Letters on the Study and Use of History

Letters on the Study and Use of History

第71章 LETTER 8(13)

Your lordship will answer this question to yourself,I believe,by the prejudices and rashness of party;by the influence that the first successes of the confederate arms gave to our ministers;and the popularity that they gave,if I may say so,to the war;by ancient and fresh resentments,which the unjust and violent usurpations,in short the whole conduct of Louis the Fourteenth for forty years together,his haughty treatment of other princes and states,and even the style of his court,had created;and,to mention no more,by a notion,groundless but prevalent,that he was and would be master as long as his grandson was king of Spain,and that there could be no effectual measure taken,though the grand alliance supposed that there might,to prevent a future union of the two monarchies,as long as a prince of the house of Bourbon sat on the Spanish throne.That such a notion should have prevailed,in the first confusion of thoughts which the death and will of Charles the Second produced,among the generality of men,who saw the fleets and armies of France take possession of all the parts of the Spanish monarchy,is not to be wondered at by those that consider how ill the generality of mankind are informed,how incapable they are of judging,and yet how ready to pronounce judgment;in fine,how inconsiderately they follow one another in any popular opinion which the heads of party broach,or to which the first appearances of things have given occasion.But,even at this time,the councils of England and Holland did not entertain this notion.They acted on quite another,as might be shown in many instances,if any other besides that of the grand alliance was necessary.When these councils therefore seemed to entertain this notion afterwards,and acted and took engagements to act upon it,we must conclude that they had other motives.They could not have these;for they knew,that as the Spaniards had been driven by the two treaties of partition to give their monarchy to a prince of the house of Bourbon,so they were driven into the arms of France by the war that we made to force a third upon them.If we acted rightly on the principles of the grand alliance,they acted rightly on those of the will:and if we could not avoid making an offensive war,at the expense of forming and maintaining a vast confederacy,they could not avoid purchasing the protection and assistance of France in a defensive war,and especially in the beginning of it,according to what I have somewhere observed already,by yielding to the authority and admitting the influence of that court in all the affairs of their government.Our ministers knew therefore,that if any inference was to be drawn from the first part of this notion,it was for shortening,not prolonging,the war;for delivering the Spaniards as soon as possible from habits of union and intimacy with France;not for continuing them under the same necessity,till by length of time these habits should be confirmed.As to the latter part of this notion,they knew that it was false,and silly.Garth,the best natured ingenious wild man I ever knew,might be in the right,when he said,in some of his poems An Austrian prince alone Is fit to nod upon a Spanish throne.

Henry St John Bolingbroke