SIB ANDREW MITCHELL'S DIPLOMATIC ..PA.PERS.*
Ataziousn the name of Andrew Mitchell is not so familiarly known as that of deeded heroes who reach the climax of celebrity by giving a title to dogs and negroes,—or of modem commanders who furnish the subject of a sign during their day, and hold their posi- tion for some time afterwards, ix:rout-of-the-way places,—we think, with every deference to Mr. Bisset, that the British diplomatic Resident with Frederick the Great is Finite as well known as can be expected." He figtuss•in the original memoirs and histories of the Seven-Years War, or rather of its hero Frederick ; he is men- tioned in contemporary letters and narratives ; he isnot omitted in history ; some of his replies arc floating in jest-books; to Germany, he is as familiar as many of the secondary generals in the war, and to English readers a good deal more so. What would Mr. Bisset have ?
The fact is, a diplomatist, who is only a diplomatist and not a minister as well, is an agent and nothing more. He must possess manners, address, penetration, judgment, and readiness; he may have original powers of observation ; and the confidence reposed= him may even enable him to influence particular .eventse but his sphere is always limited to a part of history, and he appears what in fact he is a secondary actor ; and such a person never can figure as a star: of the. drama. Some peculiar or exceptional circumstances may preserve his name to posterity; and in the ease of a diplomatist these are his wit or his writings, his tongue or his pen, and generally. both. Malmesbury, whore the editor of Mitchell appears to look upon as an over-rewarded and lucky man, when engaged in negotiations for peace with the French Directory, was employed on a matter much closer to 'Reglish interests than the Seven-Years War; but; though flourishing
thirty or forty years later than Mitchell, he wa,s becoming for- gotten, till his name was revived by the papers which his grand- son published. And we need not say that volumes relating to
events whose temporary interest has ceased, must depend upon their intrinsic literary merits ; the interest or largeness of their
subjects ; the penetration of the observer, his powers of delinea- tion, and his composition—that is, his arrangement, his manner, and his diction.
In some of these qualities Mitchell's papers are deficient. They are excellent letters of business ; dear, close, and preserving the characteristics of the matter in hand. Neither are they deficient in personal delineation or appropriate anecdote, when necessary to the matter; nor are they devoid of general reflections,—on such topics, for instance, as the miseries of war, or the manner in which the difficulties of misfortune sour the temper and harden the heart. Still they are letters of business, dwelling as fully in proportion upon daily details as upon matters of permanent interest, and wanting in that larger literary comprehension, that observation of the life around, him, which distinguishes many of the Memoirs and a large portion of the Malmesbury Papers. Two farther reasons militate against the popular attrat- tiveness of the Mitchell Papers, especially if we take into account the business characteristic just mentioned. So much of an origi- nal kind has been written about the history of Frederick, (ine eluding his own productions,) especially in relation to the Seven- Years War, and so many critics have since applied themselves to the subject, that it necessarily wants novelty. The pith of the papers themselves had been already presented to the world, the greater portion of them having been accessible for the last forty years. In 1810 they were purchased by the British Museum, and a published selection was then contemplated, but abandoned, it is understood at the desire of George the Third, who wished that they should not appear during his life.
The number of manuscript volumes in the Museum amounts to sixty-eight, and Mr. Bisset has had access to some family- collec-
tions relating to Mitchell's biography as well as his diplomacy. Besides the public despatches, a diary that Mitchell kept for some years in Prussia, and his private correspondence, many epistles from celebrities of the day have been. preserved, including a volume of letters from the King of Prussia, another from his brother, Prince Henry the celebrated general, and another from the Duke of Ouni- berland. Mr. Bisset is therefore entitled to the credit of judicious reticence. A bookmaker with such a collection, garnished with such, names, would have furnished More than these two volumes. At the same time; it indicates the temporary and narrow nature of the interest attending the papers, when a zealous admirer and collateral descendant like Mr. Bisset found it judicious to limit himself to .so small a selection.
