Page images
PDF
EPUB

paragraph upon the subject, the meaning | stances of particular difficulty, when the of which appeared to me to be by no king of Prussia renounced the cause of means clear. We were told, however, the allies. I do not recollect that France that it was afterwards explained, and that was in a situation of unusual hardship the subsequent message was nothing more when she concluded a peace with Spain. than the natural consequence of the king's Nor do I recollect that the elector of speech. If, then, the ideas conveyed by Hanover, and the other German princes, the message were hypothetically the opi- were exulting in the abundance of their nion of the minister, who was certainly victories when they commenced a negoto be considered as a principal assistant tiation. On the contrary, I think I have in framing the speech, we are to trace heard that Spain sued for peace, not when the measures of government back to the Spain was in the unimpaired possession of 29th of October. But even supposing her territory, but when the principal prothat the 8th of December was the earliest vinces of the empire were in the hands time that the king's cabinet ministers of the French. Nor from any informa, formed any definitive opinions upon the tion which I have received upon the subsubject, when we take into consideration, ject, can I pay such a compliment to the not only the lapse of time, but the very king of Prussia and the princes of Gerextraordinary circumstances attending many, as to say, that they offered terms that lapse of time, it is natural to ask, of peace to the enemy when they were in did it require two months (or if we date the career of conquest, and the zenith of it from the 29th October, did it require their glory. I confess I cannot see (if three months), to come to an understand the professions of the right hon. gentlemen ing with our allies; or ratber, was it not be true) what renders an explanation of reasonable to expect that something might the proceedings of the government of this have been done in that time? The expec- country a subject of so much delicacy in tation was the more reasonable, when we the present war. If he admits that he is consider what those two months were. engaged in a clandestine negotiation, of They were not two months in the heat of the benefit of which he means to deprive a campaign-they were not only in a sea. our allies, and of which, of course, he son, when God and nature united to cre- would wish to keep them ignorant, then ate an armistice, but when an armistice I conceive some motive for his conduct, had actually taken place—they were not and I am ready on such a supposition to during the sitting of the parliament, allow his argument, if not honourable, to (though I am not one of those who con- be at least logical. But if, as he declares, sider the sitting of parliament as an impe- he is really acting in concert with our diment to negotiation), but during a par- allies, where would be the harm, if he liamentary recess, prolonged, as the were to lay all the papers which have frieods of the minister gave out, for the passed upon the subject before the purpose of leaving him unshackled to House? And here I cannot refrain from carry on the negotiation. When these making one observation on the difference circumstances are considered I wish to of situation, in which we have stood with know why no steps have been taken ?-1 respect to our allies in the course of this must here advert to a passage in the right contest. I cannot help remembering a hon. gentleman's speech, in which he re- glaring defect which was pointed out last presented it as having been the policy of year, in the terms of the loan which was France to divide the allies, and when she then voted to the emperor. It was then was on the eve of sinking beneath their objected, that we did not bind him to combined pressure, to detach some of persevere in the prosecution of the war them from the confederacy. Perhaps I longer than he thought fit. The answer am not so well acquainted with the cir- was, if we bind the emperor to prosecute cumstances of the war as the right hon. the war, we must ourselves come under gentleman, or at this moment I may not the same restriction. And now we are have such a lively recollection of the de- told, we cannot make peace, except in tails of its history ; but I certainly do not concert with our allies.” I mention this remember any peculiar difficulties under merely to show the different representa: which the enemy had the misfortune to tions that are given of matters according labour at the particular conjuncture when to the pressure of different arguments. our allies seceded from the treaty. I do The right hon. gentleman has given us to not recollect that France was in circum- understand something in his speech. It is material to know what he really intends God that the situation of the country to convey, to understand how much, and were such as to afford any reasonable the precise value of what he has advanced. ground for such an expectation. But I understand him to have said, and I beg what I contend for is this, that such to be corrected if I am mistaken, that has been the asperity displayed on both measures have been already taken by mi- sides, in the course of the contest, that nisters, with a view to avail themselves the temper of the governments will ocof whatever circumstances may occur fa- casion à difficulty no less formidable vourable, either to making or receiving than any that may occur in the discussion overtures of peace with France. I cer- of terms a difficulty which I am sorry to tainly do not mean to quibble upon words, say the concluding part of the right hon. and therefore it cannot be supposed that gentleman's speech was by no means cal. he can mean a continuance of the war to culated to remove. It may be said, that be one of those measures which he hopes the language held by the Directory was are introductory to negotiation. If it be insolent in the extreme. But because understood, that since the message of insolent language is held by the Directory the 8th of December, he has endea of France, is that a reason why the govoured, by means of communication with vernment of England should assume the our allies, to learn the grounds on which same tone of insolence ? Were we to they wish to negociate, this certainly is adopt conciliatory (language, the effect something; but it is an instance of tardi- would be immediate upon the temper of ness for which it is difficult to account. the French government in softening aspeAnd even admitting these steps to have rity, and silencing abuse. And if such been taken, it still remains a question of would be the effect in France, what might serious urgency, whether the motion of not be expected here ?