Imatges de pÓgina

late conftitution of the French re. public was established, minifters admitted, by a meffage in Dec. 1795, that it was a crifis which led to a termination of the conteft. On that occafion fix weeks had been fufficient to determine their opinions. Was there greater appearance of inftability now than then? Every thing of destructive tendency and pernicious example in political principle had been given up under the prefent fyftem; it was evident, therefore, that the objection did not reft upon the revolutionary principles of the new government. But was not its ambition as dangerous? Had not the republic broken every treaty? No; the French had not violated the treaty with Pruffia: and this was the only cafe at all applicable to us. It was alfo to be remarked, that most of the treaties mentioned had been violated by the government which had lafted longeft in France, and there was no inftance of any treaty made with one government alleged as a juftification of its infraction by another.

As to the ambition of the enemy, it was a confideration of weight in the arrangement of terms, not a preliminary objection preclufive of treaty. What proof could be given of the abandonment of dangerous views, but a negotiation in which moderation could be difplayed? It was urged that Bonaparte might be infincere; but if he was not, he could only have done precifely what he had done: was it reasonable to fuppofe that he would admit that the guilt of the aggreffion lay with France? this was a point which ought not to have been difcuffed: the object was to treat on actual circumftances, and the real grounds of difpute: it was not Talleyrand who began the fubject; he did not, like our minifters, throw out fevere re

proach and pointed infult; he merely ftated, that the poffibility of arrangement, not the original offence, was now the question. Suppofe that Bonaparte, defirous to obtain peace by any means, fhould fit down to confider how he could fucceed. What does the note allow him to do? He would find that the restoration of the hereditary line of kings was the only cafe in which a fpeedy peace would be admitted as poffible: in fact, therefore, this reftoration was the fine qua non in which immediate negotiation was admiffible with minifters. Now let us examine this condition of peace in two points of view: Was it defirable in itfeltwould it remove the objections urged to negotiation. Surely if the ambition of the republic was so formidable, we could not forget this ground of apprehenfion when we talked of restoring the house of Bourbon. Had we forgotten their proverbial ambition? and was their reftoration the remedy for evils arifing from fuch a fource? It was faid that the moft natural pledge which they could give of founder principles was "the restoration of that family which had maintained France in profperity at home, and refpect and confideration abroad." It was fingular to obferve so much anxiety in minifters for the profperity of France: But what refpect was now alluded to-refpe&t of justice, of moderation, of wisdom, and fidelity? No, it was the respect arifing from the power of France, and founded on no better claims. Ta promote the internal profperity and external renown of the French monarchs furely would not be confidered as British objects. We complained of the recency of the revolution as precluding immediate negotiation, and in the fame breath recommended to France to make another,

another, as the speedieft means of reftoring peace. We talked of the ambition and infincerity of the republic as objections, and then mentioned, as inducements, a family, and government infincere and ambitious for many paft generations. The French minifter ftated, that the perfeverance of this country had driven France into exceffes: if this avowal was atrocious, what was the practice of it? Too true it was, that England had given France an apology for fome part of her violence. What had been our conduct to neutral powers? Had we not violated the neutrality of the duke of Tufcany in fpite of the most folemn treaties? Had we not violated that of Genoa? What was the conduct of our allies? Did not the Ruffians violate the neutrality of other states, prefcribe to the king of Denmark that no clubs fhould be permitted in his dominions? Ambition was objected to France, but was France the only power that was ambitious? If we could not make peace with an ambitious power, it was neceffary to point out the ambition of our allies, to prove that this was not the reafon we were at war. The noble fecretary, in justifying the conduct of minifters, drew many of his arguments from the fecond letter of Talleyrand; and whatever principles that letter difplayed could not be the leaft palliation of their refufal to negotiate, because our decifion was pronounced before they could know a fecond meffenger would be difpatched. "But Bonaparte had not spoken of a general peace:" he had alluded to the miferies of war, and the neceffity of putting an end to the effufion of human blood. He expreffed his defire to co-operate in terminating thefe evils, and at any rate we might have liftened to the terms he would have propofed. If he was actuated

by a hoftile fpirit, it would appear in negotiation, and thus the continuance of the war be justified, and the country be reconciled to it..

