V. THE WAR OF THE SPANISH SUCCESSION: 1702–13

Practically all of Europe west of Poland and the Ottoman Empire was involved. The Alliance was joined by Denmark, Prussia, Hanover, the episcopate of Münster, the elecorates of Mainz and the Palatinate, and some minor German states; to these in 1703 were added Savoy and Portugal. Together they mustered 250,000 men, and assembled a navy far superior to the French in numbers, equipment, and leadership. France had now 200,000 men in her armies, but these were distributed along many fronts in the Rhine region, Italy, and Spain. Her only allies were Spain, Bavaria, Cologne, and, for a year, Savoy. Spain was a liability, requiring French armies to defend it; and the Spanish colonies were at the mercy of the Dutch and English fleets.

We must not lose ourselves in the royal game of human chess that ensued, sanguinary almost beyond precedent. Now came the masterly and gory campaigns of Marlborough and Eugene of Savoy. Perhaps never since Caesar had the genius of war been so combined with the art of diplomacy as in Marlborough: skilled in the strategy of planning operations and moving armies, in the tactics of manipulating infantry, cavalry, and artillery with rapidity of perception and decision, as the needs of battle changed; and yet also patient and tactful in dealing with the governments behind him, the personalities around him, even with the enemies that looked to him as a statesman conscious of realities and possessed of authority. He was sometimes merciless, and often unscrupulous; he poured out the blood of his soldiers in any quantity needed for success; and he communicated with James II and III to gild his own fate should the Stuarts return to power. But he was the organizer of victory.

Louis XIV, perceiving that the whole splendor of his reign now hung in the balance, and that the dispute over Spain had become a contest for continents, called upon France to send him her sons and her gold. By 1704 he had 450,000 men under arms—as many as all his foes combined. 54 Hoping to bring the costly conflict to an early issue, he ordered his main force to march through friendly Bavaria and attack the final citadel of the enemy, Vienna itself, which even the Turkish hordes had failed to take. An insurrection in Hungary occupied Imperial forces in the east, and left their capital almost denuded of defense. While a French army under Villeroi was supposed to chain Marlborough to the Low Countries, French troops under Marsin and Tallard joined those of the Bavarian Elector and pressed farther and farther into Austria. The Emperor again, as in 1683, fled from Vienna, knowing that his capture by the enemy would be a disaster to the allies’ cause.

In this crisis Marlborough, against the pleas of the Dutch States-General, but with the secret consent of Heinsius, decided to risk the invasion of Holland by Villeroi, and march night and day from the North Sea to the Danube (May to June, 1704) to save Vienna. Pretending to seek a crossing of the Moselle, he moved southward along the river, luring Villeroi into a parallel movement on the other side. Then suddenly, at Coblenz, he turned east, crossed the Rhine on a floating bridge, marched down to Mainz, crossed the Main to Heidelberg, crossed the Neckar to Rastadt. Now he effected critical junctions with reinforcements from Holland, with an Imperial army under Eugene of Savoy, and with another under Margrave Louis William I of Baden-Baden. The French and the Bavarians were astonished to find Marlborough so far from the positions where Villeroi had been expected to contain him. Marsin, Tallard, and the Elector of Bavaria gathered 35,000 infantry and 18,000 cavalry between Lutzingen and Blindheim (Blenheim) on the left bank of the Danube. There, on August 13, 1704, Marlborough and Eugene, with 33,000 foot and 29,000 horse, engaged them in what France tries to forget as the battle of Höchstädt, and what England celebrates as the victory of Blenheim. Marlborough’s superior cavalry overwhelmed the French center and drove Tallard’s routed army into Blenheim, where its surviving 12,000 men surrendered, Tallard himself being captured; then Marlborough’s horsemen rode to the support of hard-pressed Eugene on the right, and helped him force Marsin into an orderly retreat. The human loss was heavy: 12,000 casualties on the allied side, 14,000 on the Franco-Bavarian. The surrender of twenty-seven battalions of infantry and twelve squadrons of mounted men shattered the reputation of French arms. The Elector of Bavaria fled to Brussels; Bavaria was occupied by an Imperial army; nearly three hundred square miles of terrain were cleared of French troops. Leopold returned in safety to his capital.

