Difference between revisions of "British Strategy Part 3"

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:‘Mr Pitt, in his speech, recapitulated his own situation, called by his Sovereign; and he might say in some degree by the voice of the People, to assist the state, when others had abdicated the service of it, that he accordingly came, had gone through more difficulties than ever man did; that (though he supposed it might be good fortune) he had successes in his measures taken for the honour, and the interest of the nation; that, in the execution of these measures, he had met with great obstructions from some (hinting at principal persons) who did not wish the success of them. There was hardly one expedition which he had proposed, though the most probable and at last attended with the best success, that had not been before treated as chimerical and ridiculous. That he was loaded with the imputation of this war being solely his; that it was called his war ; that it had been a successful one; and, more than hinted, that the success was singly owing to him; that the case was otherwise now... Spain is now carrying on the worst specie of war she can for France covers her trade; lends her money and abets her negotiation. This puts you actually in war with the whole house of Bourbon... That in his station and situation he was responsible; and would not continue without having the direction; that this being the case, nobody could be surprised that he could go on no longer; and he would repeat it again, that he would not be responsible for nothing but what he directed’.<sup>79</sup>
 
:‘Mr Pitt, in his speech, recapitulated his own situation, called by his Sovereign; and he might say in some degree by the voice of the People, to assist the state, when others had abdicated the service of it, that he accordingly came, had gone through more difficulties than ever man did; that (though he supposed it might be good fortune) he had successes in his measures taken for the honour, and the interest of the nation; that, in the execution of these measures, he had met with great obstructions from some (hinting at principal persons) who did not wish the success of them. There was hardly one expedition which he had proposed, though the most probable and at last attended with the best success, that had not been before treated as chimerical and ridiculous. That he was loaded with the imputation of this war being solely his; that it was called his war ; that it had been a successful one; and, more than hinted, that the success was singly owing to him; that the case was otherwise now... Spain is now carrying on the worst specie of war she can for France covers her trade; lends her money and abets her negotiation. This puts you actually in war with the whole house of Bourbon... That in his station and situation he was responsible; and would not continue without having the direction; that this being the case, nobody could be surprised that he could go on no longer; and he would repeat it again, that he would not be responsible for nothing but what he directed’.<sup>79</sup>
  
Pitt resigned because he believed the policy to be wrong. He was later justified when war with Spain did indeed break out that winter, in January 1762, confirming Clausewitz’s view that war has its own dynamic. What was unacceptable to Pitt’s fellow Cabinet members was his arrogant approach to the business of government. At that time, with the absence of a party whipping system, government was achieved through cooperation combined with Royal direction. Pitt struggled with the concept that he might need to accede to, or at least accommodate, the views of colleagues with whom he didn’t agree. Pitt stood out almost as a war-monger at a time when the majority were war weary and there is a lesson here about internal relationships. For all his sense of honour and drive, Pitt was never easy to work alongside, whether in or out of power.<sup>80</sup> The war with Spain presented an opportunity, that of a combined force launched against both French and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and Philippines. Interestingly, even an ‘on the ropes’ France kept an eye on the extent of British distraction and seized the opportunity to retake Newfoundland by mid-September. After [[1762 - British expedition against Manila|capturing Manila]], the British found that Spain abandoned the Philippines in order to concentrate on [[Portugal]] which had joined the war on Britain’s side.
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Pitt resigned because he believed the policy to be wrong. He was later justified when war with Spain did indeed break out that winter, in January 1762, confirming Clausewitz’s view that war has its own dynamic. What was unacceptable to Pitt’s fellow Cabinet members was his arrogant approach to the business of government. At that time, with the absence of a party whipping system, government was achieved through cooperation combined with Royal direction. Pitt struggled with the concept that he might need to accede to, or at least accommodate, the views of colleagues with whom he didn’t agree. Pitt stood out almost as a war-monger at a time when the majority were war weary and there is a lesson here about internal relationships. For all his sense of honour and drive, Pitt was never easy to work alongside, whether in or out of power.<sup>80</sup> The war with Spain presented an opportunity, that of a combined force launched against both French and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and Philippines. Interestingly, even an ‘on the ropes’ France kept an eye on the extent of British distraction and seized the opportunity to [[1762 - French expedition against Newfoundland|retake Newfoundland]] by mid-September. After [[1762 - British expedition against Manila|capturing Manila]], the British found that Spain abandoned the Philippines in order to concentrate on [[Portugal]] which had joined the war on Britain’s side.
  
[[Frederick II|Frederick]], facing almost certain defeat, was suddenly, and surprisingly, reprieved. On 5 January
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[[Frederick II|Frederick]], facing almost certain defeat, was suddenly, and surprisingly, reprieved. On 5 January 1762, the [[Elizabeth Petrovna|Empress Elizabeth]] of [[Russia]] died and her Prussophile successor, [[Peter III|Tsar Peter III]], not only withdrew his own forces but also mediated in a Prussian truce with [[Sweden]]. This eased the pressure on Frederick so that he now had the luxury of being able to finish his war on the winning side and of playing Britain differently.
1762, the [[Elizabeth Petrovna|Empress Elizabeth]] of [[Russia]] died and her Prussophile successor, [[Peter III|Tsar Peter III]], not only withdrew his own forces but also mediated in a Prussian truce with [[Sweden]]. This eased
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the pressure on Frederick so that he now had the luxury of being able to finish his war on the winning side and of playing Britain differently.
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Pitt’s resignation, against the backdrop of the continued war, triggered an acrimonious debate over the nation’s interests and objectives. By 1762 Bute insisted in severing relations with Frederick of Prussia and sought to return to a compromise with France. Paradoxically, George III was more closely aligned with the ‘Patriotic’ position, spurning a family custom of involvement in German matters. Pitt had advocated close relations with [[Prussia]] and, at a time of increasing British isolationism, he found himself out on a limb and an irritation to the Government.<sup>81</sup> On 12 May 1762 he reminded the House of Commons that previous great English and British rulers had employed intervention on the Continent. Again Black quotes him:
 
Pitt’s resignation, against the backdrop of the continued war, triggered an acrimonious debate over the nation’s interests and objectives. By 1762 Bute insisted in severing relations with Frederick of Prussia and sought to return to a compromise with France. Paradoxically, George III was more closely aligned with the ‘Patriotic’ position, spurning a family custom of involvement in German matters. Pitt had advocated close relations with [[Prussia]] and, at a time of increasing British isolationism, he found himself out on a limb and an irritation to the Government.<sup>81</sup> On 12 May 1762 he reminded the House of Commons that previous great English and British rulers had employed intervention on the Continent. Again Black quotes him:
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Yet to Pitt those terms were simply not good enough. He insisted that the Ministry had failed to secure better terms and also that there was a continuing risk of a Bourbon ''revanche''. However, quite how the latter could ever be fully prevented was not evident. The peace talks finally gave rise to the [[1763 - Treaty of Paris|Peace of Paris]] of 1763. Pitt’s persistent opposition to the terms promoted his popular reputation as the protector of the national interest. Pitt was heavily critical of allowing France to retain a share of the Newfoundland fisheries, which could form the basis for a fresh Atlantic challenge. That, and retaining Guadeloupe and Martinique, might provide the means for France to recover and to become, once again, a threat to Britain’s security and trade. The paradox of victory was that the price of Britain’s absolute security was the complete insecurity of her enemies.<sup>83</sup>
 
Yet to Pitt those terms were simply not good enough. He insisted that the Ministry had failed to secure better terms and also that there was a continuing risk of a Bourbon ''revanche''. However, quite how the latter could ever be fully prevented was not evident. The peace talks finally gave rise to the [[1763 - Treaty of Paris|Peace of Paris]] of 1763. Pitt’s persistent opposition to the terms promoted his popular reputation as the protector of the national interest. Pitt was heavily critical of allowing France to retain a share of the Newfoundland fisheries, which could form the basis for a fresh Atlantic challenge. That, and retaining Guadeloupe and Martinique, might provide the means for France to recover and to become, once again, a threat to Britain’s security and trade. The paradox of victory was that the price of Britain’s absolute security was the complete insecurity of her enemies.<sup>83</sup>
  
