 1672. The bulk of the material is of the usual character and calls for no special remark, with the exception of the Relazione of Piero Mocenigo, the ambassador in England from 1668 to the end of 1670. Strictly speaking it belongs to those years, but it was not read in the Senate until June 1671. It is of considerable interest as it is the first since 1662 and there is no other in the files at the Frari before 1686. The Venetian minister for the whole of the period covered by the present volume was the Secretary Girolamo Alberti, who had served under Mocenigo and was left in charge by him in December 1670. He remained as secretary until June 1675 and the Public Record Office possesses the whole series of his despatches, in translation, among the MSS. of Mr. Rawdon Brown's collection. (fn. 1) These have been made, not from the files in the Frari, which are somewhat damaged in places, but from Alberti's letter book, which is in two volumes, preserved in the library of St. Mark at Venice. (fn. 2) The text printed here has been collated with these letter books and also with the files. They do not always tally exactly and the letter books do not indicate the passages which have been put into cipher. On the other hand they have bound up with them a number of pamphlets and printed papers which are not to be found with the original despatches.
In the series “Dispacci Inghilterra” it is the filza 57, containing the despatches for the year 1672 which has suffered considerable damage from damp, some parts being completely obliterated, so that it is a fortunate circumstance that the letter books exist to fill in the gaps. Of the other series consulted Vol. 151 of “Dispacci Francia” containing the despatches for November and December 1672 is in too tender a condition to be handled with safety and has yielded only one extract.
The two years of this volume are critical ones in the reign of Charles II, as they mark the ripening of the policy initiated by the treaty of Dover. The effects of this did not become apparent until well on in the year 1671 and, owing to the secret treaties, there is a certain air of unreality in foreign relations in the earlier months of the year. At the same time, as the natural consequence of so much duplicity, there was no real confidence even between the two principal performers (No. 178). Almost any combination was possible in the game of grab that was likely to follow the expected demise of the little king of Spain. As late as September 1672 Charles told his Council that “the French will have us or Holland always with them, and if we take them not, Holland will have them.” (fn. 3)
To the ordinary observer the position at the beginning of 1671 did not suggest the likelihood of any radical change in English policy. In spite of the fire, the plague and a disastrous war, Charles seemed to occupy a commanding position in Europe. Thanks to the triple alliance, for which he had the chief credit, he was courted by both France and Spain. With the balance of power in his hands he affected to be holding the scales with complete impartiality (No. 15). It seemed unlikely that he would lightly throw away the advantages of this situation. Alberti was convinced that no secret treaty with France existed and that England was fully conscious of the benefit she derived in the enjoyment of peace through the maintenance of the alliance (No. 27).
The first moves in 1671 were for the strengthening of the alliance by the inclusion of the emperor, which was proposed by Molina, the Spanish ambassador. Letters were exchanged between Charles and Leopold on the subject in spite of the latter's promise to Louis in 1669 that he would not enter the alliance.
The stir caused by the proposed journey of Louis to the conquered territory in the spring was also accompanied by a great deal of make believe. Charles had written to Louis to dissuade him and had at the same time appealed to parliament to take defensive measures. Upon this pretext he obtained a grant of 800,000l. The stir caused in parliament gave Louis his cue to insist upon carrying out his intention and the time was fixed for May (No. 3). As the moment grew near apprehension increased in England and the king's actual arrival at Dunkirk caused great alarm in the city of London (Nos. 50, 52, 53).
Although Charles had been voted his grant in order to meet any possible danger from this move, no steps were taken beyond beating the drum for a few recruits to reinforce the troops at the ports, and this only for the sake of appearances (No. 50). Nothing was spent on the fleet and only the usual ships were commissioned for the ordinary cruise. Such inactivity convinced Molina that Charles would not remain so quietly in London while Louis was at Dunkirk, with a fleet in the Channel, unless there was some promise or understanding between the two crowns (No. 47). He expatiated upon the credulity of the people in allowing themselves to be so easily deceived (No. 53). They were far from indifferent, but derived much consolation from seeing that the French were obliged to send over to Dover for large supplies of meat and provisions to feed their army (No. 53).
In spite of the underlying sentiment of the masses the occasion was taken for a display of friendly feeling between the Courts. The marquis of Ragny came on a complimentary mission and many Frenchmen crossed to London, while Charles sent Lord Bellasis to the French camp. The nobility and gentry vied with each other in entertaining their visitors, Buckingham making himself especially conspicuous (No. 53). For Monmouth, who also visited his camp, Louis staged a gorgeous military display at Dunkirk and honoured the young man in every way (No. 59), while Buckingham, who also went over, received exceptional favours and accompanied the king to Lille and Tournai (No. 62).
After a brief stay, Louis returned to Paris and the English government congratulated itself that everything had passed off quietly without any attempt at surprise or any breach of the peace. Molina and the Dutch ambassador Boreel, who had predicted something very different, seemed to be put completely out of countenance (No. 60).
The Spaniards, for their part, did not seem unduly perturbed by the move, relying upon the efficacy of the triple alliance. Monterey, the governor in Flanders, made no difficulty about allowing the passage of French troops across Spanish territory, though he kept a strong force assembled at Bruges, ready to follow the footsteps of the French king (No. 57). This complacency did not last, as signs of an understanding between France and England became increasingly apparent. Their confidence in the alliance gave way to a conviction that Louis was contemplating a fresh aggression. In September Oñate, who had come from Flanders in the expectation of succeeding Molina at the embassy, told Arlington of the discovery of a design of the French king to resume the attack on Flanders in defiance of the promise he had given to keep the peace. Somewhat taken aback by this revelation, Arlington replied that he could not credit this intelligence, but that if such a rupture should take place Oñate might assure Monterey that England would go to war with France (No. 101).
The Spaniards hastened to make the most of this declaration, which at once raised the prestige of England with the allies and served to counteract the suspicion that England had been completely won over by France (No. 103). But Arlington had been surprised into going further than he had intended and he showed his annoyance with Oñate for having represented the rupture as inevitable, without sufficient warrant (No. 105).
Although it might not be the turn of Flanders, the expectation of war in the coming year was strong and insistent. The joint attack upon the Dutch had been projected for 1671. The attack had to be postponed, partly by a lack of complete confidence between the conspirators and partly by the state of affairs in England. The English ministers knew that the king's policy of association with France had no support in the country, and they wished to maintain peace at all costs because they considered the risks of war as being particularly dangerous to the king (No. 97). As late as October Alberti reported that although the king might join with France, his subjects would not follow him (No. 111). In France they were well aware of the opposition of parliament and people in England and they were inclined to believe that this was likely to prevail over the friendly intentions of the king (No. 108). At the same time the French king believed in the necessity of securing English co-operation, or, at the worst, neutrality. Colbert, his minister in London, was inclined to think that too much attention was being paid to England. When he went to meet his master at Dunkirk he told Alberti that he intended to remonstrate about the superfluous consideration that was paid to that nation (No. 38); but that was not the view of the government.
The real objective of Louis was the conquest of Spanish Flanders (No. 178), and he realised that it would be extremely difficult to effect this in the face of English hostility. In addition to these uncertainties there was some misgiving on the English side that, at the last moment, the French might come to terms with the Dutch and leave England to face them alone.
The object of the preliminary negotiations had been to isolate the Dutch, and it was of importance to both allies that Spain should not be involved. Monterey, however, who placed little reliance on the French promise to keep the peace, was already in treaty with the States. When this became known Sunderland was sent off on a special mission to Spain, while Sir Robert Southwell preceded him to Flanders. There he succeeded in inducing the governor to promise to write to Spain and to wait for the decision of his government before he pledged himself to the Dutch (No. 126). In spite of this a treaty between Spain and the United Provinces for mutual assistance was signed at the Hague on 17 December, 1671.
The news of this treaty took the English government by surprise and Monterey's action was much criticised. With some lack of humour, Charles complained that he was too much inclined to war (No. 141). The alliance also disarranged the plans of France, in which the neutrality of Spain had been counted on (No. 150). But by this time matters had already gone too far for drawing back.
In England preparations for war had begun with measures of defence. To prevent a repetition of the Medway raid the fortifications at Chatham had been extended and it had become a very strong fortress, capable of affording a secure anchorage for the fleet (Nos. 53, 57). The equipment of a fleet called for a large expenditure and as parliament could not be depended upon to find money for an unpopular war, the deficiency was to be made good by Louis. Colbert assured Alberti that his king would not be sparing of money (No. 163), though, when it came to the point, he was inclined to be cautious, suggesting payment by instalments, under various safeguards (No. 118).
The supply of money promised encouraged the government to arrange for the building of new ships and the equipment of others to form a powerful fleet. At the same time troops were being quietly mustered, assisted by drafts from the guards, in order to man the ships with picked men (No. 107). Such preparations helped to deepen the conviction that there would be war in the coming year, so much so that the farmers of the customs petitioned the king to give them a reduction in the price which they had tendered (No. 103).
Behind this bold front there was always the fear that the people would not follow the king's lead; that there would be divisions in the fleet and that the Presbyterians in particular would resist, several of whom were said to be in Dutch pay (No. 111). The people in general were for peace, as they believed that the war was to be waged on the Dutch solely at the instigation of the French king (No. 178). Even in the Council opinion was divided, voices being raised there against the aggrandisement of France at the expense of Holland (No. 114).
Such difficulties led to delay in proceeding to extremes. Although Sir George Downing had been appointed to go to Holland in October, for the express purpose of picking a quarrel, he did not actually cross until the end of the year. Even then negotiations continued and hopes of a peaceful issue did not die. Spain, which was particularly anxious to avoid a breach of the peace, instructed Don Emanuel de Lira, her envoy at the Hague, to urge the Dutch to make all the concessions to the English demands that they could grant in honour (No. 162). Possibly this yielding disposition led Downing to break off negotiations abruptly. In this he acted contrary to the king's wishes, who desired him to keep the Dutch amused with negotiations so that they might not despair of a settlement. This would give him time to complete his preparations and leave them more remiss in their own. (fn. 4)
For having thus prematurely let the cat out of the bag Downing was sent to the Tower on his return home. Alberti believed that this was done in order to leave the way open for a settlement, because of some fear that the French might back out at the last minute (No. 169). The real reason was probably more subtle. The punishment of Downing encouraged the Dutch to renew negotiations and it was decided to send over Beverning on a special mission (No. 171). But war had been decided; to be sprung upon the Dutch at the first convenient opportunity. Early in the year the duke of York declared that Holland alone injured the trade of England and her reputation and was her sole rival at sea. It was therefore desirable that she should be humbled (No. 147).