-It was stated by my hon. friend ought to be agreed to by the right hon. gentleman that the motion the House? That the manifestation of a of my hon. friend, if agreed to by the sincere desire to negociate would in this House, would so cramp, fetter, and humicountry produce an effect highly popular, liate government, that it would be imposis a fact not to be disputed. To the rest sible to negociate with honour. This is of Europe such an inclination would be an objection which has been stated so no less grateful; and I will put it to the often in the course of the war, that it has judgment of the House, if they really entirely lost its force. When on a former think the country will make worse terms occasion it was proposed to declare the of peace with France, because the French government of France in a negociable sigovernment know our desire for peace to tuation, the proposition was rejected with be sincere ? Is it not to be feared, on the scorn, and now this very declaration has other hand, that the mutual alienation of been made by ministers, and we have ex. affection, and the mutual distrust which perienced no inconvenience from it. As have subsisted between the countries, to the prerogative of the crown of making will create a more serious difficulty with peace, when and how his majesty pleases, respect to the success of any negotiation, no man doubts of it; but no man, on the than even the terms that may be pro- other hand, will doubt of the prerogaposed ? In former wars, we have found tive of the Commons of England to advise that the obstructions to pacification arose his majesty, both as to the time and the more from the temper of the adverse counterms of pacification. The present is not tries, than the specific terms which were a matter of right, but a matter of discrebrought upon the tapis. In the war of|tion. I have put a case before to the the succession, which, without excep- House, which is so appropriate to the tion was the most glorious of any that present circumstances of the country, that this country was ever engaged in, is there I may be allowed to quote it again-the a Whig at this day so bigoted as not to case of the American war. In the course believe that the conferences of Gertruy of that war, we heard from a noble lord, denburg might have led to peace, had that it was the height of indiscretion in they been properly conducted, and that parliament, to interfere with the prerogathe prolongation of the war arose from tive of the king in making peace. Parliaunextinguishable jealousy, and unyielding ment wisely rejected the noble lord's arrivalship? I am not so sanguine as to gument, and not only declared that Ameexpect that no difficulty will arise in rica was in a negociable situation, and negotiation about terms? I wish to that the States should be acknowleged as independent, but they even declared that been unhappily exemplified in the fate of no Offensive war should be carried on Poland. Still, however, it is no light against America; and this very declara- matter in national as well as private contion enabled the right hon. gentleman and cerns to have reason on our side. I know his associates at that time to conclude a I have been sometimes thought absurd, peace, the terms of which were certainly when I argued, that honour was the only not such as the country, in my opinion, just cause of war; but I still believe, and had reason to expect from its circum: there has been nothing in late events to stances at the time, but which redounded contradict the opinion, that reason and much to his credit, when compared with justice in any cause are the most powerful the misfortunes to which it had formerly allies. If this be the case, let us manibeen subjected. There are certain bug-fest to France, to Europe, and to the bears which have always been held out by world, a spirit of moderation; and let us ministers to parliament, and which have this night address his majesty to combeen disposed of according to its good mence a negotiation with the republic of sense at the time. The pretences of state France. I say the republic of France ; secrets, and parliamentary confidence, for there is more in names than one would have always been held forth as a shield sometimes be apt to imagine. Ministers for the measures of the servants of the have talked of is the French rulers,” of crown; fortunately for the people, how- “persons exercising the government of ever, their constituents have not been France," &c. If they are serious in their always inclined to pay that attention to intentions of making peace, they must them, which to superficial observers they hold a language more explicit. They may seem to claim. As to the state pa have sent an ambassador (lord Macartper to which the right hon. gentleman re- ney) to the court of Louis 18th. Do ferred, I have not seen it, and therefore they imagine, after such an insult to the am not qualified to reason upon it. But present government of France, that a neallowing the sentiments of the directory gotiation can be entered upon without a on the subject of peace, to be as wild, fan- previous and direct acknowledgment ? ciful, and extravagant as it is possible for That government has been recognised in them to be, that is no reason why these various acts, both by us and our allies ; sentiments ought to deter us from offer- in the exchange of prisoners, the release of ing terms of peace. The time in which the princess royal, &c. There is no injury, we live, is a time in which government therefore; but, on the contrary, much must pay some attention to the opinion of advantage to be derived from a more full the people whom they are appointed to and explicit recognition. At the peace of govern. Were a disposition for peace, on Utrecht, the negociation and conferences the part of the government, discovered to at Gertruydenberg were injured by the people of England, it would diffuse Louis 14th employing an ambassador in general happiness over the kingdom; and the interest of the pretender; why, then, if it was made known to France, I am the count d'Artois should now be so convinced that her concessions would be much countenanced by government as as ample as we could . wish. As to the ambassador from an unfortunate prince, I popular opinion in this country, it has for am at a loss to conceive. Is it not highly some time been evidently against the necessary, then, to make an explicit declawar; and I say it to the credit of ration, that we are really desirous of a ministers, that they have sacrificed suitable and honourable peace. Let us, something to the constitution of the however, come to the point. Ministers country, in permitting the opinion say, all this is very good, if you let us do of the people respecting the war, to have it, but if the House of Commons suggest some weight in regulating their conduct. it, it is very wrong. Do they think, how. If the demands of France are exorbitant, ever, that there is a cabinet in Europe, let us meet them with reasonable over- or even that there is a man who reads a tures on our part, and moderation will newspaper, who believes, if the motion have a greater effect than the most stren- of my hon. friend were to be carried this uous resistance, in relaxing their exer- evening, that it was forced upon administions. I know reason has too little to do tration ? Nay, would he not rather think in the government of the world, and that if indecency I may be allowed to say so), justice and moderation must often yield that ministers had made the House of to power and lawless might. This has Commons adopt the motion ? Allowing the right hon. gentleman all the confi- sum equal to the whole landed rental. dence which he can desire, nothing could Now, though I am not one of those who tend more to evince the confidence think that land pays all the taxes, I think of the House in administration, than the weight of them lies upon the land; the motion that has been made this which cannot exist very easily under á evening. Even if it be the etiquette burthen of twenty shillings in the pound. of the minister, that all declarations of I am told that things are worse in France; this nature shall originate in the crown but, will any man be bold enough not to (an etiquette which I do not understand) wish for peace, because the finances of

