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affairs no less than the urgent need of retrenchment and reform at home called for the greatest caution; and we must therefore take a brief survey of the international situation, which, as will appear, determined Pitt's action in the Dutch Question.
A perusal of the letters of Pitt, Carmarthen and Harris at this time shows the extreme difficulty of gaining an ally for the beaten and discredited island power. Proposal after proposal was made to Vienna and Petersburg only to be waved aside or rudely repulsed. It is significant of the deep distrust haunting the courts of London and Berlin, that, with the exception of the tentative overtures made through Cornwallis, no advances were made by either of these governments. Resentment at the events of 1761 was too keen at Berlin, and suspicion of Frederick's supposed designs on Hanover was too rife at Windsor, for any friendly intercourse. British ministers and their envoys alike believed that either Russia or Austria was their natural ally. Of the two, Russia was preferred, an alliance with Emperor Joseph II. being valued mainly because it would dissolve the "unnatural" union of the houses of Hapsburg and Bourbon. The letters and memoranda which passed between Pitt and Carmarthen show that the two statesmen were in general agreement, except that Pitt adhered more resolutely to a peaceful policy and felt rather less animus against France than his foreign minister. This was especially the case in the year 1786, the year of the commercial treaty with France. Even then, however, Pitt felt suspicious of French policy, as his letters to Eden amply show.5
The position was therefore exceedingly difficult in the years 1785 and 1786. The hostility of France was always to be feared; she had the alliance of Emperor Joseph II.; and he in his turn was closely connected, though not by any formal treaty, with Catharine II. Further, when George III. in his electoral capacity joined the Fürstenbund (August, 1785), those sovereigns manifested their annoyance in a very marked degree. Yet so deep-seated was the mutual distrust of the courts of London and Berlin that, despite the efforts of Hertzberg and of Ewart, the British secretary of legation at Berlin, no advance was made toward an Anglo-Prussian entente. In fact the two states felt almost identical reasons for moving with extreme caution, namely, that any decided action might lead to the formation of a triple alliance between the imperial courts and France. On August 8, 1785, Carmarthen wrote to Harris setting forth the threatening language of Woronzoff, Russian ambassador at London, as to the hostile compact which Catharine II. would
form with France as well as Austria in case Hanover joined the Fürstenbund.? The threats were very properly scorned by George III.; but the danger was so far real as to impose the greatest caution. Harris was so imbued by the anti-Prussian spirit prevalent in the British diplomatic service that, in a "private" letter of August 23, 1785, to Carmarthen, he replied in the following jaunty terms: “As for the King of Prussia, if he is sincere, he will die; if not, he will of course deceive us; in both cases he should be used only as a tool; and by being forced to speak out himself, compel others to declare themselves.” On September 9 he informed Carmarthen that he had striven hard to convince the Princess of Orange that England would help her more than Prussia would. He hoped greatly to gain her confidence-"as, if ever Europe recovers its senses sufficiently to admit of the formation of a wise system, the great remora which would stand in the way of this country (the Dutch Netherlands) becoming part of it would be the Princess of Orange's predilection for Prussia.”'8
On October 9, 1785, at the time when France was about to mediate between the emperor and the Dutch Netherlands respecting the Scheldt and Maestricht disputes, Harris sent to Carmarthen two memoirs. The former referred to plans for retarding the course of that mediation and the projected Franco-Dutch treaty; in the latter he thus described the measures which should be used for the recovery of Great Britain's position in Europe:
HAGUE, October 12, 1785. In order ultimately to separate the House of Austria from that of Bourbon, which ought to be the chief and systematick pursuit of Great Britain, no approaches should at this moment be made towards forming an alliance either with Prussia or the Emperor, but a sufficient degree of intimacy kept up at both these Courts to leave them hopes that they will make part of a system we wish to form with Russia, towards which Court all our negotiations ought to be directed. We may safely tell the Empress that she labours under a glaring error in supposing that the accession of Hanover to the German League is an obstacle in the way of an alliance between Her Imperial Majesty and Great Britain. That it does not even militate against an alliance with the Emperor, and that it by no means amounts to a proof, as her Ministers affect to say, that England is determined at all rates [sic] to unite itself with Prussia. That the recent friendly and confidential overtures made at Petersburg, and which went even to an indirect proposal of a Triple Alliance with the two Imperial Courts, prove beyond a doubt that a contrary opinion prevails in the English Cabinet, and that it depended on the Emperor alone, if he had known how to set a just value on the friendly offers which came from thence, to have consolidated the most wise and most salutary system he can ever adopt.