==Foot notes==
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==Aftermath==
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The aftermath is important as it allows the reader to differentiate between potential and performance.
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The SYW may have been the last gasp of old Europe, but it was certainly conducted with spirit and for important ends.  The immediate outcome of the SYW was Britain’s high point in the 18<sup>th</sup> Century and Pitt’s supporters attributed the success to his policies, and these differed from the policies and feats of earlier governments.<sup>84</sup>  The French were decisively defeated at sea, and in North America and India.  Success in the latter two, and elsewhere was, it was claimed, due to the commitment of resources in Germany.  From 1758 this included troops on the ground and it led to wider success.  It was thus heavily in the national interest.  The Pittite newspaper the Monitor shaped public opinion and in May 1759 it indirectly criticised Britain’s Continental interventionist policies in three previous wars: the Nine Years’ War, and the wars of the Spanish and Austrian Successions, claiming that Pitt was ‘always in a condition to improve the arms of his country’s allies to the national interest, by feeding them with such succours and supplies only, as the connection of their war influenceth the measures to be pursued, in favour of his own country; and to keep clear of those ruinous continental measures, which were taken in favour of the Dutch and the House of Austria’.<sup>85</sup>
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The post-war period of British domestic affairs was turbulent.  The Government was close to bankruptcy and 1763 saw Bute’s resignation, followed by two of his successors.  Pitt returned as Earl Chatham in a reformed Ministry but, rather like Churchill 200 years hence, discovered leadership of a divided Ministry in peace very challenging.  The war had provided a great sense of national unity in the face of adversity and this was now all too evidently missing.<sup>86</sup>
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Chatham, a previous advocate of the Prussian alliance, returned to this theme and put a lot of effort into restoring it, blaming the rupture on Bute. In this, Chatham reverted to a previous tactic by holding an evil Royal advisor to blame, and reflecting his own sense of paranoia. The unfortunate consequence of his attribution of blame misled Chatham into a failure to see an important underlying cause – that the rupture with Frederick was fundamentally due to a lack of common interests. This latter had been masked by the results of diplomacy in 1756. From about 1710 onwards, Prussia had actually been preoccupied with France and Western Europe. Now instead Frederick had become much more enthusiastic about an alliance with Russia. When he had finally effected it by 1764, Frederick did not want that relationship to become thinned or skewed by involving Britain. Nor did he want further unnecessary conflict with the Bourbons, which would be made more likely through an alliance with the British.<sup>87</sup>
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On the other hand, Chatham had actually wished that the Prusso-Russian realignment of 1762 might provide Britain with another opportunity, so Bute’s failure to seize that opportunity, compounding his over-generous peace terms with France, was further evidence of Bute’s dilatory approach to the national interest. Once restored to office, Chatham was unable or unwilling to grasp that the situation vis-à-vis Prussia had changed. He seemed to believe only he could inspire the Government and that all it would take would be his supreme will-power. To an extent, Chatham became almost delusional in this. In reality, the expertise in situ, the experienced Berlin envoy Sir Andrew Mitchell, predicted accurately that Frederick would rebuff the approach.
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The Paris Peace Treaty of 1763 was one of the key factors in Britain’s ranking in the 18th Century.  Britain was now the world’s pre-eminent colonial power: she was dominant in Canada, North America, India and the West Indies. Anderson describes the Peace of Paris as a ‘phenomenal diplomatic coup for Britain’. In contrast, his view of the Peace of Hubertusburg conducted between the Hohenzollerns, the Hapsburgs and the [[Friedrich August II|Elector of Saxony]] is that, apart from changing perceptions of Prussia, ‘six years of heroic expenditure and savage bloodshed had accomplished precisely nothing’.<sup>88</sup>
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By the war’s end, a fresh European balance of power had been established. French and Austrian power had declined while a strong Prussia was now very clearly a great Continental power.  However, as Clausewitz wrote, ‘In war the result is never final.’<sup>89</sup>  Britain’s competition with France continued on both the maritime and mercantile fronts even after the war.  Later, France was presented a further opportunity to challenge Britain’s overseas power when the latter became distracted by the opening shots of the American Revolution (1777-83).  Otte describes the American War of Independence as a significant Anglo-French-Spanish colonial conflict.<sup>90</sup>
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==Review and Discussion==
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Howard asks, ‘Does history have a practical value?’, observing that history seldom repeats itself identically, context being all important.  The student, inheriting other historians’ interpretations of the past, must attempt to identify the relationship between effects and their cause.<sup>91</sup>  That notwithstanding, there appear to be several aspects of the SYW which have an enduring relevance.  The aim of this section will be to review the SYW in terms of assessing how Britain’s war leaders either shaped events, or were driven by them, while simultaneously drawing out enduring observations.
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Perhaps the first and most valuable lesson is to identify vital national interests, to attempt to arrange them in relative order of importance and then to set priorities.  Britain and France shared general ‘core’ interests: maintaining or increasing their security, power and influence in Europe.  More specifically Britain sought to preserve the Liberties of Europe, to balance power in Europe and to prevent France from having any outlet to the sea, including with the ‘Dutch Barrier’.  She used alliances, sea power and trade as instruments, although the latter two almost became ends in themselves.  The Atlanticist versus the Continental position is central to the debate of this period and shows that the dichotomy faced since William III continued through the SYW.  It continues to this day.  Britain is Janus-faced, looking simultaneously towards both global interests and towards Europe.  The point may be that this is not some zero-sum calculation, that Britain actually doesn’t have a choice, and that she must maintain both interests.  Even Pitt, in spite of his earlier antipathy to the Continental option came to recognise this.  Protecting Hanover was a transient wild-card ‘end’ created by the peculiarities of Britain’s royal interests.  Not many modern commentators would agree with all three of Thucydides’ reasons for going to war, fear, honour and interests, yet an 18<sup>th</sup> Century Briton would probably accept them.<sup>92</sup>
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Waltz might argue that the key element missing from the structure of the international system was the lack of a common authority.  The variables were the changing balance of power (including states’ economic situations), alliances between states, and the degree of polarity in the system.  The Security Dilemma was ever present.<sup>93</sup>
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Although the SYW predated Clausewitz, its study confirms many of his observations.  The SYW was indeed a clash of wills<sup>94</sup>  Passion, reason, chance and friction were all to the fore.  As a political phenomenon, war was never an isolated act and any contributions needed to be consistent with its political purpose.<sup>95</sup>  War demanded violence, and unlimited war demanded it absolutely, so escalation was a factor.<sup>96</sup>
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Pitt not only preceded Clausewitz but also actually proved in reality what Clausewitz postulated, that war was a continuation and means of state policy.  Should Britain exert her maritime power, or should she rely on the Army, with the Navy in a defensive role?<sup>97</sup> <sup>98</sup>  Such debate was particularly concerned with whether Britain should become embroiled in Frederick the Great’s affairs, which were strictly of no real relevance to Britain and which only came about after Britain was already involved in her fight with France in the colonies.  Direct European intervention appeared to have little to recommend it to Britain.  It was understood that tactical victories were achievable but that decisive strategic victory was impossible.  France could always achieve numerical superiority on the Continent such that defeat there was almost ultimately inevitable.  On the other hand, it was suggested that the justification for sending troops to Hanover was that Britain could prevent France from focussing on flexing her maritime muscle by supporting Frederick in what was effectively a military diversion.  Of course, Britain was actually bound, through alliance, to assist him.  Clearly there was an inconsistency.  One view might have refuted the necessity to protect Frederick regardless of alliance obligations, or whether he was the Protestant Hero, and even if Britain were politically obliged to support Frederick, Britain should not be held to do so in any particular way.  Further, Britain had other options available than just to send land forces.  Instead, and as Frederick himself actually suggested, Britain could much more strenuously attack the French along their own coast, and in the West and East Indies, if her resources and energy were not being expended in Germany.  It would be preferable to employ Britain’s singular strength at sea than to squander it in Germany where conclusive results would be far more elusive.  Not only could a clearer decision be achieved in this war, but future conflicts could also be avoided by putting future colonial quarrels beyond the reach of possibility, for it could profoundly eliminate France as a potential maritime rival.  As previously explained, sea-power grew from overseas, usually colonial, trade.  In Britain it was generally understood that while France and Continental powers, without naval vessels, could march their armies hither and thither, Britain could remain immune.  Further, having captured French colonies or wrecked her trade, France’s economy had been written down to such an extent that she was unable to afford sufficient land power to terrorise Europe.  This latter view was understood, and even confirmed, by some French writers.  Richmond quotes from M. de Flestay who wrote in 1759 that, ‘the English, by their sovereignty at sea, increase their own wealth and prevent France from making use of hers; the war demonstrating how with her wealth she assists the continental armies, who put it out of the power of France to use against the English the resources which might otherwise have been the case’.<sup>99</sup>
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Much of this paper has concentrated on local operations in North America and India, but the essential feature common to both was the Fleet in the waters of Europe.  Few though the naval battles were, they were actually of strategic significance.  Destroying France’s navy was a key factor in depriving her of command of the seas.  She could not therefore have a free hand on the oceans: her trade, most of which was associated with her Atlantic ports, became vulnerable.
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The next observation would be that the ‘Principles of War’ (currently Selection and Maintenance of the Aim, Maintenance of Morale, Offensive Action, Security, Surprise, Concentration of Force, Economy of Effort, Flexibility, Cooperation and Sustainment) would have stood up to scrutiny in the SYW, as they continue to do today.<sup>100</sup>
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Synergies between the operational theatres took time to develop, but when they did they were spectacular, aided by experienced admirals who understood the intent and could be trusted to act semi-autonomously.
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The weather, both cold and hot, interrupted the war during the winters in Canada and India, a reminder of the need for a comprehensive estimate which still endures.  Weather or other conflicting variables can ruin timing, or be used to advantage.