We had now taken up the principle fo much objected to jacobins, of diftinguishing between the people and their government. But what was the conduct of the French? Bonaparte diftinctly renounces this principle in the letter to the king, and acknowledges the title and the character of his majefty's government. The note of our minifters was a manifefto to the royalifts, and formed for that purpose. It spoke of the miseries of France; but the miseries of France were not the caufes of the war: they might intereft our humanity, but were not to be urged as motives in diplomatic papers. As little had we to do with the internal miseries of the republic as Talleyrand would have to retaliate by reproaching us with the test act, the want of parliamentary reform, affeffed taxes, or any other of our grievances. The only argument of weight, and connected with common fenfe and common humanity, was the facrifice of the Chouans, with whom we might have engaged, and whom he feared we had incited by our money and intrigues. This argument the noble fecretary had not urged, and he did not blame him as a minister for suppreffing it: but there was no impropriety for himself to offer fome remarks upon the fubject. Far was he from withing to abandon and betray thofe whom we had engaged to fupport; but was it not poilible, if a negotiation was carried on fincerely on both fides, if peace in its true fpirit was concluded, that we might render thefe Chouans a greater fervice than by furnishing them with arms, fupplies, or even affiftance? By continuing the war, were we not E 4


dooming them to destruction? and it was a dreadful thing to reflect on, that, by the obftinacy of adminiftration, we might be condemned to carry on the war for years, without gaining any of the advantages which we might now gain by negotiation.

The people at large difapproved of the abrupt rejection of Bonaparte's overtures: and if it afterwards fhould appear that he was fincere, how would their lordfhips reconcile it to their confciences to have prolonged by their fanction the calamities of war, without any motive of honour, intereft, or fecurity? He therefore gave his decided fupport to the amendment. The earl of Carnarvon fail, he could not confider the answer of our minifters as a refufal to treat for peace, or a declaration of eternal war: it was (as the fecretary of ftate had termed it) a cafe upon the house and the country to pause, before they rafhly fuffered themfelves to enter into a negotiation with an unfettled government. He did not expect any extraordinary faith to be manifefted by Bonaparte more than by any other chief or chiefs: but although he fhould be beft pleafed with the refioration of monarchy in France-in all times-in monarchies as well as in republics, ariftocracies, and every other fpecies of government-good faith in treaties was preferved and exemplified only fo long as it was the intereft of the parties to maintain it. So little integrity had hiftory left on record, that, at the very time they were figned, a fecret intention was often indulged to violate them at a particular period.

He believed the prefent minifters had given the proper anfwers, because their wife and extraordinary exertions in the conduct of the war had faved the country, and protected our liberties. His lordship voted for the addrefs,

The earl of Liverpool spoke of our profperous fituation, of our triumphant fleet, our flourishing re venue. Even our taxes, large and numerous as they were, proved to the astonished world how much might be expected from a free people in defence of their rights, and in prefervation of their advantages. Ought we then to relinquish a lyftem which had established us in fuch profperity, to rely upon the arts and treacheries of the enemy. Minifters had adopted the only courfe of fecurity and honour by their replies to Bonaparte. No notice was taken of our allies. We had engaged never, to treat but in conjunction with them. This was the first objection to negotiate: the fecond was, our confenting to open an armiftice: to an armiftice when the commerce of France was gone! Until the French repealed their decrees, one of which was, that they had a right to interfere with every government upon earth, and the other, that they had a right to annex any part of Europe which fell into their hands to the republic. Until thefe decrees were repealed, no good could be derived from opening a negotiation, and he gave his warmeft fanction to the addrefs.

The earl of Carlisle rofe to make fome obfervations, he faid, on the ftatement of our profperity. If to the war we were indebted for the trade of the whole world, peace muft deprive us of it; and this argument was not only against present negotiation, but at any future time, under any circumftances whatever. Exclufive of the attendant calamities, was the change of property, arifing from the preflure of taxes, of little moment? This increase of trade might be pleafing to trading men ; but country gentlemen, and the middle claffes of fociety, had no fhare in it. An objection urged against

against negotiation was, that France had given no proof of renouncing the fyftem of which we complained. Surely it was not likely that in the heat of conteft fhe would make the amende honorable, and deprive herself of the confidence and affiftance of those men who fupported her government, by condemning their conduct. This proceeding would weaken her ftrength, and was not to be expected till the arrival of peace. His lord fhip did not condemn minifters for paufing before they accepted overtures, but for going into inflammatory details: it would have been fufficient to have stated, that the proposal took no notice of our allies. Minifters might have reasons for thinking there was no ftability in the government to juflify negotiation; but parliament were kept in ignorance of those reafons, and very properly fo. At the fame time it was going too far, to call upon them to fanction a proceeding, the whole merits of which they could not be acquainted with. These were his objections to the addrefs; but, if he difapproved of it yet more, he thought it right to give it his fupport. For the address 79-against it 6-majority 86-proxies 13. Diffentient.


