No. 481. Thursday, September 11, 1712. Addison.

--Uti non Compositus melius cum Bitho Bacchius, in jus Acres procurrunt--'

It is [something [1]] pleasant enough to consider the different Notions, which different Persons have of the same thing. If Men of low Condition very often set a Value on Things, which are not prized by those who are in an higher Station of Life, there are many things these esteem which are in no Value among Persons of an inferior Rank. Common People are, in particular, very much astonished, when they hear of those solemn Contests and Debates, which are made among the Great upon the Punctilio's of a publick Ceremony, and wonder to hear that any Business of Consequence should be retarded by those little Circumstances, which they represent to themselves as trifling and insignificant. I am mightily pleased with a Porter's Decision in one of Mr. Southern's Plays, [2] which is founded upon that fine Distress of a Virtuous Woman's marrying a second Husband, while her first was yet living. The first Husband, who was suppos'd to have been dead, returning to his House after a long Absence, raises a noble Perplexity for the Tragick Part of the Play. In the mean while, the Nurse and the Porter conferring upon the Difficulties that would ensue in such a Case, honest Sampson thinks the matter may be easily decided, and solves it very judiciously, by the old Proverb, that if his first Master be still living, The Man must have his Mare again. There is nothing in my time which has so much surprized and confounded the greatest part of my honest Countrymen, as the present Controversy between Count Rechteren and Monsieur Mesnager, which employs the wise Heads of so many Nations, and holds all the Affairs of Europe in suspence. [3]

Upon my going into a Coffee-house yesterday, and lending an ear to the next Table, which was encompassed with a Circle of inferior Politicians, one of them, after having read over the News very attentively, broke out into the following Remarks. I am afraid, says he, this unhappy Rupture between the Footmen at Utrecht will retard the Peace of Christendom. I wish the Pope may not be at the Bottom of it. His Holiness has a very good hand at fomenting a Division, as the poor Suisse Cantons have lately experienced to their Cost. If Mo[u]nsieur [4] What-d'ye-call-him's Domesticks will not come to an Accommodation, I do not know how the Quarrel can be ended, but by a Religious War.

Why truly, says a Wiseacre that sat by him, were I as the King of France, I would scorn to take part with the Footmen of either side: Here's all the Business of Europe stands still, because Mo[u]nsieur Mesnager's Man has had his Head broke. If Count Rectrum had given them a Pot of Ale after it, all would have been well, without any of this Bustle; but they say he's a warm Man, and does not care to be made Mouths at.

Upon this, one, that had held his Tongue hitherto, [began [5]] to exert himself; declaring, that he was very well pleased the Plenipotentiaries of our Christian Princes took this matter into their serious Consideration; for that Lacqueys were never so saucy and pragmatical, as they are now-a-days, and that he should be glad to see them taken down in the Treaty of Peace, if it might be done without prejudice to [the] Publick Affairs.

One who sat at the other End of the Table, and seemed to be in the Interests of the French King, told them, that they did not take the matter right, for that his most Christian Majesty did not resent this matter because it was an Injury done to Monsieur Mesnager's Footmen; for, says he, what are Monsieur Mesnager's Footmen to him? but because it was done to his Subjects. Now, says he, let me tell you, it would look very odd for a Subject of France to have a bloody Nose, and his Sovereign not to take Notice of it. He is obliged in Honour to defend his People against Hostilities; and if the Dutch will be so insolent to a Crowned Head, as, in any wise, to cuff or kick those who are under His Protection, I think he is in the right to call them to an Account for it.

This Distinction set the Controversy upon a new Foot, and seemed to be very well approved by most that heard it, till a little warm Fellow, who declared himself a Friend to the House of Austria, fell most unmercifully upon his Gallick Majesty, as encouraging his Subjects to make Mouths at their Betters, and afterwards screening them from the Punishment that was due to their Insolence. To which he added that the French Nation was so addicted to Grimace, that if there was not a Stop put to it at the General Congress, there would be no walking the Streets for them in a time of Peace, especially if they continued Masters of the West-Indies. The little Man proceeded with a great deal of warmth, declaring that if the Allies were of his Mind, he would oblige the French King to burn his Gallies, and tolerate the Protestant Religion in his Dominions, before he would Sheath his Sword. He concluded with calling Mo[u]nsieur Mesnager an Insignificant Prig.

The Dispute was now growing very Warm, and one does not know where it would have ended, had not a young Man of about One and Twenty, who seems to have been brought up with an Eye to the Law, taken the Debate into his Hand, and given it as his Opinion, that neither Count Rechteren nor Mo[u]nsieur Mesnager had behaved themselves right in this Affair. Count Rechteren, says he, should have made Affidavit that his Servants had been affronted, and then Mo[u]nsieur Mesnager would have done him Justice, by taking away their Liveries from 'em, or some other way that he might have thought the most proper; for let me tell you, if a Man makes a Mouth at me, I am not to knock the Teeth out of it for his Pains. Then again, as for Mo[u]nsieur Mesnager, upon his Servants being beaten, why! he might have had his Action of Assault and Battery. But as the case now stands, if you will have my Opinion, I think they ought to bring it to Referees.