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Turning to thoughts of peace, 18<sup>th</sup> century truces usually required some compromise and there would be a political price to pay by the negotiator making such concessions.  In Britain in particular, stemming from beliefs about the nation’s strength, any peace would be hotly debated.  This was particularly the case when Pitt, with his strong opinions, was in opposition.
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A key point is that states want to win, and policy deepens and intensifies war rather than moderating it, so there is a tendency for any conflict to escalate.<sup>101</sup>  This is Clausewitz’s descent into the chaos of absolute war.<sup>102</sup>  There will be tensions and contradictions but the participants should remember, and this will seldom be easy, the political consequences while fighting.  The trick seems to be to bear in mind the original Casus Belli, to maintain the political objective while attempting to impose one’s will.  It is important to offer fair terms in order not to generate a further grievance.  Today there is concern about the use of overwhelming force, yet those engaged in combat will not wish to be unnecessarily constrained.  Heuser suggests that Clausewitz’s fixation with victory is unattainable in the current age.<sup>103</sup>  We now have two supporting concepts with regard to victory, and those are strategic success and strategic advantage, the latter possibly being sufficient.<sup>104</sup>
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In both the SYW itself, and also with the prospect of peace, British foreign policy was concerned with strategy and with alliance politics.  Britain required a stable Europe.  Allying herself with an aggressive power could be counter-productive.  Also alliances wax and wane and it is important to recognise both false or over-optimistic impressions of shared interests, but also when interests have started to diverge.  Natural strains occur in an alliance where partners have mutually exclusive objectives or different regional priorities.  Apart from habit, in such cases, it may actually be counter-productive to maintain an alliance artificially.  In the SYW, coordination of allied operations was tentative and both the British and the Germans had the ability to surprise each other.
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At the outbreak of the SYW all of the belligerents brought their economies to the brink of ruin.  The war fostered major developments in global perspectives, not just the era of imperialism, but also that hegemonic powers recognised that the economy was a more powerful instrument of hegemony than territory.  Significantly, the economic chaos resulting from the war had far-reaching consequences.
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Britain’s superior economic resources had allowed her to subsidize Prussia to the tune of £670,000 per annum along with other North German armies which fell under Prussia.  The subsidy, arranged in April 1758, enabled Frederick of Prussia to continue his struggle to dominate Central Europe.  Such an agreement was not a novelty for Britain, having underwritten Austria during the 40-48 War.  However, while the arrangements of the War of the Austrian Succession were fragile, Pitt’s strategy in the SYW was far more durable.  This protected and preserved Hanover as the rest of Europe became enmeshed in a stalemate, while Britain was able to focus on defeating France overseas.  The war, which cost Britain £160M, with some 37% of the total being found by her markets, was a prime example of converting profit to power.<sup>105</sup>
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It was, however, recognized that there were finite limits to the amounts of money or manpower that Britain could raise.  Even Frederick recognised that Britain’s purse was not bottomless.<sup>106</sup>  In a sort of balancing act, it was necessary to retain some of the pool of labour in agricultural and manufacturing tasks in order to sustain the nation, rendering that manpower unavailable for military service.<sup>107</sup>  Likewise, purchasing foreign mercenaries would only accumulate debts and ruin the economy.  The economy featured prominently in the deliberations, along with the need to continue ‘steady-state’ running of necessary normal functions.  These concepts have the ring of contemporary thinking.  Subsequent wars have shown that countries must maintain an appropriate balance between the teeth and the tail: between the front line and all those other logistic, commercial and support functions which sustain the martial effort, maintain the nation and pay for both.  Within that equation lies an enduring issue – that of the proper balance of the employment of manpower.  In the SYW, the British Government was well aware of this quandary.
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London’s aggressive capitalism had guaranteed committed City support for Pitt’s war aims.<sup>108</sup> Revered by the City, he was awarded its freedom.  Hennessy quotes Powell, “All history is myth”.<sup>109</sup> The popular image of Pitt as the defender of the nation’s interests endured the bulk of the following two centuries.  To an extent that situation may have prevailed because Britain’s empire still retained energy, but more recently a revisionist view would be that Pitt was not as successful as the popular view imagined.  However, it was as a war leader that Pitt excelled.
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For Britain there were, however, two significant consequences: one negative - taxing American colonists led to rebellion; one positive - the financial infrastructure developed, including tapping public credit, laid the capital market groundwork for the industrial revolution.<sup>110</sup>  From the aftermath, and there is a lesson here for rising nations, there is a danger of overstretch.  All empires crumble.  Every nation on the rise has internal faults which will ultimately constrain it.
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The subjective nature of war makes it a gamble.<sup>111</sup>  It seldom consists of a single short blow.  The probability of real life replaces the extreme and absolute required by theory.<sup>112</sup>  War cannot be controlled by human inventions, such as democracy.  It is shaped by such factors as relative power and the economy.<sup>113</sup>  In the SYW, as ever, the enemy got a ‘vote’, and there were unintended consequences. Contemporary armchair generals, raised on myths of resounding victories and the modern mantra of minimal collateral damage, may need to relearn some of Clausewitz’s reality.  Even victors have setbacks and when forces clash there will some a degree of attrition somewhere.  The SYW highlights the danger of making assumptions about fading powers.  In theory France had the weaker navy and colonial forces.  Yet she showed that any power by definition has the capacity to inflict damage, even when aging or fatally wounded.
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Reflection on what might have been provides some triangulation on what was really important.  For example, if France’s policy and her maritime doctrine had been different, she could have developed a large merchant navy, free to roam within the security provided and assured by a potent fighting fleet.  The symbiosis generated between these two, and also with her colonies, could have become self-perpetuating.  If France’s energy and flair had been nurtured by the wealth generated through the colonies and undiminished by Continental conflict, there is every chance that the French Empire would have flourished.  A prosperous France might have been far more content and resilient against revolution.<sup>114</sup>
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Strategy is the development of an original guiding thought under continually changing circumstances, so the practitioner must review it and understand what should cause an adjustment.  Britain’s position saw discontinuity, caused by events and adjustments to the war aims, but also by loss of political support or of patronage.  At times there were internal political divisions and failure to agree.  On the other hand, in spite of contradictory stances, there did appear to be a sense of national unity in the war.  Clausewitz’s ‘people’ was the audience which Pitt, with his consummate ability to communicate, played to.  Adair quotes Lord Roseberry on him: ‘It is not merely the thing that is said, but the man who says it that counts, the character which breathes through the sentences’.<sup>115</sup>  Pitt had strong opinions yet he was able, when necessary, to modulate his position.  He could take account of circumstance and public mood and opportunity but he couldn’t do it out of power and, rather like Churchill, he was less effective at it in peacetime.  One wonders how Pitt would fare confronted with the pace of modern life, and intrusion of the media.
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==Conclusion==
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War is a very particular phenomenon.  Any lesson extracted must take into account that particularity and the demanding context.  Howard tells us that, even making allowances for historical differences, wars have greater similarity with each other than with any other human activity.  He opines that campaigns are ‘not like games of chess…conducted in total detachment from their environment according to strictly defined rules’.<sup>116</sup>
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Success or ruin may be dictated by a host of social, political, fiscal or cultural factors beyond the control of the participants and distant from the site of the conflict.  Wars do not develop thematically towards an elegant end pre-determined by historians.  Instead, as Clausewitz observed, they are fuelled by a complex brew of huge forces with the added ingredients of passion, friction, chance, ambition and inadequacy, and leadership, both for good or ill.  In foreign policy particularly, they are shaped by events and by the openings they present.<sup>117</sup>  Malignant combinations and shocks can confound any government, especially when it is on the ropes.
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Can a strategy be devised which differentiates between the urgent and the important, and should it ever be adjusted?  The key, of course would be to devise a strategy which was sufficiently durable, but not so vague that it fails to provide guidance.
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Britain’s war leaders, even when they opposed one another politically, shared a common view of the standing they wished her to have: that she should be great, safe and prosperous.  However, they had differing views on what her vital interests and war aims should be and how to accomplish them.  Intrinsic factors included domestic, economic and financial constraints placed upon policy-makers in London.  Extrinsic factors included Britain’s geostrategic situation, international politics and, significantly, the actions of her enemies.
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Therefore, Britain’s statesmen were never truly in control.  Friction took its toll, hence the war-weariness and the desire to seek peace which gave Bute momentum.  It was will, Pitt’s will, which made the difference.  Pitt’s triumph was to absorb the shocks and to regain the initiative.  Pitt had a strong sense of the achievable in terms of popular support.  He adjusted his view on Continental involvement, not only balancing his Atlanticism with Continental subsidies but later with active participation too.  The nascent empire, supported by maritime power, provided the means, money.  Its defence was to become an end and theatre for the ways.
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Today, Britain’s power base is much smaller than in the SYW.  She no longer has the makings of an empire, and foreign policy must protect narrower national interests. The characteristics and history of Britain’s foreign policy and the facts of an ordered Europe tell us that she has over 300 years of experience of balancing overseas interests and Continental commitments.  There is a popular resonance and affection for the Eurosceptic, Atlanticist position supported by both Britain’s cultural background and by her geographical location.  However, Britain can add to her global sway as a result of her relationship with Europe.  Britain will periodically be able to adjust and extend her influence as the strength of the Franco-German axis waxes and wanes. <sup>118</sup>  In the future, Britain will still be required to balance her Atlanticist preferences, instincts and interests with her, at times, awkward European involvement.  However she strikes that balance, she must clearly identify her true enduring interests.  The balancing act between the ocean and the European Continent was what gave Britain success at the end of the SYW.
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==Foot Notes==
 
