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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

1762 when they were communicated to Parliament


line of conduct. The family

pact had raised the hopes--always an easy task--of France, the national impulse inclined towards the amelioration of the navy; the estates of Languedoc were the first in the field, offering the king a ship of war; their example was everywhere followed; sixteen ships, first-rates, were before long in course of construction, a donation from the great political or financial bodies; there were, besides, private subscriptions amounting to thirteen millions; the Duke of Choiseul sought out commanders even amongst the mercantile marine, and everywhere showed himself favorable to blue officers, as the appellation then was of those whose birth excluded them from the navy corps; the knowledge of the nobly born often left a great deal to be desired, whatever may have been their courage and devotion. This was a last generous effort on behalf of the shreds of France's perishing colonies. The English government did not give it time to bear fruit; in the month of January, 1762, it declared war against Spain. Before the year had rolled by, Cuba was in the hands of the English, the Philippines were ravaged and the galleons laden with Spanish gold captured by British ships. The unhappy fate of France had involved her generous ally. The campaign attempted against Portugal, always hand in hand with England, had not been attended with any result. Martinique had shared the lot of Guadaloupe, lately conquered by the English after an heroic resistance. Canada and India had at last succumbed. War
dragged its slow length along in Germany. The brief elevation of the young czar, Peter III., a passionate admirer of the great Frederick, had delivered the King of Prussia from a dangerous enemy, and promised to give him an ally equally trusty and potent. France was exhausted, Spain discontented and angry; negotiations recommenced, on what disastrous conditions for the French colonies in both hemispheres has already been remarked; in Germany the places and districts occupied by France were to be restored; Lord Bute, like his great rival, required the destruction of the port of Dunkerque.

This was not enough for the persistent animosity of Pitt. The preliminaries of peace had been already signed at Fontainebleau on the 3d of November, 1762: when they were communicated to Parliament, the fallen minister, still the nation's idol and the real head of the people, had himself carried to the House of Commons. He was ill, suffering from a violent attack of gout; two of his friends led him with difficulty to his place, and supported him during his long speech; being exhausted, he sat down towards the end, contrary to all the usages of the House, without, however, having once faltered in his attacks upon a peace too easily made, of which it was due to him that England was able to dictate the conditions. "It is as a maritime power," he exclaimed, "that France is chiefly if not exclusively formidable to us;" and the ardor of his spirit restored to his enfeebled voice the dread tones which Parliament and the nation had been wont to hear "what we gain in this respect is doubly precious from the loss that results to her. America, sir, was conquered in Germany. Now you are leaving to France a possibility of restoring her navy."

The peace was signed, however, not without ill humor on the part of England, but with a secret feeling of relief; the burdens which weighed upon the country had been increasing every year. In 1762, Lord Bute had obtained from Parliament four hundred and fifty millions (eighteen million pounds) to keep up the war. "I wanted the peace to be a serious and a durable one," said the English minister in reply to Pitt's attacks; "if we had increased our demands, it would have been neither the one nor the other."


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