Anglo-French Relations The Cloak of Secrecy A personal voyage of detection



An Instrument of French Foreign Policy: The Secret Treaty of Dover

Montagu was only too aware at the time of the risks represented by these treaties, as we have seen from his correspondence with Danby ‘You may be confident of my secrecy about this whole affair, both for the King’s, your Lordship’s and my own sake, for it would be no popular nor creditable thing if it were known’. English merchants, facilitators and intermediaries, as well as those involved with the Treaty, were taking a known risk with their involvement. They were doing this either for rewards or for some greater belief.

In a 1680 report on The East India Company Trade, it was noted that in 1675 bullion and goods sent out of the country to France totalled £430,000 and the value of goods brought in totalled £860,000. As they put it, this gave the country a net gain in value of the difference. These were the recorded numbers.

Sir William Bucknall and his syndicate had the lease of the excise (and he was also farmer of the Customs and Excise in Ireland), but sought to take the customs as well. However, he tried to finesse the terms at the last minute and the new Treasury Board decided instead to take over collection itself. Thus there was set up a national network of customs officials in 1671, and there was no more ‘farming of the customs’. By 1671 The Treasury was the dominant department, with something close to budgeting and reporting, and the ability to impose the same on other departments. They had also initiated the issuance of ‘debt instruments’ to the public as a means to raising money. This was also a cheaper route at 6% than the 10% that the financiers and Goldsmiths were charging.  Heading this department was Sir Thomas Clifford (a Middle Temple lawyer and in 1666 Comptroller of Charles’ household – then a CABAL member). And it was he who circumvented all the new systems and controls to bribe politicians to vote subsidies and approve treaties!

As Treasurer in 1672-3 Clifford had failed to tackle the main problem which was a mountain of debt that needed to be dealt with before England could arm itself to honour its war obligations under the Treaty of Dover. To solve this problem he persuaded Charles to declare on 2nd January 1672 that the Government would suspend repayment on all Treasury Instruments not secured by parliament on specific tax revenues. This became known as the infamous ‘Stop of the Exchequer’. The 43 year old Clifford committed suicide in October 1673.

 
 

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