Imatges de pÓgina

than himself would not fubmit fuch a motion to the house. He was glad to fee it taken up by the most proper of all perfons, an old independent country gentleman. One mifchief of adopting fuch a measure had been urged againft it: it was, that the object intended to be produced by calling the parliament to gether in fo fhort a period as four teen days might be done away without further procrastination. He agreed with his friend as to the real object of the measure; and, like him, his objection was not to the queftion, whether a difpofable force fhould be drawn from the militia and engrafted into the army, fo much as to the probable application of that force. For his own part, he did not know that an expedition against Holland was a bad thing for this country; and there was a time when he would willingly have contributed all in his power to have forwarded it; but now, when we had obtained poffeffion of the Dutch fleet, we ought to be fatisfied.

bers yesterday: compared with the houfes which had diftinguished, or rather difgraced the last feffion, it might be called fo; but it had not at all contributed to the credit of the houfe of commons. To him, who knew the precife number of the members, it could not be confidered as a criterion of the fense of that houfe: the numbers did not amount to 200--they were affuredly not half of the people's reprefentatives. If Mr. Pitt meant to fay, that the measure to be brought forward required only the difcution of a thin attendance, he could account for his oppofition to this motion. The neceflity of a call of the boufe was the more obvious, as thofe who did attend were chiefly the members who refided near town. On fuch a fubject the parliament should meet collectively. If there exifted a man fo callous as to have read the Gazette of the last evening, and ftill thought that parliament was called upon to fend more men to Holland, he pitied fuch a man!-for himself, he fhould not confider that he difcharged his duty if he did not fupport the prefent motion, not with a view to impede or retard public bufinefs, but to procure the fanction of the country refpecting the precarious and perilous meafures which ministers feemed fo obftinately bent on purfuing.

The houfe divided: for the queftion, 4-against it, 93.

Conformably with that part of his majefty's fpeech which alluded to the militia, a bill was early introduced into parliament for enabling his majefty to accept of volunteers from the different regiments of militia. In the house of commons, therefore, Mr. fecretary Dun→ das, on the 26th of September, moved for permiffion to bring in a bill for the reduction of the militia forces of this kingdom, and to enable

Having fucceeded in crippling Holland, and rendering her attack on us impracticable, we were going on with an armed force against that country, without knowing what object we had ultimately in view the laft words of the last feffion of parliament were, that the object was the overthrow of the prefent go. vernment in France. He could not fee how any fucceffes which we might have in Holland could tend to forward this. Were the directo ry in France atked, in what manner they would with England to wage war against them, they would anfwer, that England could not better ferve them, than by wafting her ftrength in the dykes of Holland, and leaving France at liberty to refift her other enemies.-An honour able gentleman had obferved that there was a full attendance of mem

able his majesty to accep: the fer-
vices of an additional number of vo-
lunteers. The neceffity of employ-
ing British forces out of the coun-
try had been hinted at in the laft
feffion, and he had not attempted
to conceal that it was on the coaft
of Holland they were to be engaged.
The particular places, indeed, had
not been stated; there were good
reafons why they were not: but the
map of Europe furnished us room
to act from the Texel to the Medi-
terranean. It was not the purport of
the bill in any respect to diminish
the ftrength of that bulwark, as it had
been originally erected by the wif.
dom of parliament, and fostered by
the affectionate care of the people,
but it was merely to reduce it to that
ftandard. The fupplementary militia
was brought forward when the coun-
try was threatened with invafioned
when invafion was the avowed object
of the enemy, and when there was a
fmall force in this country for its
defence: it was therefore neceffary
to make a large addition to the old
militia, which had produced the best
effect; and for fome time the ne-
ceffity of a large establishment of mi-
litary force for home defence had
been gradually wearing away, part-
ly by the enemy's diftrefs, partly by
the fuccefs of his majefty's arms,
and partly by the loyalty of the
people. Under thefe circumftances,
and the profpect which had already
opened, our zeal and ardour might
be called further forward, and the
measure now propofed to give it
scope he did not doubt would be
readily adopted.

Mr. Tierney rofe-not, he faid, to oppofe any beneficial measure, but to call the attention of the house to confider deeply of the prefent. The militia was originally intended for home defence: the nature of their fervice was changed when

they went out of the country for any purpose, be that purpose what it might: He did not mean to infinuate that they had not done themfelves great credit, and this kingdom fervice, in Ireland, but they had totally altered the fyftem on which they were established, and, by this fort of practice, might become a ftanding army in the hands of the crown. Viewing things conftitutionally, therefore, he could not but remark the militia was now rather an object of jealousy than of confidence, and he could with to have it voted annually, like all other military force.