76. Arnold-Baker, op cit., 1009.
 
76. Arnold-Baker, op cit., 1009.
  
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83. Simms, op cit., 512.
 
83. Simms, op cit., 512.
  
==References==
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84. Simms, op cit., 35-51.
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85. Ibid., 40-41.
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86. Simms, op cit., 512.
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87. Ibid., 546-548.
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88. Anderson, op cit., 506.
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89. Clausewitz, op cit., 80.
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90. Otte, op cit., 6-7.
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91. M. Howard, ''Causes of War'' (London: Unwin, 1983). 211.
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92. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3A1999.010200%3A1999.01.0200 3Abook%3D1%3Achapter%3D76%3Asection 3D2 (accessed 26 Jul 12).
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93. K.N. Waltz, ''Man, the State and War'' (New York: Columbia UP, 2001), Intro., Ch 6 and Conclusion.
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94. R. Smith, ''The Utility of Force'' (London: Penguin, 2006), 58.
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95. Clausewitz, op cit., 78.
 +
 
 +
96. Ibid., 75-77.
 +
 
 +
97. Richmond, op cit., 45-47.
 +
 
 +
98. dem., quoting from ''Considerations of the Present German War'' (London: 1760) and ''A Full and Candid Answer to the Pamphlet Entitled ‘Considerations of the Present German War.’'' (London: 1760).
 +
 
 +
99. Richmond, op cit., 311.
 +
 
 +
100. RCDS, op cit., 31.
 +
 
 +
101. Strachan, op cit., 30.
 +
 
 +
102. Clausewitz, op cit., 580.
 +
 
 +
103. B. Heuser, ''Evolution of Strategy'' (Cambridge: CUP, 2010), 486.
 +
 
 +
104. C.S. Gray, ''National Security Dilemmas'' (Washington DC: Potomac, 2009), 15-16.
 +
 
 +
105. P. Kennedy, ''The Rise and Fall of Great Powers'' (London: Harper Collins, 1989), 146.
 +
 
 +
106. D. Fraser, ''Frederick the Great'' (London: Allen Lane, 2000), 447.
 +
 
 +
107. Duffy, op cit., 107.
 +
 
 +
108. J. White, ''London in the 18th Century'' (London: Bodley Head, 2012), 522.
 +
 
 +
109. P. Hennessy, ''Distilling the Frenzy'' (London: Biteback, 2012), 1.
 +
 
 +
110. Szabo, op cit., 433-434.
 +
 
 +
111. Clausewitz, op cit., 85.
 +
 
 +
112. ibid., 79-80.
 +
 
 +
113. C. Gray, ‘Future Warfare’, RUSI Journal, Vol 150, Oct 05, 16-19.
 +
 
 +
114. Richmond, op cit., 184.
 +
 
 +
115. J. Adair, ''Great Leaders'' (Guildford: Talbot Adair Press, 1989), 122.
 +
 
