They conformed to this general policy, in the particular case of the Ostend affair.
Spain in truth cared not a whit for the interests of the Republic. That power is said to have held out hopes to her, that in the event of a war, she might win back the Southern Netherlands;*) and it is certain that the Dutch would then have welcomed the return of those provinces to Spanish rule. This consideration may have had some effect on the attitude of Spain, but she was influenced principally, not by the affairs of Belgium but by those of Italy. It was for the realization of her Italian schemes, that she purposed to reopen the war with the Emperor; and it was in order to embroil the Maritime Powers with the Emperor, and thereby to secure their support for herself, that she brought forward the matter of the Ostend trade at the Congress.2)
It has been seen that she applied first to England. So far England hadmovedin the Ostend affair only at the pressing instance of India House; but the language of Stanhope at Madrid, and of the plenipotentiaries at Cambrai, seemed to indicate, that she had at this moment adopted the cause of the Republic. Spain was encouraged to think that by means of the Ostend affair, she could bring about a general conflagration against the Emperor. Her hopes were elusive. Had England been truly interested in the suppression of the Ostend trade, she would have allowed the matter to be introduced unconditionally at the Congress, and thereby, she would indeed, have found herself associated with Spain in a war in which France could not but have joined. But her only aim was, that Spain should believe her to be willing for war. At the moment when her intentions seemed most bellicose, she refused her consent to a demand at the Congress, for the suppression of the
*) cf. Huisman, op. cit. 318, 321. This may be true, but what is said at p. 321 seems to us exaggerated. The conduct of the Republic at this point needs further inquiry, for which it will be advisable tc make use of the letters of Van der Meer at the Rijksarchief. We remark, that with regard to this point, Huisman principally refers to French sources, which of course in this case are not the most authoritative. Baudrillart who also refers to French sources, ascribes to Van der Meer ideas (op. cit III, 75) which would have been quite misplaced in an ambassador of the States, as that, the Republic would be willing to render at a certain moment all the barrier-towns to France. That the Republic offered Philip V., a fleet and troops, as he boasted to Tessé (ibid: 128), we do not believe at all.
2) cf. a remarkable passage in a letter from Fagel to Goslinga (7 Junei724, F. G.): "c'est la raison (viz. Spain's object to reconquer the former-Spanish countries in Italy) pourquoi 1'Espagne traine le congrès et voudrait que 1'Angleterre et 1'Etat se brouilassent avec 1'Empereur au sujet du commerce d'Ostende, et ce sera peut être dans cette vue qu'ils porteront ce point au congrès."