Imatges de pÓgina

Britain at the court of Constantinople? Had he not power to treat at Acre ? Did not ministers know that, in conjunction with the Bashaw Ghezzar, Sir Sidney offered to convey the French out of Egypt, individually or in the aggregate ? Did his Majesty's ministers, previous to January 24, 1800, countermand the orders under which, it was presumed, he acted from the beginning of May in the preceding year, as if not warranted in his conduct ? Did they, to prevent a repetition of such conduct, express their anger within the eight following months, or even some time after he had acceded to the convention ? Did not Lord Elgin, before and since the present year, instruct Sir Sidney Smith to get the French out of Egypt by all possible means? Was not the intention of the court of London, not to ratify the original treaty, sent immediately to General Kleber in the first instance ? Ought it not to have been sent to the French general through Sir Sidney Smith ? Ought not our ally, the Ottoman Porte, to have had the earliest notice ? And farther, did not La Constance galley deliver the letter of Lord Keith, first to Kleber at Alexandria, and then proceed with the same instructions to Sir Sidney, who was on duty at Cyprus ? What was the consequence ? Did not eight or nine thousand of our good allies

perish in the field ? Was not the very existence of the Ottoman government threatened at its centre? In Mr. Hammond's letter to Lord Grenville, after the conference with Mr. Otto, which letter referred, almost in every line, to Egypt, there was this particular assertion, “Mr. Otto added, that he would not conceal from me, that the reinforcement which France intended to send to Egypt amounted to twelve hundred men, and that the supply of military stores consisted chiefly of ten thousand muskets. The language of Mr. Otto, in this part of our conversation, and of Mr. Talleyrand's letter, appeared to me to be so decisive and peremptory, that I was induced to ask of him, distinctly, whether I was to understand that this stipulation was a point from which the French government would not recede ? Mr. Otto replied, that, in his opinion, the French government would not recede from it." Mr. Jones having recapitulated the whole of the correspondence, moved, “ That the letter alluded to in General Kleber's letter to the Kaimakan of the Sublime Porte, be now laid on the table of that House.”

Mr. Pitt replied, that it would be hardly possible for his Majesty's ministers to comply with the object of the present motion. It would be a very difficult thing for government to undertake

[ocr errors]

He was

for the production of a letter referred to in one from General Kleber to the Kaimakan, even supposing the representation given of it to be true, and the description of it in the motion proper, which it was not. But the answer he had to give to the reasoning of the honourable gentleman was exceedingly short.

The motion appeared to be altogether unnecessary. not aware of any good end that could be answered, nor of any blame that could be fixed on ministers, in consequence of a French general being referred to a letter, which evidently, on the face of the transaction, must have been written before government was acquainted with the convention alluded to having been signed by any British officer. The letter, therefore, could not state any new fact: nor had Mr. Jones offered anything in addition to what he had urged unsuccessfully in the last session of Parliament. As soon as it was known in England that the French general had the faith of a British officer pledged to him, and was disposed to act upon it, instructions were sent out to have the convention executed, though the officer in question had, in fact, no authority to sign it. The contents of Lord Keith's letter were far from being a secret. It was printed, quoted, and universally known in July last, when Mr. Jones brought forward a question on the

same subject, which the House thought proper to negative. The next thing for the House to consider was, in what manner the present subject was connected with the late correspondence between France and this country relative to an armistice. By the observations accompanying the motion, it was shown that, in making the proposal, the French government meant to derive great advantage from the relief it might be enabled to send both to Malta and Egypt; a relief which it could not hope for, while our fleets and armies pursued their operations against them : and thus it was evident that France set great value on reinforcing those places, which we had an equal interest in preventing them from doing. As we had, since the convention of El-Arisch, taken Malta from the enemy, we were, in a degree proportionate to the importance of that island, masters of preventing them from sending any reinforcements to Egypt, the maritime places of which were, besides, blocked by our fleets. So far then it was plain, that, in respect to Egypt, France was not on higher ground, now that we were in possession of Malta, than it was at the time when General Kleber first entered into the capitulation. And he could not conceive what it was that gentlemen thought they could complain of. When Parliament considered the conduct of his Majesty's ministers, in refusing to acquiesce in a convention which they did not know to have had the sanction of a British officer, it should discuss that conduct with a reference to what was the state of Kleber's army at the time; with a reference to the condition of the war in Italy at the beginning of the campaign, when it was extremely doubtful whether the issue might be favourable to one side or the other; and most of all, in this doubtful state of the termination of the contest, with a reference to the effect which such a reinforcement as that of the army of Egypt might be likely, under all the circumstances, to have on the war on the continent.

Mr. Grey, in answer to these positions, respecting the position of Kleber's

the state of the belligerent armies in Italy, and the existing circumstances of the war, all together, said, that the present motion did not preclude the consideration of any of these topics, but only asked for such information as would enable the House to judge of Admiral Keith's instructions. It was not to be supposed that the present motion would stand alone, but, if carried, be followed by others of a more comprehensive nature. With respect to Sir Sidney Smith's powers, it was not necessary for him to be specially instructed, either to sanction or to reject a conven


« AnteriorContinua »