 +
116. Howard, op cit., 214-217.
 +
 
 +
117. P. Sgarp in Otte, op cit., 284-285.
 +
 
 +
118. Otte, op cit., 26.
 +
 
 +
==Bibliography==
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===Books===
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Adair, J. ''Great Leaders''. Guildford: Talbot Adair Press, 1989.
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Anderson, F. ''Crucible of War. The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of the Empire in British North America'', 1754-1766. London: Faber & Faber, 2000.
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Arnold-Baker, C. ''The Companion to British History''. Tunbridge Wells: Longcross Press, 1996.
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Baugh, D. ''The Global Seven Years War 1754-1763''. Longman: Harlow, 2011.
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Black, J. in Otte, T.G. (ed.). ''The Makers of British Foreign Policy from Pitt to Thatcher''. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002.
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Blanning, T. ''The Pursuit of Glory – Europe 1648-1815''. London: Penguin, 2007.
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Bobbit, P. ''The Shield of Achilles. War, Peace and the Course of History''. London: Allen Lane, 2002.
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Brumwell, S. ''White Devil''. London: Pheonix, 2005.
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Clausewitz, C.P.G. von ''On War'' (translated by Howard, M. and Paret, P.) Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.
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Corbett, J.S. ''England in the Seven Years’ War.  A Study in Combined Strategy in Two Volumes''. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1907.
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Duffy, C. ''The Military Experience in the Age of Reason''. London: Wordsworth Military Library, 1998.
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Duffy, C. ''The Military Life of Frederick the Great''. Fairfield: Atheneum, 1985.
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Fraser, D. ''Frederick the Great''. London: Allen Lane, 2000.
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Gat, A. (ed.). ''A History of Military Thought from the Enlightenment to the Cold War''. Oxford: OUP, 2001.
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Gray, C.S.  ''National Security Dilemmas''. Washington DC: Potomac Books, 2009.
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Hennessy, P. ''Distilling the Frenzy. Writing the History of One’s Own Times''. London: Biteback, 2012.
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Heuser, B. ''The Strategy Makers. Thoughts on War and Society from Machiavelli to Clausewitz''. Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2010.
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Howard, M. ''The Causes of War''. London: Unwin, 1983.
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Hurd, I. in Reus-Smit, C. and Snidal, D. (eds.) ''The Oxford Handbook of Political Science''. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
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Kennedy, P. ''The Rise and Fall of Great Powers''. London: Harper Collins, 1989.
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Knowles, Sir L. ''Minden and the Seven Years’ War''. Godmanchester: Trotman Publishing (reprint), 2010.
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Lavery, B. ''Empire of the Seas''. London: Conway Publishing, 2012.
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Lebow, R.N. ''Why Nations Fight''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
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McLynn, F. 1759, ''The Year Britain Became Master of the World''. London: Pimlico, 2005.
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Mitford, N. ''Frederick the Great''. London: Vintage Classics, 2011.
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O’Toole, F. ''White Savage – William Johnson and the Invention of America''. London: Faber & Faber, 2006.
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Otte, T.G., ed. ''The Makers of British Foreign Policy from Pitt to Thatcher''. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002.
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Picard, L. ''Dr Johnson’s London.  Everyday Life in London 1740-1770''.  London: Orion Books, 2001.
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Richmond, H.W. ''National Policy and Naval Strength''.  London: Longman’s, Green and Co.,1928.
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Savory, R. ''His Britannic Majesty’s Army in Germany During the Seven Years War''. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966.
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Sharp, P. in Otte, T.G. (ed.). ''The Makers of British Foreign Policy from Pitt to Thatcher''. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002.
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Simms, B. ''Three Victories and a Defeat.  The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire''. Penguin: London, 2008.
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Smith, R. ''The Utility of Force. The Art of War in the Modern World''. London: Penguin, 2006.
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Snow, D. ''Death or Victory.  The Battle for Quebec and the Birth of Empire''. London: Harper, 2009.
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Strachan, H. and Herberg-Rothe, A. ''Clausewitz in the 21st Century''. New York: n.p., 2007.
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Szabo, F.A.J. ''The Seven Years’ War in Europe 1756-1763''. Harlow: Pearson, 2008.
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Thompson, A.C. ''George II''. Padstow: Yale, 2011.
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White, J. ''London in the 18th Century. A Great and Monstrous Thing''. London: Bodley Head, 2012.
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Worsley, L. ''Courtiers. The Secret History of the Georgian Court''. London: Faber & Faber, 2011.
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===UK Government Publication===
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RCDS Handbook. Thinking Strategically. Shrivenham: British Crown Copyright, 2010.
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===Articles===
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Gray, C. ‘Future Warfare’. RUSI Journal, Vol 150, Oct 05: 16-19.
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Kroener, B.R. ‘From Blenheim to Krefeldt.  The Electorate of Hanover – A Continental Millstone’.
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===Online Sources===
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For Thucydides’ quote regarding ‘fear, honour and interests’:
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http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3A1999.01.0200%3A1999.01.0200%3Abook%3D1%3Achapter%3D76%3Asection%3D2  (accessed 26 Jul 12).
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http://www:kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=Main_Page (accessed throughout the research phase).
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==Acknowledgement==
 
This article is a reproduction of the following work with the kind authorisation of its author:
 
This article is a reproduction of the following work with the kind authorisation of its author:
 
*Carmichael, E. B.: ''To what extent was Great Britain able to influence her strategy in the face of the events of the Seven Years' War?'', dissertation for King's College, London, August 2012
 
*Carmichael, E. B.: ''To what extent was Great Britain able to influence her strategy in the face of the events of the Seven Years' War?'', dissertation for King's College, London, August 2012
  
 
[[Category:State]]
 
[[Category:State]]

Latest revision as of 16:08, 8 February 2019

Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> States >> Great Britain >> British strategy during the Seven Years' War >> Part 3

Foreword

This article is the third part of a dissertation originally submitted to King's College in London by Ewan B. Carmichael. It portrays the strategic issues of the Seven Years' War from the British point of view.

Part 3 – Seeking and Negotiating Peace

The new King George III, crowned in October 1760, was no great admirer of Pitt, seeing him as arrogant and abusive, yet he permitted his continuance in office. Early in his reign, George fostered a public view of himself as ‘English’, having actually been born in England. He expressed relative disinterest in governing Hanover, although a lack of respect for Hanover did not necessarily mean antipathy to the German war.76 George had a favourite, John, Third Earl of Bute, and yet rather than rely on him to negotiate an early peace, contributing to animosity between them, he allowed Pitt to continue in office and attempt, unsuccessfully, to agree peace terms. However, it was to be the imposition of Bute as Prime Minister by the King, and Bute’s relationship with the Bourbons, which created a policy discontinuity and ultimately tipped the balance in Pitt’s departure although it was Pitt’s stubborn idiosyncrasies which underlay it.

Pitt’s determination as a war leader did not transfer well to the give-and-take required in peace negotiations. In 1761 both his colleagues and the French recipients of his correspondence thought his letters undiplomatic. Even his friend Hardwicke speculated, after reading one of Pitt’s drafts in cabinet on 14 August 1751, that nations might be ‘writ’ into perpetuating a war.77

Pitt’s success in the Commons, his verbose, hubristic, antagonistic style did not mark him out for success as a diplomat. He had no training or experience in diplomacy and his wariness of the Bourbons was found room for expression in his confident, intolerant manner. In fairness, he appears to have tried to moderate his forcefulness during negotiations and, had the French been more willing to compromise, there would have been a better chance of success. France, however, was enabled to continue the war because she had garnered new support in the form of Spain. The consequence of this was that, through failure of discussions with France, a fresh threat arose – that of a Spanish war. Pitt urged the Cabinet to declare war on Spain in September 1761 believing that procrastination could only damage Britain’s situation. Pitt was virtually isolated and his war-weary colleagues, anxious about the expense of another war, and hopeful that Spain would not actually act against Britain, opposed him. Instead, believing that Britain had insufficient cause to attack Spain, they pushed for a formal request that Spain might provide a guarantee of her peaceful intentions. They feared that an attack on Spain would simply have a counter-productive outcome, that of forcing France and Spain into each other’s arms. Pitt, however, could not agree to this and refused to accept the Cabinet decision. So it was over Spain rather than France that Pitt finally broke with the Cabinet in October 1761. In fact, he had been willing to settle with France if a satisfactory agreement could be reached. It might be said that Pitt had delayed too long but previous experience in the wars of the Spanish and Austrian Successions had shown that even with lengthy bargaining, peace was elusive.

Indeed, even without Pitt’s pugnacious temperament, the Cabinet pacifists found the Bourbons difficult to deal with and that they could not straightforwardly agree among themselves. Pitt’s reputation fell and he was castigated in the Summer of 1761.78 However, his self-belief, that only he could be trusted to protect the nation’s interests had been confirmed in his own eyes.

Pitt’s last sitting as Cabinet Secretary was on 2 October 1761. When his opponents reiterated their stance that Pitt’s desired pre-emptive attack on Spain would be premature and only serve to drive the Bourbons together, Pitt made his valedictory address, reflecting on his years as secretary. Black quotes from the Cabinet Minute:

‘Mr Pitt, in his speech, recapitulated his own situation, called by his Sovereign; and he might say in some degree by the voice of the People, to assist the state, when others had abdicated the service of it, that he accordingly came, had gone through more difficulties than ever man did; that (though he supposed it might be good fortune) he had successes in his measures taken for the honour, and the interest of the nation; that, in the execution of these measures, he had met with great obstructions from some (hinting at principal persons) who did not wish the success of them. There was hardly one expedition which he had proposed, though the most probable and at last attended with the best success, that had not been before treated as chimerical and ridiculous. That he was loaded with the imputation of this war being solely his; that it was called his war ; that it had been a successful one; and, more than hinted, that the success was singly owing to him; that the case was otherwise now... Spain is now carrying on the worst specie of war she can for France covers her trade; lends her money and abets her negotiation. This puts you actually in war with the whole house of Bourbon... That in his station and situation he was responsible; and would not continue without having the direction; that this being the case, nobody could be surprised that he could go on no longer; and he would repeat it again, that he would not be responsible for nothing but what he directed’.79

Pitt resigned because he believed the policy to be wrong. He was later justified when war with Spain did indeed break out that winter, in January 1762, confirming Clausewitz’s view that war has its own dynamic. What was unacceptable to Pitt’s fellow Cabinet members was his arrogant approach to the business of government. At that time, with the absence of a party whipping system, government was achieved through cooperation combined with Royal direction. Pitt struggled with the concept that he might need to accede to, or at least accommodate, the views of colleagues with whom he didn’t agree. Pitt stood out almost as a war-monger at a time when the majority were war weary and there is a lesson here about internal relationships. For all his sense of honour and drive, Pitt was never easy to work alongside, whether in or out of power.80 The war with Spain presented an opportunity, that of a combined force launched against both French and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and Philippines. Interestingly, even an ‘on the ropes’ France kept an eye on the extent of British distraction and seized the opportunity to retake Newfoundland by mid-September. After capturing Manila, the British found that Spain abandoned the Philippines in order to concentrate on Portugal which had joined the war on Britain’s side.