He felt himself peculiarly embarraffed on the fubject: he did not pronounce the measure to be a bad one, but he objected to the application which government intend

to make of it. Administration ought to take it upon themfelves, and not call for the fanction of parliament. It was now time for this country to think feriously of the wafte of English blood. The house of commons ought to pause before an army deftined for internal defence fhould be converted to act offenfively for the purposes of ambition. The legislature ought to confider, that not only men could not be raifed at all under the old fyftem of recruiting, but that, when raifed by this new method, the mode of payment by the old funding fyftem was at an end. He fubmitted this point to the house, not to raise despair, but awaken confideration to the circumftances of the country, before they agreed to go on with projects of diftant expeditions.

Holland had now no fleet to act hoftilely against us: their colonies were in our poffeffion, and their trade to all intents and purpofes annihilated: nothing remained to them but their foil, their canals,


and the number of their people. France could derive no advantage in its character of an enemy to us by retaining Holland; nor England gain any thing by taking it out of their hands, except a grave for Engiifh nen.

Befides, we had fufficient reafon to conclude, that the Dutch had no inclination to co-operate with our efforts. When our army had been a month in the country, powerful to protect and defend those who fhould rally round its standard, few joined our cause, and an obftinate refiftance had been oppofed to our progrefs. We had feen 1500 English troops fall in our last attempt, andamuch greater proportion of our allies. After fevere encounters we only occupied the pofitions held at the commencement of our enterprife, and fhould a British parliament fanction measures that muft involve fuch lofs of blood and treasures?

The burden that would be entailed upon us at the end of the 7th year of the war deferved calculation also. After we had been fo prodigal of our exertions, after the fecurity of our own country was placed upon the most folid basis, was it wife to risk all the advantages we poffeffed by plunging into a continental war to be profecuted by our own forces? The number of troops already on the continent was beyond what we ever were accustomed to employ, and now it was propofed to fend an additional body of 26,co0 men, which, added to the 22,000 in Holland, amounted to an army of 48,000 British troops! We fhould thus heap new and enormous expences on ourfelves. Had we not taken our full proportion of the task of delivering Europe and refitting France?

We had 45,000 Ruffians in our

pay, to be employed on the continent. Ought parliament, at a fortnight's notice, without any wellfounded hope of beneficial enterprife, or ultimate fuccefs, to fanction the establishment of an army of 100,000 men? Were the object of the war precifely afcertained, it would be more eafy to appreciate the measures to be adopted: the emperor of Ruffia, indeed, avowed the restoration of the French monarchy to be his object; and in the fpeech from the throne last session, his majefty stated, that he acted most cordially with this magnanimous ally; but the emperor of Germany had refufed to pledge himself to any fuch defign-his views were evidently directed to his own aggrandifement-every battle which he fought, every drop of blood which he expended, was to fecure fome territorial acquifition. Now the object must be confidered in relation to the means to be purfued, and the chance of fuccefs: Was England and Ruffia likely to accomplish the overthrow of the French republic? Was it promoted by the victories which had crowned the campaign? What return of order, of religion, of legitimate government, had we feen rifing from any of our exploits? He faw with pleasure, indeed, the power of France circumfcribed, and with pleasure he should fee her confined within her ancient limits; but it would be neceffary to calculate whether we might not fuffer more by the attempt than by the evil which exifted. Was Switzerland yet reftored to its former government?-On the contrary, had it not been held as a conqueft, and from France to Auftria it had merely fhifted hands? Had the king of Sardinia afcended his recovered throne and regained his territories? What matters it to him who lofes a crown, whether

whether it be purloined by emperors or directories?

With respect to the bill itself, Mr. Tierney faid he had little objection. He was not averse to see the fupplementary militia reduced, and the expence which it occafioned faved. He wished not to fee the exertions of government crippled, but never would give his fupport for enabling them to carry on a crufade against France. Connecting therefore the application of the difpofeable force with the measure propofed, he felt it his duty to give it his negative.