On August 4 an Anglo-Dutch fleet marked another date in history by capturing the barren Rock of Gibraltar. The English turned it into a fortress that for two centuries made them masters of the Mediterranean. Not knowing that it had been decided by these two victories, the war continued for nine more years. An English fleet took Barcelona (October 9, 1705); an allied army protected a revolt of Catalonia against Philip V, and established the Archduke Karl at Madrid as Charles III (June 25, 1706). But the sight of Austrians and Englishmen ruling the country roused the Spanish from their unworldly torpor; even the ecclesiastics urged them on to resistance. The peasants armed themselves as best they could, and cut the allied line of communications between Barcelona and Madrid; the English Duke of Berwick, James Fitzjames, natural son of James II, led a Franco-Spanish force from the west, recovered Madrid for Philip V (September 22), and drove the Archduke and his English “heretics” back to Catalonia.

Meanwhile Marlborough, after overcoming political obstacles in London and The Hague, assembled an army of 60,000 English, Dutch, and Danes, and marched into the Spanish Netherlands. On May 23, 1706, he met the main French army of 58,000 men under Villeroi at Ramillies, near Namur. In the ecstasy of battle, and forgetting that generals must die in bed, he dashed to the front, and was knocked from his horse. His aide, while helping the Duke to another mount, had his head blown off by a cannon ball. Marlborough recovered, realigned his troops, and led them to another bloody victory; his army suffered 5,000 casualties, the French 15,000. He advanced through negligible resistance to the capture of Antwerp, Bruges, and Ostend; there he had a direct line of communications with England, and was only twenty miles from France. Marshal Villeroi, sixty-two, retired to his estate in grief, but with no reproof from the King, who told him sadly, “There is no more luck at our age.” 55

Everywhere now, except in Spain, the French were in peril or retreat. In Vienna Joseph I, twenty-seven, succeeded (1705) his father as emperor, and gave vigorous support to his generals. Eugene of Savoy drove the French from Turin (1706), then from all Italy (1707). By the Convention of Milan the duchies of Milan and Mantua became parts of the Austrian Empire, and the rule of the Mantuan Gonzagas, begun in 1328, came to an end. The kingdom of Naples, so long a viceroyalty of Spain, fell in its turn to Austrian arms, though it continued to be formally a papal fief. The Papal States remained papal by permission of the Emperor, whose German troops had marched through them against the will of the helpless Pope. 56 Venice and Tuscany preserved a precarious independence.

Louis XIV was a changed man. The pride of power had almost left him, but he maintained the calm dignity of his state. In 1706 he offered the allies terms of peace that five years earlier they might have been glad to accept: Spain to be surrendered to Archduke Karl; Philip to be content with Milan, Naples, and Sicily; barrier towns and fortresses to be restored to Dutch control in the Spanish Netherlands. The Dutch were disposed to negotiate; the English and the Emperor refused. Louis turned wearily to recruiting new armies and levying new taxes; even baptisms and marriages, to be legal, had now to pay a tax. The population of France, desperate in poverty, baptized its own children and married without priestly aid, though the offspring of such unions were officially branded as illegitimate. 57

Revolts broke out at Cahors, in Quercy, in Pcrigord; peasant mobs seized town offices and seignorial châteaux. Living skeletons (squelettes) of starving people clamored at the gates of Versailles for bread; the Swiss Guard drove them away. Placards appeared on Paris walls warning Louis that there were still Ravaillacs in France—i.e., men willing to kill a king. 58 The new taxes were abandoned.

