Venice
February 1671

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Institute of Historical Research

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Allen B. Hinds (editor)

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1939

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14-23

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'Venice: February 1671', Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 37: 1671-1672 (1939), pp. 14-23. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=90305 Date accessed: 30 October 2014.


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February 1671

Feb. 6.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
15. Girolamo Alberti, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
After a long consultation between the king and the cabinet ministers upon the memorial of the Spanish ambassador, a decision was reached but little to the satisfaction of the Count de Molina, who by trying to keep it secret and urging the ministers accordingly, has aroused still greater curiosity on the subject. Through an intimate friend I succeeded in obtaining the enclosed reply made by the king to the emperor, but was unable to elicit from him the project for including the latter in the alliance and guarantee. He merely told me that as the emperor 's interest was confined to maintaining the peace of Aix la Chapelle, offering scant succour and asking for strong support in the event of attack from France, England did not choose, for the sake of his guarantee, to take her forces into the heart of Germany, as her greatest efforts would have to be made by the fleet. In the meantime I can confirm that with the Court claiming that the emperor and Spain are subject to general complaint on this account, they give the French ambassador a flower to savour while affirming that they are maintaining impartiality and are merely defenders of the peace of Aix la Chapelle.
I learned this much from Colbert himself, who told me with a smile that he had sounded the ministers about the defensive alliance between England and Holland and did not find them so indifferent about it as he could have wished. This corresponds with what I wrote about the promises given to Van Beuningen at his departure.
To avoid wearying your Excellencies I will not detail the great stir between the bishop of Munster and the duke of Wolfenbuttel, (fn. 1) because as yet it only concerns England, without rendering her a party to the dispute, of which the Senate will hear from elsewhere. The fire kindled in the Lower House over Coventry happily proved to be one of straw, although as that body is composed of people and nobles who call themselves his partisans, the matter seemed inflammable, especially as it was a question of defending the liberty of the subject and of restraining the king from punishing by his own authority those who use foul language in parliament.
His Majesty's prudence and the Court party have succeeded in inducing the members again to discuss seriously the money grant. After much difficulty they have decided to impose
105 taxes, of which the fifteen most important are already arranged. It has also been decided that the money of individuals put out at interest and the stock in trade of the shops shall be taxed, lest by burdening the land alone the soil remain uncultivated, because it is more heavily burdened than any other kind of property. In such a way the indigenous wealth of the country would diminish and all its capital would be embarked in commerce, which is not exempt from accident and loss.
The Ambassador Colbert did not long delay the grand entertainment destined by him for the Court, and with extreme pomp he made royal provision of every luxury that France could produce. (fn. 2) As the king and queen with some chosen persons of rank are preparing a grand ballet at the Court, the Spanish ambassador, moved by his own high spirit and by emulation, will not fail to follow the example.
London, the 6th February, 1670. [M.V.] [Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosure.16. Carolus D. G. Mag. Brit. etc. Rex, Seren. Principi Leopoldo, Romanorum Imp. etc. Salutem: Seren. Principe, Majori quam dici possit gaudio Caesarei V. Maj. litteras Novemb. jam prox. elapsi die 24 datas accepimus, ex quibus plane percepimus adeoque ut de eo dubitari nullo modo potuerit quam sincere et exanimo Maj. V. Caes. dispositam se profitetur ad pacis Aquisgranensem sustentendam stabiliendamque unde illa totius orbis Christiani ex eo tempore defluxit, et a qua nos etiam (id quod fixum statutum que apud nos esse credat Maj. V. Caes. petimus) nulla consilia aut emolumenta quaecumque unquam procuerint dimovere. Una cum litteris Maj. V. Caes. superius memoratis accepimus pariter ab ipsius plenipotentiariiis Hagae comitum jam residentibus Dominis Francesco Libero Barone de Lisola, et Joanne de Kramprich projectum quoddam, non solum ab iis quae in Maj. V Caes. litteris continentur diversum, verum etiam quod ex se in actum deduci non potest uti vobis visum, suadentque rationes quas ad supradictos ipsos plenipotentiarios transmitti fecimus, quobus etiam rebus mature perpendis projectum illud hinc communicandum duximus quo solo mediante Maj. V Cases, in partem garantiae pacis Acquisgranencis propere venire posse videtur. Quumque Maj. V Caes. se ita dictae pacis sponsorem declaverit (quod ut faceret serio petimus) paratos promptosque nos habitura esse ad ea omnia perlubenti animo amplectenda accipiendaque quaecumque demum ulterius proponenda occurrant ad confederationem nexumque inter Maj. V. Caes. ac nos constringendumque qualisque ad pacem orbis Christiani stabiliendam firmandamque ad imperii Romani gloriam regnorumque eorum commodumque, sub potestate nostra possint superamus rerum arbiter, faciat et conducat maxime etque insuper fine quo palam orbi argumento esse possit quantopere quamdiu desideravimus vinculo propriore Caes. V. Maj. socios adjungi, quam interim Dei Opt. Max. tutamini ex animo commendamus.
Datae e Palatio nostro Westmonasterii Jan. die 20 A.D. 1670/1.
Amantissimus frater et consanguineus, Carolus R.
Feb. 13.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
17. Girolamo Alberti, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Acknowledges ducali of the 3rd, 10th and 16th ult. and the permission to keep the king's present.