The fecretary at war faid, that the nature of the bill was misinterpreted; no man by giving it his vote pledged himself to approve its application; for this, minifters would be refponfible, as well as for every other part of the difpofal of military force. The fyftem of pure defenfive war, which the honourable gentleman fo ftrenuoufly recommended, was the moft unfortunate which could be efpoufed: the only effectual means of defence, both for individuals and nations, was to attack the enemy: by mere defence we were expofed to the danger of being hurt without any chance of injuring the adverfary. Offenfive operations alone could terminate the conteft. But why not leave Europe to itfelf? had we not done enough? as if it was a point of mere calculation and contribution, to be regulated by narrow principles and illiberal views! It was wretched economy alfo; for if we circumfcribed our fphere of operations we contracted our own means of defence. But we had the command of the feas. What was this to the general caufe of Europe? Could we be fafe whilst fuch a republic continued to exift? What could the naval force of this

country effect to the annoyance of the enemy if reftricted as propofed? What could the gallant Sidney Smith have achieved had he remained on board his fhis? What might have been the confequences of Bonaparte's expedition had he been unopposed? or what the fituation of the Ottoman empire?

No deep politician, on taking an extenfive view of things, could affert, that, because this was an ifland, we ought to separate the caufe of Europe from our own; our fate was involved in that of furrounding nations; our interefts and our profperity were connected with their ftate; in extending a liberal regard to them, in contributing to their defence, we best promoted our own; by maintaining their freedom, we employed the fureft means of advancing our own greatnefs, guarding our own fecurity, and confirming our own independence. If France were permitted to retain the dominion the lately poffefled, all the means of defence of which we could boast would be inadequate for our fafety. He did not with to be understood as holding out the restoration of the French monarchy as the abfolute object: however defirable, it might be impracticable; he was well convinced of the impoffibility of eftablishing any form of government against the manners, habits, and fentiments of a people. The queftion was, whether France de. fired it? and he did not hesitate to give it as his opinion that it was the wifh of the majority; for it was eafy to comprehend that they might be governed by the minority, and only waited for an occafion to evince their sentiments.

Mr. Sheridan regretted that his friend Mr. Tierney had no objection to put the militia on the foot

ing of the army. He thought it effential that minifters fhould proceed on fure grounds refpecting the difpofitions of the Dutch; the enterprise could not fucceed, and ought not to have been attempted, without the most decided proofs of their co-operation. The manner in which their fleet had been furrendered was by a mutiny in the crews and as their example had not been followed by the people, it was reafonable to fuppofe they did not favour our defign.

The expedition had been long in contemplation; and when it was determined, there might be fome hope of the affiftance of Pruffia. If it fhould at last appear that Pruffia perfifted in neutrality, and the Dutch were ill inclined to our caufe, all chance of fuccefs was removed. He trufted, therefore, that minifters would not perfevere in the fruitless attempt of conquering Holland by force if this fhould be the cafe. At any rate he hoped that the house (who were not parties in the plan, nor actuated by the fame fenfations of pride) would not fupport administration in fuch deftructive obstinacy.

The chancellor of the exchequer affured the houfe, that the king of Pruffia had not the fmalleft influence in determining the expedition; it was adopted by minifters under aufpices to justify the moft fanguine hopes: if, contrary to all he believed, the attempt to refcue Holland from the tyranny of France fhould mifcarry, government would have abundant matter, not only of confolation, but triumph. It could boast of an object fully adequate to justify the design and compensate for the facrifices. Was it not of importance to have transferred fo great a portion of the naval force of Holland from our enemies? If

we could not fecure a friend, was it nothing to difarm an adverfary to have ftript the republic of an inftrument by which they might have affailed the fafety of our fhores, and to have gained a new bulwark to our national fecurity? These were claims to the gratitude of the country which could not be shaken. Thefe were proofs of fuccefs which left no room for regret, which manifefted the benefits derived from the former application of the militia forces, and warranted an extenfion of the principle.

The honourable gentleman (Mr. Tierney) had faid he was not in, clined to defpond himself, or to excite defpondency in others; if he had been fo, if he had been defirous of damping the generous ardour for the common caufe, of blighting all our profpects of national triumph, and of final fecurity, his topics could not have been more happily felected.

As to the new fyftem of finance, it was a mode of raifing fupplies by which national credit was fupported to a pitch unprecedented at the very commencement of former wars, by which our refources were prolonged, our trade increased, and our profperity confolidated.

When Mr. Dundas moved the reading of the bill the fecond time, it was ftrongly fupported by Mr. Jones, who did not wifh for any delay on this fubject; and though he lamented the neceffity with fome other gentlemen, he could not oppofe any meafure likely to deliver the Dutch from the deteftable flavery of France-a name only to be written in blood.

Mr. Addington obferved that we had obtained the fleet under the moft folemn engagements to preferve it for its lawful fovereign, and we embarked in this expedition under

« AnteriorContinua »