In the arrangement of his matter Mr. Bisset has interwoven the political papers with the life. In some points this is advan- tageous, as it enables him to introduce with more propriety mate ters of a personal kind that are connected with the mission and
gives him freer scope for remark on the conduct of the Ministry', or of particular Ministers towards Mitchell. On the whole, however, we think that it somewhat interferes with the political interest of the despatches, and that the usual mode of prefixing the life to the documents would have been found the best, including in the bio- graphy such papers as were strictly biographicaL
drew Mitchell was born at Edinburgh, in 1708, of a good family; and wait a husband and a widower before he attained his
Memoirs and Paptxs of Sir Andrew Mitchell, K.B., Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentsary from the Court of Great Britain to the Court of Prussia, from 1758 to 1771. By Andrew Bisset; of Lincoln's Inn, Barrister-at-law, and M.A. Trinity College, Cambridge. In two volumes. Putdished by Chapman and Hall. majority. The bereavement thiged Ifis fature life. Ile never married again ; he abandoned the Scbteli-bar, Ior-which he was studying; and ha seems to havespeiit-TiTaffion of -the next seven years (17284735) in traVellnig on the Continent, carefully Obkrving the condition of the 'countries he passed 'through, and preparing him- self for his future position of envoy: In 1738 he was milled to the English bar; having eatered the Middle Temple in 1733. In 1742 he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for Scotland; apparently through family connexion. In 1747 he was elected for e county of Aberdeen ; the Duke of Newcastle and the Ministry pushing him- on in a sort of opposition to the candidate of the DI uk6 of Argyle, whose local interest they seemed to wish to break: In 1756 he was appointed Envoy and subsequently Minis- ter Plenipotentiary to the court of Berlin ; where he remained till his death, in 1771. His sagacity, straightforward conduct,' and probably the admiration he felt for the character of Frederick, acquired so much' of the Monarch's esteem, that when General Yorke, of the lucky Hardwick race, was once sent to supersede hiin, the recall was put aside 'at Frederick's express desire. The Prussian Court attended his funeral; and Frederick, who watched the procession from a balcony, is said to have been affected to tears.
In the fulfilment-of his duties, Mitchell often accompanied the army, and was present in action when Frederick permitted him. Not being a military man, his observations want critical precision; but he conveys a distinct idea of what he saw, and gives a truer nation than a professional man perhaps, of war, to whose miseries
and shows soldiers get habituated. This is the famous battle of Prague as it appeared to a civilian.
"Friday, W.—General action begun a little before ten this morning, and
ended at half an hour past two. I remained on the hill above the en of
Ferdinand the convent of St. Margaret, with the Prince of Prussia, Prince of Prussia, and Marechal Keith. I observed the Marechal very pensive for some time, but did not then know the reason of it. He perceived that some of our troops had given way, but soon after they renewed the' attack and carried everything before them. The Prussian left, commanded by the King, began the attack : the fire of the Austrians was dreadful', were so extreamly well posted, which occasioned an officer's saying to me, that it was ' plutot une escalade qu' me battaille '; and to this is owing the very great number of wounded on our side. I saw the motion of the different corps, as much as the smoak and dust would permit, by the progressive motion of which we judged of the fate of the battle. As to the right wing of the Prussians drove the Austrians from the strong post of Ziscaberg, much of the infantry on the Austrian left wing threw themselves into Prague."
It is not often that we can see a royal author submitting to criticism. There is probably a touch of the courtier in Mitchell's account of Frederick and his book, and we may depend upon it the criticism was distinguished by the suaviter in modo.
" atit. YITCHELL TO' THE PAHL OF HOLDERNERIE. .
"Private, per Lambe.
" Freyberg, Seth March 1760.
"About a week ago, when I came to dine with the King of Prussia, I found a book laid upon the table, which, he told me, he intended for a pro- Bent to me ; the title of it is, ' (Euvres du Philesophe de Sans Souci." He said it was of his writing, and had been the occupation of his leisure hours; that it contained some imitations of Horace, Lucretius, and Ovid ; that he never intended it for the public, though a few copies of it had been thrown off in his own press at Potsdam, some of which he had given to particular friends, &c. ;that that lately the book had been surreptitiously published in Prance, and sum in Holland, with a view to hurt him, but that he had not yet been able to discover who had been guilty of this breach of trust; that, in reprinting, several things were omitted, altered, or mangled, which laid him under the necessity of having it again printed more correctly and care- fully ; and he was phased to add, that so soon as the new edition was ready he would give me a copy,' which I shall not fail to send to your Lordship. In the mean time he desired me to read over that he gave nit; and dropt a hint that he should be glad it was known in England 'that this book had been published, not only without his consent, but against his wilL' This declaration I considered as is sort of apology for the book, and had nothing nmre at heart than to leek into it immediately : but may curiosity had like nceost ine dear, for the PhileSophe the next day asked my opinion, and, ob- serving that I was shy and reserved upon the point, pressed And encouraged me to speak freely; which 4 not caring to dissemble, complyed with more easily, as there are really more things to be admired than blamed in the book. I praised with decency- and without exaggeration, and blamed with freedom where I thought I. was well-founded ; and this his afforde.d matter of conversation for 5 or 6 days at table when only biz Majesty was present. The partieultds are too minute to be ininsmitted ; therefore I reserve them tali I have the happiness to see you in England. It is but justice, however, to acquaint you that the King heard with candour and with temper my trilling remarks, and at the *tune time to declare, that of all the authors I ever conversed with, the 'Philosophy de Sans Souse bears criticism the best."
The " accidents " on which victory depends are often talked of; and the Duke of Wellington frequently observes upon them in his deenatehes. After the battle of Sol*, Frederick gives a narrative te .Mitchell, which, iftrue; would show that he was involved in it against his wishes.; Here is another effect of luck.
