This remarkable man's story is taken from Waldie's Select Circulating Library &c published in 1836. His father was Rev. John Ewart, who was Presbyterian minister of Troqueer for 58 years, and descended from the Ewarts of Mullock.

Joseph Ewart (1759 - 1792) of Mullock, Kirkcudbright, Troqueer and Prussia

About this time [1784], a person was appointed secretary of legation to the British envoy at Berlin, who displayed such eminent talents for negotiation, and acted so distinguished a part in the diplomatic line, during the short period of his public service, as to deserve that I should enter into some details respecting him. The individual to whom I allude, Mr. Joseph Ewart, was the son of a Scottish clergyman at Dumfries, and brought up to the profession of surgery. With a view of improving himself, and at the same time of visiting the Continent, he accompanied one of his countrymen, Mr. Macdonald of Clanronald, in the year 1782, from England to Vienna. A quarrel arising between them while resident in the Austrian capital, Ewart quitted him; and our minister at that court, Sir Robert Murray Keith, being in want of a secretary at the time, Ewart assisted him as such, but without being officially attached to the mission.

About two years afterwards, in 1764, he consented to act in a similar capacity under Sir John Stepney, the English envoy at Berlin. Here he soon manifested extraordinary ability, which was attended with uncommon ardour of mind, and a very irritable temper. Stepney being succeeded, in August, 1785, by Lord Dalrymple, now Earl of Stair, Ewart continued in the same post under that nobleman ; and after passing, as I have already mentioned, through the intermediate degree of secretary of legation, he was named, in 1788, envoy to the Prussian court. Placed on such a diplomatic eminence, to which his talents had conducted him with unexampled rapidity, he rendered himself master of the cabinet and councils of Frederick William the Second, which he governed or directed with a sort of absolute sway. Hertzberg, who was then first minister, listened to his suggestions with implicit respect; and I have been assured that it is difficult to conceive or to credit the ascendency attained by him over the sovereign and administration of Prussia. His marriage with a lady of that country, Mademoiselle Wartensleben, augmented his influence, as it seemed in some measure to naturalise him with the people among whom he resided.

Catherine the Second and her ally, the Emperor Joseph, were at that time engaged in hostilities against the Turks, which, though unsuccessful on the side of Hungary during more than one campaign, in consequence of Joseph's personal interference and presence in the field, menaced nevertheless the Ottoman empire with the loss of her finest provinces on the coast of the Black Sea. Ockzakow had already fallen into the empress's possession. Ewart not only stimulated the king and ministers of Prussia, to compel from her the restoration of so valuable a place, but he set on foot the great confederacy of England, Holland, Prussia, and Turkey, for the avowed purpose of arresting her further conquests. The death of Joseph the Second, which took place in February, 1790, facilitated the accomplishment of Ewart's plans, while it deprived Catherine of her best support. Leopold, who succeeded to his brother's dominions, adopted a pacific and healing policy, the first fruit of which was the treaty of Reichenbach, concluded between him and Frederick William.

Ewart performed the principal part in it, and was personally present at its signature. His detestation of Catherine, which constituted a prominent feature of his character, impelled him to advise the British ministry to the prosecution of every measure which might effect her humiliation, and check the progress of her arms. She was well aware of his antipathy; and, apprehensive of the injurious consequences that would inevitably result from his efforts at Reichenbach, it is said that she did not hesitate having recourse to effective means for preventing his presence at the conferences which were there held previous to the treaty. A potion, it is added, was administered to him at the time when he was setting out from Berlin; but Sutherland, physician to the empress, who was a countryman of Ewart, and who knew or suspected Catherine's intention, sent him a hint to be on hit guard. He escaped by means of emetics and medicines.

I am well aware that this is a serious imputation to bring forward, even against Catherine the Second; nor would I state it lightly - for I am far from participating Ewart's aversion to her. I consider her, indeed, as it very ambitious princess, emulating every species of fame, and not fastidiously delicate as to the manner of attaining her objects. Leopold designated her with truth when he said, that "her head ought to be encircled with glory, in order to conceal her feet which stood in blood." Her whole reign, administration, policy, wars, and private life, demonstrate that she was not scrupulous about the means by which she accomplished her plans of acquisition, vengeance, and gratification. The person from whom I received the account here given, and who is now no more, might challenge belief on very strong grounds. He was a man of calm and superior understanding, neither credulous nor imbued with any prejudices against the empress. Add to these facts, that he was intimately acquainted with Ewart, from whom, I have no doubt, he received the particulars of Catherine's attempt. Lastly, he was in Germany at the time when the treaty of Reichenbach was concluded, as well as previous and subsequent to its signature. He possessed, therefore, almost all the qualities, as well as the information, requisite for forming a sound and dispassionate opinion upon the fact in question.

