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Letters from London 1725-1730
Notes to Letter I : The Journey up the Rhine
César de Saussure

César de Saussure (1705-1783) made his first voyage to England in 1725, travelling by water from Yverdon, up the Rhine through the German States and Holland, then across the North Sea from Rotterdam to London. It is the period of five years from 1725 until 1730, most of which was spent in London, that is covered by his sixteen letters. 

The course of his journey took M de Saussure through areas which had been for many years almost permanent battlegrounds between the French forces of Louis XIV on the one hand and the various armies of the Holy Roman Emperor, the Dutch States General, and the British, Prussian, Palatinate, Swedish and Hanoverian forces on the other. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and subsequent Treaty of Rastatt (1714) had brought an interlude of peace to these places, and the policies of Robert Walpole (1676-1745) in England and Cardinal de Fleury (1653-1743) in France generally kept the peace until the 1740's. M de Saussure notes some of the many garrisons along the way.

A good summary of the state of the various nations (albeit at the beginning of the reign of Louis XIV) is to be found in M de Voltaire’s Antient and Modern History.

Of Switzerland, he observes: ‘The Swiss nation preserved, as at this day, its own liberty, without seeking to oppress its neighbours. They sold the service of their troops to nations richer than themselves: they were poor and ignorant of the sciences, and of all the arts which are begotten by luxury; but they were wise, and they were happy.’

Of Germany : ‘The Germanic nation is governed, with a very little difference, as France was under the first kings of the Capetian race, who were chiefs of several great vassals, by whom they were frequently very ill obeyed, and of a great number of lesser ones. There are sixty free cities, called imperial; about as many secular princes; near forty ecclesiastical ones, as well abbots as bishops, nine electors, amongst whom we may reckon four kings; and lastly, the emperor, who is head of all these potentates: these at present compose this great Germanic body, which, by the phlegmatice disposition of its members, is maintained in as much order and regularity as there was formerly confusion in the French government.’

Of Holland (the United Provinces) : ‘This small state, composed of seven united provinces, a country abounding in excellent pasturage, but destitute of all kinds of grain, unhealthy, and in a manner buried in the sea, was for about half a century almost the only example in the world, of what may be done by the love of liberty and unwearied labour. These poor people, few in number, and inferior in military discipline to the meanest of the Spanish militia, and of no account in the rest of Europe, made head agaist the whole collected force of their master and tyrant Philip II, eluded the designs of several princes who offered to assist them, in hopes of enslaving them, and founded a power which we have seen counterbalancing that of Spain itself. The desperation which tyranny inspires first armed these people; liberty raised their courage, and the princes of the house of Orange made them excellent soldiers. No sooner had they become conquerors of their masters, than they established a form of government which preserves as far as is possible, equality, the most natural right of mankind.'

Of France : ‘France, who was in alliance with Sweden, Holland, Savoy, and Portugal, and had the favourable wishes of the other nations who remained inactive, was engaged in a war against the empire and Spain, which proved ruinous to both sides, and particularly fatal to the house of Austria. This war was like all those which have been carried on for so many centuries between christian princes, in which millions of men have been sacrificed, and whole provinces laid waste to obtain a few frontier towns, the possession of which is seldom worth the expence of conquering them.’

Of England : ‘England arrogated to itself the sovereignty of the seas, and pretended to preserve a balance between the powers of Europe; but Charles I, who began his reign in 1625, was so far from being able to support the weight of this balance, that he found the sceptre already falling through his hands; he had attempted to render his power independent of the laws of England, and to make a change in the religion of Scotland. He was too headstrong to be diverted from his projects, and too weak to carry them into execution.’

The long reign of Louis XIV (r1643-1715) was characterised by a series of military campaigns against the Emperor (of Austria) and the Palatinate, and against Flanders and the Dutch States General. These conflicts finally involved also England, Prussia, Hanover, Hesse and Denmark, troops from all of which states were involved in the Battle of Blenheim (1704). This battle marked the turning point of Louis' fortunes, and was followed by further defeats for the French army at Ramillies (1706), Oudenarde (1708) and Malplaquet (1709), leading to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1714.

8th April to 16th April: Lausanne to Brugg

8th April
M de Saussure’s journey takes him from Lausanne to Yverdon (presumably by road).
11th April
He boards the boat at Yverdon and they sail to Neuchâtel. Contrary winds keep them here for two days.
13th April
Along the River Thielle into the Lake of Bienne, then to Nidau.
14th April
Further along the River Thielle into the River Aar, past Buren to Soleure and then Wangen.
15th April
To Arwangen and Olten, stopping at Aarau and then Biberstein.
16th April
Past the Saut de Brugg near the town of Brugg, having taken on four pilots. 

17th April to 22nd April: Brugg to Strasbourg

17th April
They leave the Canton of Berne, pass Klingnau, and enter the Rhine at Waldshut. At Lauffenbourg they disembark as there is a cataract of 30 to 40 feet, and the boat is let down on ropes. They sleep at Seckingen, which is in Swabia and belongs to the Emperor (of Austria).
18th April
They pass Rhinfelden and arrive at Basle, one of the finest towns in Switzerland, where they stay for two days.
19th April
They visit Huningen, a French fortress a quarter of a league from Basle.21st April
To Breisach in Breisgau, part of the Emperor’s territories.
22nd April
To the fortress of Kehl, from which they make a visit by carriage to the French town of Strasbourg.
 

 

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