Frederick, facing almost certain defeat, was suddenly, and surprisingly, reprieved. On 5 January 1762, the Empress Elizabeth of Russia died and her Prussophile successor, Tsar Peter III, not only withdrew his own forces but also mediated in a Prussian truce with Sweden. This eased the pressure on Frederick so that he now had the luxury of being able to finish his war on the winning side and of playing Britain differently.

Pitt’s resignation, against the backdrop of the continued war, triggered an acrimonious debate over the nation’s interests and objectives. By 1762 Bute insisted in severing relations with Frederick of Prussia and sought to return to a compromise with France. Paradoxically, George III was more closely aligned with the ‘Patriotic’ position, spurning a family custom of involvement in German matters. Pitt had advocated close relations with Prussia and, at a time of increasing British isolationism, he found himself out on a limb and an irritation to the Government.81 On 12 May 1762 he reminded the House of Commons that previous great English and British rulers had employed intervention on the Continent. Again Black quotes him:

‘When I give my advice to the House I consider myself as giving advice to the crown…The Continental Plan is the only plan otherwise all Europe will be interdicted by these haughty oppressions of the House of Bourbon from receiving you whom they affect to treat as an overgrown pirate from their ports. Increase of power must be continued with increase of commerce or both will dwindle. The best the speediest issue, is to continue your full forces on the Continent this year…this will bring you a speedy, a sober and a well understood and permanent peace…I am convinced this country can raise 12, 13, 14 or even 15 million this year… The only question is whether grievous and permanent as that tax must be, it is not to be preferred to the perpetual dishonour of the nation, the aggrandisement of the enemy, the desertion of your allies, all of which tend to an inglorious and precarious peace… Think of your greatness in every part of the world…The moment you withdraw your troops there are 140,000 French to be employed in the Low Countries’.82

Pitt was returning to his habitual stance in that he was sniping at a Ministry attempting to achieve a peaceful outcome on the grounds that this would be a betrayal of Britain’s national interests. There was a marked difference from his more judicious justification of foreign policy after the war of Austrian Succession, but the highly charged wartime atmosphere did not allow for that.

In fact, Bute’s Ministry actually successfully negotiated favourable terms for Britain in 1762, retaining Canada, Cape Breton, Newfoundland, the Ohio Valley, land East of the Mississippi and being in a position to dominate India. France was obliged to renounce her claim on New France, receiving in return, two islands off Newfoundland. She was allowed to retain an unfortified Pondicherry. Belle Isle was exchanged for Minorca, Goree for Senegal. The Caribbean was effectively divided between Britain and France. Britain returned Cuba and the Philippines to Spain in return for Florida. Spain withdrew from Portugal.

Yet to Pitt those terms were simply not good enough. He insisted that the Ministry had failed to secure better terms and also that there was a continuing risk of a Bourbon revanche. However, quite how the latter could ever be fully prevented was not evident. The peace talks finally gave rise to the Peace of Paris of 1763. Pitt’s persistent opposition to the terms promoted his popular reputation as the protector of the national interest. Pitt was heavily critical of allowing France to retain a share of the Newfoundland fisheries, which could form the basis for a fresh Atlantic challenge. That, and retaining Guadeloupe and Martinique, might provide the means for France to recover and to become, once again, a threat to Britain’s security and trade. The paradox of victory was that the price of Britain’s absolute security was the complete insecurity of her enemies.83

Aftermath

The aftermath is important as it allows the reader to differentiate between potential and performance.

The SYW may have been the last gasp of old Europe, but it was certainly conducted with spirit and for important ends. The immediate outcome of the SYW was Britain’s high point in the 18th Century and Pitt’s supporters attributed the success to his policies, and these differed from the policies and feats of earlier governments.84 The French were decisively defeated at sea, and in North America and India. Success in the latter two, and elsewhere was, it was claimed, due to the commitment of resources in Germany. From 1758 this included troops on the ground and it led to wider success. It was thus heavily in the national interest. The Pittite newspaper the Monitor shaped public opinion and in May 1759 it indirectly criticised Britain’s Continental interventionist policies in three previous wars: the Nine Years’ War, and the wars of the Spanish and Austrian Successions, claiming that Pitt was ‘always in a condition to improve the arms of his country’s allies to the national interest, by feeding them with such succours and supplies only, as the connection of their war influenceth the measures to be pursued, in favour of his own country; and to keep clear of those ruinous continental measures, which were taken in favour of the Dutch and the House of Austria’.85

The post-war period of British domestic affairs was turbulent. The Government was close to bankruptcy and 1763 saw Bute’s resignation, followed by two of his successors. Pitt returned as Earl Chatham in a reformed Ministry but, rather like Churchill 200 years hence, discovered leadership of a divided Ministry in peace very challenging. The war had provided a great sense of national unity in the face of adversity and this was now all too evidently missing.86

Chatham, a previous advocate of the Prussian alliance, returned to this theme and put a lot of effort into restoring it, blaming the rupture on Bute. In this, Chatham reverted to a previous tactic by holding an evil Royal advisor to blame, and reflecting his own sense of paranoia. The unfortunate consequence of his attribution of blame misled Chatham into a failure to see an important underlying cause – that the rupture with Frederick was fundamentally due to a lack of common interests. This latter had been masked by the results of diplomacy in 1756. From about 1710 onwards, Prussia had actually been preoccupied with France and Western Europe. Now instead Frederick had become much more enthusiastic about an alliance with Russia. When he had finally effected it by 1764, Frederick did not want that relationship to become thinned or skewed by involving Britain. Nor did he want further unnecessary conflict with the Bourbons, which would be made more likely through an alliance with the British.87

On the other hand, Chatham had actually wished that the Prusso-Russian realignment of 1762 might provide Britain with another opportunity, so Bute’s failure to seize that opportunity, compounding his over-generous peace terms with France, was further evidence of Bute’s dilatory approach to the national interest. Once restored to office, Chatham was unable or unwilling to grasp that the situation vis-à-vis Prussia had changed. He seemed to believe only he could inspire the Government and that all it would take would be his supreme will-power. To an extent, Chatham became almost delusional in this. In reality, the expertise in situ, the experienced Berlin envoy Sir Andrew Mitchell, predicted accurately that Frederick would rebuff the approach.

The Paris Peace Treaty of 1763 was one of the key factors in Britain’s ranking in the 18th Century. Britain was now the world’s pre-eminent colonial power: she was dominant in Canada, North America, India and the West Indies. Anderson describes the Peace of Paris as a ‘phenomenal diplomatic coup for Britain’. In contrast, his view of the Peace of Hubertusburg conducted between the Hohenzollerns, the Hapsburgs and the Elector of Saxony is that, apart from changing perceptions of Prussia, ‘six years of heroic expenditure and savage bloodshed had accomplished precisely nothing’.88

By the war’s end, a fresh European balance of power had been established. French and Austrian power had declined while a strong Prussia was now very clearly a great Continental power. However, as Clausewitz wrote, ‘In war the result is never final.’89 Britain’s competition with France continued on both the maritime and mercantile fronts even after the war. Later, France was presented a further opportunity to challenge Britain’s overseas power when the latter became distracted by the opening shots of the American Revolution (1777-83). Otte describes the American War of Independence as a significant Anglo-French-Spanish colonial conflict.90

Review and Discussion

Howard asks, ‘Does history have a practical value?’, observing that history seldom repeats itself identically, context being all important. The student, inheriting other historians’ interpretations of the past, must attempt to identify the relationship between effects and their cause.91 That notwithstanding, there appear to be several aspects of the SYW which have an enduring relevance. The aim of this section will be to review the SYW in terms of assessing how Britain’s war leaders either shaped events, or were driven by them, while simultaneously drawing out enduring observations.

