III. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) as Reflected in Peace Poems

As Defoe's remark quoted at the end of the penultimate chapter shows, everything had virtually been said on the peace issue. And yet, when in the spring of 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht was concluded, this was like a second wind for the propaganda media and for one genre in particular: peace poems. They were a kind of poetic subspecies and put the finishing touches, as it were, to the public debate over the termination of the war. What had already been exhaustively dealt with in the discursive genres like, for example, the pamphlet, was now brought up again by the parties in a renewed self-promotion effort. Once more the partisan nature of the entire debate found expression in these poems.

     The Tories, of course, took the lead in the production of peace poems, not only in terms of sheer numbers. Since the conclusion of the peace treaty was a highly welcome event, it provided them with a certain vantage point from which to comment on it. But in the midst of Tory jubilations the Whigs were doing their utmost to hold their own and by no means remained silent. What the Tories did in terms of energetic self-promotion is well illustrated by Trapp's poem Peace (1713), which he dedicated to Lord Bolingbroke, and of which we quote the beginning in full:

Then It is done! the wond'rous Work compleat!
Britain at last is Wise, as well as Great.
Too long have our deluded Heroes dy'd,
For Belgic Avarice, and Austrian Pride:
Too long have We indulg'd our Martial Flame,
Disgrac'd by Triumphs, pillag'd into Fame.
But now no more shall We be scorn'd, or aw'd
By Lies at home, by Insolence abroad;
To Foreign Nations which We sav'd, and paid,
By our own Native Foreigners betray'd:
No more shall Taxes rise, and Credit fall;
No more, at ev'ry little Princes Call,
Shall our resign'd, obsequious Troops advance,
The Jest of Europe, while the Dread of France.

This passage reads like a pamphlet in verse; the polemical structure of discursive writing is transferred to poetry by means of oxymora and pointed antitheses. Against the background of past events Trapp obviously wants to confront the Whigs, the "Native Foreigners", once more with the catalogue of their misdeeds. He wants to take advantage of the pro-Tory mood and if possible generate fresh energy in their favour. There is a similar polemical thrust when Smith in On the Peace (1713) remarks on the peace envisaged by the Whigs that it "Gave our Allies the Profits, us the Blows". Trapp is so set on polarising that a common feature of all peace poems, homage to the Queen and a vision of a prosperous Britain trading with the world, becomes almost secondary:

Her Merchants unmolested, uncontroul'd
Enrich her Kingdoms, and import their Gold,
Thro' all the Universe pursue their Gain,
Secure from War, and fearless plough the Main.

     There is a similar emphasis in most other Tory peace poems, too: in Charles Kirkham's Philanglus and Astraea (1712) and Ward's Upon the Prospect of Peace (1712), both among the first of the Tory poems to appear; in Bevill Higgons' A Poem on the Peace (1713), William Waller's Peace on Earth (1713), Thomas Parnell's posthumous On Queen Anne's Peace, Smith's above-mentioned On the Peace, William Diaper's Dryades (1713), Truth Discover'd; or a Short View of the Queen's Peace (1713), Anna Triumphans (1713), An Humble Offering to the Best of Queens, upon the Consummation of Peace (1713), the somewhat later The Congress (1714), and finally Alexander Pope's Windsor Forest (1713), by far the most literary of them all. In all these poems the events that led to the Treaty of Utrecht are presented once more with the obvious polemical intention of denigrating the Opposition and portraying the Tory Government as a paragon of patriotism and loyalty to the Queen. This way of dealing with the past also left its imprint on the opening of Nahum Tate's The Triumph of Peace (1713), the Poet Laureate's contribution. To drive home their message, authors drew on a catalogue of recurring key-terms with negative political overtones like "Discord", "Rebellion", "Sedition", "Resistance", "Anarchy", "Faction", "Chaos", "Envy", "Fury", and "Discontent", usually with particular intensity towards the end of their poems. Each of these terms was meant to strike a propaganda blow at the Whigs, whom the Tories regarded as scheming and seditious at home and bellicose abroad. The decidedly political bias of these key-terms becomes apparent when one reads Samuel Wesley's non-political poem An Hymn on Peace (1713); it contains similar terms, but in a traditional application to describe profligate behaviour. Tory peace poems were not simply yet another variation of the customary political rhetoric acclaiming the Government's policy. Their main purpose was to sustain the Government's high popularity by once more laying open the deficiencies of the Opposition and thereby giving the Tories an edge in domestic policy especially in view of the forthcoming elections. In this respect they had a complementary function with, for instance, such an aggressive prose sheet as What Sort of Peace is this? Or, a Rod in Piss for some Body (1713) which, voicing extreme Tory sentiment, was also an expression of the hope for retributive measures against those responsible for the former wicked war policy. These poems were more than just a rhetorical ratification of what had been achieved; in fact, any reference to past successes was intended to create a favourable climate for the Government's policy in the future.