Leopold having concluded peace with the Turks at Sistova, Catherine, thus left alone to carry on the war with that power, might unquestionably have been compelled to restore all her recent acquisitions, particularly Ockzakow. The cabinets of St. James's, of the Hague, and of Berlin, acting in concert, while they were sustained by Leopold, become emperor of Germany, could have dictated to the Russian empress. Frederick William already threatened to march an army of a hundred thousand men against Riga, and every preparation was made for attacking the Livonian frontier, when the British ministry receded. These events took place during the spring of the year 1791. In embracing a line of policy calculated to set limits to Catherine's conquests on the shore of the Euxine, Pitt acted, in my opinion, with equal wisdom and justice; but, unfortunately, he could not impress the house of commons with a conviction that interests so remote, as well as so little under stood, were of sufficient importance to incur any risk of a war for their support.

Many of the county members possessed a very imperfect knowledge or comprehension of the position, value, and consequence of Ockzakow. Fox, availing himself of these circumstances, inveighed with so much eloquence and effect against the ministerial system, and was supported on every division by such numbers, that it became evident Pitt must either abandon his measures and his allies, or be finally left in a minority. In order to keep Catherine firm to her determination of not relinquishing Ockzakow, Fox did not hesitate to send a friend and relative to Petersburg as his agent. Adair demonstrated to the sovereign of Russia, that, if she remained inflexible, the house of commons would either force Pitt to yield, or would drive him from the helm. Thus encouraged, Catherine refused to make any sacrificed of territory, or to restore Ockzakow.

The English minister, after a long conflict between political principle and love of power, at length determined to consult his preservation by renouncing his alliances. In so painful an extremity he had recourse to Ewart, who was then in London on leave of absence. To him Pitt applied, as the person who had conducted all the negotiations at Berlin; entreating him to return thither, and to state the necessity imposed on the British administration of adopting other measures. Ewart, not without extreme repugnance, undertook the commission and executed it; but the Duke of Leeds, a nobleman of an elevated mind, though not endowed with eminent abilities, was so much shocked at the violation of national faith - which faith, he, as secretary of state for the foreign department, had pledged - that he preferred the resignation of his employment, rather than submit to be made the instrument of such humiliation. Lord Grenville replaced him in June, 1791.

About three months afterwards, the Duke of York's marriage with Frederick William's daughter, by his first wife, was concluded ; a transaction, in conducting which, Ewart, as the British minister at the Prussian court, took a leading part; and the terms of which alliance, in a pecuniary point of view, he would have rendered much more advantageous to this country than were the stipulations settled, if the duke's own injudicious interference had not prevented him. No sooner, however, was the union completed, than Pitt, on very insufficient pretexts, founded ostensibly on some article in the matrimonial contract to which Ewart had given his sanction, caused him to be recalled. He returned to England, received a pension of one thousand pounds as a remuneration for his services, and retired from office. Treatment so severe, if not unmerited, his indignant spirit could not support. He died soon afterwards at Bath.
I have been assured, from the authority to which I have already alluded, that his death was accelerated or produced by the same means that had been ineffectually tried previous to the treaty of Reichenbach; administered by order of the same princess. Such an accusation I by no means implicitly adopt or credit; but Ewart was known to have urged the British cabinet to measures personally hostile towards the Empress of Russia, and Catherine's vengeance, though it might be suspended, never slept. Instruments for effecting it might always be found, even in England, by a powerful sovereign. Whether Ewart's end was natural, or whether any means were used to hasten it, I will not determine; but I know from concurring, and, I may add, from official testimony, that his last words reproached Pitt, whom he accused of wanting firmness and principle.

Yet it appears to me difficult to condemn Pitt's line of conduct. For, even if he had resigned, rather than abandon his engagements with Prussia, the new ministers would equally have violated them, and would have pursued an opposite policy. Such a line of action would, however, I admit, have been more dignified and magnanimous. But we must recollect that previous to his being made lord warden of the Cinque Ports, in 1792, Pitt possessed no means whatever of subsistence, except from the salary of his employments. He must have returned to Lincoln's Inn, or have occupied an apartment in Lord Chatham's house, who at the same time would have been compelled to leave the admiralty. Such superiority to every sentiment of private interest, not to mention ambition, cannot be expected from man. Fox, in consequence of his successful interference to preserve Catherine's conquests, enjoyed, for a short time, a high degree of her favour. She placed his bust in her cabinet, between two of the illustrious statesmen of modern ages, and spoke of him in language of the warmest encomium. But the part which he took in parliament subsequent to 1793, and the eulogiums lavished by him on the French revolution, soon changed the empress's tone. She caused the bust to be removed ; and when reproached with such a change in her conduct, she replied, " C'etoit Monsieur Fox de Quatre-vingt-onze que j'ai place dans mon cabinet."

Internal Links

External Links