Page images
PDF
EPUB

ten contract a certain narrowness of temper, and at length become incapable of great and generous resolutions. Should the French ever make an unexpected descent upon us, we might want soldiers of our own growth to rise up in our defence; and might not have time to draw a sufficient number of troops to our relief from the remote corners of Germany. It is generally said, that if King Charles II. had made war upon France in the beginning of his reign, he might have conquered it by the many veterans which were scattered up and down this kingdom, and had been inured to service in the civil wars. It is to be hoped we shall never have such another nursery of soldiers; but if the present war gives a more military turn to all other nations of Europe than to our own, it is to be feared we may lose in strength what we gain in number. We may apply the same consideration nearer home. If all our levies are made in Scotland or Ireland, may not those two parts of the British monarchy, after the disbanding of the present army, be too powerful for the rest, in case of a revolt? though, God be thanked, we are not in any danger of one at present. However, as these considerations do not concern the more essential part of our design, it is sufficient to have mentioned them.

The sparing of ourselves in so important a conjuncture, when we have but this single opportunity left for the preserving every thing that is precious amongst us, is the worst sort of management that we can possibly fall into. The good husbandry of one age may entail an endless expense upon all posterity. We nust venture the sacrificing a part of our lives and fortunes at present, if we will effectually secure both for the future. The British kingdom is so well stocked with people, and so much abounds in horse, that we have power enough in our own hands, did we make our utmost use of it, to humble France, and, in a campaign or two, to put an end to the war.

There is not a more disagreeable thought to the people of Great-Britain than that of a standing army. But if a peace be made before the disunion of France and Spain, there are few, perhaps, that will not think the maintaining a settled body of numerous forces indispensable for the safety of our country. We have it therefore in our choice to raise such a strong reinforcement of troops, as at present may be sufficient, in conjunction with those of the allies, for breaking the strength of the enemy; or, when the peace is concluded, to keep on foot such an army as will be necessary for preventing his attempts up

on us.

It is to be hoped, that those who would be the most zealous against keeping up a constant body of regular troops after a general peace, will the most distinguish themselves for the promoting an augmentation of those which are now on foot; and by that means take care that we shall not stand in need of such an expedient.

We are indeed obliged by the present situation of our affairs to bring more troops into the field than we have yet done. As the French are retired within their lines, and have collected all their strength into a narrow compass, we must have greater numbers to charge them in their intrenchments, and force them to a battle. We saw the last campaign, that an army of four-score thousand of the best troops in Europe, with the Duke of Marlborough at the head of them, could do nothing against an enemy that were too numerous to be assaulted in their camps, or attacked in their strong holds.

There is another consideration which deserves our utmost attention. We know very well, that there is a prince at the head of a powerful army, who may give a turn to the war in which we are engaged, if he thinks fit to side with either party. I cannot presume to guess how far our ministers may be informed of his designs : but, unless they have very strong assurances of his falling in with the grand alliance, or not opposing it, they cannot be too circumspect and speedy in taking their precautions against any contrary resolution. We shall be unpardonable, if, after such an expense of blood and treasure, we leave it in the power of any single prince to command a peace, and make us accept what conditions he thinks fit. It is certain, according to the posture of our affairs in the last campaign, this prince could have turned the balance on either side, but it is to be hoped the liberties of Europe will not depend any more on the determination of one man's will. I do not speak this because I think there is any appear. ance of that prince's uniting himself to France. On the contrary, as he hath an extraordinary zeal for the reformed religion, and great sentiments of honour, i think it is not improbable we should draw him over to the confederacy, if we press him to it by proper motives. His love for religion, and his sense of glory, will both have their effect on a prince who hath already distinguished himself by being a patron of Protestants, and guarantee of the Westphalian treaty. And if his interest hath any part in his actions, the allies may make him greater offers than the French king can do in the present juncture. There are large extents of dominion in the forfeited principalities of the empire; doubtful successions, to which the King of Sweden seems to have very just pretensions; and, at the same time, a great title not yet disposed of, and a seat of war on the Moselle, where none of our generals have signalized themselves. It would be presumption to be particular in any proposals on such an occasion ; it is enough to have shown in general, that there are fair opportunities, of which the wisdom of the confederates may make use.

Common sense will direct us, when we see so warlike a prince at the head of so great an army, hovering on the borders of our confederates, either to obtain his friendship, or secure ourselves against the force of his arms. We are sure, whatever numbers of troops we raise, we shall have no hands but what will turn to account. Nay, we are certain, that extraordinary funds and augmentations for one or two campaigns, may spare us the expense of many years, and put an end to taxes and levies for a whole age; whereas a long parsimonious war will drain us of more men and money, and in the end may prove ineffectual.

There is still a great popular objection, which will be made to every thing that can be urged on this subject. And indeed it is such an one as falls so much in with the prejudices and little passions of the multitude, that when it is turned and set off to advantage by ill-designing men, it throws a damp on the public spirit of the nation, and gives a check to all generous resolutions for its honour and safety. In short, we are to be told, that England contributes much more than any other of the allies, and that therefore it is not reasonable she should make any addition to her present efforts. If this were true in fact, I do not see any tolerable colour for such a conclusion. Supposing among a multitude embarked in the same vessel, there are several that in the fury of a tempest will rather perish than work for their preservation ; would it not be madness in the rest to stand idle, and rather choose to sink together than do more than comes to their share ? Since we are engaged in a work so absolutely necessary for our welfare, the remissness of our allies should be an argument for us to redouble our endeavours rather than slacken them. If we must govern ourselves by example, let us rather imitate the vigilance and activity of the common enemy, than the supineness and negligence of our friends.

We have indeed a much greater share in the war than any other part of the confederacy. The French king makes at us directly, keeps a king by him to set over us, and hath very lately augmented the salary of his court, to let us see how much lie hath that design at his heart. Few of the nations in war with him, should they ever fall into his hands, would lose their religion or form of government, or interfere at present with him in matters of commerce. The Dutch, who are likely to be the greatest losers after the Britons, have but little trade to the Levant in comparison with ours, have no considerable plantations or commerce in the West-Indies, or any woollen manufactures for Spain; not to mention the strong barrier they have already purchased between France and their own country.

But after all, every nation in the confederacy makes the same complaint, and fancies itself the greatest sufferer by the war. Indeed, in so comman a pressure, let the weight be never so equally distributed, every one will be most sensible of that part which lies on his own shoulders. We furnish, without dispute, more than any other branch of the alliance : but

« PreviousContinue »