« PreviousContinue »
Thus far as to the certain and immediate effect of that armament upon the Italian states. The probable effect which that armament, and the other armaments preparing at Toulon, and other ports, may have
upon SPAIN, on the side of the Mediterranean, is worthy of the serious attention of the British councils.
That it is most probable, we may say, in a manner certain, that if there should be a rupture between France and Spain, France will not confine her offensive piratical operations against Spain to her efforts in the Mediterranean ; on which side, however, she may grievously affect Spain, especially if she excites Morocco and Algiers, which undoubtedly she will, to fall upon that power.
That she will fit out armaments upon the ocean, by which the flota itself may be intercepted, and thus the treasures of all Europe, as well as the largest and surest resources of the Spanish monarchy, may be conveyed into France, and become powerful instruments for the annoyance of all her neighbours.
That she makes no secret of her designs.
That, if the inward and outward bound flota should escape, still France has more and better means of dissevering many of the provinces in the West and East Indies from the state of Spain, than Holland had when she succeeded in the same attempt. The French marine resembles not a little
the old armaments of the Flibustiers, which about a century back, in conjunction with pirates of our nation, brought such calamities upon the Spanish colonies. They differ only in this, that the present piratical force is, out of all measure and comparison, greater; one hundred and fifty ships of the line, and frigates, being ready built, most of them in a manner new, and all applicable in different ways to that service. Privateers and Moorish corsaires possess not the best seamanship, and very little discipline, and indeed can make no figure in regular service, but in desperate adventures, and animated with a lust of plunder, they are truly formidable.
That the land forces of France are well adapted to concur with their marine in conjunct expeditions of this nature. In such expeditions, enterprise supplies the want of discipline, and perhaps more than supplies it. Both for this, and for other service, (however contemptible their military is in other respects) one arm is extremely good, the engineering and artillery branch. The old officer corps in both being composed for the greater part of those who were not gentlemen, or gentlemen newly such, few have abandoned the service, and the men are veterans well enough disciplined, and very expert. In this piratical way they must make war with good advantage. They must do so, even on the side of Flanders, either offensively or defensively. This shews the difference between
the policy of Louis the XIVth, who built a wall of brass about his kingdom; and that of Joseph the Second, who premeditately uncovered his whole frontier.
That Spain, from the actual and unexpected prevalence of French power, is in a most perilous situation; perfectly dependent on the mercy of that Republic. If Austria is broken, or even humbled, she will not dare to dispute its mandates.
In the present state of things, we have nothing at all to dread from the power of Spain by sea, or by land, or from any rivalry in commerce.
That we have much to dread from the connexions into which Spain may be forced. From the circumstances of her territorial
possessions, of her resources, and the whole of her civil and political state, we may be authorized safely, and with undoubted confidence, to affirm, that
Spain is not a substantive power :
That it is as much for the interest of Great Britain to prevent the predominancy of a French interest in that kingdom, as if Spain were a province of the crown of Great Britain, or a state actually dependent on it; full as much so as ever Portugal was reputed to be. This is a dependency of much greater value: and its destruction, or its being carried to any other dependency, of much more serious misfortune. One of these two things must happen: Either
Spain must submit to circumstances, and take such conditions as France will impose; or she must engage in hostilities along with the emperour,
and the king of Sardinia.
If Spain should be forced or awed into a treaty with the Republick of France, she must open her ports and her commerce, as well as the land communication for the French labourers, who were accustomed annually to gather in the harvest in Spain. Indeed she must grant a free communication for travellers and traders through her whole country. In that case it is not conjectural, it is certain, the clubs will give law in the provinces ; Bourgoing, or some such miscreant, will give law at Madrid.
In this England may acquiesce if she pleases ; and France will conclude a triumphant peace with Spain under her absolute dependence, with a broad highway into that, and into every state of Europe. She actually invites Great Britain to divide with her the spoils of the new world, and to make a partition of the Spanish monarchy. Clearly it is better to do so, than to suffer France to possess these spoils, and that territory alone; which, without doubt, unresisted by us, she is altogether as able, as she is willing, to do.
This plan is proposed by the French, in the way in which they propose all their plans; and in the only way in which indeed they can propose
them, them, where there is no regular communication between His Majesty and their Republick.
What they propose is a plan. It is a plan also to resist their predatory project. To remain quiet, and to suffer them to make their own use of a naval power before our face, so as to awe and bully Spain into a submissive peace, or to drive them into a ruinous war, without any measure on our part, I fear is no plan at all.
However, if the plan of co-operation which France desires, and which her affiliated societies here ardently wish and are constantly writing up, should not be adopted, and the war between the emperour and France should continue, I think it not at all likely that Spain should not be drawn into the quarrel. In that case, the neutrality of England will be a thing absolutely impossible. The time only is the subject of deliberation.
Then the question will be, whether we are to defer putting ourselves into a posture for the common defence, either by armament, or negotiation, or both, until Spain is actually attacked; that is, whether our court will take a decided part for Spain, whilst Spain, on her side, is yet in a condition to act with whatever degree of vigour she may have; whilst that vigour is yet únexhausted; or whether we shall connect ourselves with her broken fortunes ; after she shall have received material blows, and when we shall have the whole