would not put a declaration of the crown France may be in a state still more dein comparison, in point of authenticity, ranged than ours ? Rather than continue with that which the present motion, if the war for another campaign, indepencarried, would convey. Let him recol. dent of the moral reasons against its proJect that every moment of delay is a longation, I would not unquestionably moment of danger, and therefore let him give up our honour, our dignity, or our not procrastinate in making the declara- liberty, which, till I die, I trust I shall tion. He may, perhaps, have intended never fail to assert ; but I would give up the speech of this evening to serve the all questions of etiquette and accommodapurpose of a declaration : but he cannot tion, and in fact every thing short of but know the wide and immeasurable dif- what most nearly concerns our character. ference between a speech which may or Let it not be understood that I wish for may not go abroad in an accurate man- a dishonourable peace, or peace on any ner, and a resolution inserted in the other terms than those which are suitable votes of the House of Commons. I to the interests, and consistent with the shall not say one word on the relative dignity of the country; but I am sansituation of Great Britain. I am not guine enough to think, that even now this one of those who are inclined to think country may have fair and honourable despondingly of the situation of the terms of peace. The governors of France country. But if any thing could make me dare not refuse any reasonable terms despair, it would be that species of rea- which we may offer; if they do, others soning, which, after telling me of the in- will then be appointed in their place, who creased national debt, the load of taxes, will dare to accept of them. When peace and the consequent misery entailed upon shall be proposed, however, I hope and the people, desires me to look to the ruined trust that it will not be proposed on the finances of France for comfort, which are dividing system, and that this country quickly hurrying that power to the preci- will never give its sanction to any such pice of destruction. So that, in propor transaction as the infamous partition of tion as the enemy retreats from the com- Poland. Dearly as I love peace, and mon abyss which would swallow up both, anxiously as I wish for it, that such a we are encouraged to be under no appre- peace may never prevail, I most heartily hension for our own safety. I will allow, pray. I hope when peace shall arrive, that the French may be in greater distress that the interests of humanity as well as than the people of this country are at this of kings, and that of every particular time; but to me it appears to be very poor state, will be consulted, and that tranquilcomfort to the afflicted to hear, that their lity will be re-established on the broad enemies will fall a little before them. basis of justice, in answer to the prayers Even supposing France to come and bow of mankind, who are now fatigued with at our feet, supposing that Louis 18th war, slaughter, and devastation. were to be proclaimed rightful heir of the The House divided on Mr. Grey's mocrown, and supposing that she were tamely tion : to surrender all the conquests she has made

Tellers. it would be no recompence for the loss that we have already sustained. Accord- Yeas

Mr. Grey

:} ing to the statement of the right hon. gen.

