England in the Mediterranean: A Study of the Rise and Influence of British Power within the Straits 1603-1713 - Vol. 2

By Julian S. Corbett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
THE FIRST OCCUPATION OF THE STRAITS

FOR the student of history there is no more dangerous pitfall than the temptation to attach too much reality to the periods which historians shape for the elucidation of their work. It is so easy to fall into the error of thinking that, because those periods are clearly defined to us, they were also apprehended by the men of the time. Yet there have been pauses in the great march of events which were always unmistakable, and such a one is that which is marked by the treaty of the Pyrenees. Followed as it was by Louis's assumption of power, by Charles's restoration, and the Portuguese marriage, it was obviously a fresh point of departure. Europe was plainly marshalled in a new order, and every one was watching for the first indication of its outcome.

Since the signature of the treaty in 1659 until the middle of the year 1661 the statesmen of Western Europe had been occupied exclusively with the setting of the board. It was the sailing of Sandwich's fleet that was the first move, and as on June 19 he weighed for the Mediterranean every eye was upon him. It is true his ostensible mission was nothing more serious than to bring Algiers to reason, and doubtless the alleged object was more than a mere pretence. The security which Cromwell had given to the Levant trade had done much to reconcile the powerful merchant interest to his government, and Charles could not afford to do less. But no

-22-

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