Walpole and the Whig Supremacy

By H. T. Dickinson | Go to book overview

7 Foreign Policy

Walpole's grasp of financial matters was formidable and made him almost indispensable to the King. In the management of foreign policy, however, he was less accomplished. Despite occasional successes, he proved himself to be ill-equipped for the conduct of diplomacy and foreign affairs. While the legend that he conversed with George I in dog-Latin has been exploded, his knowledge of French, the diplomatic language of this period, was not extensive. He could probably read French, perhaps with the aid of a dictionary, but his ability to speak the language fluently must be seriously questioned. George I's own know­ ledge of French was not that much greater, so that in the early years of his reign he relied heavily on Robethon, the Hanoverian diplomat, to act as an interpreter during his private audiences with his English ministers. Walpole could certainly not converse in German, an accomplishment which endeared Carteret to the Hanoverians. Nor did Walpole have any first-hand experience of foreign affairs when he came to power in 1721. He had never travelled in Europe and none of the offices which he had held during his political career had been directly concerned with the conduct of foreign policy.

It did not take Walpole long to appreciate that he laboured under two major handicaps, at Court and in Parliament, because of his lack of knowledge and experience of foreign affairs. In the first place, his deficiencies weakened his influence at Court. Both George I and George II often appeared more concerned with the fate of Hanover than with the interests of Britain. They were certainly more interested in the affairs of Europe than in domestic politics. A minister who made no effort to share this

-113-

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Walpole and the Whig Supremacy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Introduction to the Series 5
  • Contents 7
  • Plates 8
  • Preface 9
  • I - Walpole and the Whigs 11
  • 2 - A Whig Apprenticeship (1701-14) 20
  • 3 - The Hanoverian Succession 40
  • 4 - Walpole Consolidates His Power 56
  • 5 - Political Management 66
  • 6 - Financial and Commercial Policies 93
  • 7 - Foreign Policy 113
  • 8 - Walpole and His Critics 140
  • 9 - Walpole in Power (1721-42) 160
  • 10 - The Last Years (1742-5) 188
  • Bibliography 193
  • Index 197
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