Early in 1707 the Marquis de Vauban, whose military engineering had been a vital element in French victories a generation earlier, published in his seventy-fourth year a proposal for a juster tax—Projet d’une dîme royale. He described the misery of France: “Nearly a tenth of the people are reduced to beggary, and of the other nine tenths the majority are more in a condition to receive charity than to give it. . . . It is certain that the evil has been pushed to excess, and that if no remedy is applied the people will fall into such destitution that they will never recover.” He reminded the King that “it is the lower class of the people which, by their labor and industry, and their contributions to the royal treasury, enrich the sovereign and his realm”; yet “it is that class which now, through the demands of war and the taxation of its savings, is reduced to living in rags and crumbling cottages while its lands lie fallow” in the absence of its recruited sons. 59 To relieve these most productive classes Vauban, adopting some ideas from Boisguillebert, proposed to abolish all existing taxes and replace them with a graduated income tax, exempting no class; landowners to pay five to ten per cent, workers not more than three and a half per cent. The state should maintain its monopoly on salt, but custom dues were to be charged only at national frontiers. 60

Saint-Simon describes the book and its reception:

It was full of information and figures, all arranged with the utmost clearness, simplicity, and exactitude. But it had a grand fault. It described a course which, if followed, would have ruined an army of financiers, of clerks, of functionaries of all kinds: it would have forced them to live at their own expense, instead of at the expense of the people, and it would have sapped the foundation of those immense fortunes that are seen to grow up in such short time. This was enough to cause its failure. All the people interested in opposing the work set up a cry. . . . What wonder, then, that the King, who was surrounded by these people, listened to their reasons, and received with very ill grace Maréchal Vauban when he presented his book to him. 61

Louis reproached him as a dreamer whose plan would have upset the finances of the kingdom in the crisis of war. A decree in council (February 14, 1707) ordered the book to be seized and exposed in a pillory. Six weeks later, disheartened by his disgrace, the old Marshal died. The King uttered some words of tardy regret: “I lose a man well affected to my person and to the state.” 62

The taxes and the war continued. In August, 1707, Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy, who had begun as an ally of France, joined Eugene of Savoy jind an English fleet in besieging Toulon by land and sea. If this fell they planned to attack Marseilles; if that too fell, France would be shut out from the Mediterranean. A new French army was raised, and was sent to thrust back the invaders; it succeeded; but in that campaign much of Provence was laid waste. In 1708 the King mustered an army of 80,000 men, placed it under Marshal Vendôme and the Dauphin’s son, the popular Duke of Burgundy, and dispatched them to stop the allied advance in Flanders. Marlborough and Eugene, likewise with 80,000 men, met them at Audenaarde on the Scheldt (July 11, 1708). The French were overwhelmed, losing 20,000 in dead or wounded, and 7,000 prisoners. Marlborough wished to push on to Paris, but Eugene prevailed upon him to besiege Lille first, lest its garrison cut the allies’ line of communications and supplies. Lille was taken, but after a siege of two months, and at the cost of 15,000 men.

Louis felt that France could fight no more. The misery of his people was made crueler by the severest winter in their memory (1708–9). For two months all rivers froze; even the seas froze along the coasts, so that heavily laden carts moved safely on the ocean ice. 63 Almost all vegetation was killed, including the hardiest fruit trees, and all grain in the earth. Nearly all newborn infants died in that terrible season; 64 one exception was the King’s great-grandson, the future Louis XV, born to the Duke of Burgundy on February 15, 1709. Famine followed in the spring and summer. Monopolists cornered the bread supply and kept the price high; Saint-Simon, usually hostile to the King, reported that Louis himself was accused of sharing in the profits of the monopolists; 65 but, says Henri Martin, “history is too deliberate to take the gloomy imagination of Saint-Simon without distrust.” 66 The situation was saved by importing twelve million kilograms of grain from the Barbary States and elsewhere, and by planting barley as soon as the ground thawed. 67