Because the address directly approves of the rejection of an overture for peace, when that bleffing might probably be attained with honour and fecurity by opening a negotiation with the republic, and indirectly approves of the language in which the rejection of the offer

the house refpecting the overtures of Bonaparte. It was, he faid, a fubject which could not be confidered properly without adverting to the fituation and circumstances in which we were placed, and decifive of the conduct which we ought to pursue. Experience had decided the queftion, and we were to difpute on the merits of the French revolution; whether it really were that glorious work which fome fondly had imagined, or an event productive of more mifchief, horror, and devaftation, than political history had ever before recorded. The leading feature of this revolution was a total difregard of all treaties and obligations, and a fovereign contempt for the rights and privileges of all other powers. In proof of this affertion he merely would recite the names of Spain, Naples, Sardinia, Tuscany, Genoa, Geneva, Modena, Venice, Auftria, Ruffia, England, and Egypt. The only kingdoms which had not been in actual and avowed hoftility were Denmark and Sweden; and these had fuffered injuries fcarcely inferior to thofe it had inflicted on nations with whom it was engaged in open war. Yet the French nation fet out with pacific profeffions!

But the point now was, were these aggreffions reprobated by France? Were the principles on which the had acted laid afide? Had we any evidence of a change, or any reafonable caufe to fuppofe it had taken place?

The jacobinical form of govern

was conveyed to the French government was at an end indeed; but, in ment a language which can only fubftance and effence, all the qualiwiden the breach between the coun- ties of the revolutionary government tries, exafperate the enemy, and pro- were in as full force at this moment long the calamities of war. as they were in the days of Robefpierre. All power was now confolidated and concentered in the hands of Bonaparte; and the nation stood with a military defpot at its head, invested


In the houfe of commons Mr. Dundas moved an addrefs, approving the correspondence laid before

invefted with unlimited authority to revive the practice of forced loans and requifitions, to wield the force of the ftate as he pleafed, and refort to all the refources of the revolutionary government.

Under thefe circumstances, overtures are made for peace. This propofition minifters have thought proper to reject, affigning as the caufe, that as all the former attempts had proved abortive, or if fuccefsful were followed by violation, no. thing yet prefented itfelf which afcertained fecurity. In the firft place, we were not affured of the fincerity of the offer; and in the fecond, of its permanency. There were certain circumstances which infpired confidence in ftates, as the character of the king of a country, the conduct of his minifters, the general laws of the government; but was there one of these criteria to be found in the prefent cafe? If there were none of them to be found, it refted folely on the affertion of the party himself declaring he was of a pacific difpofition, accredited by his minifter Talleyrand; for to him he had referred to vouch for his character. It was not, however, the bufinefs of this country to judge the private character of Bonaparte: At the fame time he must confefs, that he had an old prejudice hanging about him, fo as to induce him to regard the blafphemer of his God as not the perfon with whom he would wish to treat. But, waving thefe objections, he was to be confidered in the character in which he forced himself upon the houfe; namely, as profeffing a pacific difpo. fition, and propofing a negotiation with us. Here Mr. Dundas particularifed, with much afperity, the conduct of Bonaparte in the various kingdoms and states which he had before named; and concluded with obferv.

ing, there was not a fingle one with which he had not violated his faith: and affirmed these to be ftrong reafons for withholding confidence, and rejecting treaty.

But it had been faid, "Why not make the experiment ?" Because, if it did not fucceed, we should only be where we were before, at beft, and probably (if we confidered the relative ftate of Europe) be much worfe than before. If we fucceeded in the last campaign in calling out the exertions of another power, if we had cause to exult in our achieve. ments, was it a matter of indifference to diffolve that connexion to which they owed their birth, and to fend the other nations of Europe to fcramble for a peace, abandoned by us their allies? On this point itmight be alleged, that the prefent reduced ftate of France afforded fecurity: and he did not doubt that the weaknefs of France might produce the defire of negotiation, and thus gain more time to recruit; but it afforded no proof of a defire (fhould her private views be attained) of concluding a treaty begun, or obferving it when concluded. Were we then to uphold the ufurpation of Bonaparte, and become his inftruments, when opportunity occurred, to turn against the powers that created it? It was a dangerous experiment, and the confequences might be fatal. But fhould we be in a worfe fituation, if the French conful was not fincere, than we were with the ancient line of French princes? Yes. He did not contend that the Bourbons were not actuated by a fpirit of aggrandifement; but in what manner had that fpirit been difplayed? Not by the paffions of the lowest of the people, by diffolving all the bonds of fociety, by overturning all laws, and deftroying all principles: thefe were not the en

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