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secret correspondence; and he had formed a scheme, in conjunction with the duke of Ormond, the baron de Goertz, and Charles XII. of Sweden, who thirsted after revenge on the house of Hanover, of acquiring a new and powerful ally to his master, by placing the pretender on the throne of Great-Britain. But all these dazzling projects soon vanished into air, and this meteor of a moment disappeared with them.

We have already seen in what manner the intrigues of the baron de Goertz were defeated by the seizure of the papers of Gyllemburg, the Swedish ambassador at the court of England, and the subsequentdeathof Charles XII. Those of Alberoni were defeated in like manner, by-the seizure of the papers of prince Cellamar, the Spanish ambassador at the court of France. The project of prince Cellamar and his confederates was, to land a body of Spanish troops in Brittanv, in order to favour the assembling the malecontents of Poitou; to seize the person of the duke of Orleans, and oblige him to resign the regency to Philip V. On the discovery of this plot, cardinal Polignac, one of the principal conspirators, was confined to his abbey; the duke and duchess of Maine were taken into custody; the prince de Dombes, and count d'Eu, were ordered to retire from court; the Spanish ambassador was conducted to the frontiers; five gentlemen of Brittany were executed, and the duke of Orleans found his authority henceforth more firmly established2.

The formerly precarious state of that authority, and the dangerous intrigues of Alberoni, had induced the regent of France, in 1716, to enter into a league with England and Holland; and the violent ambition of the court of Spain, which seemed to know no bounds, now disposed those three powers in conjunction with the emperor, to form the famous Ojjadruple Alliance, as a dyke against its fury. After the articles which provided for the maintaining of the peace of Utrecht, the princi

2. Duke of Berwick's Mim. vol. ii. Mem- dc Brandenburg, torn. ii. VOL. v. G pal pal stipulations in that treaty were, that the duke of Savoy, in consideration of certain places in Italy, should exchange with the emperor the island of Sicily for that of Sardinia, of which he should take the regal title; and that the emperor should confer on don Carlos, eldest son of the young queen of Spain, the investiture of the duchies of Parma, Placentia, and Tuscany, on the death of the present possessors without issue.

This formidable alliance made no alteration in the temperof Alberoni. The article that regarded theeventual succession of don Carlos was rejected with scorn by the Spanish court which had already taken possession of Sardinia, under pretence of assisting the Venetians against the Turks, and of great part of the island of Sicily. The consequence of this obstinacy, and of these unprovoked hostilities, was a declaration of war against Spain, by France and England.

But, before that measure was embraced, every method had been tried, though ineffectually, to adjust matters by negociation : Alberoni sought only to gain time, by amusing the ministers of the two crowns. He did not, however, succeed in his scheme. George I. even while he negociated, sent a powerful fleet into the Mediterranean, under sir George Byng, who, being vested with very ample powers, and finding every proposal to induce the Spaniards to accede to a cessation of arms treated with disdain, proceeded to execute his ultimate instructions. He accordingly engaged the Spanish fleet near the coast of Sicily, and took or destroyed twenty-one ships out „ . of twenty-seven, fourteen of which were of the

AUG. 11. ,. J . , , . „ . .

line: yet could he not prevent the Spanish troops commanded by the marquis de Leda, from making themselves masters of the citadel of Messina, the town having surrendered before his arrival. But, by his activity in transporting German troops into Sicily, both the town

. - .« and citadel were soon recovered: and the SpaA. D. 1719. . , , , . V

niards made overtures tor evacuating the

island. The recovery of Sicily was followed by the surrender of Sardinia.

In the meantime the duke of Berwick conducted a French army toward the frontiers of Spain, and made himself master of St. Sebastian and Fontarabia; the duke of Ormond failed in his attempt to land a Spanish army in Great-Britain; and the duke of Berwick, having made preparations for opening the next campaign 1720 with the siege of Roses and Pampeluna, Philip V. acceded to the terms prescribed by the quadruple alliance, and Alberoni was disgraced3.

