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Gentleman Spectator Summer Edition 1677

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Foreign Relations


The war between France and the Holy Roman Empire and their Dutch allies grinds onward with no end in sight. The treasuries of the kingdoms on the Continent are being depleted, in contrast to ours in England. While famine, death and deprivation sweep the Low Countries England prospers. A stalemate has both our enemies and rivals anchored to despair with no relief in sight.


This is no war of religion, as there are Catholics and Protestants on both sides. This has been the rare war in which everyone else destroys each other while England prospers. Nevertheless, there are those in London that advocate war, for war brings opportunity for honor. It appears that the Dutch tire of earning so much honor that they prefer the English to join the war so the Dutch might be able to use their navy not against the French, but besting English merchants instead.


Do we fight the French because assassins of French origin made an attempt on our beloved King? In doing so, we declare war on Sweden, the greatest Protestant defender of the Thirty Years War. Or, do we declare war on Papist Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor for the millions of good Protestants they have slaughtered; but, in doing so have to fight a third war with the Dutch?


Or, do we stay neutral and prosper while Papist nations suffer. The Dutch have chosen their bedfellows, Catholics at every turn. Shall we spend English lives to save them from their folly? Our own beloved Princess Mary is set to marry Prince William of the United Provinces. As a wedding present shall we transfer English prosperity to them?


Word has reached us in London that gentlemen in Bristol, Southhampton, Portsmouth, and Dover are restive at the thought of a war. They voice growing concern over the cost of the war and the ruinous new taxes that might be needed from Parliament. A letter to this newspaper from one representative correspondent has asked us why we should care about ending a war in which Papist kills Papist.


The Gentleman Spectator takes no position, but merely reports the news as we receive it. Our readers ask if war is certain notwithstanding the growing groundswell of opposition by English gentlemen and educated tradesmen. The answer appears to be yes. The Country Party favors war with France based on historical emnity for France and any divine right monarchy. They support the Dutch because of their republican form of government. The Court Party is led by the Lord Treasurer, the Earl of Danby, a man known for his distrust of France, and perhaps rightly so. What prince on the Continent is truly trustworthy? Since both parties wish for war, is it a near certainty?


One member of Parliament was asked how it was that Parliament could support war in the face of opposition in the south of England and the cradle of English trade. While asking to remain anonymous, he admitted that "we are relying on the support of the uneducated Englishmen. Ply them with spirits and passion and they will fight anyone as long as you tell them that it will be against Catholics." When asked about the Papist Dutch allies, he replied "we hide the fact that we will be helping two Catholic kingdoms fight one Catholic kingdom. What they do not know cannot hurt them."


Given how certain this member was that Englishmen will do whatever the House of Commons tells them to do, it may seem that war is certain, especially if educated Englishmen stand by idly. As such, it would be prudent to hoard French products as well as goods that are available overseas such as sugar and tobacco, as a war may close trade lanes for a time.


Is it too late? Fortunately, there are a few men of moderation in the House of Lords, having the courage to stand and speak of a different path. Lords like Buckingham, Daventry, and Basildon have urged caution, preferring instead, perhaps, for England to gain honor by brokering a peace and gaining the gratitude of an entire Continent thereby without need to fire a single shot. What greater glory could there be for England than to have an entire Continent bend their will to that of England? Yet, will Papist kingdoms allow us to do this? Would they not prefer us to send soldiers to die so that our kingdom will be easier to invade? The greatest hope is the King himself. Less swayed by mobs, he will act for the good of England.


Court Politics


The Test Act


There is no doubt that Catholics plot against England. How much so remains to be seen. Even if it is a small minority of English Catholics that might be complicit, the threat must be taken seriously. Mister Oates professes a grand conspiracy of Jesuits against the King. He should know, being a former Jesuit himself. These enemies need to be flushed out like vermin and destroyed. Jesuits and their ilk are inherently untrustworthy and enemies of England; so too are Papists.


One reader has written to ask the definition of a Papist. The answer, of course, is that a Papist puts Rome before England, even if they are of English birthright. That is treasonable. The risk of such treason is what led to the Test Act, in which Catholics were forbidden from holding any office in the kingdom. This has been well-enforced and not a single Catholic holds a public office.


The reader then asks if all Catholics put the Pope before England, and are therefore Papists. No matter how small the number, there must be those who practice the Catholic religion but do not put an allegiance to Rome above allegiance to London. Humans are too varied in their nature for all to be of one demeanor. Are there Anglicans that are traitors to England? Surely. The Commonwealth proved that. So, logically, if some Anglicans are traitors to England, then so too must some Catholics be traitors to Rome. Those loyal to the Pope are, therefore, Papists. Those who are not ... are not.


Now the debate has turned to whether a second Test Act is necessary, this time targeting members of Parliament. As Lord Danby proclaims, no Papist should sit in Parliament; but, what of gentlemen who are so unenlightened as to practice Catholicism, but betray the interests of Rome in favor of their homeland?


IAs our readers know, gentlemen are different from the rest of society. These men can carry swords in the presence of the King because they have been suckled on the truth that honor is everything. A gentleman should sooner sacrifice his mother than his honor. If a true gentleman gives you his word, it is his bond. If a Catholic lord denounces Rome in favor of his homeland, should we not encourage it? Strip traitors to England, but not traitors to Rome might be an interesting platform upon which to stand.