* Brit. Mus., Add. MSS., 28060. & Ibid.
That, whatever the sentiments of His Imperial Majesty may be at this moment, England, in order to give the Empress of Russia an undoubted instance of confidence, and with a view to do away [with] the very unjustifiable suspicions she seems disposed to entertain, does not scruple to say under the seal of the greatest secrecy, that no thoughts exist in the minds of the British Ministers of entering into any systematick engagements with the Court of Berlin, unless compelled to them by events. That to leave no doubt of the veracity of this assertion, the Court of London is ready to conclude immediately a separate treaty of defensive alliance with Russia and Denmark on such conditions as Her Imperial Majesty may deem the most advantageous to their common interests and best adapted to the present times. It will be then evident that England cannot have any engagements contrary to the interests of Russia either in Germany or elsewhere, particularly as the Empress herself acknowledges the Treaties of Westphalia and Teschen to be sufficient suretys for the Germanic constitution.
Should this Triple Alliance succeed, besides the weight England would derive from having a footing on the Continent, it will greatly tend to facilitate the putting an end to the Treaty of 1756," since not only the insinuations of the Empress may greatly contribute to open the Emperor's eyes, but also his fears will be awakened, and he will be apprehensive that, if he refuses a connection with England, when that Court has formed one with Petersburg, [that] his interests there must sink and those of the King of Prussia rise.o
It is not a little curious that the diplomatist who three years later won fame and a peerage by his skilful framing of an Anglo-Prussian alliance at Loo, should here scout the idea of such a connection. Carmarthen returned a brief but friendly answer; and the British Foreign Office continued to angle vainly for support at the two imperial courts, even when Frederick William II. succeeded to the crown of the Hohenzollerns (August 17, 1786). In truth, that event made little difference in the relations of Prussia to Great Britain and Holland. The new monarch repulsed the entreaties of his sister, the Princess of Orange, for help. The Prussian envoy at the Hague, Thulemeyer, continued to intrigue with the Patriots, against the Stadholder; so that finally the princess begged Frederick William to impose on Thulemeyer at least a policy of neutrality. 12
In such circumstances the active intervention of Great Britain would have been worse than useless. Carmarthen aimed chiefly at weakening the Austro-French compact, but with little success. 13 It was therefore in vain that Sir James Harris continued to assure
• The alliance between France and Austria framed chiefly by Kaunitz.
u Lecky, V. 80, is incorrect in saying that his accession made a great change. No change was observable till June-July, 1787.
12 F. 0., Prussia, no. 11, Dalrymple to Carmarthen, April 21, 1787.
18 Political Memoranda of the Duke of Leeds, edited by Mr. Oscar Browning, pp. 106, 107.
ministers that the United Provinces were about to fall under the control of France. The successful inroads of the Patriots on the Stadholder's power aroused little interest at Whitehall; and when Harris came over to give ministers fuller information on these complex affairs, Pitt still adhered strictly to his policy of neutrality, though a majority of ministers now desired actively to intervene. 14 All that was done was to vote a sum of £20,000 for secret use by the provinces loyal to the Stadholder; on June 10 the further sum of £70,000 was accorded to Harris for that purpose. 15
It is at this point, shortly before the crisis arrived, that we may expand the narrative, adding those parts of the most important despatches which throw light on the situation.