     In these poems there is a wide range of poetic gifts that authors applied to the creation of a particular Tory image. Trapp's Peace and Pope's Windsor Forest are two examples at opposite ends of the spectrum. Trapp simply clads the political reasoning of pamphlets and tracts in poetic garb. Pope in his sublime treatment of the Peace of Utrecht creates world literature, but he is different in mode only; for he, too, never loses sight of the main purpose of these poems: to propagate the Tory programme of political renewal. Thus, in the poetic genre of peace poems, too, Government propaganda showed a high degree of unity of purpose similar to that at the climax of the turning-point debate at the beginning of 1712. Individual writers' idiosyncrasies and preferences in both political personnel and content were never allowed to interfere with this objective.

     Windsor Forest has received thorough treatment in several studies and has also been analysed with regard to its specific form as a means of communicating political content. Let it suffice here, therefore, to simply mention that the creation of this outstanding literary work coincided with the Tories' growing sense of self-assertion, which found expression in the peace poems as a general rallying-call for Conservative regeneration. Windsor Forest, which also gives expression to latent Jacobite sympathies, pays homage to the Sovereign and the reigning House of Stuart:

Rich Industry sits smiling on the Plains,
And Peace and Plenty tell, a STUART reigns.

Making consistent and ingenious use of the pastoral mode the poem indirectly unfolds the events leading to the conclusion of the peace treaty. Expression is thus given to the tenet of Tory politics, also proclaimed early in Nathaniel Castleton's The Olive, an Ode (1713), that the Queen freed her country from its self-destructive military engagement and pointed the more glorious way to peaceful conquests. As in other peace poems, too, reference to the past is, though in a poetically sublimated manner, used for confrontation with the political opponent, as the following brief survey of recent English history shows:

Make sacred Charles's Tomb for ever known,
(Obscure the Place, and uninscrib'd the Stone)
Oh Fact accurst! What Tears has Albion shed,
Heav'ns! what new Wounds, and how her old have bled?
She saw her Sons with purple Deaths expire,
Her sacred Domes involv'd in rolling Fire,
A dreadful Series of Intestine Wars,
Inglorious Triumphs, and dishonest Scars.
At length great ANNA said - Let Discord cease!
She said, the World obey'd, and all was Peace!

The subsequent oration by Father Thames, which proclaims Pope's vision of peace, culminates in the idea that England owes her present state of prosperity to Tory loyalism. The same message is conveyed in Kirkham's Philanglus and Astraea over several pages of 'poetic prose'. Windsor Forest makes short shrift of Whig principles, condensing them at the end into a catalogue of political vices; at the same time it is an appeal for a Government whose loyalty to the Queen would lead to a revival of the traditional Tory concept of the unity of Church and State.

     Tory peace poems with their polarisation and with hardly a trace of Harleyite moderation anticipated the tense political climate which was soon to develop. Maybe it was nostalgia which made the writers of these poems paint the ideal of a monistic state with their pronounced rhetoric of unity. But on the other hand they also expressed the Tories' growing self-confidence toward the end of Queen Anne's reign, which was such an essential foundation for the future. With the benefit of historical hindsight this is not without irony; the peace poems, by harping on unity, were demanding something the Tory leaders were lacking at the conclusion of the peace and above all immediately thereafter, and which contributed substantially to the accession of George I in 1714, a disaster which took the party into the political wilderness.

     As regards the emerging tensions among leading Tories, Harley and Bolingbroke in particular, these were only occasionally touched upon in the peace poems, although the general tendency to polarise sharply signalled a move to the right, which was probably more to Bolingbroke's liking than to Harley's. Particular deference is shown to Bolingbroke in Trapp's polemical poem Peace, and in Parnell's similarly polemical On Queen Anne's Peace he is accorded the distinction of being the first-named politician and this even immediately after the Queen, but then there is praise for Harley and other politicians in both poems as well, not unlike in Elkanah Settle's Irene Triumphans. The British Muse's Congratulatory Poem, on the Peace (1713). Diaper's Dryades is not nearly as balanced: the praise is almost entirely bestowed on Bolingbroke, who is also mentioned first, and the final apostrophe to the arch Conservative Sir William Wyndham, who co-operated with Bolingbroke, shows that here the author definitely sides with a particular political grouping. No programmatic statements and no overtly personalised preferences occur in Peace on Earth, however, a poem by Waller, an Anglican clergyman - with High Church leanings? - who does not mention Bolingbroke at all but follows Harley's political line. There are unmistakable personal preferences, on the other hand, in Smith's On the Peace, which puts Harley in the centre as the antagonist of the Junto and makes him the sole architect of the peace. The emphasis is similar in the above-mentioned The Olive and in The Canterbury Tale: Or Story of the Wandering Turtle, another early manifestation of Tory peace confidence published in May 1712. Edward Young's Epistle to the Right Hon. George Lord Lansdowne (1713) contains several apostrophes to Bolingbroke, whereas Harley is completely passed over. The peace poems thus also document hidden personal frictions and the politicians' efforts to capitalise on the flattery bestowed upon them. Dedicating Windsor Forest to Lord Lansdowne and giving him a prominent place in the poem are both indications of latent Jacobitism, albeit less conspicuous than the rhetoric in favour of the Divine Right concept. Though insiders like Swift were aware of the growing estrangement between Harley and Bolingbroke, which they regretted, this fact was - for the time being - largely 'kept under cover' in Tory peace poems, occasional references notwithstanding. Personal references could even be interpreted as a veiled attempt to exorcise any emerging internal discord when in its issue of 13 April 1713 the Examiner diplomatically paid its compliments on the occasion of the peace in equal measure to Oxford on the right of the throne and to Bolingbroke on the left. Although the Tory peace poems were also indicators of individual politicians' standing, the overall impression they conveyed was that of a united front vis-à-vis the political opponent. They were like so many festively dressed shop windows, but there was hardly a way to catch a glimpse of what went on behind John Bull's counter although individual decorations kept people guessing.

