CHAPTER XX. THE WAR OF THE SPANISH SUCCESSION AND THE TREATIES OF UTRECHT, 1702-1715
In August matters had so far advanced that Mesnager was sent over from Paris to London entrusted with definite proposals. In October the preliminaries of peace were virtually settled between the two powers. Meanwhile the Dutch had been informed through Lord Strafford, the English envoy at the Hague, of what was going on; and the news aroused no small indignation and alarm. But great pressure was brought to bear upon them; and, knowing that without England they could not continue the war, the States-General at last, in fear for their barrier, consented, on November 21, to send envoys to a peace congress to be held at Utrecht on the basis of the Anglo-French preliminaries. It was in vain that the Emperor Charles VI protested both at London and the Hague, or that Eugene was despatched on a special mission to England in January, 1712. The English ministry had made up their minds to conclude peace with or without the emperor's assent; and the congress opened at the beginning of the year 1712 without the presence of any Austrian plenipotentiaries, though they appeared later. The Dutch provinces sent two envoys each. The conferences at Utrecht were, however, little more than futile debates; and the congress was held there rather as a concession to save the amour propre of the States than to settle the terms of peace. The real negotiations were carried on secretly between England and France; and after a visit by St John, now Viscount Bolingbroke, in person to Paris in August, all points of difference between the two governments were amicably arranged. Spain followed the lead of France; and the States, knowing that they could not go on with the war without England, were reluctantly obliged to accept the Anglo-French proposals. Their concurrence might not have been so easily obtained, but for the unfortunate course of the campaign of 1712. Marlborough had now been replaced in the chief command by the Duke of Ormonde. Eugene, counting upon English support, had taken Quesnoy on July 4, and was about to invest Landrecies, when Ormonde informed him that an armistice had been concluded between the French and English governments. On July 16 the English contingent withdrew to Dunkirk, which had been surrendered by the French as a pledge of good faith. Villars seized the opportunity to make a surprise attack on the isolated Dutch at the bridge of Denain (July 24) and, a panic taking place, completely annihilated their whole force of 12,000 men with slight loss to himself. Eugene had to retreat, abandoning his magazines; and Douay, Quesnoy and Bouchain fell into the hands of the French marshal.
These disasters convinced the Dutch of their helplessness when deprived of English help; and instructions were given to their envoys at Utrecht, on December 29, to give their assent to the terms agreed upon and indeed dictated by the governments of England and France. Making the best of the situation, the Dutch statesmen, confronted with the growing self-assertion of the French plenipotentiaries, concluded, on January 30, 1713, a new offensive and defensive alliance with England. This treaty of alliance is commonly called the Second Barrier Treaty, because it abrogated the Barrier Treaty of 1709, and was much more favourable to France. It was not until all these more or less secret negotiations were over that the Congress, after being suspended for some months, resumed its sittings at Utrecht. The Peace of Utrecht which ensued is really a misnomer. No general treaty was agreed upon and signed, but a series of separate treaties between the belligerent powers. This was what France had been wishing for some time and, by the connivance of England, she achieved it. The treaty between these two countries was signed on April 11, 1713; and such was the dominant position of England that her allies, with the single exception of the emperor, had to follow her lead. Treaties with the States-General, with Savoy, Brandenburg and Portugal, were all signed on this same day.
Louis XIV had good right to congratulate himself upon obtaining far more favourable terms than he could have dared to hope in 1710 or 1711. Philip V was recognised as King of Spain and the Indies, but had solemnly to renounce his right of succession to the French throne and his claim to the Spanish possessions in the Netherlands and in Italy. The treaty between England and Spain was signed on July 13, 1713; that between the States-General and Spain was delayed until June 26, 1714, owing to the difficulties raised by the emperor, who, though deserted by his allies, continued the war single-handed, but with signal lack of success. He was forced to yield and make peace at Rastatt in a treaty, which was confirmed by the Imperial Diet at Baden in Switzerland on September 7, 1714. By this treaty the French king retained practically all his conquests, while Charles VI, though he did not recognise the title of Philip V, contented himself with the acquisition of the "Spanish" Netherlands, and of the Milanese and Naples. Into the details of these several treaties it is unnecessary here to enter, except in so far as they affected the United Provinces. The power that benefited more than any other was Great Britain, for the Peace of Utrecht laid the foundation of her colonial empire and left her, from this time forward, the first naval and maritime power in the world. Holland, though her commerce was still great and her colonial possessions both rich and extensive, had henceforth to see herself more and more overshadowed and dominated by her former rival. Nevertheless the treaties concluded by the States-General at this time were decidedly advantageous to the Republic.