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the lines above described, she could have played her part in the solution of the problem. Why she decided to hold entirely aloof is hard to fathom; but the facts now to be set forth may help us to a surmise which seems to suit the facts of the case.
The Prussians crossed the Dutch frontier on September 13. The resistance of the Free Corps was easily overcome; and the Prince of Orange entered the Hague on September 20, amidst the enthusiasm of the citizens, a majority of whom had favored his cause there as in the rural districts of the province of Holland. In fact, the feeble stand made by the Patriots against a force of about 25,000 men proves that they had not the bulk of the nation on their side. The Dutch, when united and determined, have ever made a stubborn defense of their land.
Harris clinched the triumph of the Orange party by inducing the States of Holland to reverse their decrees against the Stadholder and to rescind their resolution of September 9 appealing for armed help from France. As this action deprived the court of Versailles of all excuse for armed intervention, the despatch describing it deserves to be quoted nearly in full, especially as it has been (very strangely) omitted from the Malmesbury Diaries.
HARRIS TO CARMARTHEN.
HAGUE, Friday, 21 Sept., 1787. I have succeeded in carrying through the States of Holland the Resolution I mentioned to your Lordship last night, but not without some difficulty; as, although all the towns except Amsterdam, Alkmaer and Hoorn are come round, it was in such direct contradiction to the sentiments they expressed a fortnight ago that they wished to defer it. I however insisted on the importance of the measure and on the necessity of celerity, and I succeeded.
This morning early I collected a few of my most confidential friends to agree on the terms in which this Resolution should be conceived, and I have the honor to enclose it, as we then drew it up, and as it has since passed. It was brought forward by Dordt* (a singular circumstance), seconded by the Equestrian Order, and, after a slight opposition on the part of Leyden and Gouda, carried unanimously. Sixteen towns out of the 19 were present. It will be despatched tonight to Versailles, and be communicated to M. Caillard, chargé des affaires de France, this evening. As far as my judgment reaches, it seems calculated to remove every pretext for the interference of France; or, if that Court does now interfere, it will put her so much in the wrong that she cannot claim or expect the assistance of any of her allies in a war which will have been entirely of her own seeking.
Besides the infinite advantages that always attend quick measures, I was anxious to get this through before the Prince of Orange took his Seat in the Estates of Holland in order that France might not throw
** Dort had recently sided against the Stadholder.
the odium of it on His Highness and make use of it as a handle to keep alive the resentment of her party against him. **
The news of this crowning diplomatic success reached London on September 25, and Paris probably about the same time. Certainly Grenville knew of it before he had his first interview with Montmorin, on September 28. The letter which Grenville wrote to Pitt at Calais on September 23, in reply to one informing him of the first successes of the Prussians, shows that he fully appreciated the need of the conciliatory methods which Pitt had just prescribed. 40 Indeed, his conduct throughout was eminently cautious, though he now foresaw that France would give up the game as hopeless. He found Montmorin reserved and cold. That minister declared
. that the principles which might formerly have been applicable to the Dutch problem were not so, now that Prussia had 25,000 men on Dutch soil. They must withdraw before negotiations could proceed. Grenville then sought to induce him to cancel the Déclaration which the French government had issued on September 16 as to its resolve to aid the province of Holland; but received the reply that it had been called forth by the march of the Prussian troops and would be annulled only when they retired; and he replied in similar terms to Grenville's suggestion that Great Britain and France should agree to discontinue their armaments. To this Grenville made answer that he could not with propriety discuss the question of the Prussian evacuation; and that the Dutch Question must be put in the way of a settlement before they retired. Vontmorin then pressed him to draw up a plan of pacification ; but this he declined to do, as it would be ultra vires. 41
Their interview on October i was equally unsatisfactory; and a joint conference held by Grenville and Eden with Montmorin on October 2 was also without result, the French minister refusing to negotiate while the Prussians were in possession. Foreseeing no good from the continuance of these discussions, Grenville decided to return to London to apprize Pitt of the state of affairs. The cabinet fully approved his action and expressed surprise at the protests of France. But in point of fact the letters that passed between Pitt and Grenville show that both of them had divined the secret of the situation, that France could not draw the sword. As Pitt remarked, the chief danger was that she would be hooted into war by the populace.42 Seeing that the force at Givet had not begun to
89 F. O., Holland, no. 18. 40 For Pitt's letters of
to Grenville, see the Dropmore Papers, III. 426, 427. For Grenville's mission, see E. D. Adams, op. cit., pp. 6, 7.
41 F, O., France, no. 26, Grenville to Carmarthen, September 28, 1787. 42 Dropmore Papers, III. 430-436.
assemble by the end of September,43 the chief aim of the French minister seems to have been to back out of the dispute with as little loss of dignity as possible. The device of refusing to negotiate so long as the Prussians were in the United Provinces was well suited to this end; but it compelled France to look on in impotent wrath at the course of events in Holland, which reversed the masterful policy of Vergennes.
The truth seems to be that, in view of the protracted strife between the Crown and the Paris Parlement, the desperate state of the finances, and the need of watching closely the crisis in the Orient, Montmorin had decided that France must on no account go to war over the Dutch Question. On this topic he opened his heart with indiscreet fullness after a private dinner which he and Eden had together on Thursday, September 19. In the course of the conversation, which Eden reported as follows to Whitehall, Montmorin admitted that England's policy had been consistent. So far as his own feelings were concerned, he would tender the following advice to his sovereign:
If the Estates of Holland should prove so defenceless, or so intimidated as to give way to whatever might be forced under the present attack, he should advise the Most Christian King not to engage in a war, but, protesting against the conduct, to give refuge and protection at any practicable expense to all who might be driven from their country and might seek it. On the contrary, if the situation of things should prove such as to give a prospect of assisting with a hope of maintaining the Dutch constitution, and to protect an allied Province against a foreign attack, he would advise France to do it by all the means within her power.