I have carefully considered the demands made by the Resident Darington and when the secretary of state gives me an opportunity I will enlarge upon the republic's predilection for this nation and extol your Serenity's renewal of the orders affecting English sailors.
I do not believe that Lord Arlington will speak to me about reducing the duty on saltfish, asked by Darington for his countrymen alone. I may say that a leading merchant who broached the topic to me, said he was glad that the suit failed, because the knowledge of what has been done would stir your Serenity's subjects to claim reciprocity in the grant of some privilege now enjoyed by Englishmen. He hinted that Venetian ships might easily carry currants from Zante and take back from London to Venice several sorts of merehandise, were it not that aliens are forbidden here to bring any other produce than that of their own country, while they have to pay extraordinary duties for both exports and imports. Many other persons share this opinion, but as I anticipate that your Excellencies will not grant the English this monopoly, reducing the supply or leading the republic to demand some equivalent from England, I shall avail myself of the information to quiet any complaints that may be made and imply that your Serenity might ask a privilege for your own subjects though I know that it would be impossible ever in any way to invalidate statutes in favour of the English, which they have made their birthright, and they would fancy that only four Venetian ships a year might destroy the whole of their trade.
A few days ago ships arrived here from Zante and Cephalonia with a cargo of currants and one of the owners told me that he was happy to say that he had not paid the real per thousand. The other owners are unknown to me and they say nothing. With regard to the bonds required for that duty, which according to the Ambassador Falconbridge is very vexatiously levied, I have heard many persons say that as no easier way could be devised for guaranteeing the customs and preventing fraud it was right to put up with it. I am not surprised at this for the king here takes a bond from every ship that loads in America and goes straight to foreign parts, as well as from all ships lading goods in any part of England that wish to dispense with the permits of the chief contractors in London, who farm all his Majesty's duties. I may add that I have not met with any great reluctance over the currant bond though those who discuss the matter with me here may be less eager about the common weal than certain merchants at Venice who warm to their own private interests, as usual.
London, the 13th February, 1670. [M.V.]
[Italian.]
Feb. 13.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
18. Girolamo Alberti, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Ambassador Morosini at Paris will doubtless have reported what hopes there are of peace; but owing to the determination of the king of France to harass the allies more than ever, the English government does not know how to resume confidential relations with either Spain or Holland, as they are suspected of a secret understanding with France, who is unable to promise peace to the one or to convince the other of her friendship. This is the basis on which the foreign ministers are all negotiating, one against the other, employing a variety of arguments which would weary your Excellencies. Yet in spite of this it seems that the Spaniards are beginning to consider themselves safe, partly from reliance on the Most Christian's promise and partly from their own forces and the designs reported. But they are now beginning to torment themselves from love for their neighbours and foretell the ruin of Holland saying that if England deserts the United Pro vinces now by not supporting Flanders during this year she would of necessity lend a hand next year to destroy them.
These are all conceits which circulate as they arrive in letters from Brussels, where the warmth hard by increases the irritation. But Molina, who found me two days ago half acquainted with the negotiation about the alliance, admitted the purport of the reply to the emperor and that the project of inclusion exempted the allies from any counter guarantee in the event of the emperor being attacked. He complained that every other half measure was rejected although the king seemed disposed to receive the emperor on any terms. He, Molina, had therefore written in another style, endeavouring to convince Baron de Lisola that it was desirable that this crown and the alliance itself should not become embarrassed with so many treaties and securities. But the Spaniards will have further trouble to induce the emperor to consent.
While all these negotiations are in progress and the general apprehension relates solely to Holland or to certain fortresses on the Rhine and thereabouts, the governor of Flanders attends to nothing but military preparations. He is forming stockades by felling trees, he is mining Genappes in Brabant and fortifying even Brussels. To preserve discipline among the troops and quiet in the Provinces he is assigning to the men 8 months' pay, issued punctually, in one year. All this activity may be attributed to excitement on his first entry into office.
As reported last week the excitement in the Commons had subsided, but with so many differences over public interests and the principles of good government, the ancient and irreconcileable antipathy between the Lords and Commons still predominates, their natures being different. The Upper House has ventured to put its fingers into the ashes while still hot, and to make strong amendments to the bill with respect to the period allotted for the appearance of the culprits who made their escape. They fixed the term at one month, from the date of the king's assent, which in practice means never, his Majesty, for many reasons, being unwilling to punish the delinquents. The Commons took offence at this and again threaten to suspend public business. In the mean time it has been decided that those who will lend money to the king at interest are not only to be exempt from the tax of one per cent. already mentioned but to receive 7 per cent. from his Majesty, which is one per cent. more than the ordinary legal interest, and is in fact 8 per cent.; on the best security.