Humbled by the defeats of his armies and the calamities of his people, Louis sent the Marquis de Torcy to The Hague (May 22, 1709) to ask for peace. Torcy was instructed to offer the surrender of all the Spanish empire to the allies, to cede Newfoundland to England, to restore the barrier towns to the Dutch, and to end all French support of the Jacobite cause. He tried to bribe Marlborough, but failed. 68 On May 28 the allies presented to Torcy an ultimatum requiring not only that Spain and all its possessions be yielded to the Archduke, but that if Philip should not have quit Spain within two months, the French army was to join the allies in expelling him; else (they argued) France would be left free to reorganize its fighting power while the allies were engaged in the Peninsula. Louis replied that it was too much to ask of him that he should use force to expel his own grandson from a Spain that had just rallied to Philip’s support. “If I must fight [on],” he said, “it shall be with my enemies rather than with my children.” 69

The demands of the allies aroused the resentment of France. Recruits came more willingly to the colors, if only to find food; nobles sent their silver to the mint; and French vessels, eluding the British and the Dutch, brought from America bullion worth thirty million francs. A fresh army was raised, 90,000 strong, and was placed under Marshal Villars, who had never yet been defeated by the allies. At the same time Marlborough assembled 110,000 men. The two swarms met at Malplaquet (just within the French frontier against Belgium) in the bloodiest battle of the eighteenth century. Marlborough lost 22,000 men in this his final victory; the French suffered 12,000 casualties, including the brave Villars, who, fifty-six years old, charged at the head of his troops, and was borne from the field with one knee shattered by a cannon ball. The French retreated in good order, but the allies went on to capture Mons. “God Almighty be praised,” wrote Marlborough to his Sarah; “it is now in our power to have what peace we please.” 70

It seemed so, for France had apparently made her last effort. How could she find another army among her depleted families, or feed it from her abandoned fields? Agriculture, industry, transport, commerce, finance—all were in chaos, all were caught in a spreading disintegration that invited the occupation and dismemberment of the country by its advancing foes. The King, once the “God-given” idol of his people, was losing their affection, even their respect. He had always shunned Paris, remembering the hostile horde of the Fronde; the city had resented his long resentment; and the wit and insults of pamphlets and placards had stung his absolutist pride. 71 Men wondered why, amid the destitution of France, the halls of Versailles were still thronged by idle, costly, gambling courtiers; though the King and his wife were now pious and subdued, “the expenses and personnel of the court remained undiminished to the last.” 72 Some breadless Parisians chanted a revised version of the Lord’s Prayer, sparing neither Louis nor his mate nor his new minister of war and finance:

Our Father which are at Versailles, thy name is no longer hallowed, thy kingdom is no longer so great, thy will is no longer done on earth or on the sea. Give us our bread, which on every side we lack. Forgive our enemies who have beaten us, and not thy generals who allowed them to do so. Do not succumb to all the temptations of La Maintenon, but deliver us from Chamillard. 73

“The King,” mourned Madame, “is reproached for all his expenditure; they would like to do away with his horses, his dogs, his servants . . . They would like to stone me because they imagine that I never tell him anything unpleasant, for fear of grieving him.” 74

The nobles were still loyal to the King who entertained and protected them, but their patriotism flagged when, as a last resort, he asked for a tenth of their income (1710). The universal dîme that Vauban, three years before, had proposed as a substitute for all other taxes, was now added to all other taxes; and the poor had the consolation of seeing the hated tax-gatherers enter the homes, and scrutinize the accounts, of the rich. The King was loath to invade gilded privacy, but his confessor, Father Le Tellier, assured him that, in the opinion of the doctors of the Sorbonne, “all the wealth of his subjects was his, and when he took it he only took what belonged to him.” 75 The upper middle classes likewise suffered some cooling of martial ardor when interest ceased to be paid on government bonds. The recoinage and debasement of the currency “brought some profit to the King,” reported Saint-Simon, “but ruin to private people, and a disorder to trade which completed its annihilation.” 76 Great bankers like Samuel Bernard declared bankruptcy, disrupting nearly all business in Lyons. “All was perishing step by step; the realm was entirely exhausted; the troops were not paid, though no one could imagine what was done with the millions that came into the King’s coffers.” 77

In March, 1710, Louis again asked the allies for peace. He offered to acknowledge the Archduke as King of Spain, to give no assistance to Philip, even to contribute funds to aid in dethroning him. He would surrender Strasbourg, Breisach, Alsace, Lille, Tournai, Ypres, Meenen, Furnes, and Maubeuge to the Allies. They offered him not peace, but a two months truce; in that period Louis, with French forces unaided by any other, was to expel Philip from Spain; if he failed to achieve this within the truce period, they would resume the war. 78 Louis published these terms to his people, who agreed with him that they were impossible.