In the course of the conversation he gave me explicitly to understand, what he has often alluded to, that he has personally disliked the whole pursuit [sic] in Holland, and has wished in vain to find means to get creditably out of it, and also that he feels a solicitude to have the means of turning his attention more compleatly [sic] to the other side of Europe. My inference from the whole conversation was that, if the settling of the business in Holland can be accomplished speedily and effectually, and if immediate means are taken by [illegible] measures to moderate and reconcile all discontents within the [United] Provinces, a war will be avoided, which this country is ill prepared to undertake; and more especially at a moment when such exertions as she can make will be more urged towards another Quarter. I have been obliged to state this with some haste, but it appeared to me important, and I hope that I have made it intelligible.
I have etc.
WM. Eden.“ Probably these views of Montmorin were shared by Loménie de Brienne, Malesherbes and Lamoignon. Two ministers, Ségur and Castries, who had favored a forward policy at the Hague, had recently retired. The peace party therefore carried the day. Eden reported on September 16 that France had made efforts to induce Austria, Spain and even Saxony to espouse her cause. 45 Apparently, they came to naught; and the decision of the men of Amsterdam on October 6 to come to terms with the Duke of Brunswick, who had recently been blockading their city, seems to have quenched the last efforts of the war party at Versailles.
48 Dropmore Papers, III. 435. * F. O., France, no. 26.
This unexpected turn of events naturally played into the hands of the Stadholder's party. That the British government felt the irregularity of the situation is clear from Carmarthen's despatch of October 5 to Harris. In it Carmarthen declared that all the operations of the Duke of Brunswick should be connected with the original demand for satisfaction to the King of Prussia, so as to prevent France from describing them as a direct interference in the internal affairs of that republic; for the apology to the King of Prussia was incomplete while an armed force protected the persons of those who had insulted the princess. No qualms as to the propriety of their proceedings seem to have troubled the Prussians and the Orange party. We may detect Pitt's hand in the following sentence: "It is certainly His Majesty's wish, as soon as the object in Holland is securely obtained, to terminate the business in such a way as may enable this country to disarm.” This consummation was reached by the Déclaration and Contre-Déclaration signed by the British and French ministers at Versailles on October 27, in the latter of which Montmorin put forth the surprising assertion that it had never been the intention of His Most Christian Majesty forcibly to intervene in Dutch affairs,
The Orange reaction naturally brought about the formation of an Anglo-Dutch alliance, which replaced that with France. The details of the treaty, signed by Harris and Van der Spiegel at the Hague on April 15, 1788, are well known. The most unsatisfactory part of it was that relating to the proposed restitution to the United Provinces of Negapatam, which had been ceded to Great Britain in May, 1784. Negotiations were to be set on foot for its restitution within six months; but they never took place; and much soreness was the result. The Prusso-Dutch treaty, signed at Berlin on April 15, 1788,46 served to bind together those states and to pave the way for the Triple Alliance of that year between England, Prussia and the United Provinces, which during three years gave the law to the north of Europe.
The events of 1787–1788 were therefore of far more than local interest. They consolidated the position of the House of Orange, and, though their effects vanished for a time in the whirlwind of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, yet they pointed the way to the establishment of monarchy in 1814. Far different was the outcome of affairs in France. There the old order of things tottered under the blow dealt by England and Prussia. All the world expected Louis XVI. to draw the sword; and probably he would have strengthened his position and undermined that of the Parlements had he adopted a spirited policy and aroused a national feeling. As it was, he rattled the sword in the scabbard and then issued the extraordinary Contre-Déclaration of October 27 that he had never intended to draw it. A more fatuous and fatal policy cannot be conceived. It was a public confession that France could not fight, even on behalf of an ally; and Napoleon afterwards named it as one of the chief causes of the French Revolution.
45 F. O., France, no. 26. 46 See Hertzberg, Recueil, II. 444-448; Garden, Traités, V. 92-93.
In truth, the court of Versailles committed every possible blunder. Its agents in Holland, notably Vérac, encouraged the Dutch Patriots to push matters to an extreme, though Montmorin all along doubted the wisdom of going to war on their behalf. A little later he confessed to Eden his mistake in not recalling Vérac long before the troubles came to a climax. This is perfectly true; for, as has been shown, the warlike attitude adopted by the British court on August 24 resulted solely from the aggressions of the Free Corps and the intrigues of Vérac. Carmarthen continued to accuse Montmorin of duplicity, but he may rather be charged with weakness in not checking the actions of Ségur and in not recalling Vérac by the spring of 1787. Whatever may be our verdict on the motives that actuated Montmorin, he certainly helped to dig the grave of the old monarchy.
British policy, on the other hand, was active, intelligent and prompt to take advantage of events. Harris played the long uphill game at the Hague with skill, boldness and tenacity. In all probability he did not suggest the journey of the Princess of Orange from Nimeguen to the Hague, though that has generally been credited to him. The evidence seems to show that it was the outcome of hier daring and resourceful spirit. But Pitt and Carmarthen at once discerned the results that might accrue from that event. They awaited a favorable opportunity; and the outbreak of war in the East came just in time to clinch the long wavering purposes of the King of Prussia. There are few episodes in modern history which more easily and swiftly brought about an entirely new diplomatic situation, or from which greater results were to spring.
J. HOLLAND Rose.