On his return to the Hague, Harris found that the Patriots had gained complete mastery of Amsterdam; and on June 15 the States General were weak enough to admit the deputies sent by the illegal States of Utrecht, that city having broken away from the rest of the province and set up a legislature in hostility to the provincial States. This accession of strength to the Patriots in the States General enabled them to pass measures depriving the Stadholder of the right to order the march or disposal of the armed forces in the provinces outside the province of Holland, that province having already adopted that rigorous measure.
Four days later, however, the efforts of Harris, probably furthered by British gold, availed to secure the rejection of these decrees.18 Thus the majority in the States General was kept for the Stadholder-a matter of the utmost importance, as it prevented a formal demand of that body for the intervention of France, which would probably have led to war. Pitt and Carmarthen still hoped to settle matters by diplomacy or by a friendly mediation; and on June 6, 1787, the latter sent a despatch to Harris stating that if the province of Holland (which was more populous and wealthy than all the other provinces taken together) seceded from the Union and appealed to France, care must be taken that an application for the mediation of Great Britain should come from the four loyal provinces (Gelderland, Friesland, Zeeland and Utrecht) and from the two doubtful provinces, Groningen and Overyssel, if it were possible. He added that “ Nothing could lay so good a ground for our further interference, or so much dispose the nation in favour of the Republic, as a direct application from the majority of the Provinces, and a
14 See Harris's notes on the cabinet meeting of May 23, 1787, at which he was present, in Malmesbury Diaries, II. 303-306.
15 F. O., Holland, no. 14, Carmarthen to Harris, June 10, 1787. 26 Malmesbury Diaries, II. 313-319.
prospect of reviving a connection which has repeatedly proved so beneficial to both countries."17
In the early summer of 1787 the Stadholder and the Princess of Orange rallied their friends, and hoped to secure soon the reduction of the city of Utrecht by force. The prospects of the “constitutional” party were therefore far from hopeless, despite the aid constantly though secretly given by France to the Free Corps. These bodies of armed burghers in the spring and summer of 1787 forcibly changed the regency, or government, of several towns, despoiled the property of opponents, and drew a cordon along the borders of the province of Holland so as to ensure the subjection of all its towns.
The question of intervention therefore became acute. The Princess of Orange, from her safe retreat in the fortress of Nimeguen, had sought to stir up Frederick William of Prussia to her assistance, and had ventured to send assurances that he would have the support of Great Britain. Ewart, the able and energetic secretary of the British legation at Berlin, reported to Carmarthen on June 12 that the Prussian statesman, Hertzberg, had been assured by the Princess of Orange of “the very favourable and encouraging assurances they had got at Nimeguen of the good disposition of the Court of Great Britain to maintain the constitution of the Republic, and that the effects should be made manifest when circumstances required it."'18 She therefore begged Hertzberg to concert a plan of operations with England. Hertzberg sent her letter on to the king and hoped for good results. For many months that statesman and Ewart had been working hard to bring about an Anglo-Prussian alliance, but hitherto in vain. The Dutch Question, as they saw, ought to lead to such an arrangement; and soon the action of the Princess of Orange in determining to make her way through the cordon of the Free Corps and proceed to the Hague for the encouragement of her friends, brought the question to an acute phase.
She would scarcely have taken that step had she not known that Frederick William had recently been annoyed by the refusal of the French court to arrange with him a plan of settlement not unfavorable to the Stadholder. Montmorin, the French foreign minister, replied in very curt terms to the Prussian proposal, accusing the Stadholder of being the cause of the troubles, and warning the King of Prussia that any intervention on his part in support of the prince
11 F. O., Holland, no. 14. 18 Ibid., Prussia, no.
Lord Dalrymple, British ambassador at Berlin, had gone home for his health. Ewart remained as chargé d'affaires until August, 1788, when he became ambassador with full powers to sign the Anglo-Prussian treaty of that month.