Somehow France raised new armies. When the Archduke again invaded Spain with a force of Austrian and English troops, and fought his way to oust Philip once more from Madrid, Louis sent to his grandson 25,000 men under the Duc de Vendôme. Aided by Spanish volunteers, the Duke defeated the invaders at Brihuega and Villaviciosa (December, 1710), and so definitely restored Philip to his throne that Spain remained Bourbon till 1931.

Meanwhile the political wind was veering in England. In 1706 Queen Anne had written: “I have no ambition . . . but to see an honorable peace, that whenever it please God I shall die I may have the satisfaction of leaving my poor country and all my friends in peace and quiet.” 79 Anne had been kept to the war policy by Marlborough’s fiery Duchess; that influence now waned; in 1710 the Queen dismissed Sarah, and openly sided with the Tories. The merchants, manufacturers, and financiers had profited from the war,80and had supported the warmaking Whigs; the landowners had lost as war raised taxes and inflated the currency; they seconded the Queen’s longing for peace. On August 8 she dismissed Godolphin, Marlborough’s right-hand man; Harley headed a Tory ministry; England turned toward peace.

In January, 1711, the English government secretly sent to Paris a French priest, the Abbé Gaulthier, who had long resided in London. Gaulthier went to Torcy at Versailles. “Do you want peace?” he asked. “I come to bring you the means of concluding it, independently of the Dutch.” 81 Negotiations proceeded slowly. Suddenly, at the surprisingly early age of thirty-two, Joseph I died (April 17, 1711); the Archduke became the Emperor Charles VI; the English and the Dutch, who had promised him all Spain, found that their costly victories were confronting them with a new Hapsburg Empire as vast as that of Charles V, and as dangerous to Protestant nations and liberties. The English government now offered Louis recognition of Philip V as King of Spain and the Spanish possessions in America on relatively moderate conditions: securities against the union of France and Spain under one crown; barrier fortresses to protect the United Provinces and Germany from any future French invasion; the restitution of French conquests; the recognition of the Protestant succession in England, and the expulsion of James III from France; the dismantling of Dunkirk; the confirmation of Gibraltar, Newfoundland, and the Hudson Bay region as English property; and the transfer from France to England of the right to sell slaves to Spanish America. Louis assented with minor modifications; England notified The Hague that she favored making peace on these terms; the Dutch agreed to them as a basis for negotiation, and plans were made for a peace congress at Utrecht. Marlborough, who had found war profitable, was dismissed (December 31, 1711) and was replaced by James Butler, second Duke of Ormonde, with instructions not to hazard English troops in battle until further orders should be received.

While the congress assembled at Utrecht (January 1, 1712), Eugene of Savoy, considering the English terms of peace to be a betrayal of the Imperial cause, continued the war. Day after day he pushed forward against the line of defenses built by the industrious Villars. On July 16 Ormonde was notified by London that England and France had signed an armistice, and that consequently his English regiments must be withdrawn to Dunkirk. These obeyed, but most of the Continental contingents under Ormonde’s command denounced the English as deserters, and placed themselves under Eugene’s command. The Prince had now some 130,000 men, Villars 90,000; but on July 24 the alert Maréchal pounced upon a detachment of 12,000 Dutch at Denain (near Lille), and annihilated it before Eugene could come to its aid. The Prince retired across the Scheldt to reorganize his unwieldy army; Villars advanced to capture Douai, Le Quesnoy, and Bouchain. Louis and France took heart. These were the only French victories of the war on the northern front, but with the successes of Vendôme in Spain they gave new strength to the French negotiators at Utrecht.