The war was in fact begun prematurely by an attack delivered by Sir Robert Holmes on the Dutch Smyrna fleet on the 22nd March, new style. It was hoped thereby to secure a rich booty towards the expenses of the war; but the whole plan went badly astray. Holmes was intended to attack in conjunction with Spragge, but he wished to have all the glory for himself. His squadron should have consisted of twelve ships, but four were not yet ready for sea and three others parted company, so that at the first he only had five ships with which to attack a convoy of 60 merchantmen, 40 of which carried from 20 to 40 guns each, escorted by eight warships. At such formidable odds he suffered considerable damage and was obliged to change his ship; but on being joined by the missing ships, he renewed the contest on the following day. In this he attained a measure of success, capturing six merchantment and sinking one of the convoying warships. On the third day, favoured by a fog, the rest of the Dutch got safely away to their harbours, though the flagship is said to have sunk on reaching port (Nos. 183, 186).
Although the French criticised the manner in which this attack was bungled, they rejoiced to see England definitely committed to the war (No. 185). Colbert had already told Charles that his king was only waiting for a sign from England to declare war on his own account (No. 183). The formal declaration of war by England followed very soon. The crowds in London heard the proclamation gladly, blessing the king and willingly sacrificing all commercial considerations for the sake of the honour and glory of the country (No. 192).
In reporting the incident Alberti remarks that the declaration made no reference to the late encounter and that the people were kept in the dark about Meerman's negotiations. That minister had been sent over at the last moment instead of Beverning, with power to offer complete satisfaction about the flag, but only on condition that the king would promise to keep the peace with the Provinces (No. 182).
War having been decided, preparations were redoubled. Alberti records the smoothness with which everything proceeded, owing to the experience gained through previous reverses (No. 207). Rupert was eager to take command of the fleet, but Charles, after some hesitation, decided to entrust it to his brother. The duke displayed great energy over the preparations and was burning to give fresh proofs of his courage and to distinguish himself by some signal action (No. 200).
The first step to be taken was to effect a junction with the French fleet, concentrated at Brest and numbering forty sail (No. 195). The earl of Bristol went over there to make arrangements and Charles had twenty pilots sent from Portsmouth to bring them safely to Spithead (No. 203). Instructions in both French and English were printed for the guidance of the commanders. The duke of York was to be the supreme head, and Estrées, the French commander, was made a vice-admiral of England. The delicate matters of the flag and salutes were also settled beforehand (Nos. 180, 212).
The French arrived at Portsmouth at the beginning of May. On receiving the news the king at once hurried down from London while the duke of York sailed in that direction to thwart any attempt of the Dutch to prevent the junction. Arrived at Portsmouth the king inspected the French squadron and went on board their flagship. This action gave much satisfaction to Louis as a mark of confidence, but was criticised in London as exposing the royal person to unnecessary risk (Nos. 215, 219). These reactions are strangely enlightening as to the real sentiments existing between the two nations.
Only thirty of the forty ships at Brest seem to have made the voyage. The duke of York was pleased with their appearance: they sailed well and their guns were good, though they were less fully manned than the English (No. 216). Charles was more critical; his expert eye did not approve of their design, and he remarked that the Most Christian king would have to buy good harbours or else sell those great ships (No. 219).
The wind which carried York down Channel brought Ruyter into the Downs. The queen, who travelled down to Dover to visit her brother-in-law's flagship, saw instead the enemy fleet almost within gunshot of the castle. For five days Ruyter rode there undisputed while York had to beat up laboriously against the wind from the isle of Wight. The sight of a hostile fleet of nearly a hundred ships did not unduly alarm the men of Kent. The militia assembled to repel any attempt at a landing and Dover harbour was too shallow to be entered by any except small vessels at high water. Ruyter's only success during this period of supremacy was the capture of the Victory, an old French prize, taken between Margate and the North Foreland. He did not even succeed in intercepting the ketches, full of sailors and soldiers, that she was escorting (No. 212). A squadron of eight ships stationed at the Nore was chased into Sheerness, but Ruyter did not venture to attack them under the fort. In getting in one of them ran aground, but did not incur any further mishap (No. 216). When the duke of York at length arrived in Dover Roads Ruyter withdrew towards his own coasts, without venturing an action.
While the fleet was at Dover Alberti seized the opportunity to visit it and was shown round by the duke himself. He was greatly impressed and declares that it was incomparably finer than the Dutch one, though not more numerous. Owing to their greater draught the English ships could be more easily manoeuvred than the Dutch and through this advantage they could always succeed in getting the weather gauge.
In going round the ships he gained some interesting information. Everywhere he went he learned that the fleet had had a narrow escape from destruction. The Dutch in the Downs were anchored only four leagues away; but thick weather concealed the fleets from each other. The duke had been warned of their proximity, but does not seem to have taken any precautions. The difference of a single tide would have enabled Ruyter to surprise the English fleet at a moment when it was greatly below strength, scarcely numbering fifty sail, as nine ships which were not ready had been left in the Thames. The eight left at the Nore had had a narrow escape. If the Dutch had fallen in with the French they would have crushed them (No. 219).
After his bold show Ruyter was much criticised for his excess of caution; but he realised the importance of keeping his fleet intact, and when the allies advanced in force he retired behind the Galloper Sands using them as a sort of entrenchment. At the same time he was alert to seize any opportunity that offered. His chance came surprisingly soon. Learning that the English fleet was at anchor off Southwold to take in water, with many men ashore, he appeared suddenly and bore down upon the Blue squadron, commanded by Sandwich. The battle began at 7 in the morning and lasted until 9 in the evening. Sandwich bore the brunt of the attack. He succeeded in taking the flagship which engaged him and in sinking two fireships, but could not disengage himself from a third. His ship, the Royal James, was destroyed by fire and Sandwich perished with it. The volunteers with him decided to share his fate.
The duke of York was also furiously engaged and had to change his ship twice. The Dutch, who placed great reliance upon fireships, attacked him with these, but, apart from their success against Sandwich, their hopes from this arm were disappointed.
At the end of the day the English had secured an advantage. The Royal James was the only ship lost. The Royal Catherine and the Henry, which had struck, were recovered, the former by French rowing galleys, which rendered useful service in the action. The Dutch lost nine ships and their admiral Van Ghent. As the Dutch fired high the English ships suffered chiefly in their masts and rigging. (fn. 5)
From the news received of this day's fighting Charles looked forward to hear of a greater victory on the morrow, but matters did not turn out as expected. The duke hoped to renew the fight with the French in the vanguard, but they lost three hours without ever approaching the enemy and with a fog coming on the opportunity was lost.
Without French co-operation it is doubtful if the duke would have been able to renew the fight, as his ships had suffered severely and he had lost heavily in men. As it was he withdrew to the Thames while Ruyter still kept the open sea. The behaviour of the French on this occasion was sharply criticised, as they had kept at long range all the time and had suffered no damage. Popular comment said that the French were serving England as they had the Dutch in the last war. Estrées, the commander, admitted the backwardness shown and laid the blame on Duquesne, his chef d'escadre. That famous officer could hardly be suspected of cowardice and he was a professional sailor while Estrées was only an amateur.
It is convincing testimony to the dependence of Charles on the French connection that he betrayed no resentment at the chief cause of the disappointment of his hopes. He rather went out of his way to show his unabated confidence in his ally, and paid another visit to the French flagship. But at the inquiry that followed he made a serious speech. He said that the advantage of not fearing the enemy was converted into the abuse of despising him (No. 235). The duke of York only charged the French with mismanagement. He laid the blame on his council of war for allowing himself to be surprised at a disadvantage. He was, none the less, conscious of failure, and in his desire to rehabilitate himself he clung to the command, though there had been talk of his relinquishing it. Rupert, who would have liked to take his place, was obliged to rest content with succeeding Sandwich as Vice Admiral of the Blue (No. 241).
In spite of the eagerness of both Charles and his brother to score some signal success, the sailing of the fleet was delayed by the late arrival of stores and munitions for the French squadron, a failure for which Colbert, the famous controleur des finances, was much blamed (No. 247). When at last it got to sea the duke sailed over to the Dutch coast and cruised off the Texel in the hope of intercepting the rich fleet from the East Indies, which promised a booty worth millions (No. 282). Ruyter, in the meantime, maintained a watchful defensive behind the sand dunes. The weather was stormy and perhaps this helped the Dutch merchantmen to slip unperceived into Delfzyl. As this place was then besieged by the bishop of Munster there was still hope that they might be forced to put to sea. But the rich cargoes were conveyed safely to Amsterdam in small boats and finally the merchantmen themselves got through unmolested to the Texel (Nos. 278, 282).
As if to emphasise the complete ineptitude of the grand fleet, Zeeland privateers were infesting the English coasts with impunity and trade was withering under their depredations (No. 282). What caused even more annoyance was the appearance in the North Sea of the Dutch fishermen under convoy (No. 293). If anyone but the duke of York had been in command of the fleet, he would be suspected of treachery, wrote Alberti (No. 274). Even in southern waters the Dutch showed activity and enterprise and their Smyrna convoy captured three English ships and one French, which were proceeding to the Levant. Their cargoes, estimated to be worth over 300,000 pieces of eight, were taken to Cadiz to be sold (No. 295). The Falcon, an East Indiaman, which had parted company from its fellows on the way home, was captured off the Lizard by a Dutch privateer and carried into Berghen with a cargo valued at 100,000l. (Nos. 274, 278).
After the fiasco over the East Indiamen the fleet was recalled in order to take on board troops for a landing for which the parliament of Scotland had raised the men (No. 279). This expedition was to be commanded by Rupert (No. 293). But when the fleet arrived back at Sheerness it proved to be in no fit condition for a fresh enterprise. The ships were in need of repair and sickness was rife among the crews. As many as 250 men had died in some ships and the survivors were overworked and ill (No. 290). Although the duke of York showed great activity and the press gangs were kept busy to fill up the gaps, it soon became evident that no expedition could be managed that year. The French also had enough, and Estrées announced that he had received orders to withdraw because of the lateness of the season and because the majority of his men also were on the sick list (No. 293). Before the year was out he had taken his squadron back to Brest (No. 335). By the end of September all idea of a landing had been given up and the largest ships were paid off and laid up for the winter (Nos. 300, 305). Spragge alone remained at sea with a squadron of second and third rates. With these he succeeded in scattering the Dutch fishermen and making many captures; but this proved to be the last effort of the campaign, as shortage of funds made it impossible to keep even these ships in commission (No. 331).