London, the 13th February, 1670. [M.V.]
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Feb. 16.
Collegio,
Secreta.
Esposizioni,
Principi.
Venetian
Archives.
19. The French ambassador came into the Collegio and said: his king, persuaded of the virtue of moderation, had decided, in spite of the justice of his claims against Spain, and his ability to make them good by arms, at the pressing instance of the kings of England and Sweden, for a prolungation of the time for arbitration about Condé, Linti fort and the dependencies of Niuport. He has consented to this, so that the arguments may be the better examined and a definite judgment pronounced, on condition that in such arbitration no other matter whatsoever shall be dealt with. His sole motive in this has been his desire for the preservation of peace, when the conduct of the Spaniards would have persuaded him to act quite differently.
[Italian.]
Feb. 18.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Francia.
Ventian
Archives.
20. Zuane Moresini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Up to the present his Britannic Majesty seems averse from joining his instances to those of the emperor in the present case. Some difficulty that has arisen in London about admitting his imperial Majesty into the triple alliance makes it seem likely that England is far from feeling inclined to walk in step with the imperial Court. I enclose copies of letters from King Charles II to the emperor and from Arlington to the baron Lisola of the 20th January.
Paris, the 18th February, 1670. [M.V.]
[Italian.]
Feb. 20.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
21. Girolamo Alberti, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Immediately on receiving the ducali of the 24th January I went to acquiat the secretary of state with the favour conceded to the ships Scipio and Leghorn Merchant, as well as the renewal of the order for the better treatment of English seamen. Without any reference to the Signory's good will and promptitude Arlington said that the Resident Darington wrote that he could only obtain disparaging treatment from your Serenity, and he was treated like the residents of the inferior powers. (fn. 3) The king took this amiss, and he told me that if there was any innovation his Majesty could not leave the resident at Venice. Surprised at this I said I could not understand how Mr. Darington could make these complaints after so considerable a lapse of time, especially as he received daily proofs of the republic's complaisance towards him personally, of regard for the English nation and of the best possible understanding with his Majesty. I had never heard a word of this matter of ceremonial. Thereupon, with the confidential familiarity with which he treats me, Arlington said he was not so ignorant as to suppose that the Senate, so prudent and moderate, would injure the dignity of so friendly a crown, nor had he entire confidence in the discretion of the resident.
The conference ended thus yesterday, Arlington being overwhelmed with important business. I venture to add two remarks: first Darington's tardy complaints show that he wants to change his place or to raise his status at Venice. Second, the readiness to recall him shows that the government is not anxious to keep him there, as what has happened would not merit so sudden a resolve, and they do not think very highly of him at this Court. My interview with Lord Arlington was very opportune, for what your Excellencies have done was not taken into the slightest account and God knows how the resident represented it. I shall therefore take a fitting opportunity to impress on his Excellency more fully the advantages confirmed to the English nation, pointing out that while at Venice the currant trade is relieved from every possible burden, there is a project here for charging it. I hear at this moment that parliament is thinking of a fresh tax, besides the increase already reported, not at the time of importation but when the goods are sold by the grocers or wholesale dealers, who buy up all the currants and distribute them among the retailers.
I shall not do more than drop a hint until the receipt of definite instructions, although the steps taken in the interval by the Grocers Company can only be retracted with immense difficulty, as they care for nothing but their own interest, and so far I do not find that the measure will prejudice the course of the usual trade.
The distrust mentioned in my last still shows itself in the discussions between the foreign ministers and the cabinet here. The Spaniards are no longer anxious about their own affairs, feeling safe for next year, and they occupy themselves about those of the Dutch for the present year, considering them practically Spanish. They believe that England means to desert the United Provinces, that she has an understanding with France and that the King here will seize the opportunity to forward the interests of his nephew, the prince of Orange, who is now in London. But while I would not guarantee the grant of considerable succour to Holland from England, a variety of circumstances convince me that there is no secret treaty on foot here with France, the idea of any intrigue against the United Provinces being the more unlikely since their ruin would fall upon the king's arms; and though he does not love the States or their trade, he does not think that he could destroy it by crushing and changing their government. The distrust of the Spaniards proceeds from the affair of the alliance, with reference to the emperor. But the English, being averse from vast pledges, consider the confines of the Spanish monarchy, which they are bound to defend, a responsibility already too great, without binding themselves to defend those of the emperor as well, knowing that a diversion at sea would not suffice.
The two Houses are not yet agreed about the Coventry bill and the money grant is consequently suspended; but the Commons, perceiving that obstinacy might expose them to the danger of coercion, seem inclined to compromise and to leave Sir John Coventry, with his scarred nose, as an example to others.