After fifteen months of protocol, punctilio, and agrument, all parties to the war except the Emperor signed the Peace of Utrecht (April 11, 1713). France yielded to Britain all that she had promised in the preliminaries, including that precious asiento, or slave-trade monopoly, which lies like a badge of shame upon that age; and the ancient enemies made mutual concessions on import dues. The Dutch restored to France Lille, Aire, and Bethune, but kept control of all the Netherlands until peace should be made with the Empire; meanwhile the Elector of Bavaria was to hold Charleroi, Luxembourg, and Namur. Nice was returned to the Duke of Savoy. Philip V retained Spain and Spanish America; he refused, then (July 13) consented, to cede Gibraltar and Minorca to England. Eugene of Savoy fought on, bitter against the British for signing a separate peace; but the Imperial treasury was empty, his army was reduced to 40,000 troops, and Villars was advancing against him with 120,000 men. Finally he accepted the invitation of Louis XIV to meet Villars and work out terms of peace. By the Treaty of Rastatt (March 6, 1714) France retained Alsace and Strasbourg, but she restored to the Empire all French conquests on the right bank of the Rhine, and she recognized the replacement of Spanish by Austrian rule in Italy and Belgium.

So the treaties of Utrecht and Rastatt achieved little more than what diplomacy might have peacefully achieved in 1701. After thirteen years of slaughter, impoverishment, and devastation, these pacts settled for twenty-six years the map of Europe, as the Treaties of Westphalia had settled it for a generation after the Thirty Years’ War. In both cases the task was to establish a balance of power between Hapsburg and Bourbon; it was done. Between France and England in America a balance was established which would hold till the Seven Years’ War (1756–63).

The chief losers in the sanguinary contest for the Spanish succession were Holland and France. The Dutch Republic had gained terrain on land and lost power on the sea; it could no longer match England in shipping, seamanship, resources, or war; its victory exhausted it and began its decline. France too was weakened, almost fatally. She had kept her nominee on the throne of Spain, but she had failed to preserve his empire intact; and for this tarnished triumph she paid with a million lives, the loss of her sea power, and the temporary collapse of her economic life. Not till Napoleon would France recover from Louis XIV, only to repeat his tragedy.

The victors of the war were Austria on the Continent, and England everywhere else. Austria now held Milan, Naples, Sicily, and Belgium; she would be the strongest force in Europe until the accession of Frederick the Great (1740). England thought more of controlling the sea than of expanding on land; she acquired Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, but valued more her mastery in the avenues of trade. She compelled France to lower her tariffs, and to dismantle the fort and port of Dunkirk, which had been a threat to English shipping. With Gibraltar in Spain and Port Mahon in Minorca, England held the Mediterranean in fief. These gains made no spectacular show in 1713; their results would be written in the history of the eighteenth century. Meanwhile the Protestant faith and succession had been made secure in Britain against everything but the birth rate.

A chief product of the war was the intensification of nationalism and international hate. Each nation forgot its gains and remembered its wounds. Germany would never forgive the double devastation of the Palatinate; France would not soon forget the unprecedented slaughter in Marlborough’s victories; Spain suffered every day the indignity of Gibraltar in alien hands. Each nation bided its time for revenge.

Some gentle souls, thinking that Europe was a continent of Christians, dreamed of a substitute for war. Charles Castel, Abbé de Saint-Pierre, accompanied the French delegation to Utrecht. Returning, he published his Projet. . . pour rendre la paix perpetuelle(1713)—a plan for perpetuating the new-found peace. Let the nations of Europe confederate in a league of nations with a permanent congress of representatives, a senate for the arbitration of disputes, a code of international law, a combined military force for action against any rebellious state, the reduction of each national army to six thousand men, and the establishment of uniform measures and currency throughout Europe. 82 Saint-Pierre expounded his scheme to Leibniz, who, no longer so sure that this was the best of all possible worlds, sadly reminded the abbé that “some sinister fate was always interposing betwixt man and the attainment of his happiness.” 83 Man is a competitive animal, and his character is his fate.

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