The English failure at sea was thrown into greater relief by the startling progress made by the French on land. The king could hardly dissemble his mortification at the contrast and the people felt that the national prestige had been utterly degraded (No. 274). Charles had staked everything upon gaining a rapid and complete victory, which the overwhelming strength of the allies on both elements seemed to promise them. It did not by any means suit his plans that victory should depend so completely on his ally. It was on land also that the eventual plans of the two kings might not remain in accord, because of the Spanish interest in Flanders. In the eyes of Louis the defeat of the Dutch was the necessary preliminary to the complete conquest of Flanders, which was his ultimate aim; but it was by no means in the interest of England that he should achieve this ambition.
To set the mind of his ally at rest upon this point the French king renewed, in November 1671, his promise to keep the peace with Spain for another year (No. 112). The policy adopted by England puzzled the Spanish government, which considered the triple alliance to be directed against France and looked to it for the recovery of what they had lost rather than as an instrument for maintaining the status quo (Nos. 6, 11). Molina, their ambassador in London, had early become convinced of a secret understanding between France and England, but Fresno, who left Spain at the end of the year to succeed him at the English Court, had instructions to soothe the king, while Sunderland, the ambassador chosen to go to Spain on a special mission, was understood to take assurances of the upright intentions of his government (No. 122).
These amiable pretences were not kept up for long. Owing, probably, to a presumption on the extreme weakness of Spain during a minority, both powers adopted a very high tone in their offices at Madrid. The English ministers, Sunderland and Godolphin, explained there the reasons for the war with Holland and expressed the hope that Spain would either join with them or at least remain neutral. If Spain sided with the Dutch it would mean war, however much they might regret it (No. 189). The French ambassador, Villiers, went further, announcing that if Spain did not declare her neutrality his king would throw the whole weight of his arms against Flanders.
These offices caused the greatest astonishment at Madrid as the attitude of England seemed utterly inconsistent with the policy of the triple alliance. They realised, with dismay, that if the Dutch were attacked by the two powers simultaneously, by land and sea, their state would be desperate and there was more danger of being engulfed with them in a common destruction than any likelihood of saving them or of lessening their fall (No. 153). This was the state of mind that the two powers had counted on; but after the first reactions Spain showed an unexpected firmness in her attitude. In the reply given to the English ambassadors surprise was expressed that the founder of the triple alliance should propose to make war on his ally. The easiest way to preserve the peace was to refrain from breaking it with the Dutch. It was not to the advantage of England to mix in alien quarrels for the benefit of France, and war with Spain would involve the loss of a valuable trade as all commerce with England would be stopped at the first shots (No. 189). From this the government showed no sign of receding and everything pointed to its determination to stand by the Dutch (No. 191). The Spanish ministers were fortified in this decision by their conviction that peace would be maintained in spite of any help that they might give to Holland (No. 181).
In London Fresno also took a high tone. In reply to the charge of ingratitude he declared that all that England had done for Spain was out of self interest, because the loss of Spanish trade would cause discontent in the country (No. 198). His insistence upon this point gave great annoyance to Charles, and the Spanish consul in London earned much unpopularity at Court by harping upon the injurious consequences that a war with Spain would have upon the mart of London. In England the government had counted upon intimidating the Spaniards by their demands. The duke of York told Alberti that the queen regent had been misinformed about the inability of his brother to make war (No. 186). The event showed that it was the Spaniards who had gauged the position the more correctly.
The whirligig of time had brought about a curious inversion of the old Spanish saying “con todo el mundo guerra y paz con Inglaterra.” It was now the case that Spain was the one country with which England could not afford to go to war. The war with the Dutch had added greatly to the general discontent in the country, and the dislocation of trade that a breach with Spain would bring might prove the last straw (No. 309). Arlington went so far as to say that he would recommend the king to continue the alliance with France only so long as peace could be maintained with Spain. He considered this to be more important than anything else because of the general quiet of England, which depended on it (No. 326).
Charles had, in fact, been desirous from the first of remaining on good terms with Spain (No. 201). Thus, in spite of the menacing language used at Madrid, it soon appeared that there was no serious intention of breaking off relations. Godolphin, who had been merely resident, was raised to the rank of ambassador in ordinary. It was observed, with some surprise, that instead of making ready to depart he was preparing to inaugurate his rise in status by a state entry and to establish his residence upon a permanent footing (No. 304).
A rupture had been threatened at an earlier date for a different cause. In the summer of 1671 news reached Madrid of the capture of Panama by an English force under Morgan. The report caused a great stir, because it was believed that the attack had been made with the consent if not by the order of the British king at a time when the ink of the peace treaty with him was scarcely dry. The count of Peñaranda enlarged upon the breach of faith and violation of the law of nations that had been committed (No. 67). He lamented this the more because the recent agreement had aimed at establishing a permanent settlement in America (No. 74).
The threat to such a vital point of the Indies cut the Spaniards to the quick and active measures for defence were at once undertaken, though it soon became apparent that Spain was in no condition to defend her overseas possessions from serious attack (No. 96). So after the first shock the excitement died down, especially when it became clear that the alarm had been exaggerated. At the first Molina in London had made strong representations, but, somewhat to the surprise of the English ministers, he did not continue to press the matter (No. 88). In Madrid Godolphin, at a special audience, expressed the deep regret with which his king had heard of the incident, so contrary to his desire to cherish the most perfect intelligence with the Catholic crown. He promised that the author of the outrage should receive the most exemplary punishment (No. 91). Charles Modyford, son of Sir Thomas Modyford, the governor of Jamaica, whose complicity in the attack was suspected, had already been sent to the Tower (No. 78). The father was recalled and sent to take his son's place there immediately upon his arrival in London. Sir Thomas Lynch, the new governor, who was sent out at once, announced, on his arrival at the island, a formal proclamation of peace with the Spaniards in America and held out hopes that it would be faithfully observed (No. 107).
Another method of bringing pressure to bear upon Spain was offered by the connection with Portugal. This was taken up by Francesco di Melo, the Portuguese ambassador in London, who wrote to Lisbon to urge his government to join the alliance in order to prevent Spain from making any move in favour of Holland (No. 222). The knowledge of the efforts of France and England to make trouble for them at Lisbon aroused great anxiety at Madrid, and the report that a defensive and offensive alliance had actually been concluded caused a sensation (No. 317). Portugal would certainly have welcomed an opportunity for picking up booty in the Indies (No. 259); but to wage war directly against Spain was not in the programme (No. 288). In France they were convinced that Portugal was too weak to wage such a war and the prince regent made it clear that he would not make any move against Spain unless France and England took the initiative (No. 338).
The relations between England and Portugal at the time were, in fact, none too cordial. The removal and banishment of King Alfonso to the Terceiras and the assumption of the government by Don Pedro did not meet with the approval of the English Court. It was argued there that to have no children was no crime. As the king of England was in the same case, it was a bad precedent for him. If King Alfonso died, Pedro would succeed to the throne as a matter of course, to the detriment of the rights of Queen Catherine and of England through the marriage with her (No. 110). The queen had shown her personal disapproval of the situation by refusing to act as godmother to Pedro's daughter, though she had been begged to do so (p. 70). None the less, in her longing for the appointment of a Portuguese ambassador to the English Court, the queen paid the cost of the embassy out of her own privy purse, making amends for the ambassador's poverty and for the scanty salary which he received from his master (No. 110). She also, by her persistence, succeeded in persuading the king to receive Melo formally as ambassador, in spite of the strong objections to recognising him, for the reasons already given (No. 127).
The policy of France and England to limit the extent of the war by isolating the Dutch soon showed signs of breaking down. Spain was not alone in deciding to stand up against the crushing of the republic. The sweeping success of France caused alarm in Germany, where they had no desire to see Louis firmly established on the lower Rhine. To anticipate any possible moves there Sir William Lockhart, the old Cromwellian soldier and diplomat, had been sent on a special mission in March. He returned to London in June after fruitless negotiations with the elector of Brandenburg, who was said to be marching to the assistance of the Dutch with 20,000 foot and 10,000 horse (No. 241). This news made Louis apprehensive that a coalition might be forming against him, and to meet the danger he decided to send a force under Turenne to confront the Germans, with which Monmouth proposed to serve as a volunteer (No. 282).
The activities of the imperial minister, Lisola, who made frequent journeys between Brussels and the Hague, also excited the misgivings of the English ministers, who called him “the Dutch Intelligencer” (No. 282). His efforts culminated in July with the signature of an alliance between the emperor and the States. By this the Dutch, in return for subsidies, were to receive substantial military aid.
This unexpected development grievously upset the whole scheme of the two allied kings. They would no longer be able to manage the war to suit themselves and negotiations for peace would be rendered more difficult and complicated (No. 290). The plot to isolate and eliminate the troublesome republic had conspicuously failed. Arlington exclaimed that if England and France consented to treat with Holland as the ally of the empire and the princes of the empire, it would raise her higher than ever. The alliance, in fact, had a most stimulating effect on the Dutch, who based all their hopes on succour from the empire (No. 270).
The ministry in England hoped that it would not come to a war with the empire, and Louis, for his part, tried to pacify the German princes by offering to restore to them the fortresses which belonged to them which had been taken from the Dutch (No. 331). Yet when Crockow came over from Brandenburg to London with an offer of mediation, he was sent away without an answer, on the pretence of a speedy agreement. His real purpose had been to bring England over to the side of the empire (Nos. 325, 331).
In the relations between the empire and France the attitude of Sweden had a special importance. As a member of the triple alliance and joint arbitrator with England in Flanders she occupied a peculiar position and her policy seemed likely to be opportunist. Leyonberg, the agent in England, was constantly holding out hopes that Baron Spaar would be coming shortly about the arbitration; but he never appeared. Owing to the uncertainty about what Sweden would do, Coventry was sent to Stockholm in September 1671 to see how the land lay. In England it was expected that he would send word that Sweden had espoused the cause of France (No. 116). There was extreme curiosity to learn what course she would decide to follow; but no news came. It seemed as if she would wait until the last moment and then decide in accordance with what she considered would best suit her advantage (No. 150). At last word came of the conclusion of a new alliance with France, in April. By the terms of this Sweden undertook to be neutral if the emperor and princes of Germany remained neutral. If they assisted the Dutch, Swedish forces would be placed at the disposal of France. The pension to be paid by France was renewed and increased. This news caused great relief, as it seemed a guarantee that the war could be confined to the original belligerents (Nos. 200, 204).
