The Barrier-Treaty Vindicated, 1712

by Nick

Recently I was given a copy of a book written by a distant ancestor. I’ve blogged about one such book before – a travel guide to Tobago that inspired Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe. This one didn’t have quite such an impact, but I hope it will still be of interest.

The Barrier-Treaty Vindicated was written in 1712 by Stephen Poyntz. In later life, Poyntz would go on to be a diplomat and courtier, but in 1712 he was twenty-seven years old and serving as private secretary to Lord Townshend.

The Barrier-Treaty was published anonymously and is a meditation inspired by the 1709 treaty between Great Britain and the United Provinces. It quickly becomes clear where Poyntz’s sympathies lie. The United Province’s help is vital to secure a Protestant succession from the House of Hanover. Alliances with the French must be avoided at all costs, to mitigate the risk of a Catholic succession. Poyntz gives historical examples ranging from Elizabeth I to Oliver Cromwell to illustrate the benefits of siding with the Dutch, and the drawbacks of siding with France. A full copy of the text can be found on Google Books here.

The book itself is octavo,  200 pages long on cheap paper, and seems to have been designed for a fairly large print-run. It stretched to at least three editions. My copy is in fairly good condition. The paper is slightly mottled, and a few pages are creased, but other than that the book doesn’t appear to have been heavily read. The binding is new, though.

Poyntz went on to be an ambassador in Sweden, then courtier to the duke of Cumberland. He married Anna Maria Mordaunt, reputed to be a great beauty. He died in 1750.

After Poyntz’s death, his friend Walpole described him thus:

Ruined in his circumstances by a devout brother, whom he trusted, and by a simple wife, who had a devotion of marrying dozens of her poor cousins at his expense … Mr. Poyntz was called a very great man, but few knew anything of his talents, for he was timorous to childishness. The duke has done greatly for his family and secured his places for his children, and sends his two sons abroad, allowing them £800 a year.

Rather more acid was Carlyle’s later description of him:

A once bright gentleman, now dim and obsolete.

Today Poyntz is probably best known for being the grandfather of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. His daughter Margaret Georgiana married into the Spencer family and was Georgiana’s mother.

1. Philip Woodfine, ‘Poyntz, Stephen (bap. 1685, d. 1750)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.