Imatges de pÓgina
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part of the community by charity was a proof of the weaknefs of the country. Six months ago our army had been recruited by unconftitutional measures; the fundamental principles on which the force of the kingdom was formed had been violated, for the purpose of conducting us to victory: that fame army which we had beheld marching with an aifurance of fuccefs had been obliged to purchase its retreat from the enemy's territory with disgrace. Such were the means we had of obtaining a more favourable opportunity to negotiate. Ought minif ters to be fuffered to perfift? Were they to have another fecret expedition to drain the country of its provifions in order to fill the magazines of the enemy, and to ftamp the British character with dishonour? Surely it ought first to be well afcertained that we had fome rational hope of fuccefs. The question now was, whether the prefent was a favourable opportunity for peace? he maintained that it was; and notwithstanding it had been afferted, that the government of France had not been tried a fufficient time, and the difpofitions of Bonaparte were unpacific, the letter of Bonaparte and of his minifter Talleyrand, refuted fuch affertions: from their contents it was evident to the candid, that peace was not the perfonal with only of Bonaparte, but that he had ftated it as, his own perfonal wish in addition to the defire of the French nation. His majefty had declared in his note to Barthelemy, that England would always be willing to treat when its enemies evinced a difpofition to that effect; if this declaration was not a mockery, why did we not treat now? The only means of proving the fincerity of Bonaparte was to enter into a negotiation: to profecute the war after

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themfelves place implicit confidence in Ruffia? Thefe were points which he did not mean now to difcufs, but he would advert to the probable hopes entertained of a more favourable opportunity to negotiate, from the internal fituation of the country itself. Had their lordships confidered it with relation to its finances? The old fyftem of finance had been abolished, as incapable of being applied to the operations of government, and a new one had been introduced, which, after a trial of two years, had been found defective, fo that it was neceffary to refort to fome other, more violent in its nature, to enable minifters to carry on the war-a war purfued in conjunction with powers who would not bring their men into the field for nothing. We had been taught to believe that this country was able to starve France; now, if we took a view of our own internal fituation, we fhould find it alarming in an extreme degree. If we repaired to the woods, we should every where discover traces of thofe miferable wretches whofe poverty left them no refource but depredation; if we contemplated the villages, we thould hear only the unavailing cries of children calling for that food which their parents had not to give them. Numerous were the inftances of ftrong and healthy countrymen appealing from parish officers, who had denied them affiftance, on the ground of their being able to work; it was true, they had ability, but no employ ment; and, left without it, they were perpetually diftreffed with the clamours of their families, pining at their miferable homes in wretchednefs and want. The beneficence of individuals had, indeed, much alleviated these evils; but the neceffity of affording relief to the laborious

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the conceffions of the French go. vernment was neither open, manly, nor characteristic of the British nation. His grace next adverted to the report of Boulay de la Meurthe, admitting that what had been advanced by him proceeded from Bonaparte; but it was no more an argument against the abolished conftitution of France, than a report of any violent jacobin on the ancient government of Louis XVI. The chief conful doubtlefs fought to make a peace advantageous to himself and the nation over which he prefided; like all other ftatesmen, his motives might not be influenced by humanity; it was to be fuppofed his aim would be to fatisfy the French people, and confolidate his own power. As to the abufe which minifters threw upon his character, it was their habit to abuse every ruling power in France; but whenever they had been driven by the voice of the people to negotiate, their former ill language had never been any impediment. It was unfortunately the intereft of minifters to procraftinate the war; they retained their places by its continuance; and when it was ended, the people would inquire for what they had been spending their blood and treasures, and reflect on the heavy calamities they endured, without having reaped the least advantage by the contest.

The prefent queftion was big with the crifis, not only of England, but of exifting man, and fucceeding generations. He implored their lord fhips, by the love they bore their country, to paufe ere they confented to plunge it in eternal war. If France and England were to be eternal rivals, let that rivalship be manifested by other means; instead of defolating each other's territories, and carrying devastation into every

part of the habitable world, adding to the number of difconfolate widows and helpless orphans, let the countries reciprocally lighten the burdens of the people, direct their thoughts to agriculture and commerce, and vie with each other in the arts of peace. By the filence of the people it might be fuppofed they were fatisfied; in this cafe the more refponfibility attached to ministers; they were bending under the accumulated weight of taxes; it was for their rulers to take care that they did not fink. A continuance of oppreffion would make them flaves, or prepare them for revolution. If they were driven to despair, like the people of France they would look up to themselves, and redress their own grievances.