London, the 20th February, 1670. [M.V.]
[Italian, the part in italics deciphered.]
Feb. 21.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Firenze.
Venetian
Archives.
22. Ottaviano Valier, Venetian Resident at Florence, to the Doge and Senate.
The English resident called at this house and gave me a quantity of news. I learned to my infinite sorrow of the wreck of the ship Speranza which took place as he believes in the gulf of England with the loss of the baggage of His Excellency Piero Mocenigo, late ambassador with his Britannic Majesty. I understand that the total amount of the loss may come to 20,000 ducats as a cargo of other goods of the highest importance was included.
Florence, the 21st February, 1670. [M.V.]
[Italian.]
Feb. 23.
Collegio,
Secreta.
Esposizioni,
Principi.
Venetian
Archives.
23. The secretary of the English resident came to the doors of the Collegio and asked to speak with a secretary. I went by order of the Savii and he said that two English gentlemen had arrived in Venice, the one son of the lord Treasurer and the other Colonel Guasconi. On their entering the city 106 thalers were taken from them by boat officials. They applied to the resident to obtain restitution. He went to the Proveditori of gold and money, but they said they knew nothing about it. He then went to the Inquisitor sopra Dacii, in whose magistracy he understood the thalers were but was told that the money could not be restored without positive orders from the state. (fn. 4) Accordingly the secretary asked in the resident's name for orders for the restitution. This being reported to the Savii I was directed to tell the secretary that they would have inquiry made.
[Italian.]
Feb. 25.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Spagna.
Venetian
Archives.
24. Carlo Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Here they are watching the procedure of England with close attention as being the principal register that holds the alliance together. The government has heard with peculiar satisfaction of the commotion in the Lower House of parliament in London, produced by the news of the journey of the Most Christian into Flanders and of his passage to Dunkirk. But while this news is gratifying they are especially observing the peculiar behaviour of his Britannic Majesty, in their apprehension of his captious procedure in case, with simulated goodwill, he only means to extort from parliament the satisfaction he claims and that done, change his tune.
Madrid, the 25th February, 1671.
[Italian.]
Feb. 27.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
25. Girolamo Alberti, Venetian.Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
I had a fresh opportunity of seeing the secretary of state and telling him what had been done for English subjects, eliciting from him assurances of the king's appreciation and readiness to reciprocate. I took this opportunity to refer to the new burdens proposed for the currant trade hinting that the Senate might think it necessary to take steps to prevent injury to the trade. Calling his secretary Williamson, who is a member of the House of Commons, Arlington learned from him that nothing had been settled save the first trifling duty, and charged him to keep on the watch for any fresh projects for taxing currants, and if necessary to inform the House of the advantages conceded by the republic to the English. I cannot yet say what effect this order may have had; but I may add that he did not say a single word about the privilege for salt fish.
With regard to the resident's treatment Arlington merely said that Darington's last letters said nothing about it. He was convinced of the Senate's prudence and esteem for this crown, and friendly relations would certainly endure so long as the king's dignity was not offended. He could not give me more formal assurances until I received more definite replies. This confirms my belief that he does not place entire confidence in the resident, for he would hardly have placed himself in my hands had he thought he could trust Darington's sincerity.
The differences between the Houses over Coventry being adjusted, they immediately proceeded to the question of money, and having decided on the grant of 800,000l. the bill is awaited. In the mean time the Lower House has been speaking strongly against the liberty accorded to the Catholics in England.
The Spaniards do not hesitate to hint to their partisans in the House of Commons that when once the money is granted the king will use it arbitrarily, deceiving parliament, whose intention, when making the offer, was to maintain the peace of Europe and the tranquillity of commerce, which is so important for England. They hoped to get the members to demand assurances from the king that if Spain and Holland were attacked he would oppose France, more than ever suspicious of a secret agreement and foreseeing that once Holland is lost or her territory occupied there will be no escape or retreat for Spanish Flanders.
Your Serenity will understand how much amiss the king took these perilous offices, which aim at exasperating the public mind, not yet firm in its allegiance, so that caution is more than ever necessary on the part of his Majesty, who knows perfectly well that the Spaniards and Dutch, having France armed in front of them, would fain make England jump the ditch also and then have it in their power to desert her when she is committed.
Some umbrage was caused this week by the news of an adjustment between the Most Christian and Holland (fn. 5) ; but it arose solely from the suspicions spread abroad, and the king will not ally himself with France on this account, since he knows it to be his interest to remain with the allies so long as they stand firm; and if they vacillate he will always be in time to take the upper hand with them, continuing in the mean time to hold the threat of war over their heads, as at present.
The sudden departure of Orange after this intelligence is worthy of consideration. (fn. 6) It is believed that he acts thus to deprive Holland of the pretext for suspecting him of the projects mentioned last week, time will bring the truth to light.

