chapter  11
12 Pages

Return of the ‘Old Corps’, 1744

Neither Britain nor France had envisaged a long war. Indeed, in February 1744, Noailles recalled that only a conflict of several months had been anticipated.1 Instead, the length of the conflict created mounting problems. The economic and fiscal strain of the conflict grew as it continued. Moreover, much of this strain was directly linked to the course of the war. In particular, French and Spanish privateering attacks on British trade were related to the difficulties of mounting effective blockades in this period. In addition, the transfer of funds abroad, in the shape of specie to pay for British and allied troops, led to a demand for Portuguese gold. Sir James Lowther, an opposition Whig MP, linked this loss of money to problems in Britain, notably delays in payments, signs of poverty and increased crime.2 Bussy, indeed, hoped that the outflow of specie would ruin Britain.3 Such an outflow raised the pressure in Britain for a swift end of the war. In the 1660s, 1670s and 1690s, funding foreign wars had caused serious problems with both managing government debt and the supply of the coinage.