ABSTRACT

France retained her image in Great Britain as the nation's most formidable rivallong after the recession of her challenge in India and North America, and Lecky outlines the steadiness of proRussian sentiment in Great Britain which helped Catherine II further. As Pitt's own father, the earl of Chatham, always endorsed pro-Russian and anti-French causes, he contributed substantially to his own son's difficulties in 1791. Chatham made a determined bid for a Russian alliance in 1766. In 1770, when a Russian fleet sailed to the Mediterranean from the Baltic to chastise the Ottomans, France and Spain were reminded that any interference with it would be treated as an attack on Great Britain. In 1773 came the celebrated

confession to the earl of Shelburne that Chatham was' quite a Russ', amplified with the hope that 'the Turk will pull down the house of Bourbon in his fall'. 5 The national enemy was France, the Ottoman Empire incidentally so, Russia not at all. A last attempt to win Russia to a British cause came in 1781 when Lord North asked for an alliance and offered Minorca, an arrangement Catherine II refused, to the anguish of Potemkin. Charles James Fox, taking over the Foreign Office in 1783, announced that alliances with northern powers like Russia and Prussia 'ever have been, and ever will be, the system of every enlightened Englishman', and reproached Shelburne for listening to Vergennes' fears of Russia. Distinguished support came from Sir James Harris, an equally opinionated oracle, who thought 'there is not the slightest doubt we should long ago have been allied with Russia'.~ Neither evidently saw how much the northern allies were split over the Ottoman Empire, and Harris continued to hope for an arrangement with Russia long after the Triple Alliance with Prussia and the Stadtholderate in 1788 had disqualified Great Britain as a reliable partner in Russian eyes. There is evidence too of a countervailing irritation in Great Britain with some of Russia's recent actions - Catherine II's part in the creation of the Armed Neutrality of 1780, the raising of Russian import duties in 1783, a new navigation law in the same year, a Franco-Russian commercial treaty raised in 1786 on the ruins of the expiring Anglo-Russian one - yet Russia remained the lesser delinquent in any comparison with France, her actions in the East crowded out of view by the nearer web of western rivalries.