This feeling of satisfaction was not destined to endure. Owing to the action taken by the emperor Sweden began to reconsider her position. In August count de la Gardie, the chancellor's son, arrived in London with an offer of mediation. Simultaneously the Resident Leyonberg began to intimate that if this offer was not accepted Sweden would be compelled to throw in her lot with the princes of the empire (No. 293). This was looked upon as a mere pretext to justify Sweden breaking her engagements. From London the count proceeded to France, taking with him a message from Charles that he was unwilling to accept this mediation unless France previously agreed to such a course (No. 302).
In November the long expected Baron Spaar at length arrived in London accompanied by a colleague. They were only making a short stay and conferences with them were informal and secret. As usual they gave rise to various reports. The threatened defection of Sweden was a serious matter as, faced by a gathering number of foes, Louis might be forced to make peace (No. 325). Charles, though discouraged by the idea of a protracted war, stood fast to the French alliance. He did his best to conciliate the ambassadors. He listened sympathetically to their proposals and before they left for the Hague he gave them rich presents and entertained them in person at the house of the lord treasurer (No. 328). There was still hope that Sweden might take the French side after all; a French match had even been suggested for their king. The ambassadors, however, observed great caution in their utterances (No. 329). At the Hague they met with a somewhat cold reception, as the Dutch could settle nothing without their friends, to whom they were pledged both by good faith and money (No. 341).
The Dutch were slow to realise the nature of the storm that was brewing against them. Until very late in the day they clung to the belief that it was possible to play off France against England. De Witt always favoured an understanding with France and was an irreconcilable enemy of England and the prince of Orange (No. 247). Alarm at the disclosure of French ambitions in the Low Countries led him into the triple alliance which had checked French encroachment for the moment. The proposed journey of Louis to Dunkirk revived his fears and led him to court England by making concessions to the prince of Orange and by sending van Beuningen to London.
Charles did not respond to these advances as had been hoped, though van Beuningen returned to the Hague at the end of 1671 believing that the mobilising of the English fleet was genuinely intended to check France. The prince, who had come over to visit his uncles, stayed on for a few weeks. He met with a friendly reception but did no business, beyond asking for the settlement of an old debt due to his father. He spent his time mostly in sightseeing.
The prince left England rather suddenly in the middle of February. This happened soon after a report that a treaty had been made between France and Holland and was supposed to have some connection with it (No. 25). The report caused a great stir in London, over which Charles and the Ambassador Colbert exchanged a knowing wink. (fn. 6) Actually it foreshadowed a new move on the part of De Witt prompted by his failure to induce Charles to act as decisively as he desired.
In April the Dutch Ambassador Boreel offended Charles by warning him that if he did not give more energetic support to the triple alliance the States would have to look to their own interests, and he must not take it amiss if their ships were found joined with those of France. (No. 43.) De Witt believed in keeping the ear of France open, and in June he sent Grotius to Paris to negotiate. At this van Beuningen resigned his office of burgomaster and retired to the country in disgust (No. 68).
In the meantime, in England, Boreel kept insisting on the need for Charles to declare himself definitely, as if he did so the French king would not venture to harm his neighbours (No. 60). He complained that it was not fair that the States should be left to bear the whole burden alone. They had already been in arms for three years and there was no sign that negotiation would bring them any real relief (No. 93).
Boreel, described by Burnet as “a plain man that had no great depth” (fn. 7) is rather a pathetic figure. He did not even enjoy the confidence of his employers, the States of Holland. They suspected him of being a partisan of the House of Orange, to which they were traditionally opposed, and preferred to deal direct with Arlington, who had married a Dutch wife (fn. 8) (No. 112).
The negotiations with France, chiefly intended to make England jealous, did not turn out well, and in August Grotius asked to be recalled. By this time the Dutch seem to have made up their minds that war with France was inevitable and began to take their measures accordingly. They even seemed to desire it, to relieve them of their present stress and counting on success through the strength of their allies (No. 102). In November they forbad the importation of wine, vinegar, canvas, paper and other French produce (No. 116). A fleet of 150 ships was being equipped and they took steps to raise the army from 80,000 to 100,000 men. They were still so oblivious to the true state of affairs that they thought of asking Charles for leave to raise levies in England, Scotland and Ireland (No. 133). Even at the beginning of 1672 Boreel had a long audience of the king at which he represented that as the States had drawn upon themselves the hatred of France by joining the alliance and supporting it, England ought to stand by them as she had been the prime mover in the business (No. 155).
Meerman's mission was the last effort to keep the peace, but he showed no alacrity in coming over and it seemed as if the Dutch had no real wish for an adjustment. With Spanish support they counted on offering a stout resistance (Nos. 174, 178). None the less the effect upon trade was bound to be disastrous. The stress was felt at Amsterdam instantly, and by June the shares of the Dutch East India Company had fallen from 570 to 265. The exchange in London went to 16 per cent. in favour of London. Many rich Dutch families removed to Hamburg and some even proposed to come to London. Charles issued a proclamation inviting those who would to settle in England. Alberti excuses this attempt to draw the subjects of another state from their allegiance by the assertion that the States had plotted against the king's realm, his crown and his royal person (No. 231). A more naïve attempt was made to induce the Dutch India fleet to enter English ports. Believing that they were lost if they attempted to take refuge in Spain, Charles offered to receive them, if they gave him due notice, promising to rest satisfied with the duties on their cargoes, which alone were estimated to be worth hundreds and thousands of pounds (No. 259).
The rapid and overwhelming success of the French land attack filled the Dutch with consternation. Without waiting to get passports they sent over commissioners to England to negotiate terms of peace, offering to give every satisfaction. Boreel, who had stayed on in England after the declaration of war, asked the king to receive them. But though he begged the king, with tears in his eyes, not to allow the French to get to the Hague, Charles replied that nothing could be done without the concurrence of France. As he did not wish to dismiss the commissioners abruptly, he gave orders for them to withdraw to Hampton Court (No. 231). Behaving with perfect correctitude, Charles at once sent to inform Louis of this démarche, assuring him that he would not receive or listen to the deputies without his consent and only by mutual agreement (No. 240).
In response to a request from Louis, the king selected Arlington and Buckingham to go over to take part in a joint conference in Holland. Before they sailed Arlington and Clifford first by themselves and then with Buckingham and Shaftesbury went to confer with the Dutch envoys. So far from adopting a suppliant attitude the latter told the ministers that they merely had instructions to find out what the king demanded of them. Their independence aroused some misgivings and it was decided that Arlington and Buckingham should set out forthwith in order to forestall any possible accommodation between Louis and the Dutch (No. 247).
The English ministers sailed to the Meuse and were received at the Hague by deputies of the States General. The people accompanied them with acclamations, shouting Long live the king of England and the prince of Orange, and May God confound the States (No. 253). From the Hague they went on to the French camp at Utrecht, visiting the prince of Orange on the way. There Monmouth was joined with them in the embassy. On the day after their arrival, 8 July, new style, they had a long conference with the king, who was attended by Pomponne and Louvois. After dinner the king reviewed his troops in their presence, with great display. On their way home they travelled by way of Antwerp, where they had a conference with the governor Monterey. This was attended by Sir Gabriel Sylvius, who came from the prince of Orange, to whom he had been sent on a special mission.
The object of these negotiations, which were kept very secret, excited much speculation. It was concluded that the negotiations with Louis must be chiefly concerned with the prince of Orange. The English counted much on the moderation of the French towards the prince (No. 290). In considering possible terms it was believed that Louis would prefer the English to secure advantages in the Indies and by ruining Dutch trade rather than see them established on his side of the water (No. 252). In London Fresno declared that a new treaty had been made between the two kings with a clause that each of them would be at liberty to treat separately with the Dutch for the attainment of his particular claims, without interference from the other (No. 264).
In spite of the desperate situation the attitude of Orange was courageous and hopeful. He did not think that the English desired the destruction of the Provinces, and believed that she would need them eventually, as a bulwark against France. He meant to try to obtain a good peace, sword in hand, and counted on establishing his authority in the country by making himself necessary (Nos. 259, 270).
After these varions exchanges and conferences peace seemed as far off as ever. Arlington and Buckingham regretted the continuance of the war because of the danger of civil commotion in England (No. 267), but they confirmed Charles in his confidence that Louis would stand loyally by the alliance. He remarked that the Dutch were seeking in vain to separate him from France, by rousing suspicion, but he placed no reliance on the prince of Orange or in the civilities of the States. He cut short the stay of the Dutch envoys at Hampton Court where, according to Burnet, they had been carrying on secret intrigues and gathering information about the state of the nation. (fn. 9) They were sorry to be compelled to leave without waiting for further replies from Holland by which they had hoped to gain time (No. 278).
At this moment the internal situation of the Provinces underwent a material change by the fall of the De Witt party and the murder of the brothers by the mob. It is possible that Charles had some share in this deplorable event. Just a month before a native of Rotterdam, who had started the first disturbance against the brothers and had fled to London, told the king that he had seen the treaty by which De Witt undertook to open the gates of all the towns which were subsequently conquered by the French. This man was encouraged to return to tell this preposterous story to the States General (No. 259).
The tragic event was deplored in England solely because of the odious light it cast on the prince of Orange (No. 282). It was also feared that he might not be able to control the mob, which seemed to have got out of hand. The change did not engender a disposition to grant easier terms, although Charles had recently written to his nephew that once the De Witt party was destroyed he would find England and France well disposed towards the States (No. 279). The king later advised the young prince not to depend upon the emperor or Brandenburg, and it was feared at Court that he had not experience enough to maintain himself against the Arminian faction, which was identical with that of De Witt (No. 309).