     The authors of Whig peace poems understandably found it more difficult than those favoured by history to come to terms with an event they had long discredited and were now expected to applaud without giving up long-held convictions. Praise, the genre's distinctive mode of expression, did not come easily to them. However, instead of conceding victory by default in this short-lived but popular genre, they made an effort to face up to the occasion. A good example is Tickell's On the Prospect of Peace, which appeared as early as October 1712 and was favourably commented on in the Spectator of 30 October 1712. Since it was published before the actual conclusion of the peace it was never in danger of being drowned in the chorus of Tory jubilation, and by the time the negotiations ended it had been reprinted four times. In his poem, which is dedicated to John Robinson Bristol, the future Bishop of London and one of the two British plenipotentiaries at the Utrecht negotiations, Tickell expressed the positive expectations that many people had, but at the same time developed a rhetoric of partial dissent.Tickell also dignifies the Queen with the compliment that it was she who pointed the way to peaceful conquest, but this is diluted by his justification of the blood toll which he places in a wider European context and which the Tories always regarded as unconscionable:

Accept, Great ANNE, the Tears their Mem'ry draws, Who nobly perish'd in their Sov'raign's Cause: For Thou in Pity bid'st the War give o'er, Mourn'st thy slain Heroes, nor wilt venture more. Vast Price of Blood on each victorious Day! (But Europe's Freedom doth that Price repay.) Lamented Triumphs! when one Breath must tell That Marlbrough conquer'd, and that Dormer fell.

Praise of the Duke of Marlborough appears like a recurring theme throughout the poem: it is to him that England owes her present advantageous position. This was an interpretation of events somewhat at odds with the official Government line but one which perpetuated the Whigs' view of events. In light of the treatment that Marlborough had received Tickell's poem - affirmative on the surface - was tantamount to a declaration of political misgivings.

     In A Paraphrase on the XXIXth Psalm, Occasion'd by the Prospect of Peace (1713) the panegyric references to Marlborough were also an expression of Whig dissent. The preface is unadulterated propaganda when it states in a tone of regret that after the ground has been masterfully prepared and that after the toils of the battlefield peace has been rendered possible it is necessary "to leave it to some inferior Hand to [...] fill up the Piece". Not only in personally vituperative broadsides like O Raree Show (1713), The Br-sh Embassadress's Speech to the French King (1713) or Nothing but Truth (1713) did the Whigs vent their militant and uncompromising rejection of what had been negotiated in Utrecht, in peace poems, too, they tried to preserve a measure of the old battle order. Their rhetoric of dissent was no doubt an attempt to keep political options open for the future in the face of present adverse circumstances. Thus the Whig peace poems also had a perspective beyond the immediacy of the occasion, and quite like those of their Tory opponents aimed at political territorial gains in the future. In poems like Tickell's On the Prospect of Peace and A Paraphrase the Whigs recorded their dissenting opinions and made themselves heard once more in spite of their disadvantaged position.

     The peace poems were anything but peaceful: they were living proof, so to speak, of still unsettled political scores and thus confirmed Wesley's heartfelt sigh in An Hymn to Peace:

The Common Foe forgot, each Squadron bends
Their Arts and Arms against Intestine Friends.

The role of the peace poems in the battle for public approbation and their divisive rhetoric testify to the hunger of the public for political enlightenment and participation in the political process. In the protracted propaganda struggle over the termination of the War of the Spanish Succession the peace poems were like concluding statements in which both Government and Opposition emphatically nailed their colours to the mast.