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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Over European politics grew weaker and weaker


Arrest of Charles Edward----166]

The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle had a graver defect than that of fruitlessness; it was not and could not be durable. England was excited, ambitious of that complete empire of the sea which she had begun to build up upon the ruins of the French navy and the decay of Holland, and greedy of distant conquests over colonies which the French could not manage to defend. In proportion as the old influence of Richelieu and of Louis XIV. over European politics grew weaker and weaker, English influence, founded upon the growing power of a free country and a free government, went on increasing in strength. Without any other ally but Spain, herself wavering in her fidelity, the French remained exposed to the attempts of England, henceforth delivered from the phantom of the Stuarts. "The peace concluded between England and France in 1748 was, as regards Europe, nothing but a truce," says Lord Macaulay "it was not even a truce in other quarters of the globe." The mutual rivalry and mistrust between the two nations began to show themselves everywhere, in the East as well as in the West, in India as well as in America.


France was already beginning to perceive her sudden abasement in Europe; the defaults of her generals as well as of her government sometimes

struck the king himself; he threw the blame of it on the barrenness of his times. "This age is not fruitful in great men," he wrote to Marshal Noailles: "you know that we miss subjects for all objects, and you have one before your eyes in the case of the army which certainly impresses me more than any other." Thus spoke Louis XV. on the eve of the battle of Fontenoy Marshal Saxe was about to confer upon the French arms a transitory lustre; but the king, who loaded him with riches and honors, never forgot that he was not his born subject. "I allow that Count Saxe is the best officer to command that we have," he would say; "but he is a Huguenot, he wants to be supreme, and he is always saying that, if he is thwarted, he will enter some other service. Is that zeal for France? I see, however, very few of ours who aim high like him."

The king possessed at a distance, in the colonies of the Two Indies, as the expression then was, faithful servants of France, passionately zealous for her glory, "aiming high," ambitious or disinterested, able politicians or heroic pioneers, all ready to sacrifice both property and life for the honor and power of their country: it is time to show how La Bourdonnais, Dupleix, Bussy, Lally-Tollendal were treated in India; what assistance, what guidance, what encouragement the Canadians and their illustrious chiefs received from France, beginning with Champlain, one of the founders of the colony, and ending with Montcalm, its latest defender. It is a painful but a salutary spectacle to see to what meannesses a sovereign and a government may find themselves reduced through a weak complaisance towards the foreigner, in the feverish desire of putting an end to a war frivolously undertaken and feebly conducted.

French power in India threw out more lustre, but was destined to speedier, and perhaps more melancholy, extinction than in Canada. Single-handed in the East the chiefs maintained the struggle against the incapacity of the French government and the dexterous tenacity of the enemy; in America the population of French extraction upheld to the bitter end the name, the honor, and the flag of their country. "The fate of France," says Voltaire, "has nearly always been that her enterprises, and even her successes, beyond her own frontiers should become fatal to her." The defaults of the government and the jealous passions of the colonists themselves, in the eighteenth century, seriously aggravated the military reverses which were to cost the French nearly all their colonies.

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