From the first the prince of Orange showed a capacity to deal cool-headedly with a difficult situation which distinguished him through life. He disposed of the De Witt party by declaring in the States General that he would not give his vote in any matter until after the withdrawal of Grotius, who had been ambassador in France (No. 267). He would not listen to his uncle's advice to seize the opportunity to assume absolute authority, realising that it would be incompatible with the republican form of government, and that he would gain more by securing such authority as had been exercised by his ancestors (No. 264). He saw that the sovereignty promised him by England and France would only give umbrage to his people and make him entirely dependent on the two crowns. In the position given to him in trust by the people he need not fear civil strife or be under any obligation to his neighbours (No. 270). He did not dare to show the slightest leaning towards England lest he should excite the suspicion of the people against himself (No. 290).
The prince's position was undoubtedly a very difficult one. The people clamoured at the exorbitant taxes, raised to continue the war, and lack of success in his warlike enterprises exposed him to further criticism (Nos. 315, 338). When he wished to institute proceedings against the murderers of the De Witts, the popular leaders advised him to desist, to avoid worse consequences (No. 290).
The prince put a bold face on all these difficulties, believing that he would be able to negotiate peace upon equal terms (No. 335). His independent attitude and reliance on other assistance caused great annoyance in England, from whence the ministers wrote to him that by embarking on a universal struggle he would ruin himself, and they warned him that he must not look for any support from that side (No. 318). Charles referred contemptuously to the imperialists who flattered the credulous Dutch with the belief that they would recover in the winter what they had lost in the summer (No. 331).
More annoyance was caused by the obvious intention of the Spaniards to take part in the war. They were accused of seeking peace by encouraging others to fight. The Dutch were said to have handed over fortresses to them for safe keeping, including Maastricht. At the first French attack Monterey had refused to return the six infantry regiments lent by the Dutch for the defence of the Spanish Netherlands, and had allowed the French to pass through Spanish territory without disputing their passage (No. 207); while soon after he garrisoned the towns of Brabant and Flanders (Nos. 253, 259). But now, at the end of the year, he was virtually stripping himself of troops to support the Dutch, in the firm belief that he would not be surprised by the French (No. 331). The co-operation between him and the Dutch culminated with the investment of Charleroi by the prince of Orange, an action which roused intense indignation at the English Court. Instructions were sent to Godolphin to make strong representations at Madrid, and the duke of York declared that the attack was a breach of the treaty of the Pyrenees and an affront to the kings of England and Sweden, as guarantors under the terms of the triple alliance (No. 341).
Thus by the end of 1672 the war planned by the treaty of Dover had seriously miscarried. Louis, by his very success, had alarmed other powers and provoked them to take up arms. To meet these he needed large forces of his own, and to support his armies and at the same time to pay heavy subsidies to both England and Sweden might tax severely the resources of the country and even stir up discontent at home.
The decision in July to continue the war was more the wish of the Englishman than of the king of France. (fn. 10) On the English side everything had been staked upon victory; but the campaign had proved a succession of disappointments. There had been no resounding triumph at sea; a landing in the Provinces had not proved possible; the attack on the Smyrna fleet had miscarried and the Dutch East India fleet had got safely to port; so the rich haul of merchandise that had been confidently expected was not forthcoming.
The auxiliary forces granted by each side to the other, instead of cementing the alliance had tended rather to increase ill feeling. The behaviour of the French at Solebay and afterwards had provoked bitter criticisms. The levies granted to France by England fared little better. Permission to raise troops in all three kingdoms had been granted in the middle of 1671 in spite of the remonstrances of Molina. But the service was not popular as the pay was poor and the conditions were said to be hard (No. 97), so that the levies did not proceed very successfully. In the new year the drum was beaten in London for a regiment of 2,400 men, to be commanded by Monmouth with money supplied by Colbert (No. 169); but in France they complained that this was being done without energy (No. 172), and the regiment was still 300 men short in April (No. 195). However, when at length they crossed over Louis showed them great favour and gave them precedence before all the native regiments except the guards (No. 228). But by August the chief talk in London was about the dissatisfaction of Louis at the scanty services rendered by the English, who were without discipline and whose officers lacked experience (No. 274).
Monmouth himself returned to England about this time, in the expectation of an heir from his wife. Once there he found it difficult to tear himself away from the delights of the Court, and he made no attempt to conceal from his friends his dislike of the French service (No. 338). So at the end of the year the position was highly unsatisfactory. Lack of success in the war left Charles in a dangerous dilemma. He was desperately short of resources for continuing it and yet he could not afford to make a peace from which he would get nothing but shame (No. 279).
To embark on a foreign war when already deeply in debt, without the support of parliament, was obviously a hazardous venture. It involved risks of so many kinds that the king would hardly have undertaken it without feeling sure of a speedy victory. It is true that by the end of 1670 he had, by dextrous management, gained a greater ascendancy over parliament than he had ever had before. By alarming them over the French preparations he had induced them to vote him 800,000l. It remained to settle how this amount should be raised. In the discussions on the subject a land tax was preferred to a benevolence, and in addition a tax of one per cent. was suggested on the salaries of officials (Nos. 1, 6).
The smooth progress of these debates was rudely interrupted by an outrage on a member, Sir John Coventry, for a remark reflecting on the king's amours. As the House only met twice in the week after Christmas, it was hoped that the matter would be allowed to blow over; but when regular sittings were resumed it was taken up with great heat and with practical unanimity. A bill was introduced and carried without opposition to punish the culprits with the utmost severity (No. 11). The efforts of the Lords to moderate this heat threatened to lead to a quarrel between the two Houses, to which, from mutual jealousy, they were only too prone. But when it came to the point the Commons shrank from pushing matters to extremes and showed their readiness to accept a compromise (No. 21).
These discussions held up the money bill for some weeks. After it had passed and gone up to the Lords, two of them spoke strongly against it. Of these Lord Lucas declared that the country was being impoverished by the excessive readiness of the Commons to grant taxes. The king squandered sums which were all indiscreetly handled by the ministers. One third of the amount, at least, should be deducted. The other peer argued that, according to law, the king ought to withdraw from the House whenever his own affairs were under discussion (No. 27).
A threatened deadlock was obviated by the king calling the peers together and using his authority and by a conference between the two Houses. After this the king asked them to pass without delay a new duty to be imposed on beer. Further disputes arose almost immediately as the result of an attempt of the Lords to impose a duty upon sugar, which the Lower House resisted as a breach of privilege. As the Lords would not give way it was expected that the king would again use his authority to settle the dispute. Instead of this he caused some surprise by abruptly proroguing parliament until April in the following year.
By this action Charles sacrificed additional revenue on which he might confidently have counted and also abandoned the idea of granting a general pardon, which had been fully expected, to the disappointment of the people and especially of those concerned in the Coventry affair (No. 52). Arlington declared that the two Houses had abused the king's patience and that he should undeceive them about their assumed authority. It was a matter of indifference to him whether he received the subsidy a year sooner or later; but if he gave the Houses a lesson they would be more careful in the future (No. 50).
This assertion of the royal authority seems to have been part of a deliberate policy which staked everything on success in the coming war. The king had been advised, once he had obtained his grant, not to recall parliament for a long time, in order to keep them under, and to make use of every other means to obtain supply (No. 27). The liberty taken by Lord Lucas was also dealt with promptly. By a vote taken in the king's presence, his speech, which had been circulated in MS., was condemned as seditious and to be burned by the common hangman (No. 35). An unfortunate bookseller, who had distributed printed copies, was heavily fined and made to stand in the pillory (No. 38). Such action, affecting a body so jealous of its privileges, created a profound impression and there was no one left in parliament who dared to speak disrespectfully of his Majesty.
As the moment for the rupture with Holland approached the king announced a further prorogation until October. His object, as explained to Colbert, was to remove an obstacle to the fulfilment of his promises to France and he did not propose to reassemble parliament until success in the war had disposed his people to give him every satisfaction. It is interesting to note that, at a later date, Colbert betrayed a suspicion that the summoning or proroguing of parliament was being used as a lever to extract more money from France. (fn. 11) This second prorogation caused the more surprise because it was known that the government was in urgent need of supply and it was not clear where the money would come from (No. 107).
At the beginning of 1672 Alberti expresses the belief that the king was contemplating measures to curtail the power of parliament over the purse. This was to be effected by limiting the period of the sittings, by not allowing other matters than supply to be discussed and by prorogation or even dissolution if the discussions were unduly prolonged. The Lords were to be won by a simultaneous bestowal of appointments. The Commons might be brought to heel later by lawful proceedings or by some coup d' état. Records were examined bearing upon the ancient authority of parliament and to study instances of its suppression in times past (No. 141). A meeting of the Council to discuss whether parliament should be summoned before October was probably only intended as a hint to Colbert, who had been making some difficulty over the payment of the French subsidy for fitting out the fleet (No. 118).
The war having been started, it was generally believed that if parliament was assembled and asked for money, it would refuse it, on the ground that the king had undertaken the war without consulting it (No. 225). This was evidently the opinion of the king himself as, in September, when members were getting ready for the new session they were surprised to learn that there was a further prorogation until February (No. 300). At the end of the year it was still doubtful if the king would venture to face the Houses even then, and Alberti was informed that if the war continued there would be yet another prorogation (No. 335).
In France, where the proceedings of parliament were awaited with interest, many were inclined to believe that the gathering of the troops on the pretext of preparing a landing, and the bringing of the largest ships into the Thames out of the rough weather, were really measures intended to overawe the Houses (No. 303).
The dismissal of parliament before all the supplies proposed had been voted left Charles in a very embarrassed condition. Less than three months later Alberti considered that he had neither money to wage war nor confidence to ask parliament for it (No. 84); though, somewhat later, he wrote that if the king could once find a supply of money elsewhere than in his own realms he might easily reduce his people to submission (No. 112).
