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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Henry St. John to Matthew Prior - 1


SEPTEMBER 10, 1712.


I WAS equally surprised and vexed to find, that, by the uncouth way of explaining the queen's sense, you had been led to imagine, that it was intended my lord Lexington should make any difficulty of seeing and complimenting the king of Spain as such. We spent above three hours in penning minutes yesterday upon this head, which was long ago adjusted. I suppose the instructions will be at last clear; but my lord Lexington having been present at the debate, his understanding of the matter will make amends for any dark ambiguous article which may be in them.

Dartmouth is to communicate the queen's orders herein to you, that so you may be able to satisfy the French ministers, and they to prepare the Spanish ministers. However, I will venture to tell you in a few words what I understand is to be the measure of lord Lexington's conduct. As soon as he arrives at Madrid, he will notify his arrival to the secretary of state. He will, when he sees this minister, let him know, "That the queen has sent him thither to compliment the king in her name; to be a witness of the several renunciations, and other acts requisite to complete the execution of the article agreed upon as necessary to prevent the union of the two monarchies: That, after this, he is to proceed to settle such matters of commerce, and other affairs, as are for the mutual interest of both nations, and to take the character of ambassador upon him." My lord will at the same time produce his credentials, and give the secretary a copy of them if he desires it. In this conference, he will farther take notice of the several cessions made by the king of France, in behalf of his grandson, to the queen; and will speak of them as points which he looks upon to be concluded. He will likewise give a memorial of them in writing, signed by himself, to the secretary; and expect from him an assent in the king's name, in writing also, and signed by the secretary. This seems natural, civil, and unexceptionable; but any other scheme is absurd, and inconsistent with all the rest of our proceedings.

For God's sake, dear Matt, hide the nakedness of thy country; and give the best turn thy fertile brain will furnish thee with, to the blunders of thy countrymen, who are not much better politicians than the French are poets.

I have writ in great haste a prodigious long letter to monsieur de Torcy, which, I believe, he will show you; but, for fear he should not, I enclose in this an extract of part of it, which relates to a matter that has given lord treasurer and your humble servant no small trouble in the cabinet. The copy of the plenipotentiaries dispatch of the 2d of September, which I likewise send, will show you how a dispute, now on foot at Utrecht, began; you will observe, their lordships are very warm in it; and I can assure you, we have those who are not a jot cooler.

The solution of this difficulty must come from you; it is matter of management and appearance, more than of substance; and the court of France must be less politick than I think them at any time, and more unreasonable than I think them at this time, not to come into a temperament upon a matter unnecessarily started. You must begin by making monsieur de Torcy not only to understand, but own he understands, the proposition which I am sure he remembers I more than once repeated to him, when I was in France, upon various occasions, and which I have again stated as clearly as I am able. The queen can never do any thing, which shall look like a direct restraint on her allies from demanding what they judge necessary; but, as long as they act the part which they now do, she can very justly be passive and neuter as to their interests: and if her peace be made before theirs, which she will not delay for them, she can with the same justice leave them to make their own bargain. This is advantage enough for France; and such a one, fairly speaking, as a year ago they would have given more than Tournay to have been sure of: they must not therefore press us to go farther than this; nor do any thing which may seem contradictory to what the queen delivered from the throne. That speech they have always owned as the plan they submitted to; and it varies but little from that brought hither by Gualtier. In a word, the use which the French will make of the unaccountable obstinacy of the Dutch, and other allies, may, in several respects, and particularly for aught I know in this instance of Tournay, give them an opportunity of saving and gaining more than they could have hoped for; and the queen may in the present circumstances contribute passively to this end, but actively she never can in any circumstances.

I think in my own opinion, and I believe speak the queen's upon this occasion, that it were better the French should in the course of the treaty declare, "That, whatever they intended to have given the Dutch when the queen spoke from the throne, their conduct has been such, and the situation of affairs so altered, that the king is resolved to have Tournay restored to him." I say, I believe this were better, than to expect that we should consent to an exposition of the queen's words, by which her majesty would yield the town up.

Let the conferences begin as soon as they can, I dare say, business will not be very speedily dispatched in them; in the mean time we shall go on to ripen every thing for a conclusion between us and Savoy, and France, and Spain; and this is the true point of view, which the French ought to have before their eyes.

You will be very shortly particularly and fully instructed to settle the article of North America, and those points of commerce still undetermined: that done, the ministers may sign at Utrecht, as soon as they can hear from lord Lexington.

My lord Dartmouth writes to you concerning a clamour which our merchants have raised, as if, under pretence of not carrying to Lisbon or Barcelona des provisions de guerre ou de bouche, they shall be debarred from their usual traffick of corn and fish, which at those places there are great demands for, in time of peace as well as war, and without any consideration of the armies. The difficulty as to Lisbon seems to be removed, by the Portugueze submitting to come into the suspension of arms; and he proposes to you an expedient as to Barcelona: but in truth that war must be ended of course now, since the queen supports it no longer, and the Dutch are recalling their fleet from the Straits. The duke of Argyll is going immediately now away; and the moment he comes to Minorca, he draws to him every thing belonging to the queen out of Catalonia; the imperial troops must in my opinion that moment submit, and compound for transportation: and when the war is at an end, I think, there can be no pretence of quarrelling with us for carrying our goods to the people of the country.

It is now three o'clock in the morning; I have been hard at work all day, and am not yet enough recovered to bear much fatigue: excuse therefore the confusedness of this scroll, which is only from Harry to Matt, and not from the secretary to the minister.

Your credentials of minister plenipotentiary will be sent you, together with your full powers, by the next boat: and before duke Hamilton goes, I will move to have you removed to Utrecht; which there will be a natural handle for, as soon as you shall settle the points of commerce, and, in doing that, have given the last stroke to the finishing the treaty with France.

Make my compliments to madam Teriol; and let her know that I have, I hope, put her affair into a way of being finished to her satisfaction. I have spoke very earnestly to Maffei, and have used the proper arguments to him.

Adieu! my pen is ready to drop out of my hand. Believe that no man loves you better, or is more faithfully yours, &c.


P. S. I had almost forgot to tell you, that the queen is pleased to discharge the mareschal Tallard's parole; which you may assure him, with my compliments, of; and give any signification necessary in form.