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A History of the Four Georges, Volume I

Dubois had a profound knowledge of foreign affairs


During

George's absence from England he and his ministers had made some new and important arrangements in the policy of Europe. From this time forth--indeed, from the reign of Queen Anne--England was destined--doomed, perhaps--to have a regular part in the politics of the Continent. Before that time she had often been drawn into them, or had plunged enterprisingly or recklessly into them, but from the date of the accession of the House of Hanover England was as closely and constantly mixed up in the political affairs of the Continent as Austria or France. In the opening years of George's reign, France, the Empire--Austria, that is to say, for the Holy Roman Empire had come to be merely Austria--and Spain were the important Continental Powers. Russia was only coming up; the genius of Peter the Great was beginning to make her way for her. Italy was as yet only a geographical expression--a place divided among minor kings and princes, who in politics sometimes bowed to the Pope's authority, and sometimes evaded or disregarded it. The power of Turkey was {155} broken, never to be made strong again; the republic of Venice was already beginning to "sink like a sea-weed into whence she rose." The position of Spain was peculiar. Spain had for a long time been depressed and weak and disregarded. For many years it was thought that she was going down with Turkey and Venice--that the star of her fate had declined forever. Suddenly, however, she began to raise her head above the horizon again,
and to threaten the peace of the Continent. The peace of the Continent could not now be threatened without menace to the peace of England, for George's Hanoverian dominions were sure to be imperilled by European disturbance, and George would take good care that Hanover did not suffer while England had armies to move and money to spend. The English Government found it necessary to look out for allies.

France was under the rule of a remarkable man. Philip, Duke of Orleans and Regent of the kingdom, ought to have been a statesman of the Byzantine Empire. He was steeped to the lips in profligacy; he had no moral sense whatever, unless that which was supplied by the so-called code of honor. His intrigues, his carouses, his debaucheries, his hordes of mistresses, gave scandal even in that time of prodigal license. But he had a cool head, a daring spirit, and an intellect capable of accepting new and original ideas. He must be called a statesman; and, despite the vulgarity of some of his vices, he has to be called a gentleman as well. He could be trusted; he would keep his word once given. Other statesmen could treat with him, and not fear that he would break a promise or betray a confidence. How rare such qualities were at that day among the politicians of any country the readers of the annals of Queen Anne do not need to be told. The Regent's principal adviser at this time was a man quite as immoral, and also quite as able, as himself--the Abbe Dubois, afterwards Cardinal and Prime-minister. Dubois had a profound knowledge of foreign affairs, and he thoroughly understood the ways of men. {156} He had fought his way from humble rank to a great position in Church and State. He had trained his every faculty--and all his faculties were well worth the training--to the business of statecraft and of diplomatic intrigue. It is somewhat curious to note that the three ablest politicians in Europe at that day were churchmen: Swift in England, Dubois in France, and Alberoni--of whom we shall presently have to speak--in Spain. The quick and unclouded intelligence of the Regent--unclouded despite his days and nights of debauchery--saw that the cause of the Stuarts was gone. While that cause had hope he was willing to give it a chance, and he would naturally have welcomed its success; but he had taken good care during its late and vain effort not to embroil himself in any quarrel, or even any misunderstanding, with England on its account; and now that that poor struggle was over for the time, he believed that it would be for his interest to come to an understanding with King George.


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