.. , . .
"At the *battle of Zorndorff in August last, (Which was won and lost by both aides,) about 1 o'clock in the afternoon, I met the Bing of Prussia to- wards the centre of the &St line, Where he was saluted with a viotorie from Prince Merits of DeWitt at the head of some regiments : I thought this a sufficient authority for me to wish him joy of the victory, which I did. He received my compliments civilly, nag, as I rode along with him, whispered nit with great coolness, 'Mon ame les affeires vent hien mal a gauche je vaui y inettre ordre,,MeiS tie me suing.. point.' Ile went wording-1x, iook the Colours in his Own hands to encourage' the infantry, that were in the gitatest disorder ; but all tons purpose, they would do nothing ; and at that itiosthent, had the Russians known how to profit of their advantage, there would have been an end of us and of the whole affair."
Being accredited to an ally, Mitchell was in some positions a Bert of representative of Prussia as well as of Great Britain. The following is fronila letter addressed by him to Keith at St. Petera.;-
harglumfilt,LI: 7 i ? ■.• . . . .. ,
"Mitt Pruesian Majesty desired me to acquaint vou, that, in order to raise jealousies and diffidence among the allies, he had directed General Wyllich, his Commissary for the exchange of prisoners, to insinuate to the Russian General, Vii0 isl1keWie Cothinissary for the same purpose, that France was ready to make peace ; that there -was great disunion between the Austrians and the French; that in this situation of affairs it was very possible the Rus- aians might be left in the lurch by their allies, and that the manner the Austrian Generals had behaved during this last campaign was a convincing proof what little regard they had for the Russians. " The King of Prussia does not yet know what effect these insinuations may produce on the Court of Petersbourg, but he thinks you may find an oppor- tunity to suggest to the Great Chancellor, that his Prussian Majesty is well disposed to make a separate peace with the Russians, and that the natural way to begin this negotiation seems to be by empowering the Russian Gene- ral, employed for the exchange of prisoners to talk witlisthe Prussian Gene- ral Wyllich ; and if this Russian General should happen not to be a person of confidence they may easily find a pretext to send one, as General Wyllich is already instructed by his master. "In order the better to ce the Great Chancellor, (who was formerly a friend of the ring of Prussia's, .you will endeavour to inform yourself whether a present in money from the King of Prussia would not be acceptable ; and also, if there are any other persons in the confidence of the Empress, or of the Great Chancellor, to whom it might be proper likewise to make presents; and finally, what sums may be necessary for these purposes, in case you think that money may be usefully employed on this occasion. But it is his Prussian Majesty's opinion that you should not directly talk of giving money ; for this, he thinke, would only serve to revolt even those who have a mind to. accept of it.
"His notion is to begin by flattering the Russian vanity, and talking much of their succetwes in the last campaign. Then you may endeavour to raise a jealousy and diffidence of their allies, and that the pecuniary insinuations should be made indirectly, and, perhaps, underhand to their dependants or confidants."
There is a rather curious interest attached to Yorke's business of the supercession, because we read the diplomatic account of it in the public letters, and the real view, at least on Mitchell's part, in his private diary. Thus he writes to Lord Holdernesse.
"My situation at present is very aukward, and would have been disagree- able, but General Yorke's arrival, and his behaviour since, has made every- thing easy, and I am persuaded what has passed between him and the Knig- of Prussia will be of the greatest service to the common cause. His Prussian Majesty has in private to me and in the strongest manner expressed the satisfaction he had in the frequent conversations with the General. "I cannot conclude this letter without acquainting your Lordship that I am under the greeted obligations to General Yorke, for his candid, friendly, and fair behaviour towards me. He has explained many things which L could not have guessed at ; in return I have been open and free with him, and will trust everything to the report he shall make."
In the diary we are thus let into the secret.
"260a.—The army halted here this day. General Yorke communicated to the King the despatch he received y'esterday ; and he showed me his publicly letters, a private letter from the Duke of Newcastle, and one from his father, and the answers he was proposing to make to them in which he had not spared compliments on the manner of my receiving bin,, &c. As I easily saw the Bel of all this communicativeness, I repaid in kind, by wilting a letter to the Earl of Holdernease, commending the General's behaviour, &c., which I shewed to him. "General Yorke told me that the ring had said to him, at St. James's, that Mr. Pitt (whom he did not like) did not know manldnd, much less how to deal with kings : for, says he, if the Prtunann Ministers here had csed, to do something that I did not chum to do, and I had refused, as the "' of Prussia has done, what could that Minister do, or would it be right or just to recall him ? "
This is not the only occasion on which the elder Pitt appears, and not much to his advantage. Frederick in private expressed a. mean opinion of his capacity ; talking of him as a pedant. Bat it may be observed that the King depreciated everybody who op- posed hi a views—that is to say, his interests; and Pitt was not a friend to Mitchell.