The Influence of Grenville on Pitt's Foreign Policy, 1787-1798

By Ephraim Douglass Adams | Go to book overview

GRENVILLE'S SECOND OVERTURE TO PRUSSIA AND HAMMOND'S JOURNEY.

NOVEMBER, 1796, TO MAY, 1797.

In the episode just narrated the view taken is that up to November 7, 1796, Pitt was really sincere in the proposals made to France, while Grenville was sincere only so long as he saw no hope of any other than a peaceful solution, and that with his very first instructions to Malmesbury he was planning a renewal by England of a vigorous war policy. An additional proof of this purpose on Grenville's part and of his resumption of authority in foreign affairs is that on November 7, the day that his memorial to the Directory was despatched, he reopened with Austria the idea of securing Prussian aid.* His plan was, as formerly, that Austria should cede the Netherlands to Prussia, and herself take Bavaria. In December, 1796, and again in January, 1797, Morris wrote of rumors of Prussian willingness to enter into the proposed exchanges, but Thugut's dislike of a Prussian alliance and his earnestness in maintaining Austrian war preparations led Grenville to set the plan aside for the moment. But in February Prussia herself made advances to England. These were caused by the suspicion prevalent at Berlin that France was offering a separate peace to Austria, involving the sacrifice of Bavaria in return for the Rhenish frontier. The offer had in fact been determined upon by the Directory, and, though the terms were not positively known at Berlin, the old Prussian jealousy of Austria was aroused. The overture made to England was apparently for an agreement as to the terms of a general peace to be imposed on France,§ but the refusal of France to accept such terms

____________________
*
Sybel, IV, 327.
§
Grenville wrote to Morton Eden on March 3, 1797, in regard to the proposals of Prussia, "It is very material to observe that the basis of this plan is the scheme of peace already offered by the allies." Dropmore, III, 298. This must mean the separation of the Netherlands from France, but coming from Prussia could not have involved an exchange for Bavaria. At this same time Prussia was urging France to be permitted to propose to Austria and to England the holding of peace conferences. France objected to any such suggestion being made to England, and repeatedly asserted that French interests demanded a continental, but not a general, peace. Berichte von Caillard aus Berlin, Feb. 18 and March 4, 1797. Bailleu, I, 451-453.
Morris to Grenville, Dec. 21, 1796, from Vienna, and Jan. 26, from Dresden. Dropmore, III, 287, 294. In December Morris urged upon Thugut the necessity of securing Prussian aid ( Morris, II, 62), and on January 31 he proposed to Grenville that England should offer Hanover to Prussia. Ibid., 257-264. This last letter is not in Dropmore.
Sybel states that in the middle of January, 1797, France desired to make peace with Austria on these terms: 1, to restore Lombardy to the Emperor; 2, to give Bavaria to Austria in exchange for Belgium; 3, France to keep the left bank of the Rhine. Sybel, IV, 464. Barras details a long discussion by the Directory on January 15 of Clarke's offer to Austria. The terms of Carnot's despatch to Clarke coincide with the points given in Sybel. Barras, II, 312. The Berlin rumor also included a cession of the Netherlands to England. Morris, II, 275.

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