The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 11/From Jonathan Swift to William King - 25


LONDON, JAN. 3, 1712-13.

SINCE I had the honour of your grace's letter, we have had a dead time of news and politicks; and I make a conscience of writing to you without something that will recompense the trouble of reading. I cannot but grant that your grace, who are at a distance, and argue from your own wisdom and general observations and reading, is likely to be more impartial than I, who, in spite of my resolutions and opinion to the contrary, am forced to converse only with one side of the world, which fastens prejudices to me, notwithstanding all I can do to avoid them. Your grace has certainly hit upon the weak side of our peace; but I do not find you have prescribed any remedies. For, that of limiting France to a certain number of ships and troops, was, I doubt, not to be compassed. While that mighty kingdom remains under one monarch, it will be always in some degree formidable to its neighbours. But we flatter ourselves it is likely to be less so than ever, by the concurrence of many circumstances too long to trouble you with. But, my lord, what is to be done? I will go so far with your grace as to tell you, that some of our friends are of opinion with the other party, that if this last campaign had gone on with the conjunction of the British troops, France might have been in danger of being driven to great extremes. Yet I confess to you, at the same time, that if I had been first minister, I should have advised the queen to pursue her measures toward a peace.

Some accidents and occasions have put it in my way to know every step of this treaty better, I think, than any man in England. And I do assert to your grace, that if France had been closely pushed this campaign, they would, upon our refusal, have made offers to Holland, which the republick would certainly have accepted; and in that case the interests of England would have been wholly laid aside, as we saw it three years ago at the Hague and Gertruydenberg. The marshal D'Uxilles and Mesnager, two of the French plenipotentiaries, were wholly inclined to have begun by the Dutch; but the third, abbé de Polignac, who has most credit with monsieur Torcy, was for beginning by England.

There was a great faction in France by this proceeding; and it was a mere personal resentment, in the French king and monsieur Torcy, against the States, which hindered them from sending the first overture there. And I believe your grace will be convinced, by considering that the demands of Holland might be much more easily satisfied, than those of Britain. The States were very indifferent about the article of Spain being in the Bourbon family, as monsieur Buys publickly owned when he was here, and among others to myself. They valued not the demolition of Dunkirk, the frontier of Portugal, nor the security of Savoy. They abhorred the thoughts of our having Gibraltar and Minorca, nor cared what became of our dominions in North America. All they had at heart was the sovereignty of Flanders, under the name of a barrier, and to stipulate what they could for the emperor, to make him easy under their encroachments. I can farther assure your grace, before any proposals were sent here from France, and ever since, until within these few months, the Dutch have been endeavouring constantly, by private intrigues with that court, to undermine us, and put themselves at the head of a treaty of peace; which is a truth that perhaps the world may soon be informed in, with several others that are little known. Besides, my lord, I doubt whether you have sufficiently reflected on the condition of this kingdom, and the possibility of pursuing the war at that ruinous rate. This argument is not the weaker for being often urged. Besides, France is likely to have a long minority; or, if not, perhaps to be engaged in a civil war. And I do not find that in publick affairs, human wisdom is able to make provisions for futurity, which are not liable to a thousand accidents. We have done all we can; and for the rest, curent posteri.

Sir William Temple's Memoirs, which you mentioned, is his first part[1], and was published twenty years ago; it is chiefly the treaty of Nimeguen, and was so well known, that I could hardly think your grace has not seen it.

I am in some doubt, whether a fall from a horse be suitable to the dignity of an archbishop. It is one of the chief advantages in a great station, that one is exempt from common accidents of that kind. The late king[2] indeed got a fall; but his majesty was a foxhunter. I question whether you can plead any precedent to excuse you; and therefore, I hope, you will commit no more such errours: and in the mean time, I heartily congratulate with your grace, that I can rally you upon this accident.

I am in some fear that our peace will hardly be concluded in several weeks, by reason of a certain incident that could not be foreseen; neither can I tell whether the parliament will sit before the conclusion of the peace; because some persons differ in their politicks about the matter. If others were no wiser than I, your session should not be deferred upon that account.

I am, with the greatest respect,

your grace's most dutiful and humble servant.

  1. That is, the first part existing; for the first part written was destroyed by sir W. Temple himself: of the third, Dr. Swift was the editor.
  2. King William III, who died by a fall from his horse.