While parliament was sitting money had been raised on loan for the fleet, but even then the rate of interest was 8 and 9 per cent. In September the king caused a sensation by suddenly taking the control of the customs into his own hands. A contract for a new farm had already passed the great seal when it was cancelled and commissioners appointed to act directly for the crown. This step occasioned great alarm as men asked each other what it portended. The advantage to the king seemed somewhat dubious since, to repay the money already advanced by the rejected contractors, the revenues had been mortgaged in advance for some time to come (Nos. 103, 105, 107). One of the reasons given by Charles to Colbert was that some of the contractors were too deeply committed to Spain. (fn. 12)
At the beginning of 1672 came the so-called closing of the exchequer. This does not seem to have created so much stir as the other measure. The bankers, who exacted 10 per cent. interest from the crown for their loans, only paid 6 per cent. to their clients. The declaration that the moratorium would only be for a year, and that, at the expiry of that term, 6 per cent. would be paid, gave general satisfaction. The action seems to have caused less disturbance to trade than might have been expected. Alberti records in October that since the war and since the closing of the exchequer, no merchant had failed in London. This may have been due, at least in part, to special measures taken for their relief. The bankers, however, who were entrusted with the money of all the merchants, were paralysed. The king's default gave them an excuse for following his example. They thus lost credit; no one would trust them any longer and those who lived on the interest of their capital suffered. To supply the gap created the government contemplated opening a bank of its own in which private persons could deposit their money, receiving 6 per cent. interest and having the right to draw out at will. It was expected that the king would derive a handsome profit from this scheme if the mart would trust him with its money, but upon this rock of the royal credit the project seems to have foundered (Nos. 147, 150, 242, 305).
At the end of the year the moratorium was extended until the 1st of May following. This caused no surprise, but the mart was dissatisfied, although the 6 per cent. interest promised was paid (No. 338). That the king had been able to carry on for so long and to wage a war without assistance from parliament caused general astonishment. That the financial situation was growing desperate could not be disguised. In October, in order to pay the fleet, Charles made an arrangement with the East India Company by which he obtained a supply of ready money at 12 per cent. interest. They had permission to sell goods in advance to the amount of 700,000l., to be repaid on the first goods which entered the customs houses whether for export or import. Alberti considered the Company's compliance with the royal wishes in this matter to be significant (Nos. 326, 335). The supply thus obtained does not seem to have sufficed for long since at the end of the year the royal ships were laid up for lack of funds and no one could imagine where the king would find any money.
Ranke remarks that since 1669 parliament had become more accommodating. It clung only to two points: uniformity and dislike of France. (fn. 13) Before the prorogation the amount of liberty accorded to the Catholics had been sharply criticised in the Commons. Feeling was so strong that they petitioned the king to enforce the penal laws. The Lords did not altogether concur in this motion, but after a conference between the Houses they united to urge the king to enforce the law against both the Catholics and the sectaries. The Commons wished to go further and to enact fresh laws, but the Lords opposed this as being unnecessary. Charles professed his readiness to agree to the enforcement, but said that he should make an exception in favour of those who did good service to his father and himself during the late troubles (Nos. 25, 32). The known inclination of the duchess of York to the Roman Church had roused the apprehensions of the Protestants to a fear that their faith was in danger and served to kindle their hatred of popery (No. 38). The Commons therefore pressed their point and nominated commissioners to deal with the matter. The king was thus induced to issue a proclamation banishing priests and Jesuits and enjoining the enforcement of the recusancy laws.
When the bill came before the Lords, to the general surprise only one Catholic protested against this severe measure. The Catholics, in fact, were not alarmed. They felt sure that the bill would die a natural death at the hands of the commissioners, while others comforted themselveswith the belief that the king was disposed to reestablish the old faith in England (No. 35).
The numbers of the Catholics had increased greatly, so much so that the chapels of the foreign ambassadors (France, Spain, Portugal and Venice) did not suffice to accommodate them (No. 66). At the same time, not feeling sufficient confidence in the king's protection, they tried to secure themselves by a secret agreement with the leaders of the sectaries for mutual assistance (No. 47).
The prorogation put a stop to the agitation about this question for the time being. It was revived by the Declaration of Indulgence, issued in March of the following year. Alberti reports that the proclamation caused incredible excitement throughout the country, being received in different ways, corresponding to the conflicting opinions of the people (No. 183). In a review of the situation he explains that the king had not taken this step out of zeal for religion or from shame at laws unworthy of a Christian monarch, but merely to quiet the Catholics and secure their services, as they had been his most faithful servants in the past. Although the reestablishment of the Catholic religion in England was not impossible, the king would have first to make himself absolute and then seize his opportunity (No. 225).
The indulgence was granted against the opinion of many of the ministers. The people were suspicious of the king's intentions and accused the duke of York of having persuaded him to take this step. The Presbyterians in particular were preparing to join with the bishops in resisting so perilous an innovation (No. 225). At Rome complaint was made to the French ambassador Estrées that the pope had not been informed beforehand of this grace, on the supposition that it had been done by an arrangement between the two crowns. But in England it was openly stated that if Rome had been told, the measure would certainly have been thwarted, because the Cardinals judged remote affairs upon scanty and insincere information (No. 248.)
The declaration was not the only occasion in the year on which Charles felt himself strong enough to flout the anti-Catholic prejudices of his subjects. In July he made public his intention to restore the office of earl marshal of England to the Howard family, lost during the civil war, and from which they had been excluded because of their attachment to the old faith (No. 248).
The Catholics, though increasing in numbers and enjoying the royal favour, were not an entirely happy community. After so much persecution they lacked the necessary vigour to stand up against the outcry caused by the indulgence. They were also divided among themselves on the question of a bishop to rule over them. This was desired by good Catholics in the interest of discipline, but it was strongly opposed by the Jesuits, who penetrated into family life and feared the loss of their influence. Nevertheless, a Burgundian Jesuit was sent to England to make inquiries and find out the best manner and time for effecting this reform without noise. Pious Catholics lamented the lethargy of Rome, which went to sleep instead of keeping on the alert to seize a favourable opportunity (No. 225).
According to Morosini the king was of a generous and intrepid spirit, with a quick and ready intelligence and a fund of scientific knowledge. He was a good linguist and knew, but did not speak, Italian, preferring French. His natural ability won him both affection and respect (p. 61). An explanation proffered by Charles that a solar rainbow was due to the prevailing wind is the only instance given here suggesting an interest in science. In naval matters, however, he was a recognised expert. In fleet manoeuvres he could beat the pilots at their own game. In designing ships he was the chief authority in the country. Four ships were built from his design, carrying more sail and behaving better in heavy seas than the normal ones (No. 205). Great secrecy was observed about their plans, of which the Venetian Signory would have been glad to get particulars. At Plymouth he had a ship building upon a new and secret plan and no one was allowed to measure it (No 242). (fn. 14)
Mocenigo left England at the end of 1670. The popularity he records does not seem to have long survived that date. Early in the new year Alberti observes that the people are not firm in their allegiance and he expresses amazement at the freedom with which men talked of a change of government (Nos. 25, 27). In the following year he is even more outspoken. The people had grown suspicious of the king, whose interests they had come to consider as being at variance with their own. This had gone so far that the king found himself compelled to give the command of his ships to men of birth and to fill them with volunteers of rank, although this decreased their fighting efficiency. The monarchy would fall if it had to rely on the people, who by nature and circumstances were bitterly hostile to it (No. 219). The universal discontent had been greatly intensified by the Dutch war (No. 309).
Upon the king's private life the references here are few and vague. There is mention of a great disturbance at Court over the duchess of Cleveland, obviously due to the rising favour shown to Louise de Kerouaille, though the latter lady is not mentioned (No. 171). Later on Buckingham is reported out of favour for interfering with the king's pleasures, again without any mention of the lady concerned (No. 331). For a man of easy temper and loose morals Charles showed himself remarkably sensitive to criticism. This appeared in his attitude to the Coventry affair, and his resentment against the Dutch was exacerbated by the satires and libels against him which were published in Holland (No. 222).
Although he no longer had any hope of an heir by the queen, Charles continued his relations with her. In June 1671 she removed her quarters from St. James' and took over the whole of Somerset House, with the intention of living there; but she continued to cohabit with the king at Whitehall (No. 66). But in the new year, about the time of the Cleveland disturbance, she was suffering from a mysterious illness. Alberti does not hesitate to insinuate that she was being poisoned and that she was aware of it. Sir Bernard Gascoigne, who had set out for Vienna to negotiate a marriage between the duke of York and the Archduchess Claudia of Innsbruck, had instructions not to hasten matters. If the queen's illness ended fatally he was to try to get the archduchess for the king instead (No. 171).
The question of the succession had come to the fore through the death of the duchess of York on 31 March, 1672. Besides her two daughters, she left only a sickly boy, already accounted dead, who followed his mother to the grave only ten weeks later. The duchess still lay unburied when the question of the duke's remarriage was actively canvassed. James's own fancy inclined first to the widowed countess of Falmouth and then to the countess of Sunderland. Both these alliances were vetoed by the king, who did not intend to allow his brother to lose popularity by marrying beneath him, as he had done before by his alliance with Anne Hyde (No. 110).
The king's attitude to this important question was for some time ambiguous and some suspected that he would not stop short of any means to provide himself with an heir (No. 50). But before the end of the year he had changed his mind. He became reconciled with his brother and consented to his remarrying at his pleasure (Nos. 107, 110).
In providing a suitable bride for James the Spaniards were the first in the field. It was their minister Oñate who by means of a third party suggested the Archduchess Claudia. He was told in reply that the duke would have to marry in accordance with the king's wishes. His own leanings were to Spain, though he allowed them to appear to be French (No. 43). On the French side the Ambassador Colbert put forward the name of the niece of the Cardinal de Retz; but the general unpopularity of the nation rendered an alliance with a Frenchwoman undesirable and the suggestion seems to have been dropped almost as soon as made.
Like his grandfather and father before him Charles was attracted by the idea of an alliance with the House of Austria. The first move was to be made by Sunderland at Madrid, where the project met with the approval of the queen and her Council (No. 169). The Spaniards hoped that it might be the means of fortifying the triple alliance and of detaching England from the French connection (No. 311). They believed the moment to be propitious for modifying the sentiments of England, owing to the scarcity of marriageable princesses suitable for such an alliance (No. 229). The queen regent therefore recommended the project at Vienna and the Spanish ambassador there took it up strongly. The lady's mother submitted herself absolutely to the emperor's wishes in the matter (Nos. 193, 227).
About the same time that Sunderland went to Madrid Gascoigne proceeded to Innsbruck, probably in order to see how the land lay. After a short turn in Italy, when he visited his native Florence, Gascoigne returned to Germany. He was sent to Vienna in the new year as being the person best fitted to discover the intentions of the emperor, and if the queen regent had written to Vienna in the same style that she used at Madrid, to hasten the completion of the business (No. 169).
