H́nh ảnh trang


confidered as a powerful argument for the neceffity of counteracting them, and of exerting the ftrength of Great Britain, in oppofition to its most inveterate enemy, The marquis of Lanfdown expreffed himself with his ufual ferYour against minifterial meafures. He was particularly fevere on the frequent refufal of minifters to lay before the houfe copies of infractions to admirals and generals. This practice had begun, he obServed, in the reign of George I. to the high difgrace of parliament, of which it had greatly wounded the dignity in the eyes of the naIt was incumbent on this body to affert the right it had enjoved till that period, of claiming, without denial, a participation in the knowledge of thofe public documents, on which alone it could form a clear conception of the propriety of minifterial meafures in matters of the most effential confequence. The marquis entered with great accuracy into an examination of the relative interefts of the chief European powers. He reprefented the defire of Ruffia, to form a connexion with England, as flowing from the dread entertained by that power, that the potentates of Europe were meditating an union against this overgrown empire, in order to fet bounds to its ambition. This was a meafure of fuch neceffity, that it were the height of impolicy to counteract it. But no nation could fo effectually oppofe the enterprifes of Ruffia, as the Germans affifted by the French, who had always been the fureft friends to the independence of the German princes. This connexion ought not therefore to be disturbed, nor the

French prevented from acting the part they had already done in behalf of Germany, merely on account of their having changed the form of their government, from monarchical to republican. The interefts of France were invariably the fame, whether a monarchy or a republic: but the infatuation of thofe, who opposed the establishment of the republic, might induce it, in order to attain that object, to connive at the pretenfions of its principal enemies, and permit them to fwallow up the smaller states of the German empire, provided the lettlement of the republic was no longer obftructed. The prospects that arofe from this new arrangement of things, were, in the opinion of the marquis, more critical than any alterations that had happened in the courfe of many centuries. It was ealy to foresee, that if France allowed the greater powers to adopt the fyftem of partition, they must in return permit the fame to the French. Thus Europe would be thrown into a ftate of contufion

highly unfavourable to the interefts of this country, which evidently required that the political fituation of Europe fhould remain as heretofore, and that no power whatever fhould be aggrandized at the expence of another. The greater the number of fmaller powers, the greater must be the fafety and influence of Great Britain. Were Europe to be divided, on the partitioning plan in contemplation at the ambitious courts well known to defire it, no peace could henceforth be lafting or fecure. The thirst of dominion once excited, and partially gratified, would never reft, and the dividers of ftates and kingdoms [02]


would, like plunderers on a fmaller feale, fall out among themfelves about the divifion of the booty, and keep the world in continual alarms and diffenfions. Two of the members of the coalition had already acted on this plan, in the bufinefs of Poland. One of them, Pruffia, had deferted us, and the other would probably do the fame, were France to proffer better terms than England. Thus, after throwing away immenfe treafures, we might at length be abandoned to our fole exertions against an ancient enemy, provoked at our endeavours to reduce him to a worfe degree of fervitude than he had ever experienced; and become, through our folly, more able than at any former period to make us feel the weight of his refentment. It was in the mean time illufory to boaft of the extent of our commerce. Infurance, the best criterion of lofs or gain, was continually rifing; and of three iflands taken by us in the Weft Indies, one only, Martinico, remained. Inftead of inciting the Chouans and other infurgents to perfevere in a fruitless refiftance, were it not more confiftent with humanity and good policy to treat with the French government for an animefty to the emigrants, or on failure, to make them a donation of half a million, or more if neceflary, to enable them at once to fix themfelves in fome fettled way of living? The marquis concluded by adverting to the affairs of Ireland, on which he exprefled himfelf in the fame manner as the other fpeakers in the oppofition.

The other adherents and opponents to minifterial measures took part allo in this debate. Lord Lauderdale in particular took notice, that, according to minifters, our

allies were the whole human race, and our wealth that of the whole world. Yet, with allies innumerable, and wealth inexaustible, we could not, he obferved, bring the French to our terms. The earl of Guildford's motion was negatived by a majority of ninety.