Perhaps the first and most valuable lesson is to identify vital national interests, to attempt to arrange them in relative order of importance and then to set priorities. Britain and France shared general ‘core’ interests: maintaining or increasing their security, power and influence in Europe. More specifically Britain sought to preserve the Liberties of Europe, to balance power in Europe and to prevent France from having any outlet to the sea, including with the ‘Dutch Barrier’. She used alliances, sea power and trade as instruments, although the latter two almost became ends in themselves. The Atlanticist versus the Continental position is central to the debate of this period and shows that the dichotomy faced since William III continued through the SYW. It continues to this day. Britain is Janus-faced, looking simultaneously towards both global interests and towards Europe. The point may be that this is not some zero-sum calculation, that Britain actually doesn’t have a choice, and that she must maintain both interests. Even Pitt, in spite of his earlier antipathy to the Continental option came to recognise this. Protecting Hanover was a transient wild-card ‘end’ created by the peculiarities of Britain’s royal interests. Not many modern commentators would agree with all three of Thucydides’ reasons for going to war, fear, honour and interests, yet an 18th Century Briton would probably accept them.92

Waltz might argue that the key element missing from the structure of the international system was the lack of a common authority. The variables were the changing balance of power (including states’ economic situations), alliances between states, and the degree of polarity in the system. The Security Dilemma was ever present.93

Although the SYW predated Clausewitz, its study confirms many of his observations. The SYW was indeed a clash of wills94 Passion, reason, chance and friction were all to the fore. As a political phenomenon, war was never an isolated act and any contributions needed to be consistent with its political purpose.95 War demanded violence, and unlimited war demanded it absolutely, so escalation was a factor.96

Pitt not only preceded Clausewitz but also actually proved in reality what Clausewitz postulated, that war was a continuation and means of state policy. Should Britain exert her maritime power, or should she rely on the Army, with the Navy in a defensive role?97 98 Such debate was particularly concerned with whether Britain should become embroiled in Frederick the Great’s affairs, which were strictly of no real relevance to Britain and which only came about after Britain was already involved in her fight with France in the colonies. Direct European intervention appeared to have little to recommend it to Britain. It was understood that tactical victories were achievable but that decisive strategic victory was impossible. France could always achieve numerical superiority on the Continent such that defeat there was almost ultimately inevitable. On the other hand, it was suggested that the justification for sending troops to Hanover was that Britain could prevent France from focussing on flexing her maritime muscle by supporting Frederick in what was effectively a military diversion. Of course, Britain was actually bound, through alliance, to assist him. Clearly there was an inconsistency. One view might have refuted the necessity to protect Frederick regardless of alliance obligations, or whether he was the Protestant Hero, and even if Britain were politically obliged to support Frederick, Britain should not be held to do so in any particular way. Further, Britain had other options available than just to send land forces. Instead, and as Frederick himself actually suggested, Britain could much more strenuously attack the French along their own coast, and in the West and East Indies, if her resources and energy were not being expended in Germany. It would be preferable to employ Britain’s singular strength at sea than to squander it in Germany where conclusive results would be far more elusive. Not only could a clearer decision be achieved in this war, but future conflicts could also be avoided by putting future colonial quarrels beyond the reach of possibility, for it could profoundly eliminate France as a potential maritime rival. As previously explained, sea-power grew from overseas, usually colonial, trade. In Britain it was generally understood that while France and Continental powers, without naval vessels, could march their armies hither and thither, Britain could remain immune. Further, having captured French colonies or wrecked her trade, France’s economy had been written down to such an extent that she was unable to afford sufficient land power to terrorise Europe. This latter view was understood, and even confirmed, by some French writers. Richmond quotes from M. de Flestay who wrote in 1759 that, ‘the English, by their sovereignty at sea, increase their own wealth and prevent France from making use of hers; the war demonstrating how with her wealth she assists the continental armies, who put it out of the power of France to use against the English the resources which might otherwise have been the case’.99

Much of this paper has concentrated on local operations in North America and India, but the essential feature common to both was the Fleet in the waters of Europe. Few though the naval battles were, they were actually of strategic significance. Destroying France’s navy was a key factor in depriving her of command of the seas. She could not therefore have a free hand on the oceans: her trade, most of which was associated with her Atlantic ports, became vulnerable.

The next observation would be that the ‘Principles of War’ (currently Selection and Maintenance of the Aim, Maintenance of Morale, Offensive Action, Security, Surprise, Concentration of Force, Economy of Effort, Flexibility, Cooperation and Sustainment) would have stood up to scrutiny in the SYW, as they continue to do today.100

Synergies between the operational theatres took time to develop, but when they did they were spectacular, aided by experienced admirals who understood the intent and could be trusted to act semi-autonomously.

The weather, both cold and hot, interrupted the war during the winters in Canada and India, a reminder of the need for a comprehensive estimate which still endures. Weather or other conflicting variables can ruin timing, or be used to advantage.

Turning to thoughts of peace, 18th century truces usually required some compromise and there would be a political price to pay by the negotiator making such concessions. In Britain in particular, stemming from beliefs about the nation’s strength, any peace would be hotly debated. This was particularly the case when Pitt, with his strong opinions, was in opposition.

A key point is that states want to win, and policy deepens and intensifies war rather than moderating it, so there is a tendency for any conflict to escalate.101 This is Clausewitz’s descent into the chaos of absolute war.102 There will be tensions and contradictions but the participants should remember, and this will seldom be easy, the political consequences while fighting. The trick seems to be to bear in mind the original Casus Belli, to maintain the political objective while attempting to impose one’s will. It is important to offer fair terms in order not to generate a further grievance. Today there is concern about the use of overwhelming force, yet those engaged in combat will not wish to be unnecessarily constrained. Heuser suggests that Clausewitz’s fixation with victory is unattainable in the current age.103 We now have two supporting concepts with regard to victory, and those are strategic success and strategic advantage, the latter possibly being sufficient.104

In both the SYW itself, and also with the prospect of peace, British foreign policy was concerned with strategy and with alliance politics. Britain required a stable Europe. Allying herself with an aggressive power could be counter-productive. Also alliances wax and wane and it is important to recognise both false or over-optimistic impressions of shared interests, but also when interests have started to diverge. Natural strains occur in an alliance where partners have mutually exclusive objectives or different regional priorities. Apart from habit, in such cases, it may actually be counter-productive to maintain an alliance artificially. In the SYW, coordination of allied operations was tentative and both the British and the Germans had the ability to surprise each other.

At the outbreak of the SYW all of the belligerents brought their economies to the brink of ruin. The war fostered major developments in global perspectives, not just the era of imperialism, but also that hegemonic powers recognised that the economy was a more powerful instrument of hegemony than territory. Significantly, the economic chaos resulting from the war had far-reaching consequences.

Britain’s superior economic resources had allowed her to subsidize Prussia to the tune of £670,000 per annum along with other North German armies which fell under Prussia. The subsidy, arranged in April 1758, enabled Frederick of Prussia to continue his struggle to dominate Central Europe. Such an agreement was not a novelty for Britain, having underwritten Austria during the 40-48 War. However, while the arrangements of the War of the Austrian Succession were fragile, Pitt’s strategy in the SYW was far more durable. This protected and preserved Hanover as the rest of Europe became enmeshed in a stalemate, while Britain was able to focus on defeating France overseas. The war, which cost Britain £160M, with some 37% of the total being found by her markets, was a prime example of converting profit to power.105

It was, however, recognized that there were finite limits to the amounts of money or manpower that Britain could raise. Even Frederick recognised that Britain’s purse was not bottomless.106 In a sort of balancing act, it was necessary to retain some of the pool of labour in agricultural and manufacturing tasks in order to sustain the nation, rendering that manpower unavailable for military service.107 Likewise, purchasing foreign mercenaries would only accumulate debts and ruin the economy. The economy featured prominently in the deliberations, along with the need to continue ‘steady-state’ running of necessary normal functions. These concepts have the ring of contemporary thinking. Subsequent wars have shown that countries must maintain an appropriate balance between the teeth and the tail: between the front line and all those other logistic, commercial and support functions which sustain the martial effort, maintain the nation and pay for both. Within that equation lies an enduring issue – that of the proper balance of the employment of manpower. In the SYW, the British Government was well aware of this quandary.