Gascoigne reached Vienna early in June. The imperial Court showed no eagerness to open negotiations and he had to wait some time before he was received in audience by the emperor. Even then he only obtained a reply in general terms. The desire of the Spanish ambassador for the match did not find support in every quarter. The emperor inclined to be cautious and to await the issue of the war just begun.
In order to hasten a decision Gascoigne told some at Court that if his business did not prosper quickly his master would ask for the widowed duchess of Guise, who would have the support of France; but such talk served to hinder rather than to forward his mission (No. 238). Nevertheless, the emperor appointed the prince of Lobkowitz to treat with Gascoigne and when matters seemed to be dragging he ordered the prince not to be so stiff or obstructive (Nos. 245, 272).
There was no trouble over minor matters, but manifold difficulties arose upon the principal articles (No. 276). The Spanish ambassador wanted assurances that England would break away from France and that she should support the triple alliance for the defence of Flanders and make Louis withdraw his troops from the Rhine and the empire (No. 245). Gascoigne was more ready than his government to make concessions in this direction, and he took particular pains to conceal from Gremonville, the French ambassador, the particulars and all the steps of his negotiations (No. 311).
At last, in October, a contract was agreed upon, to be sent to London and Madrid for ratification. In accordance with this the bride was to enjoy the free exercise of her religion, in which the daughters were to be brought up, the sons to continue in that of their father. The Court was to provide the bride's mother with a pension of 120,000 florins a year, out of which she was to allow her daughter 30,000. On the mother's death the daughter would come into a dowry of 70,000 crowns.
On the completion of this agreement Gascoigne set out at once for Innsbruck to inform the Court there of what had been done and to make arrangements for the future (No. 311).
In England the match was desired with some impatience. As Spain did not support it with the energy desired there was some idea of forcing the pace by setting up an alternative in the person of the duke of Neuberg's daughter, a young lady endowed with fine qualities. This does not seem to have gone any further than a proposal to send a present of horses to the lady's father (No. 201). In July Charles wrote to the empress to enlist her help for the Innsbruck match (No. 254). In August the earl of Peterborough was chosen to go to Vienna. He told Alberti that the king had written definitely to ask for the hand of the archduchess, but if there was any chicanery he was to abandon the business and to leave the Court, as they did not intend to wait any longer or to purchase the match by further concessions (No. 270). In spite of this declaration the negotiations were continued, though the Court was much disheartened by the delays and difficulties encountered. The quality of the archduchess made them put up with all this, even though the portrait of the lady, received in exchange for that of James, caused some disappointment. From the reports of those who furthered the business they had looked for more beauty and greater delicacy (No. 222).
Towards the end of October the English Court was in momentary expectation of the arrival of a courier with news of a settlement. Peterborough hastened his preparations for the journey to Vienna because of the general eagerness for the result of an affair of such consequence to the Court and nation (No. 315). But when the terms reached London they were considered impossible, and some even advised the breaking off of the negotiations forthwith. This attitude was largely due to a secret article which involved an obligation of mutual assistance between the British king and the emperor whenever either of them might be obliged to draw the sword. Arlington protested that they could not pledge themselves to an impending war with the Turks, and threw over Gascoigne, although he was his friend and protégé. The conditions made it apparent that the Austrians were trying to use the alliance for the purpose of breaking the connection with France (Nos. 329, 340).
The duke of York was greatly distressed at the turn affairs had taken and laid the blame on the Spaniards (No. 338). At the same time he charged the marquis of Blanquefort, captain of his guards, who was going to France, to assure Louis that, notwithstanding any marriage with the archduchess, he would continue to encourage the king, his brother, to support France (No. 329). Instructions were accordingly sent to Gascoigne to get the terms modified and reduced to simple reciprocity. This proved no easy matter; the imperial ministers stood firmly to the original terms and the emperor showed no disposition to alter the scope of the treaty (No. 340). Thus at the close of the year 1672 the business had reached a complete deadlock.
After the fall of Clarendon, Arlington succeeded to the position of chief minister of the crown, in the capacity of secretary of state. His colleague, Sir John Trevor, did not cut such a figure, and indeed owed his appointment to Arlington. The king placed complete confidence in his secretary, to whom all the interests of the state were entrusted. In the transaction of business he was cautious and slow to act, but he was the most polite and obliging minister of the crown and all the foreign ministers courted him (pp. 67, 68). Upon his trusted shoulders the king shifted the burden of affairs (No. 93). He showed himself a warm defender of the royal policy, claiming that the king laboured incessantly for the advantage of the country. This was not appreciated, but it would be in spite of the libels put about by the Dutch (No. 235). In the year 1672 he received many marks of favour from the king's hand. He received an earldom and soon after was made a knight of the garter, succeeding to the stall rendered vacant by Sandwich's death. His daughter Isabella was married to Henry Fitzroy, reputed to be the king's son by the duchess of Cleveland.
But in spite of these favours Arlington's position at the end of 1672 was seriously threatened, though he still stood high in the king's favour. He had never been enthusiastic for the French alliance, and being married to a Dutch wife made him incline to sympathise with the cause of the Provinces. His cautious mind was alarmed by the signs of discontent over an unsuccessful and unpopular war, and he thought that the time had come for making peace and for breaking away from the French connection which was so much disliked in the country. As already recorded he went so far as to say that he would only recommend the continuance of the alliance so long as peace could be maintained with Spain. This seemed to him more important than anything else to keep the country quiet. To continue the war would only forward the interests of France. He accused Buckingham, who wished to continue the association with France, of advocating the interests of that country alone (No. 326).
The king, though discouraged by the thought of a protracted war, stood fast to the alliance (No. 328). With the assurance of royal support Buckingham was able to form a party in the Cabal against Arlington. He drew to his side Lauderdale, whom Arlington had offended over Scotch affairs, and could count on Shaftesbury, who was no great friend of the secretary. “Achitophel” had just succeeded in getting himself made chancellor, having rendered his services necessary. To make way for him the king had asked Bridgeman to resign the office of lord keeper. That minister is mentioned with respect by both Mocenigo and Alberti. His dismissal is attributed by the latter to his attachment to the laws and to his being possibly too fond of the liberties of the people (No. 329). Arlington had not the strength of character to stand to his guns. He at once threw over Gascoigne, who had gone too far in an anti-French direction at Vienna, and did his best to explain away his recent advocacy of peace.
This clash between Arlington and Buckingham made them stand out as declared enemies. Buckingham seemed to have gained the advantage, but he threw it away by offending the king in his private affairs. A favourite with the king, Buckingham also used all his arts to cultivate popularity and his eloquence made him a power in parliament. But his addiction to pleasure made him careless of the opportunities which his good fortune and brilliant talents offered him. Alberti describes him as very peculiar and difficult to deal with (No. 308).
These are the only outstanding personalities of whom these papers supply any noticeable particulars.
For a country about to go to war England was very slenderly provided with land forces. The regular army in time of peace amounted to no more than 4,000 to 5,000 horse and foot in England to supply the king's guards, a garrison at Windsor and certain places facing France. In Scotland there were 3,000 foot and a few horse, and in Ireland 6,000 foot and 1,000 horse (p. 56). During the alarm caused by the French king's proposed journey to Dunkirk the drum was beaten to supply fresh forces to send to the coast, but this was not carried out with any energy (No. 50). Later in the year, with war in sight, troops were being mustered, but chiefly for the purpose of manning the fleet (No. 107). At the beginning of the new year it was decided to send a regiment of foot to France under Monmouth (No. 155). This was to be raised especially for the purpose, while, at the same time, the king formed two additional infantry regiments. Monmouth's numbers proved very difficult to make up, but the king had no difficulty in finding recruits for his regiments, because they had the advantage of remaining in England (No. 195). A special regiment was raised by Prince Rupert, noticeable as being the first English soldiers to be armed with the bayonet (No. 315). Rupert showed his versatility and scientific skill by discovering a way to cast iron guns of the calibre of 50 pounds and upwards. They were coloured to look like brass, but were lighter and more serviceable than the brass ones and cost infinitely less (No. 161).
These papers contain frequent references to the desire of Venice to cultivate the best relations with England and to afford the most favourable treatment to British subjects. This is probably explained by the wish to revive the trade of the republic, which had suffered severely from the prolonged war of Candia. The sentiment did not prevent incidents and the merchants trading to the Ionian islands for currants made bitter complaints about the treatment they received. Off Argostoli in Cephalonia an English gunner, in firing a salute, loaded with ball, accidentally killed three rowers on board the galley of the Venetian Proveditore General. The gunner was immediately taken out of the ship and hanged. The incident created a painful impression in England, where such severity for a pure accident seemed excessive (No. 33).
Dodington, the English representative at Venice, began the year by complaining that, although the minister of a crowned head, he received no better treatment than the residents of dukes. The point was taken up in England with some warmth, but on its being explained that this was the usual practice of the republic, the matter dropped and Arlington intimated to Alberti his doubts about Dodington's discretion (No. 21).
In acting for the interests of his countrymen Dodington showed himself a zealous minister, and his activity is illustrated by the number of memorials which he presented in the Collegio. The subjects of these are: claims for money owing for the hire of ships during the war of Candia; fraudulent exactions from merchants, contrary to express orders from the Signory; a murderous attack upon William Pendarvis, a merchant at Zante, said to have been instigated by the Proveditore himself because Pendarvis refused to buy a quantity of damaged currants; another murderous attack threatened against a friend at the resident's own house; the refusal of a lawyer to accept affidavits coming from England on the ground that they were from people who professed the religion of Queen Elizabeth, and therefore could not be trusted.
For the most part the justice of Dodington's representations was admitted by the Signory and redress promised, while he received from them, more than once, assurances of their esteem for him personally and a desire to afford him every satisfaction. Dodington seems to have taken these at their face value and not to have realised what was going on behind his back and the complaints that were being made against him. The Senate appears to have thought, from Alberti's letters, that he was likely to be recalled on this account.
This expectation not being realised they tried another expedient. A charge was made that Dodington was abusing the foreign ministers' privilege of bringing in bread duty free for his own requirements, by ordering a surplus and selling it retail in the city, to the manifest detriment of the duties (No. 55). This recalls the case of Thomas Killigrew, accredited to the republic by Charles when in exile. When the republic decided to open diplomatic relations with the parliamentary government they took steps to get rid of Killigrew, in order to please them. Accordingly they accused Killigrew of abusing his privilege by importing meat and selling it retail, and on this pretext they expelled him from the city. (fn. 15) Alberti was instructed to make complaint about Dodington's alleged irregularity, with the additional charge that the resident harboured outlaws. Arlington asked for a statement in writing, which, after some demur, Alberti supplied. In the meantime Dodington stoutly defended himself both at Venice and in his letters home. He seems to have vindicated his character successfully, for no more is heard of the matter.
