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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Alberoni had restored the finances


Thanks

to the ability of Dubois, the Regent felt himself infeoffed to England; he gave a cool reception to the overtures of the czar, who proposed a treaty of alliance and commerce. Prussia had already concluded secretly with France; Poland was distracted by intestine struggles; matters were confined to the establishment of amicable relations; France thenceforth maintained an ambassador in Russia, and the czar accepted the Regent's mediation between Sweden and himself. "France will be ruined by luxury and daintiness," said Peter the Great, at his departure, more impressed with the danger run by the nation from a court which was elegant even to effeminacy than by the irregularity of the morals, to which elsewhere he was personally accustomed.

Dubois, however, went on negotiating, although he had displayed no sort of alacrity towards the czar; he was struggling everywhere throughout Europe against the influence of a broader, bolder, more powerful mind than his own, less adroit perhaps in intrigue, but equally destitute of scruples as to the employment of means. Alberoni had restored the finances, and reformed the administration of Spain; he was preparing an army and a fleet, meditating, he said, to bring peace to the world, and beginning that great enterprise by manoeuvres which tended to nothing less than setting fire to the four corners of Europe, in the name of an enfeebled and heavy-going king, and of a queen ambitious, adroit, and unpopular, "both

of whom he had put under lock and key, keeping the key in his pocket," says St. Simon. He dreamed of reviving the ascendency of Spain in Italy, of overthrowing the Protestant king of England, whilst restoring the Stuarts to the throne, and of raising himself to the highest dignities in Church and State. He had already obtained from Pope Clement XI. the cardinal's hat, disguising under pretext of war against the Turks the preparations he was making against Italy; he had formed an alliance between Charles XII. and the czar, intending to sustain, by their united forces, the attempts of the Jacobites in England. His first enterprise, at sea, made him master of Sardinia within a few days; the Spanish troops landed in Sicily. The emperor and Victor Amadeo were in commotion; the pope, overwhelmed with reproaches by those princes, wept, after his fashion, saying that he had damned himself by raising Alberoni to the Roman purple; Dubois profited by the disquietude excited in Europe by the bellicose attitude of the Spanish minister to finally draw the emperor into the alliance between France and England. He was to renounce his pretensions to Spain and the Indies, and give up Sardinia to Savoy, which was to surrender Sicily to him. The succession to the duchies of Parma and Tuscany was to be secured to the children of the Queen of Spain. "Every difficulty would be removed if there were an appearance of more equality," wrote the Regent to Dubois on the 24th of January, 1718. "I am quite aware that my personal interest does not suffer from this inequality, and that it is a species of touchstone for discovering my friends as well at home as abroad. But I am Regent of France, and I ought to so behave myself that none may be able to reproach me with having thought of nothing but myself. I also owe some consideration to the Spaniards, whom I should completely disgust by making with the emperor an unequal arrangement, about which their glory and the honor of their monarchy would render them very sensitive. I should thereby drive them to union with Alberoni, whereas, if a war were necessary to carry our point, we ought to be able to say what Count Grammont said to the king: "At the time when we served your Majesty against Cardinal Mazarin. Then the Spaniards themselves would help us." In the result, France and England left Holland and Savoy free to accede to the treaty; but, if Spain refused to do so voluntarily within a specified time, the allies engaged to force her thereto by arms.


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