SCARCELY ever has the whole of Europe enjoyed such prosperous years as those from 1748 to 1755. Commerce flourished; the arts were held in honour; Europe was like a family reunited after its quarrels. Yet the coming troubles were heralded as it were by earthquakes, especially the devastating one of Lisbon. The first catastrophe was in Sweden, where a monarchist conspiracy was discovered and the conspirators executed.
What set Europe ablaze was an Anglo-French quarrel over a question of boundaries left undefined under the treaty of Utrecht. The colonists attacked each other. Louis threatened Hanover. A league between England, Russia and the empire seemed imminent; in fear of which Prussia sought alliance with England. France threatened the English coasts, but actually struck at Minorca and seized Port Mahon--for which Admiral Byng was court-martialled and shot.
And now we are confronted by the amazing spectacle of an Elector of Brandenburg holding at bay the attack of Russia, France, the house of Austria, half the empire and Sweden; a prodigy to be explained only by the superiority of the Prussian discipline and the Prussian general. Augustus of Saxony and Poland, Maria Theresa and Elizabeth of Russia each had their grievance against Frederick--the last a purely personal one. Frederick, his alliance rejected by France, had united himself to England and Hanover. Even France and Austria, immemorial rivals, were now joined against him.
Frederick, menaced on every hand, suddenly entered Saxony and compelled its submission. In the archives of Dresden he found warrant for his action. The emperor put him to the ban of the empire. Russia moved on Prussia through Poland; the French entered Cleves and threatened Hanover. Frederick. leaving containing forces on the east and west, dashed on Prague. His great victory was cancelled by the great defeat of Kolin. The English were defeated at Hastenbeck; but Cumberland's convention of Klosterseven was repudiated.
Soubise, advancing on Saxony, was routed by Frederick at Rosbach. Ferdinand of Brunswick, replacing Cumberland, held Richelieu in check. Though Frederick flashed into Silesia, it seemed that Austria and Russia must overwhelm him; but Russia was withdrawn from the war by court revolutions. The war raged on every side of Prussia.
But France met with nothing but disaster in every quarter of the globe. In India the French arms at first seemed successful. Dupleix supported a pretender to the throne of Arcot. The English supported the rival claimant. But from the day when Clive defeated Dupleix before Arcot the French power waned. Lally, who succeeded Dupleix in the Indian command, was vanquished at Wandewash. Pondicherri was captured. Returning to France, the hapless Lally was tried on several counts, acquitted on some, but condemned to death on others. Chandernagore also, in Bengal, had been lost. In India, nothing was left to France.
In Africa, too, nothing was left to her; the English captured both Senegal and Goree. In America the losses were far greater. Quebec and all Canada were taken--no very real loss, perhaps, for Canada always cost a great deal and gave very little in return. A tenth of the expenditure on that colony if devoted to uncultivated lands in France would have brought large profits. In the West Indies, Guadeloupe and Martinique were taken. A French fleet destined for a descent on Ireland was shattered or captured or lost in Quiberon Bay. England's naval superiority has been marked at every stage of history, but was now more overwhelming than ever.
IT was at this moment that Choiseul endeavoured to unite the Bourbon dynasties; but the attempt was without effect. It only laid Spanish colonies at the mercy of the English. France was utterly exhausted. In 1763 peace was made. Practically all that England had won was ceded to her. The peace was as necessary as it was humiliating, and its consequence was even more bitter when it was found that the Canadian colonists preferred to become subjects of Great Britain rather than return to French soil.
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