His grace concluded by obferving, that the addrefs propofed by minifters was to be regarded as containing their own fentiments rather than thofe of their fovereign, and as fuch the house ought freely to difcufs it: he propofed another in its ftead, which he fubmitted to their confideration. Being exhaufted, lord Holland rose to read it.

'That an address be presented to his majefty, returning thanks for his gracious communication of the correfpondence between the minister of France and that of England, and humbly to reprefent, that in December 1795, his majefty was pleafed to acquaint the houfe that he had been induced to meet any difpofition for negotiation on the part of the enemy with an earnest defire to give it the speedieft effect.

That, in purfuance of this difpofition, an overture had been made in the fpring by his minister in Switzerland, in the year 1796.

On the rejection of that overture, his majefty had given the most fo emn affurance, that whenever the enemy

enemy fhould manifeft more pacific fentiments, he would eagerly concur in them, and concert with his allies fuch measures as were beft calculated to re-establifh tranquillity on conditions juft, honourable, and per

manent.

'That his majesty had fince entered into two negotiations for peace with the republic, at Paris in 1796, and at Lifle in 1797: and that the rupture was folely to be attributed to the determination of the French go. vernment to reject all means of peace, and to purfue at all hazards their hoftile defigns against these kingdoms.

That we his majesty's most duti ful fubjects, impreffed with the juftice of these fentiments, anxious for the re-establishment of peace, and the dignity of the crown, cannot conceal our regret on perceiving his majefty has been advised to reject the first overtures on the part of the enemy; and we implore his majesty to give directions for an immediate renewal of the negotiation for peace with the republic, befeeching him to recur to thofe principles of moderation and equity fo folemnly and repeatedly avowed, and which, if adhered to, muft either enfure the reftoration of peace, or render our enemies alone accountable for the calamities of war.'

Lord Borington faid, that the prefent question was fimply this: Whether they would or would not affure his majesty of their fupport in the prefent war, until a treaty could be concluded with France with fecurity? No token of it exifted at the prefent moment, and the fafety of the country would be rifked by negotiation. The moft important revolution which France itself had ever witneffed had placed upon the throne of power in that country a moft celebrated and extra

ordinary man. He would give him no other epithets How long he might remain in this fituation it was utterly impoffible to decide, confequently impoffible to depend on any treaties we might form with him; and if he were expelled from it. he might be replaced by that faction whofe undifgui'ed hatred to this country would lead them to put a speedy end to all negotiation with it. We fhould then be at their mercy, and have the mortification of knowing it was our own impatience which had made us fo. It would be a painful degradation for Old England to be an imploring and dependent power at the feet of a jacobin directory. would not pretend to determine what might be the real difpofitions of the first conful relative to general pacification; but it was remarkable that though his majefty, with that good faith fo well becoming his character as well as that of the nation, exprefsly ftated his intentions of acting only in concert with his allies, not one word fhould be faid in anfwer refpecting peace with them: he argued, therefore, that even if we had acceded to the French propofitions, it was probable we might have left in existence the continental war; we might have enabled France to have ftrengthened and recruited her forces, bafely have allowed her to bring them out against the powers now in alliance with us, and have put into the hands of thefe fucceffors of Bonaparte a power more formidable than that now enjoyed by himself-more formidable, from the principles of thofe who might direct it; and, above all, from the abject ftate in which it would most affuredly find this country under fuch circumftances. It was impoffible to conceive means more calculated to damp the ardour and E 2

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there was nothing which juftified the
imputation of unwife delay and ti-
mid policy: no comment was ne.
cellary upon peace having been pro-
pofed on the laft occafion, becaufe
betwixt powerful and independent
nations that circumftance made no
difference; nor could the propofal
of peace be ever confidered in itself
as either an act of humiliation or
a pledge of fincerity. The reftora-
tion of monarchy was not the fine
qua non with us; it might be re-
garded as a means of peace, but not
a reason for the continuance of the
If Bonaparte was really fin-
cere, it would have induced him to
confirm the profeffions of principles
made on the eve of his revolution
by Boulay de la Meurthe; but this
was fo far from being the cafe, that
M. Talleyrand juftified in his fe-
cond note the exceffes of the former
government, and pleaded the aggref-
fions of those who had provoked the
war. Did this appear like a fincere
difpofition to conclude peace? Mi-
nifters were charged with a breach
of promife in not adhering to the
declarations made, after the break-
ing off the negotiations at Lifle: could
it be imagined that these declara-
tions were to be in force under all
circumstances? The very terms im-
plied no fuch thing. Since then,
Italy had been rescued from the ty-
ranny of its invaders; the flower of
the French army had been deftroyed
in Africa; the glorious battle of
the Nile had been fought, and the
victory obtained: Could it be ex-
pected that we fhould now accede
to the fame terms then offered, or a
declaration be binding three years
after it had been iflued? Since the
death of Robespierre, every French
government had made the fame pa-
cific profeffions; each faction, as it
came into power, had held out the
fame allurements; but each had
been

check the enterprife of our fleets, to deftroy the difcipline and fpirit of our armies, to enfeeble every branch of the public fervice, and diffufe diftruft and defpondency into the public mind, than the hafty conclufion of a temporary peace.