Mr. Whitbread tleman, the territorial rental of the king. Noes

Mr. Steele dom does not exceed twenty-five millions

Mr. Adams annually. The taxes, if they turn out as productive as they have been estimated,

List of the Minority. will amount to twenty-one millions, Antonie, W. Lee Barclay, George, esq. which, with the poor-rates, will make a Aubrey, sir John

Baring, John

50

:}189

Bouverie, hon. E. MÄLeod, general with these horrible truths, he felt it to be Bouverie, w.

Milner, sir W. his duty to strain every effort, to prevent Burch, J. R. North, Dudley

a practice so destructive to the human, Church, J. R. Peirse, Henry Clerke, Jerv. Plumer, William

race; so disgraceful to the character of Colquhoun, William Rawdon, John

the British nation. Coke, T. W.

Ridley, sir M. W. It was hardly necessary for him to Courtenay, John Rogers, sir F. W.

state to the House, that there was someCrespigny, T. C. Russell

, lord William thing very peculiar in the present time, Crewe, John

Russell, lord John as connected with this unfortunate subCurwen, J.C.

Sheridan, R. B. ject. Gentlemen could not but recollect, Fitzpatrick, general St. John, hon. St.And. that the 1st of January 1796, was the Fox, right hon. C. J. Smith, general

time when the House had declared that Francis, Philip Smith, William

the slave trade should end. The first of Halhed, N. B. Spencer, lord R. Harcourt, John Tarleton, general

January, 1796, was past, but alas ! the Hare, James

Vyner, Robert detestable traffic proceeded with undi. Honeywood, Francis Vyner, Robert, jun. minished spirit. Taking the resolution Hussey, William Walwyn, James of that House, “ that the slave trade Jekyll, Joseph Western, C.C. should be abolished in January 1796," * Kemp, Thomas Wilbraham, R. for his ground, he stood upon a foundaKnight, R. Paine

TELLERS. tion that could not be shaken. This was Langston, John Lechmere, Edward Grey, Charles

the sentence of the House, formally and Long, Samuel Whitbread, Samuel

deliberately pronounced, after a more

elaborate discussion than any question Debate on Mr. Wilberforce's Motion for had ever undergone. It became his duty, the Abolition of the Slave Trade.] Feb. 18. therefore, to call upon the House for the Mr. Wilberforce rose to make his pro- execution of its sentence. In doing so, mised motion respecting the Abolition of it would be superfluous to argue, since the Slave-trade. ' He said, that when he any effort to shake the well-grounded reconsidered how often he had brought the solution of the House would be as ineffecsubject in various shapes before the tual, as any attempt to convince those, House, and how many grievous disap- who were not already convinced, would pointments he had met with in his prose- be vain. cution of it, he could not but foresee that The House, in order to do justice to many would be inclined to wonder at his the question, should remember the state perseverance. If there were persons who, of opinion on that occasion. Some were from that conception, were led to indulge disposed for an immediate abolition; a the hope that he was either discouraged large majority was in favour of a gradual by want of success, or baffled by opposi- abolition; but, however different in opition, he would tell them they utterly mis- nion on that point, all agreed in branding took his temper, as well as the principles the traffic with every epithet of infamy upon which he had taken the matter and reproach that ingenuity could devise. up. This question differed fundamentally That should be ever remembered : for his from all others, which had ever come un- part, he never would forget it; from that der the cognizance of parliament. There ground he would never move. He would were many questions of policy on which not trouble the House, or afflict the sensadifferent opinions might be formed upon tions of those who had feeling, with a rethe most disinterested principles ; on petition of things at the bare thought of which the decisions, though of import- which his own heart sickened. Those ance, might yet not cut very deep in the mischiefs, then felt and branded with the end; and the delay and suspension of execrations of the House, were still going which might be attended with no great forward, and would continue to go for degree of misery or injury. In the pre- ward with increased industry, if the

House sent case, however, error in decision, and did not interpose, and take a quick, decidelay or suspension in proceeding, was, sive, and an active part. One topic there attended with ruin, beyond all calculation, was which threw new light on the busito unhappy Africa : while the House slept, ness, and pointed out more distinctly, if the mischiefs complained of were going on, possible, the necessity there was for the and every year, nay every day, was adding House to interfere without delay: he al. to the guilt of this country, and to the calamities of that. Impressed, as he was

* See Vol. 29, p. 1293. [VOL. XXXII.)

[3 B]

« PreviousContinue »