As a final ftruggle on the part of oppofition, Mr. Wilberforce, on the 27th of May, moved the house of commons to declare itself of opini on, that in the prefent circumftances of France, the British government ought not to object to propofals for a general pacification, and that it was the interest of the nation to put an end to the war as foon as juft and honourable terms could be obtained. He fupported his motion in a long and pertinent fpeech. Though he would not, he faid, infift on the common axiom, that the voice of the people was the voice of God, yet much weight fhould be allowed to fentiments generally received. Thus the public being in the perfuafion that a speedy end ought to be put to the prefent ruinous war, it was incumbent on the legiflature to pay a due deference to the inclinations of its corftituents, and earnestly to feek for every facility in the way to attain it. The people were the more justified in their warm expreflion of fo reafonable a defire, when they heard how readily the most potent of our allies acceded to the wishes of his people in this particular: the very day on which the emperor figned the treaty for a loan of money from this country, he alfo figned a refcript, exprefling that he was ready to enter into a negotiation with the French What were we to think of fuch behaviour? Did he really mean to be true to the conditions on

which he accepted our fubfidy? or to facrifice the faith he owed to this country, to the intereft and the entreaties of his fubjects? Whichever of thefe determinations he adopted, he could not be exculpated from duplicity, as he muft neceflarily deceive one of the parties. Could we proceed in fecurity with fach allies? Were the French themfelves lefs worthy of being trufted? The condition of thefe, however deplorable in the reprefentation of thole who argued for the war, was now much more formidable than when it began: they had fuppreffed all domeftic infurrections, they had made peace with Pruffia, and were negotiating with the other members of the coalition, which in fact was, if not actually diffolved, on the point of diffolution: they had conquered Belgium and Holland, and expelled all their enemies from the low countries: they were mafters of the fpacious and opulent provinces on the left fide of the Rhine, and were preparing to crols it in great force: their deliverance from infarrections at home, and the pacific treaties they had concluded abroad, had firengthened their armies againft the remaining members of the confederacy, to the amount of near three hundred thousand men. Were fuch a people to be declared unfit to be treated with? Much had been hoped from the depreciation of their paper money: but was it not ftrange that we would not take leffons from our own woeful experience? How had America combated and overcome us with paper, one hundred per cent. below par? The French were proceeding directly in the fame track? Provifions were cheaper in France than in England, and the republican armies had remitted nothing of

their attachment to the principles of the revolution, nor of their enthusiafm in its caufe. We still continued to truft to the commotions reported to be breaking out amongst them, and to the number of dif contented people daily looking for opportunities to rife againft govern ment: but might not the French on their fide allege the multitudes in this country that difapproved of the war? The exceffive bounties given, and the difficulties found to procure men for the navy and army? the refiftance in fome places to the injunctions of our legislature? might they not adduce thefe particulars as proofs how much we were exhaufted and inadequate to the farther profecution of the war? Neither was our fituation in the Eaft or the West Indies on a footing of permanency: in the Eaft, the princes of thofe countries were watching the opportunity to diftrefs us, and from their natural fuperiority in numbers, in opulence, and in native refources always at hand, would probably foon or late reduce us to fuch ftraights, as might compel us to revert to our primitive fituation of merchants and traders. In the Weft the fame fyftem of emancipation from thraldom, held out by the French to the negroes, had already effected a revolution among them. In the island of Hifpaniola they had in a great meafure thrown off the yoke of fervitude, and their numbers were fuch, amounting to fome hundred thousands, that a reduction of them was hardly practicable. We should not, therefore, in prùdence build much en our acquifitions there. Our fituation nearçr home was extremely ferious. Ireland, our fifter nation, felt deeply, and expreffed loudly, every fpecies [03]

of .

of discontent: at home itfelf the people were exafperated at their fufferings, and the lefs difpofed to bear them, that they did not clearly comprehend why they should. The effects of the war were of a truly alarming nature: it not only fpread calamity through the land, but diverted a large portion of the people from peaceable occupations, to which they never returned with alacrity after they had been used to a military life, and contracted thofe habits of idlencfs and diffipation always attending it? Another effect was that the Americans were apprehenfive, left, if fuccefsful in our attempts against the French iflands, we might narrow their commerce in thofe parts: nor were they difpofed to bear with patience the haughty and contemptuous language we beftowed on republican principles and governments. The longer the war lafted, the ftricter would be the union of the French, and the more fervent their refolution to maintain their domestic independence, with which their prefent form of government was daily becoming fo intimately connected. The rulers in that country, fenfible of the general inclination to peace, were very far from averfe to it themfelves: the difficulties perpetually arifing in providing the means to continue the war, and their anxiety not to ran counter to the reasonable withes of the majority, were motives that muft ftrongly influence them to clofe with equitable offers. All thefe were objects that called for the moft ferious attention on our part. He had propofed them in the clearest point of view they appeared to him, and to those who coincided with his fentiments.