If one cannot trust a gentleman, then where do we stop? If one cannot trust a Catholic ipso facto, surely one cannot trust someone who has a family member that is a Catholic, or a spouse, or a friend, or anyone that has ever done business with a Catholic. In such a world, only those who know nothing of Catholicism at all could be trusted with governing England. Those that profess to have known it but rejected it could hardly be trusted either. Would it be best for England to be governed by five year old children? The example, while ludicrous, demonstrates that there must be some form of trust. Might the boundary of trust be the word of a gentleman? It may be something to ponder.


In the meantime, expect the Second Test Act to be voted upon later in the year. It is a divisive issue to be sure. Some claim it is little more than an attempt to open the door for the Crown to pick and chose which lords it likes and which it does not. If the Crown can administer tests for loyalty, might this be a way to abrogate the Magna Carta? Some in Parliament believe so. In the current climate, one has to wonder whether there is a sufficient consensus to see it passed..


The Danby Impeachment


The people await the findings of an investigation of the Lord Treasurer. Could it be that a man who has demonstrated nothing but ill will for the French and Catholics all his adult life secretly betray England to French Catholics? Or, might he have added a secret clause to the Treaty of Dover to fool the French King into paying gold for nothing? This newspaper will report upon any findings of the committee once they are released.


Court Social News


Lord Beverley, only son of the Earl of Brooke, has become betrothed to Lady Mary Somerset, daughter of the Marquess Worcester. An August wedding is planned.


Lady Sophia Albrecht, daughter of a German Graf, married the Spanish Baron of Toledo in July.


The Earl of Dorset was reputed to have married palace socialite Countess Atherstone in May; but, that account has been refuted by the Earl.


The Earl of Langdon is said to have lost his wife in a drowning accident. Given how invisible she was at court last season, some might speculate as to whether she existed at all. Nevertheless, he has this newspaper's condolences.

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Extra Edition


Parliament Poised for War?


The drums of war sound their siren call. Englishmen have been ever ready to enlist with the call. Monday's session of the House of Lords was no exception. In this brief session, the English lords inched closer to war despite the fact that the House of Commons has raised no money to pay for it. In May, Lords seemed united in the view that funds should be raised, in advance, before considering joining a war. Three Dutch wars have led our proud nation into insolvency. Why not a fourth?


The Country Party is well known in its desire to keep the Crown a pauper, thinking that it gives them leverage whenever the nation needs more funds. The lives of the unpaid sailors matter little in this game to keep the kingdom weak. Yet, in May, even Lord Shaftesbury, leader of the Country Party, acknowledged that advance funding would be advisable. It seems that the heat of summer has caused caused memories to fail.


There was no talk of financial prudence on Monday. Rather, there was continued saber-rattling of soldiers seeking their next adventure. Only one lord was brave enough to rise and say what so many know to be true. It is difficult to speak loud enough to drown out the drums of war.


Lord Basildon rose again to hold the assembled lords accountable for his cautions in the May session. It had been the Earl that raised the concern of finances in May. On Monday, he rose to offer a compromise to those who would risk the future of England recklessly. No one has professed a desire to help Spain or the Roman Emperor in its war against France. Rather, proponents of a fourth war claim that their desire is to protect the United Provinces from France.


Courageously, Lord Basildon offered the House what it sought. If the French King did not make peace with Prince William by the end of the year, English soldiers would be sent to the United Provinces to help garrison Dutch cities from French attack. The Dutch would pay for the English soldier upkeep so that it would cost England nothing. The French would be thwarted one way or another and we shall achieve victory at the cost of those who ask for our aid.


Lord Pembroke, a lord never known to shy away from a fight, rose to urge caution about entering the conflict blindly. Other key lords such as Buckingham and Danby kept their own counsel, it seemed, preferring to watch the sport of other lords debating.


The session ended prematurely when a Dutch warship arrived in London and fired its cannon, in salute. It was a curious scene to see English lords scramble to the sound of Dutch guns. Perhaps it was a foreshadowing of the tragedy that the Dutch might visit upon England. One can hope that the warship arrived for happier reasons, such as escorting the Princess Mary to Prince William.


In the end, as courtiers fled the scene and some lords moved to protect royalty from foreign guns, the Earl of Basildon was left alone, unwavering in his belief that England needed to be thoughtful rather than emotional. Another session has been scheduled for Monday. It remains to be seen whether men of principle will rise to see the wisdom of protecting English interests, rather than Continental interests. What makes the issue so intriguing is that it favors neither the Court Party or the Country Party. The idea of England coming first and the Continent coming second is a patriotic view that should appeal to all English parties.


* * * * *


As a service to our readers, we have accumulated the wisdom of some of the greatest ancient philosophers. Perhaps our Parliament will heed their immortal words.


“It is not enough to win a war; it is more important to organize the peace.” Aristotle


The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Sun Tzu, Chinese philosopher


“In times of war, the law falls silent." Marcus Tullius Cicero


"Who wishes to fight must first count the cost” Sun Tzu


"Do not weigh too nicely the perils of war." Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War


"There is a foolish corner in the brain of the wisest man." Aristotle

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