I heard a great deal more of this Conference, but I must confess with little Edification; for all I could learn at last from these honest Gentlemen, was, that the matter in Debate was of too high a Nature for such Heads as theirs, or mine, to Comprehend.


[Footnote 1: [sometimes]]

[Footnote 2: The Fatal Marriage, or the Innocent Adultery.]

[Footnote 3: The negotiations for Peace which were going on at Utrecht had been checked by the complaint of Count Rechteren, deputy for the Province of Overyssel. On the 24th of July the French, under Marshal Villars, had obtained a great victory at Denain, capturing the Earl of Albemarle, the Princes of Anhalt, of Holstein, Nassau Seeken, and 2500 men, under the eyes of Prince Eugene, who was stopped at the bridge of Prouy on his way to rescue and entreated by the deputies of the States-general to retire. The allies lost a thousand killed and fifteen hundred drowned; the French only five hundred, and sixty flags were sent as trophies to Versailles. The insecure position taken by the Earl of Albemarle had been forced on Prince Eugene by the Dutch deputies, who found the arrangement cheapest. 'Tell me,' he said, 'of the conquests of Alexander. He had no Dutch deputies in his army.' Count Rechteren, deputy for Overyssel, complained that, a few days after this battle, when he was riding in his carriage by the gate of M. Ménager, the French Plenipotentiary, that gentleman's lackeys insulted his lackeys with grimaces and indecent gestures. He sent his secretary to complain to M. Ménager, demand satisfaction, and say that if it were not given, he should take it. Ménager replied, in writing, that although this was but an affair between lackeys, he was far from approving ill behaviour in his servants towards other servants, particularly towards servants of Count Rechteren, and he was ready to send to the Count those lackeys whom he had seen misbehaving, or even those whom his other servants should point out as guilty of the offensive conduct. Rechteren, when the answer arrived, was gone to the Hague, and it was forwarded to his colleague, M. Moërman. Upon his return to Utrecht, Rechteren sent his secretary again to Ménager, with the complaint as before, and received the answer as before. He admitted that he had not himself seen the grimaces and insulting gestures, but he ought, he said, to be at liberty to send his servants into Ménager's house for the detection of the offenders. A few days afterwards Ménager and Rechteren were on the chief promenade of Utrecht, with others who were Plenipotentiaries of the United Provinces, and after exchange of civilities, Rechteren said that he was still awaiting satisfaction. Ménager replied as before, and said that his lackeys all denied the charge against them. Ménager refused also to allow the accusers of his servants to come into his house and be their judges. Rechteren said he would have justice yet upon master and men. He was invested with a sovereign power as well as Ménager. He was not a man to take insults. He spoke some words in Dutch to his attendants, and presently Ménager's lackeys came with complaint that the lackeys of Rechteren tripped them up behind, threw them upon their faces, and threatened them with knives. Rechteren told the French Plenipotentiary that he would pay them for doing that, and discharge them if they did not do it. Rechteren's colleagues did what they could to cover or excuse his folly, and begged that the matter might not appear in a despatch to France or be represented to the States-general, but be left to the arbitration of the English Plenipotentiaries. This the French assented to, but they now demanded satisfaction against Rechteren, and refused to accept the excuse made for him, that he was drunk. He might, under other circumstances, says M. Torcy, the French minister of the time, in his account of the Peace Negociations, have dismissed the petty quarrel of servants by accepting such an excuse but, says M. de Torcy, 'it was desirable to retard the Conferences, and this dispute gave a plausible reason.' Therefore until the King of France and Bolingbroke had come to a complete understanding, the King of France ordered his three Plenipotentiaries to keep the States-general busy, with the task of making it clear to his French Majesty whether Rechteren's violence was sanctioned by them, or whether he had acted under private passion, excited by the Ministers of the House of Austria. Then they must further assent to a prescribed form of disavowal, and deprive Rechteren of his place as a deputy. This was the high policy of the affair of the lackeys, which, as Addison says, held all the affairs of Europe in suspense, a policy avowed with all complacency by the high politician who was puller of the strings. (Memoires de Torcy, Vol. iii. pp. 411-13.)

[Footnote 4: It is Monsieur in the first issue and also in the first reprint.]

[Footnote 5: [begun]]

Translation of motto:
HOR. Sat. 1. vii. 19.
'Who shall decide when doctors disagree,
And soundest casuists doubt like you and me?'