Queen Anne and the Rise of the Tories
From 'A History of the British Nation' by AD Innes, 1912
The Barrier Treaty had done the war party no good, since it had encouraged the popular cry that England was pouring out blood and treasure merely to benefit the Dutch; moreover, the extravagant conditions of peace offered to and rejected by Louis could not be reconciled with that desire to bring the war to an honourable close by which every one was professedly actuated.
The events of 1710 demonstrated with some clearness that the war was not likely to come to an end at all if Britain insisted on the Whig formula which absolutely refused to recognise the Bourbon king of Spain.
The Tory ministers were entirely warranted in conveying to France their readiness to enter upon negotiations with a view to terminating the war. The peace party received a- great accession of strength by the death of the Emperor Joseph and the consequent succession of his brother the Archduke Charles to the Austrian dominion and the Imperial Crown.
England had not gone into the war in order to revive for Charles VI the enormous empire of Charles V. A Hapsburg on the Spanish throne had certainly appeared preferable to a Bourbon so long as it was clearly understood that the different Hapsburg crowns were not to be worn by one person; but if the Austrian Emperor, Charles VI, was established also as the head of the Spanish Empire as the result of a great European war ostensibly directed to maintaining the balance of power, the paradox would be somewhat glaring.
Throughout 1711 secret negotiations with France were in progress. There was, in fact only one way to bring the war to an end - that one of the great Powers should come to terms with France and then insist upon the other Powers accepting those terms.
Only by pressure of this kind could they be induced individually to surrender extravagant claims. The war itself was languishing; Marlborough was conscious of the precarious character of his own position in England, since his wife had not only ceased to be the queen's intimate confidante, but had been definitely dismissed.
The political managers in England were Harley, the nominal chief of the Tories, and the brilliant St John, men whose characters and aims were too incompatible for the alliance to last, though they might be considered as each other's complements until they became antagonists. Harley was an opportunist with a dislike for extremes and a preference for back-stairs methods.
St John was an ambitious adventurer, entirely unscrupulous, and of boundless audacity, who held Harley's cautious and non-committal attitude in contempt, though be was quite ready to assume the same attitude merely as a mask. For him the matter of first-rate importance was to gain a complete ascendency over the fox-hunting Tory squires whom he despised from the bottom of his soul.
But for both Harley and St John the first thing was to procure peace and to get rid of Marlborough. The two objects were secured by a coup d'etat at the end of the year. The way was blocked by the hostile majority in the House of Peers, small but sufficient.
The majority was converted into a minority by the innovation of adding twelve Tories to the Peerage, and the transformation of the House of Lords was accompanied by the dismissal of Marlborough and the appointment of Ormonde to the chief military command. The ministers could conduct with a free hand the negotiations which now opened at Utrecht for a general peace, as to the terms of which they had already come to their agreement with France.
The Peace of Utrecht
The Peace of Utrecht, which was signed in the spring of 1713, was the great achievement of the Tory ministry. In its broad lines it was such a treaty as would have been approved by William III, although the terms obtained by France were infinitely better that those which Louis would have accepted in 1707, 1709, or 1710. It was of little importance that the Emperor chose to prolong the war with France on his own account for some little while before he would surrender his claims.
Philip was to retain Spain and the Indies, but he and his house were to be barred from the French succession; the Spanish Netherlands became the Austrian Netherlands, while Holland held the barrier fortresses. Naples and Milan went to Austria; Sicily was handed over as a kingdom to the Duke of Savoy. The gains of Great Britain from the treaty were substantial.
She retained Minorca and Gibraltar, bases for the naval command of the Mediterranean. In America she received Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Hudson Bay Territory, all of them hitherto subjects of periodical dispute with France. In the West Indies she acquired the island of St Christopher.
To her was transferred what was called the Asiento, restricted rights of trading with the Spanish colonies which had recently been enjoyed by France. This included a monopoly of the supply of negro slaves and the right of sending one trading vessel annually to trade in the South Seas. Further, France undertook to dismantle Dunkirk, formally repudiated the claim of the exiled Stuarts to the Crown of Great Britain, and acknowledged the Hanoverian Succession.
After the War of Spanish Succession
The war, which was originally commenced for sound enough reasons, had been carried on successfully by the Whigs, and the Tories brought it to an end by a peace which came as near to achieving the original aims of the war as could have been hoped for. Great Britain herself had very substantial gains in the American territories and the two new naval bases in the Mediterranean.
But while the peace itself might be claimed as satisfactory, two at least of the attendant circumstances were extremely discreditable to the ministry. Great Britain induced the allies to come to terms by practically deserting them in the field. Ormonde's forces were neutralised by orders from home, while he was still supposed to be acting in concert with the allies.
This might perhaps have been excused as being no very great breach of international political morality; but no excuse whatever could be found for the desertion of the Catalonians. The British had directly encouraged Catalonia to rise in arms against the Bourbon monarchy; they were bound in honour to protect the Catalonians against any vindictive treatment. They did nothing of the kind; they made no terms for their Spanish allies, and the rebellious province was left to the tender mercies of the Spanish monarchy.
Probably the Tories did themselves more harm by proposing a commercial treaty with France to accompany the Treaty of Utrecht. In 1704 the Methuen Treaty with Portugal had secured a market for English wooi by granting a preference to Portuguese wines, which gave port wine its enormous vogue throughout the eighteenth century.