London’s aggressive capitalism had guaranteed committed City support for Pitt’s war aims.108 Revered by the City, he was awarded its freedom. Hennessy quotes Powell, “All history is myth”.109 The popular image of Pitt as the defender of the nation’s interests endured the bulk of the following two centuries. To an extent that situation may have prevailed because Britain’s empire still retained energy, but more recently a revisionist view would be that Pitt was not as successful as the popular view imagined. However, it was as a war leader that Pitt excelled.

For Britain there were, however, two significant consequences: one negative - taxing American colonists led to rebellion; one positive - the financial infrastructure developed, including tapping public credit, laid the capital market groundwork for the industrial revolution.110 From the aftermath, and there is a lesson here for rising nations, there is a danger of overstretch. All empires crumble. Every nation on the rise has internal faults which will ultimately constrain it.

The subjective nature of war makes it a gamble.111 It seldom consists of a single short blow. The probability of real life replaces the extreme and absolute required by theory.112 War cannot be controlled by human inventions, such as democracy. It is shaped by such factors as relative power and the economy.113 In the SYW, as ever, the enemy got a ‘vote’, and there were unintended consequences. Contemporary armchair generals, raised on myths of resounding victories and the modern mantra of minimal collateral damage, may need to relearn some of Clausewitz’s reality. Even victors have setbacks and when forces clash there will some a degree of attrition somewhere. The SYW highlights the danger of making assumptions about fading powers. In theory France had the weaker navy and colonial forces. Yet she showed that any power by definition has the capacity to inflict damage, even when aging or fatally wounded.

Reflection on what might have been provides some triangulation on what was really important. For example, if France’s policy and her maritime doctrine had been different, she could have developed a large merchant navy, free to roam within the security provided and assured by a potent fighting fleet. The symbiosis generated between these two, and also with her colonies, could have become self-perpetuating. If France’s energy and flair had been nurtured by the wealth generated through the colonies and undiminished by Continental conflict, there is every chance that the French Empire would have flourished. A prosperous France might have been far more content and resilient against revolution.114

Strategy is the development of an original guiding thought under continually changing circumstances, so the practitioner must review it and understand what should cause an adjustment. Britain’s position saw discontinuity, caused by events and adjustments to the war aims, but also by loss of political support or of patronage. At times there were internal political divisions and failure to agree. On the other hand, in spite of contradictory stances, there did appear to be a sense of national unity in the war. Clausewitz’s ‘people’ was the audience which Pitt, with his consummate ability to communicate, played to. Adair quotes Lord Roseberry on him: ‘It is not merely the thing that is said, but the man who says it that counts, the character which breathes through the sentences’.115 Pitt had strong opinions yet he was able, when necessary, to modulate his position. He could take account of circumstance and public mood and opportunity but he couldn’t do it out of power and, rather like Churchill, he was less effective at it in peacetime. One wonders how Pitt would fare confronted with the pace of modern life, and intrusion of the media.

Conclusion

War is a very particular phenomenon. Any lesson extracted must take into account that particularity and the demanding context. Howard tells us that, even making allowances for historical differences, wars have greater similarity with each other than with any other human activity. He opines that campaigns are ‘not like games of chess…conducted in total detachment from their environment according to strictly defined rules’.116

Success or ruin may be dictated by a host of social, political, fiscal or cultural factors beyond the control of the participants and distant from the site of the conflict. Wars do not develop thematically towards an elegant end pre-determined by historians. Instead, as Clausewitz observed, they are fuelled by a complex brew of huge forces with the added ingredients of passion, friction, chance, ambition and inadequacy, and leadership, both for good or ill. In foreign policy particularly, they are shaped by events and by the openings they present.117 Malignant combinations and shocks can confound any government, especially when it is on the ropes.

Can a strategy be devised which differentiates between the urgent and the important, and should it ever be adjusted? The key, of course would be to devise a strategy which was sufficiently durable, but not so vague that it fails to provide guidance.

Britain’s war leaders, even when they opposed one another politically, shared a common view of the standing they wished her to have: that she should be great, safe and prosperous. However, they had differing views on what her vital interests and war aims should be and how to accomplish them. Intrinsic factors included domestic, economic and financial constraints placed upon policy-makers in London. Extrinsic factors included Britain’s geostrategic situation, international politics and, significantly, the actions of her enemies.

Therefore, Britain’s statesmen were never truly in control. Friction took its toll, hence the war-weariness and the desire to seek peace which gave Bute momentum. It was will, Pitt’s will, which made the difference. Pitt’s triumph was to absorb the shocks and to regain the initiative. Pitt had a strong sense of the achievable in terms of popular support. He adjusted his view on Continental involvement, not only balancing his Atlanticism with Continental subsidies but later with active participation too. The nascent empire, supported by maritime power, provided the means, money. Its defence was to become an end and theatre for the ways.

Today, Britain’s power base is much smaller than in the SYW. She no longer has the makings of an empire, and foreign policy must protect narrower national interests. The characteristics and history of Britain’s foreign policy and the facts of an ordered Europe tell us that she has over 300 years of experience of balancing overseas interests and Continental commitments. There is a popular resonance and affection for the Eurosceptic, Atlanticist position supported by both Britain’s cultural background and by her geographical location. However, Britain can add to her global sway as a result of her relationship with Europe. Britain will periodically be able to adjust and extend her influence as the strength of the Franco-German axis waxes and wanes. 118 In the future, Britain will still be required to balance her Atlanticist preferences, instincts and interests with her, at times, awkward European involvement. However she strikes that balance, she must clearly identify her true enduring interests. The balancing act between the ocean and the European Continent was what gave Britain success at the end of the SYW.

Foot Notes

76. Arnold-Baker, op cit., 1009.

77. Black, op cit., 42.

78. Baugh, op cit., 551-554.

79. Black, op cit., 43-44.

80. Simms, op cit., 482-483.

81. ibid., 489-493.

82. Black, op cit., 45.

83. Simms, op cit., 512.

84. Simms, op cit., 35-51.

85. Ibid., 40-41.

86. Simms, op cit., 512.

87. Ibid., 546-548.

88. Anderson, op cit., 506.

89. Clausewitz, op cit., 80.

90. Otte, op cit., 6-7.

91. M. Howard, Causes of War (London: Unwin, 1983). 211.

92. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3A1999.010200%3A1999.01.0200 3Abook%3D1%3Achapter%3D76%3Asection 3D2 (accessed 26 Jul 12).

93. K.N. Waltz, Man, the State and War (New York: Columbia UP, 2001), Intro., Ch 6 and Conclusion.

94. R. Smith, The Utility of Force (London: Penguin, 2006), 58.

95. Clausewitz, op cit., 78.

96. Ibid., 75-77.

97. Richmond, op cit., 45-47.

98. dem., quoting from Considerations of the Present German War (London: 1760) and A Full and Candid Answer to the Pamphlet Entitled ‘Considerations of the Present German War.’ (London: 1760).

99. Richmond, op cit., 311.

100. RCDS, op cit., 31.

101. Strachan, op cit., 30.

102. Clausewitz, op cit., 580.

103. B. Heuser, Evolution of Strategy (Cambridge: CUP, 2010), 486.

104. C.S. Gray, National Security Dilemmas (Washington DC: Potomac, 2009), 15-16.

105. P. Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers (London: Harper Collins, 1989), 146.

106. D. Fraser, Frederick the Great (London: Allen Lane, 2000), 447.

107. Duffy, op cit., 107.

108. J. White, London in the 18th Century (London: Bodley Head, 2012), 522.

109. P. Hennessy, Distilling the Frenzy (London: Biteback, 2012), 1.

110. Szabo, op cit., 433-434.

111. Clausewitz, op cit., 85.

112. ibid., 79-80.

113. C. Gray, ‘Future Warfare’, RUSI Journal, Vol 150, Oct 05, 16-19.

114. Richmond, op cit., 184.

115. J. Adair, Great Leaders (Guildford: Talbot Adair Press, 1989), 122.

116. Howard, op cit., 214-217.

117. P. Sgarp in Otte, op cit., 284-285.

118. Otte, op cit., 26.

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Acknowledgement

This article is a reproduction of the following work with the kind authorisation of its author:

  • Carmichael, E. B.: To what extent was Great Britain able to influence her strategy in the face of the events of the Seven Years' War?, dissertation for King's College, London, August 2012