This fpeech occafioned a warm reply from Mr. Wyndham, who contended, that it was nugatory to talk of the willingness of the French government to liften to overtures from this country, after the explicit manner in which they had determined to reduce its power and influence throughout Europe. France was at the prefent hour in a state of univerfal agitation: jealoufies and miftrufts of each other diftracted its rulers, and irritation at their conduct pervaded the mafs of the people, who had never been fo prone to shake off the ufurpations of their governors, as they appeared of late. Motions to treat for peace were totally unfeafonable for thole reafons: they tended to dishearten the public from the profecution of a war which promifed to terminate fo favourably to the caufe of this country and its allies: they promoted difaffection, and placed government in an odious light. He would, therefore, oppofe the prefent motion, by moving the order of the day.

Herein he was feconded by fir B. Hammet; but vigorously oppofed by Mr. Fox, who amidst a variety of other allegations, particularized the fatisfaction expressed by the fubjects of those powers that had made peace with France. He inflanced the grand duke of Tulcapy, who had rendered himself highly popular by abandoning the coalition; which was an object of hatred to the commonalty of all Europe. The conftitution which the coalition held out to the French. as the price of peace, was precifely that which they had profcribed. This alone was fufficient to excite their averfion to it; no fpirited peo

ple being willing to accept of a government upon compulfion, But did our allies require from us a continuation of this war? Were they not all inclined to peace? Was it not alfo a fact, that fo far from extaguishing jacobinifm in this country, which was one of the moft comnon pretences for the war in thofe who approved it, thofe who went under that name rejoiced in its continuance, from the profpect it af forded of accelerating the ruin of miniftry, and of the party that fided with them, and of promoting all the views of their adverfaries. The good faith of the French was at least equal to that we had experienced from our allies: were the French to deceive us, they would do no more than had been done by our allies under the matk of friendship to this country, and after having, through that pretence, drained it of as much treafure as they could prevail on our credulity in their promifes to beftow. We had fufficiently felt the evils of war: thofe prognofticated from peace had no exiftence bat in the fpeculations of perfons who did not feel the calamities of the times: but ought the mere fpeculations of men in power to outweigh the contrary opinions of the great mafs of the community? among whom it were an infult to common fenfe and experience to deny that as much knowledge and understanding might be found as in any miniftry.

It was argued by Mr. Pitt in reply, that to reprefent it as the duty of minifters, to acknowledge them felves ready to accept of overtures of peace from the enemy, was take ing from them the advantages they ought to poffefs in relation to them: they muft, from their situation, best

know the language to be held with him. For this reafon the conftitution had invefied the executive power with the exclufive right of foreign negotiations, from the fuperior degree of information it could not fail to derive through the vari ous channels of which it had the fole direction. From fources of this nature proceeded the reluctance of government to comply with the opinion of thofe who were defirous.. to fhew a willingness to treat with the rulers in France. From authentic intelligence the fituation of that country was more critical than ever: the refources were univerfally diminished in every quarter from whence they had arifen, or been extorted. Difunion reigned in every department of the state, and diffatiffaction extended through all claffes. Was this, therefore, a time to come forward with propofals to negotiate, while, through the patient delay of a fhort lapfe of time, alterations might happen in the internal parts of that country, more favourable to us, than we could expect from the moft advantageous treaties that could be framed at the prefent mo ment. To negotiate now would therefore be precipitation and imprudence. unbecoming the difcretion of government, while fo thoroughly acquainted with the diminution of ftrength in the enemy, and that notwithstanding the apparent vigour and fuccefs of his exertions, they could not last much longer. This defcription of the flate of France he compared with that of England, of which the refources ftill remained unexhaufted, and where, though impofitions had been numerous, they had not deprefled the industry, nor affected the general welfare of fociety. The debate closed by the [04]


« TrướcTiếp tục »