After a long travail the duchess of York has at length been delivered of a daughter, (fn. 7) and hopes are entertained of her speedy convalescence, which is also desired by the whole Court, for her son, the duke of Cambridge, the next heir to the crown, has long been in ill health.
London, the 27th February, 1670. [M.V.]
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]

Footnotes

1 The bishop insisted that the duke should withdraw a garrison which he had put into Hoxter. London Gazette, Feb. 9–13, 1670, o.s.
2 The king and queen were entertained by Colbert at York House on 23 Jan., o.s., Cal. S.P. Dom., 1671, page 43.
3 In a letter to Arlington of 24 Feb., o.s., Dodington states the case thus: “My reception in the Collegio is the same practised towards the imperial, French and Spanish residents. My scruple was that ducal residents should have the very same treatment also. But sic fuit a principio. I am endeavouring to make a pass in them in this matter, encouraged to it by the ambassadors here and invited by some leading men in the Collegio, who say I have reason on my side.” S.P. Venice, Vol. xlix, f. 74.
4 The travellers were Sir Bernard Gascoigne and Thomas Clifford. Gascoigne thus describes the circumstances: “At Venice our treatment was not so good. Coming from Padua in a noble man of Venice's bark … entering in the lagune. a bark of sbirros entered our boat and most uncivilly searched us and our servants, and finding nothing but some old linen, took from Mr. Clifford 48 raistallers and from me 58, under protest that tallers are prohibited moneys. … We complained to Mr. Dorington, who sent his secretary to the magistrat.” S.P. Venice, Vol. xlix, f. 53. Writing to Williamson on Feb. 11/21 Dodington said that he was going to the Collegio in two days to set the matter right, and asked that no words should be made of the incident to the Venetian Resident. Ibid., f. 63. The money was restored, by order of the Senate, on March 6, n.s., Ibid., f. 75.
5 “Le Roi d'Angleterre me dit hier au soir, en souriant, que toute la ville et le parlement etaient alarmés d'un traite qu'on disait que V.M. avait fait avec la Hollande. Je lui disais que j'étais bien assuré que cette alarme ne passerait pas jusques à lui. Il me repondait que j'avais raison, et qu'il ne doutait jamais de la parole de V.M.; mais qu'il n'était pas faché que ce bruit la courut. Il est vrai qu'il est fort repandu partout et pourait bien venir de la Cour même, pour hâter les deliberations du parlement.” Colbert to the king, 18 Feb., 1671, P.R.O. Paris Transcripts.
6 He left London on Feb. 13, o.s. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1671, pp. 81, 85.
7 On the 9/19 February. London Gazette, Feb. 9–13, 1670/1. Afterwards christened Katherine. She died on 6/16 December, the same year.