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the only thing wanting to ensure success, instead of such a series of retreats as the last month has shown. God knows whether they will succeed; but it is an infinite satisfaction to me to see his talents employed in the public service, and to be corresponding with him on subjects of this nature. The rest of our public events are just such as you see them in the papers.
Lord Cornwallis is returned, speaking highly of the Duke of York, and far otherwise of the Austrian Generals, to whom he, and all mankind in Flanders, impute all that has happened. It is a whimsical circumstance, and hardly to have been foreseen, that in a war which we carry on conjointly with Austria, the great want which we experience should be that of Austrian Generals, of capacity sufficient to command the excellent troops which are acting in the Netherlands.
My American negotiation is, I think, going on promisingly. I have nothing else to tell you; and am, indeed, so completely knocked up by this last week's fagging, as hardly to be able to write at all. This evening I am going to Dropmore, for a little respite.
Ever most affectionately yours,
MR. THOMAS GRENVILLE TO THE DUKE OF PORTLAND.
Vienna, August 24th, 1794. DEAR DUKE OF PORTLAND,
It had been very much my intention to have written to you by our messenger of the 16th instant, because, although our despatches have been very much detailed, and have not, therefore, left much to be said in private letters, it is upon these occasions, I know, some satisfaction to hear that nothing remains behind, which is material to the subject; but having been hitherto prevented, by the very entire occupation of our
time here, I take the opportunity of writing to you, a little at large, by the messenger who is going to England to-night.
You know that upon the slight view which the shortness of the time allowed me to take of the business in question here, I was persuaded that we probably might, in some degree, succeed in our expedition ; because, if the course of things here could not be improved by our journey, yet I should consider the being able to ascertain what that state was, as an object very useful to pursue, and one which, if pursued with attention, we might probably succeed in possessing ourselves of. How far we have already obtained this information you will have seen by the communications which we have made ; and I much fear that our journey will not produce any advantage of a more solid and substantial description. To say that it might not be possible to procure from the Government here a formal consent to such an arrangement as we have to propose, is more than I would assert : although, the condition which they positively insist upon of being paid for it by loan and subsidy, as well as all the difficulties which they throw upon the subject of the proposed barrier, and upon that of acting in the Netherlands, might well seem to justify the opinion of its being improbable that anything like the proposed arrangement would be consented to. But the misfortune is, that—in my judgment, at least—the evil lies much deeper, and is such as would leave me little hope of seeing any effectual purpose served, even by the signature of a Convention between the two Courts.
I do not know of any good ground for believing the common report of treachery, either in the civil or military government of the country; but I know, that if the principle upon which our Government act in the prosecution of the war is not cordially felt here—if the greatness of those interests, which we think now at stake, is not to the same degree here considered as being of the very essence and existence of all regulated government, a Convention will not give them a livelier perception of this common danger, or teach them to see in it a crisis such as demands greater energy and exertions, than any other state of things could call for. But this common principle is not all that is wanting in the present case: we think, in England, that the preservation of the Austrian Netherlands is an object important to us as providing a defence for Holland, and important to the Court of Vienna as forming a rich and considerable possession to the House of Austria, and, therefore, making an object of common interest, though touching Austria still more sensibly than England. If this obvious view of the interests of both countries prevailed in the Governments of both—as one might rationally expect that it would—it would naturally furnish, by common consent, a very leading and governing motive, as well to the operations of the war, as to the ultimate issue of it. This, however, is not the view which is entertained here, or which I can persuade myself is really acted upon by those whose influence is decisive here.
M. de Thugut, the efficient Minister of this Court, is personally very much disposed (and long has been so) to the old project of an exchange of the Netherlands; and though that project appears to be laid aside for the purpose of conciliating Great Britain and Holland, yet it is evident that M. de Thugut's opinions are such as lead him to set but little value upon the possession of the Netherlands, and, therefore, that every circumstance, either of expense or of military enterprise, which looks towards the acquisition and defence of those provinces, is as much discouraged by him as he can venture to do, without openly declaring the whole bias of his mind: and it is very remarkable that, much as we have made it our business to press this to him in all our conversations, we have never yet been able to draw from him even a cold assent to the idea of the Low Countries being of any real value in themselves to the Emperor ; though he sometimes feebly admits that, with a considerable addition to them, they might be made so.
It may be said, that a Convention might engage them on this point, whatever their inclinations may be; but the answer is, first, that in point of fact they do object to bind themselves to the employing one hundred thousand men in the Netherlands, though they have not finally refused it; and secondly, that be there what agreement there may, the only substantial security for a hearty co-operation in fighting for that country, or for any manly system to be adopted hereafter for the preservation of it, must arise from a sense—in the owners of the value of its possession, and not from the words employed in any treaty respecting it. I am aware that part of the indifference which I so much remark in M. de Thugut may be affected, for the purpose of throwing the whole weight of the defence of the Low Countries upon the Maritime Powers; but if that is his policy, he must mean to support it by abstaining from any vigorous exertions in behalf of it, and in the end, whether his coolness and inactivity shall have been produced by a real or disguised opinion, the result will equally have been fatal to that earnest and animated concert, which is so much to be wished for on this occasion.
You see that I have so far considered the Convention, as taking place upon the terms proposed by us; but you will have known, long before you receive this letter, that they have persisted from the first in asking, as indispensable conditions, that their loan must be completely satisfied in England to enable them to answer the demands of this year, and that they must receive from England a considerable subsidy for next campaign, if it is expected that they should act vigorously in the prosecution of the war, which they assert themselves to be utterly unable to do without pecuniary assistance from England. We have urged them very ineffectually on this point: they declare that they have good hopes of M. de Merey's succeeding in obtaining these demands at London, and the negotiation actually hangs upon the report which they hourly expect from him on
this subject; though we have repeatedly told them that their expectation was hopeless, and that, meanwhile, the delay occasioned by it might be fatal to those exertions which required immediate action and enterprise.
What decision the Cabinet will make upon this heavy demand of subsidy, is doubtless a very important question, of which they will be the fit and competent judges ; but if that question simply turned upon the supposed probability of our being able to purchase, even at that dear rate, a proportionate degree of energy and activity in the war from this Government, I confess I do not hesitate to say that, from what I see bere, I should not believe, if the experiment is tried, it will well answer their expectations. There is no soul in the bodies of these men-none, at least, which is alive to the magnitude of all the objects now at stake, or which leads them to share with you, as it ought the great points of common danger and common interest; and while these mainsprings are wanting, it is in vain to look for such movements and effects as cannot be produced without them. If this radical defect did not exist ; if the Government here was as earnest as it ought to be in its contemplation of this war, but really was without the means of prosecuting it; if it acknowledged and took its proper interest in the possession of the Netherlands, and asked your assistance to that object, only because they had exhausted all their own resources, there might be great inducements to hope that, in furnishing to them the supply which they wish, you might on your side expect all the active effects which ought to be produced by it; but I know not how to hope that a subsidy will give vigour to their councils or enterprise to their armies ; still less can I hope that a subsidy, given for the preservation of the Netherlands, will teach them to put a proper value upon those possessions on their own account, though it certainly would teach them how highly you value their retaining them on your account.