A few months later the Senate returned to the attack, complaining of the manner of Dodington's offices and suggesting that this arose from his mischievous disposition and was calculated to upset the friendly relations that it was desired to maintain between the two powers (No. 154). This was the result of another batch of memorials complaining of violence and injustice done to English merchants and of the failure to pay what was due for ships hired (No. 152).
This also produced no immediate effect, but four months later Arlington informed a friend of Alberti that the king intended to recall Dodington for certain misdemeanours (No. 201). There was a vague charge of tampering with seals and signatures, something was said about his having tried the patience of the Signory on previous occasions and the king referred to his restless character, in conversation with Alberti (No. 207).
Dodington was no favourite at Court and he had only escaped dismissal on a previous occasion through the parliamentary influence of his kinsmen the Temples. (fn. 16) Now, in the long interval of parliament, a suitable opportunity to get rid of him quietly was apparently seized. The duke of York told Alberti that he had never approved of sending Dodington to Venice and it had only been done to keep him away from London (No. 220). Arlington, on whom Dodington had counted for support, had told Alberti some time previously that if the Senate did not consider the demands made by the resident to be well founded, they were not to scruple to reject them (No. 174), an amazing abandonment of its representative by his government, of which the Senate was prompt to take note (No. 217).
It is clear that Arlington's conscience was not easy about this step because of its possible consequences. He asked Alberti not to talk about it, as the reasons were too prejudicial to the king's honour (No. 220). What they feared was that Dodington would declare that he had been removed for having advocated too zealously the interests of the nation. On behalf of the Court it was pretended that it had been done in the interest of friendly relations between England and Venice.
In place of Dodington the king selected Sir Thomas Higgons, who was expected to be acceptable to the republic. Arlington considered him so extremely soft that little could be expected from his mission (No. 242). The whole incident is significant of the lengths to which the anti-national policy of the king could go. Higgons was in no hurry to set out to his new post and he hung about the Court in the hope of getting some higher title than that of resident (No. 332).
Among the projects ventilated by Dodington at Venice was a proposal to appoint vice-consuls whose chief duty would be to prevent the seamen in English ships from being robbed by the bumboat men. The sailors were liable by such means to run into debt, and complications ensued. The proposal was not welcomed by the republic and a paper of Alberti sets forth the objections urged against it (Nos. 297, 298).
A more important question concerned the salary of the consul at Venice. The original arrangement had been to pay him by a consulage charge of 15 ducats on each ship. This was raised by the consul, Giles Jones, to 30 ducats, without the king's sanction. He had induced some easy going captains to sign, and the rest followed suit. In spite of this increase Jones's successor, George Hailes, found that on this basis he received a very inadequate remuneration, much less than was enjoyed by the consuls in Spain, Portugal and Leghorn or by other foreign consuls at Venice; the English ships trading to Venice only numbered some 20 or 25 of from 150 to 350 tons burthen.
To provide an adequate income for the consul Hailes suggested that, instead of the charge on ships, the duty should be imposed on their cargoes at the rate of a penny on the pound, ad valorem. A paper supplied by him gives details of the chief commodities brought to Venice and their estimated value (No. 307). The advantage of this for the English was that their cargoes were mostly commissioned by foreigners who would therefore pay the duty. There was also an advantage in insurances, as owing to the compact with the Algerines, the rate for English ships was half that required by the ships of other nations.
Hailes came to England in August 1672 and submitted his plan to Arlington. He also succeeded in securing support from merchants in London and at Yarmouth, the seat of the trade in salt fish. The proposed change was not favoured at Venice because they believed that it would hamper trade. It was therefore opposed by Alberti in London, who suggested an alternative method of charging the ships, but according to tonnage instead of a fixed rate. Without official support from his government he could not come out into the open, but he encouraged the resistance of the merchants who were opposed to the change. He believed that if the republic would only take action and if the proposal encountered opposition at Venice, it would at once fall through (No. 306). But the Senate would not venture upon so decisive a policy and they merely instructed Alberti to see to it that the charge did not fall upon goods (No. 314). They counted on the opposition from the merchants to do all that was necessary (No. 320).
Hailes left for Venice before any decision had been taken but he left an agent to attend to the matter. In due course the agent presented a petition to the Council in favour of the plan and the Council referred the question to the Council of Trade. That body sent for the petitioners as well as their opponents, among whom the members of the Levant Company figured prominently. On the main question the Council ruled that it was reasonable that the consul should have an income of 300l. a year. They told the merchants to consider how this might be managed, threatening otherwise to impose an even heavier burden (No. 330). Faced with this the members of the Levant Company considered paying the consul a fixed salary of 300l. to be drawn from the 1,600l. which they derived from the licenses granted to non-members for permission to engage in the currant trade (No. 339). In the end the Council decided to authorise Hailes's plan, but that result is not recorded in these papers. Up to the last moment Alberti seems to have been under the impression that the consul's suit would fail.
Although looked on askance at Court Dodington had devoted himself to serving the interests of the English merchants and to the promotion of trade. In an interview with the ex-ambassador Mocenigo he suggested the organisation of the currant trade by the formation of a company, to eliminate competition and fix a price each year by an arrangement between ministers as well as a lowering of duties, which would encourage the salt fish exporters in England to send all their fish for Italy through Venice instead of Leghorn, where the charges were lower (No. 31). Exalting the value of English trade in the Collegio, he told them that it was more profitable to the republic than that of France, Spain, Portugal and Holland taken together (No. 152). Before his recall he had drafted articles for a commercial treaty between the two powers, which were sent to the Levant Company for their comments (No. 150). Arlington seems to have intended to forward this treaty in the hope of disarming any dissatisfaction of the merchants at Dodington's recall (No. 242). More urgent demands prevented him from attending to the matter as he wished, but he asked the merchants to ponder the question (No. 291).
Alberti, on his side, was also on the alert to seize opportunities for promoting trade. Among other things he suggested that the republic might encourage the exportation of raw silk to be made up in England. The English manufactures would not compete with the rich stuffs made at Venice, as they only consisted of ribbons, stockings and such things (Nos. 319, 327). A quarrel between Buckingham, who had a monopoly, and the mirror makers suggested to him that it might afford an opportunity for reviving the trade in Venetian glass, which had been almost completely killed by the heavy duties imposed. He reports that only 20 cases of Venetian drinking glasses came to London in a year, instead of 300 as in the past (Nos. 308, 342).
Trade from Venice to England was hampered by the Navigation Acts and by the extra duties imposed on aliens. The Senate believed that the negotiation of a commercial treaty might lead to a modification of these restrictions, for which their own merchants were petitioning (No. 275). The currant trade with the Ionian Islands, which played the leading part in the trade between England and Venice, suffered from the ill treatment of the merchants and from the extortions practised in the islands. Dodington had gone so far as to inform the Collegio that on this account the Levant Company was considering the suspension of the trade altogether (No. 73). The cogency of this threat was demonstrated a year later when, owing to the war, Zante was in great distress through the falling off of trade. A third of the currant crop remained unsold and the price had fallen from 40 to 25 reals the thousand (No. 194).
While parliament was sitting the Lords had discussed the prohibition of all foreign manufactured goods, but encountered difficulties because many articles were found to be necessary for the home trade (No. 4). Another suggestion was to put a tax on currants, but these proposals came to nothing owing to the prorogation. England owed her great commercial position, wrote Alberti, not merely to her geographical position but to her enterprise (No. 294). Both he and Mocenigo explain the national system of trading by companies. The latter estimates the number of merchantmen possessed by the nation as from 3,000 to 4,000. Tangier was highly valued in spite of its heavy cost. Friendly relations established with the Moorish ruler Gayland helped to make it more secure (No. 333). Besides its value for trade it was useful as a base for operations against the corsairs. Galleys built at Genoa and Pisa were to be stationed there for the purpose (No. 83). Spragge's operations against these pests had achieved considerable success. In reviewing what had been done the king stated that since the war began the corsairs had lost 22 ships and had only about ten left, while the English had not lost so much as a pinnace (No. 71). Nevertheless the merchants complained that the interests of the country were being sacrificed for the sake of glory. Arlington seemed to regret that England should have to bear the whole cost of what was for the general good, and intimated that this would justify a separate peace for her own particular advantage (No. 83). At the beginning of the Dutch war the king, recognising the need to preserve trade, dispensed with the service of a number of seamen who might have been pressed for the fleet (No. 207). Convoy was provided for merchantmen at the royal cost, but they were required to pay a tax of 3 per cent. (No. 330).
A brief reference will suffice for a few miscellaneous items. On Lord Mayor's day 1671 the king inspected the city, the handsomest part of which had been rebuilt with greater magnificence since the fire (No. 114). In July 1672 new copper farthings were issued from the royal mint, to replace the private tokens in use (No. 268). The refusal of Capt. Jennings of the royal navy to salute the fortress at Civita Vecchia led to an incident there (Nos. 119, 120). This may have contributed to the disgrace of Jennings when he reached home, though it was not the reason given (No. 155). The Danish resident Gjoe roused the king's ire by a memorial in which he attacked the probity of the officials of the Admiralty Court of Scotland (No. 336). Alberti records the king's deep hatred for Monterey, the Spanish governor of Flanders, without being able to assign a cause for it (No. 259). The Ambassador Contarini, writing from Madrid, says that Godolphin, thanks to the king, had maintained his position against the attacks made on him in parliament for having embraced Catholicism (No. 122). It is interesting to note in this connection that in a letter to Arlington six months earlier (fn. 17) Godolphin denies the truth of this report and attributes its circulation to Molina. There are two items on the national character to end the list. They rush blindly into the fire, regardless of the issue, and will never learn a profitable lesson from the enemy's tactics; yet their desperate courage will always give them the victory over the Dutch (No. 241). The other; if they do not find things easy at first, they rarely try, by patience and diligence, to persevere with them (No. 296).
In conclusion I wish to express my thanks for the attention and assistance which I have received from the officials at the Frari and at the library of St. Mark in Venice.
A. B. HINDS.