He totally differed from the duke, that the perfonal character of Bonaparte did not come into the prefent queftion; their lordships, who had been fuch anxious witneffes of the extraordinary events of the last ten years, could not difmifs from their recollection what was the character, and what had been the part acted in those events by him in whole perfon was now concentered the whole government of France.

It had been faid, that minifters, by their antwers to France, had declared eternal war, but this propofition could not be proved; minifters could not have expreffed (fhort of negotiation) his majefty's defire of peace more ftrongly; experience and facts could mean nothing elfe than that his majefty felt it his duty to wait to fee whether the power of the prefent rulers in France fhould be established, and whether his ufe of that power would induce us with reafon to hope for the faithful obfervance of any treaty concluded with Bonaparte. It was neceflary to remind the boufe that Bonaparte had only been installed a month; and fuch was the nature of the French revolution, that no reference to the history of former times, no recurrence to thofe tranfactions of which France had for fo many years been the melancholy and fanguinary theatre, could in any way lead to a plaufible conjecture, much lefs to fuch a folid opinion as fhould be adopted before they could proceed in a meafure of the deepeft importance. Surely, in waiting for the test of experience and the evidence of facts,

been actuated by the fame infatiable ambition, and, after pretenfions to equity and honour, had proved equally perfidious and unjust.

Upon this view of the probable inftability of the French government, upon the character of the enemy, and the exifting circumstances, his m jefty was justified in not yet concluding any treaty; and upon this ground his lordship called upon the house to fupport the addrefs as it was originally moved.

Lord Romney rofe:-He approved of the general conduct of minifters, and confidered the country greatly indebted to them; but in this inftance thought they had taken the wrong ground, and acted improperly in their abrupt rejection of the overtures of France. Not that their intentions appeared as laudable as the duke had reprefented them; the chief conful might mean merely to perplex our government, and render himself popular at home; but in the prefent care we had enabled him to gain his end: we certainly ought to have entered into a negotiation, and weighed the terms he might have propofed. No bad confequences, could have enfued; our military operations were now fufpended, and our preparations might have gone on with equal vigor for the next campaign. If the terms of Bonaparte had been unreasonable, they might have been refufed, and the odium of this prolonged war would have devolved on France; every Englishman would then have contributed with cheerfulness to carry it on. His lordship concluded with a eulogium on his majesty, whofe virtues, moderation, and paternal care of his people, diftinguifh ed him fo eminently from the rulers of other nations; but thefe being his fentiments on our rejection of Bonaparte's proposals, he could not

vote for the addrefs, nor would he for the amendment.

The ea. I of Carlisle expatiated on the nature of the conteft; ours was a war, he fiid, for the prefervation of our laws, our liberty, our religion, and our property. By its continuance we had obtained every object we had proposed; we had checked the career of France, and eftablifhed our own fecurity. To enter into a negotiation would be to ruin the country, and therefore he should vote for the addrefs: it would, however, have been more prudent had they only thanked his majesty for his communication, and not have given any opinion on the conduct of the executive government. The addrefs pledged them to fupport the war till the minifters should say that the period was come to put an end to it: they only knew a part of the tranfaction; minifters might be acquainted with reasons unknown to them to justify their violent anfwers to the overtures; this was a fubject unfit for their difcuffion. Firmnefs had faved the nation, which, had the oppofition been al lowed to influence, would have been ruined by their impolitic projects.

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Lord Holland, in an able fpeech, reprobated the conduct of minifters throughout the conteft; formerly, it was the conftant answer to every pacific motion, that the ambition of France was infatiable, that she refufed to listen to any terms; now, even by their avowal, it was not they but we who refused to liften to overtures; they could not afcribe the continuance of the war to the acknowledged animosity of the enemy, and other pretexts are urged; the peace would be infecure, and negotiation unfafe; the inftability of the new order of things was the infeparable objection: but when the

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