The Methuen Treaty was universally applauded, because the value of the exports to Portugal was much greater than that of the imports; what was called the "balance of trade" was heavily in favour of England, because the difference in values was made up in bullion.
A commercial treaty with France, on the other hand, would on the same principles have been in favour of France, where there was no great market for English goods, whereas a lowered tariff would have induced a great demand for French wines and other goods in Britain. Bullion would have gone out of Great Britain into France; so that, according to the theory of the time, a country generally hostile to us would have gained at our expense. The proposal was received with so much indignation that it had to be dropped.
This affair is to be noted as a striking example of the fact that the Whigs were much more determined advocates of the mercantile theory of economics than the Tories. The strength of Toryism lay with the landed interest, and the landed interest had not become protectionist for the simple reason that the country had no difficulty in producing all the corn it wanted tor itself.
The strength of the Whigs lay among the mercantile classes, and the mercantile classes still believed that their own interests were safeguarded by protection. In the nineteenth century the points of view were reversed; it was the landowners who demanded Protection and the mercantile classes who carried Free Trade.
The Whigs had believed that they could best maintain themselves in power by prolonging the war; the Tories had displaced them by advocating peace on the ground that the war was being continued for the benefit not of Great Britain but of the allies. Hitherto both parties had posed alike as supporters of the Hanoverian Succession.
But while the Tory leaders were endeavouring to maintain themselves in power by securing the favour of Queen Anne, the Whig leaders were busy in impressing upon the court of Hanover the conviction that they were the friends of Hanover, and that the Hanoverian Succession was endangered by the Tory ascendency. The Tories did not grasp the position until it was too late.
Before the end of 1713 it was already a moral certainty that, as soon as the Elector of Hanover ascended the British throne, he would place himself in the hands of the Whigs. And the Tories had only just awakened to the fact that the succession question was imminent. Harley, now known as the Earl of Oxford, was not the man to guide the party in an emergency, but he was the man in possession. St. John, who was now Viscount Bolingbroke, found that the time had arrived when he most grasp the leadership.
When that was secured, he would have to stake everything Ion a Stuart Restoration, though until he held complete control such a policy could not be avowed. The general election which followed the peace had preserved the predominance of his party in Parliament. The matter of vital importance for him was to get rid of Oxford, and himself to obtain such a dominant influence with the party as would enable him to cany it with him when the moment arrived for throwing off the mask and declaring for King James.
The Schism Act
If the game was to be won it would not be by any futile effort to conciliate adverse interests and win over the moderates. The thing could only be effected by an appeal made to popular passion at the right moment, and the Sacheverell incident pointed to a wave of High Church fanaticism as the most promising means to attaining the end in view.
To secure the High Churchmen the Schism Act was Introduced and carried, which entirely barred dissenters from educational work. It was an obvious rust step towards the revival of the Clarendon Code, overthrown by William's Toleration Act, but still dear to the hearts of the High Church Tories. It served its purpose in rallying the whole of that section to the enthusiastic acceptance of Bolingbroke's leadership. Meanwhile he had not only been intriguing with James, but had been steadily employing Mrs Masham to destroy Oxford's influence with the queen.
Fall of Oxford
On July 27th the intrigues were so far successful that Anne dismissed Oxford, and Bolingbroke had a clear field in forming a new administration. Ready and swift as he was, death was swifter. In three days all the con. trolling executive offices had been conferred upon Jacobites, secret or avowed; yet a few days more were needed to make the control effective and enable Bolingbroke openly to throw off the mask.
The few days were not given. On the third day after the fall of Oxford the queen had an apoplectic stroke. The Council met, among them the incalculable Shrewsbury. To them entered two of the great Whig Peers, Somerset and Argyle, to other their aid in this melancholy emergency. Custom restricted attendance at the Council meetings to the acting ministers of state, but theoretically all members of the Privy Council' could claim the right to be present.
The arrival of Argyle and Somerset was sufficient proof that the Whigs had concerted their measures for the emergency. Bolingbroke dared not take the tremendous risk of there and then throwing off the mask and declaring against the Hanoverian Succession. Some one, perhaps he himself, pro-posed that Shrewsbury, who was obviously in collusion with the Whigs should be made Lord Treasurer; Bolingbroke at any rate did not venture to resist the proposal. When the physicians reported that the queen had recovered consciousness a deputation was sent to the dying woman's chamber to request her to confer the Treasurer's staff upon Shrewsbury.
Death of Anne
She acquiesced, handing it to him with the pathetic words, "Use it for the good of my people." A general meeting was immediately called of all the available members of the Privy Council - a very different thing from the selected gathering of Bolingbroke's instruments which had been interrupted by the Whig Peers. The Council acted as a united Government, whose first business was to secure the Hanoverian Succession, and to take measures against any possibility of insurrection or invasion. On the fifth day after Oxford's fall Queen Anne died, and George I was proclaimed king of England, while no man ventured to raise a dissentient voice.
This article is excerpted from the book, 'A History of the British Nation', by AD Innes, published in 1912 by TC & EC Jack, London. I picked up this delightful tome at a second-hand bookstore in Calgary, Canada, some years ago. Since it is now more than 70 years since Mr Innes's death in 1938, we are able to share the complete text of this book with Britain Express readers. Some of the author's views may be controversial by modern standards, particularly his attitudes towards other cultures and races, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.