While this Italian priest, the son of a peasant, and formerly the curate of a petty village near Parma, was ambitiously attempting to change the political state of Europe, a great and real change was brought about in the commercial world, in th« finances of nations, and the fortunes of individuals, by a Scottish adventurer, named John Law. Professionally a gamester, and a calculator of chances, Law had been obliged to quit his native country, for having killed his antogonist in a duel. He visited several parts of the continent; and, on his arrival at Paris, he was particularly struck with the confusion into which the ambition of Lewis XIV. had thrown the French finances. To remedy that evil, appeared a task worthy of his daring genius:—and he flattered himself that he could accomplish it. The greatness of the idea recommended it to the duke of Orleans, whose bold spirit and sanguine temper induced him to adopt the wildest projects.

Law's scheme was, by speedily paying oft'the immense national debt, to clear the public revenue of the enormous interest that absorbed it. The introduction of paper-credit could alone effect this amazing revolution, and the exigencies of the state seemed to require such an expedient. Law accordingly established a bank, which was soon declared royal, and united with the Mississippi or WestIndia company, from whose commerce the greatest riches were expected, and which soon swallowed up all the other trading companies in the kingdom. It under

3 Id. ibid.

took took the management of the trade to the coast of Africa: it also obtained the privileges of the old East-India company, founded by the celebrated Colbert, which had gone to decay, and given up its trade to the merchants of St. Malo; and it, at length, engrossed the farming of the national taxes.

The Mississippi company, in a word, seemed established on such solid foundations, and pregnant with such vast advantages, that a share in its stock rose to above twenty times its original value. The cause of this extraordinary rise deserves to be traced.

It had long been believed, on the doubtful relations of travellers, that the country in the neighbourhood of the river Mississippi contained inexhaustible treasures. Law availed himself of this credulity, and endeavoured to encourage and increase it by mysterious reports. It was whispered, as a secret, that the celebrated, but supposed fabulous mines of St. Barbe, had at length been discovered i and that they were much richer than even fame had reported them. In order to give the greater weight to this deceitful rumour, a number of miners were sent out to Louisiana, to dig, as was pretended, the abundant treasure, with a body of troops sufficient to defend them against the Spaniards and Indians, as well as to protect the precious produce of their toils!

The impression which this stratagem made upon a nation naturally fond of novelty is altogether astonishing. Every one was eager to obtain a share in the stock of the new company: The Mississippi Scheme became the grand object and the ultimate end of all pursuits4. Even Law


4. The adventurers were not satisfied with a bare association with the company, which had obtained the disposal of that fine country. The proprietors were applied to from all quarters for large tracts of land frr plantations: which, it was represented, would yield, ina few years, an hundred times the sum necessary '0 be laid out upon them. The richest and most intelligent men in the nation were the most forward in making these purchases; and such as could not afford to become purchasers, solicited the • management himself, deceived by his own calculations, and intoxicated with the public folly, had fabricated so many notes, that the chimerical value of the funds, in 1719, exceeded fourscore times the real value of the current coin of the kingdom, which was almost all in the hands of government.

This profusion of paper, in which only the debts of the State were paid off, first occasioned suspicion, and afterwards spread a general alarm. The late financiers, in conjunction with the great bankers, exhausted the royal bank by continually drawing upon it for large sums. Every one wanting to convert his notes into cash; but the disproportion of specie was immense. Public credit sunk at once; and a tyrannical edict, forbidding private persons to keep by them above five hundred livres, served only to crush it more effectually, and to inflame the injured and insulted nation against the regent. Law, who had been appointed comptroller-general of the finances, and loaded with respect, was now execrated and obliged to fly from a country he had beggared without enriching himself, in order to discharge the debts of the crown5. The distress of the kingdom was so great, and the public creditors so numerous, that government was under the necessity of affording them relief. Upward of five hundred thousand sufferers, chiefly fathers of families, presented their whole fortunes in paper; and government after liquidating these debts, which are said to have originally amounted to a sum too incredible to be named, charged itself with the enormous debt of sixteen hundred and thirty-one millions of livres, to be paid in specie6.

management of plantations, or even to be employed in cultivating them! During this general infatuation, all persons who offered themselves, whether natives or foreigners, were promiscuously and carelessly crowded into ships, and land ed on the burning sands of the Bilexi, a district in West-Florida, between Pensacola and themnuth of tho Mississippi, where a French settlement had been inconsiderately formed, and where these nnhappy men perished in thousands, of want and vexation; the miserable victims of apolitical imposture, and of their own blind avidiry. Raynal {fin. Fbilot. et Politique, liv. xvi.

5. Voltaire, Raynal, and other Trench authors. 6. Voltaire.


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