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tion. Sir Sidney was the British officer commanding on the spot. And nothing was more undeniable, than that every military commandant had power to accept any stipulations which his prudence might direct him to agree to with the enemy, without having any special authority for the purpose.
On such occasions, government were bound, in good faith, to admit what their officers stipulated : and, if it were otherwise, the consequences would be subversive of those principles on which war was now conducted between civilised nations. On these and other grounds, Mr. Grey defended the propriety and the necessity of the motion : which he considered as a preliminary step to further inquiry into the conduct of ministers on this important and interesting subject. Mr. Grey's observations on the powers of Sir Sidney Smith were supported by Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Tierney, and Mr. Hobhouse. Mr. Sheridan observed, that the House of Commons could not, without a neglect of its duty, omit entering into an inquiry into the matter before them : for he held it as a principle, which should never be lost sight of, that when an officer, either general or admiral, was employed, to take it for granted, that whatever such an officer did in name and on the behalf of the country he served, was done according to his instructions, until the contrary was proved ; otherwise nations could never confide in any proposal.—Mr. Tierney said, that it was a part of the national compact to regard officers under government, abroad upon service in time of war, as having a certain portion of power, to be exercised according to their discretion, for the purpose of alleviating, or perhaps putting an end to, the horrors of war. What was observed by Mr. Hobhouse, had a reference to what had been asserted by Mr. Pitt, who had spoken a second time in explanation, on the present subject.—Mr. Pitt said, that, before the order to Lord Keith went out, there was no supposition that Sir Sidney Smith was then in Egypt, nor that he would be a party to the treaty between the Ottoman Porte and the French general. When he did take a part in that transaction, it was not a direct part. He did not exercise
power: if he had done so, he would have done it without authority. He had no such power from his situation : for he was not commander-in-chief. Large powers, for obvious reasons, must be given to the commander-inchief, subject to the discretion of the
person whom they were intrusted. But that neither was nor ought to be the case with every officer of inferior station. Such person, however great his talents, should not go beyond a specified point; for
otherwise he might treat for whole provinces, and counteract his superior in command.-Mr. Hobhouse observed, that if even a subordinate officer, intrusted with the direction of a particular enterprise, entered, as Sir Sidney Smith had done, into a convention, which, strictly speaking, he had no powers to conclude, many examples could be found, of cases in which the commander-in-chief thought himself bound to ratify what the subordinate officer had done, and in which government had ratified the consent of the commanding officer. Was not this the case at Cape Nicola Mole, when General Whitelock, though a subordinate officer, without any specific powers, and without the consent of the commander-in-chief, agreed to a convention which General Williamson, the commander-in-chief, afterwards thought himself bound to ratify, and which was afterwards ratified by government ? An objection had been made to the form in which the motion was worded. This, indeed, Mr. Hobhouse did not think quite so accurate, and recommended it to his honourable friend to make some alteration in it.
Mr. Yorke, after observing that the motion was not of a parliamentary form, because Parliament could have no power over a letter which must be in the possession of General Kleber, expressed his astonishment that any one could have the confidence to say, in that house, that the British fleet was in the least degree injured by that which took place, on our behalf, in Egypt; and that the more especially, after we had been in possession of the intercepted French correspondence on that subject.
Mr. Percival said, that the English, after the orders from government had been communicated to them by Lord Keith, had done nothing to break the treaty. The English committed no act of hostility. But the French, on receiving the communication from Lord Keith, had chosen to break it themselves. If there was any breach of faith, it was on the side of the French. When government heard that the French had trusted and acted on the belief that this country would consent to the convention, it sent out orders not to ratify, but to respect it. With regard to the motion before the House, he could not recollect that he had ever heard one supported by less argument. He readily allowed that the publication of a letter was not a sufficient means of information for the purpose of founding on it
any specific motion. But, if this was the intention, the supporters of the motion ought to have argued from the contents of the letter, that it would afford ground on which to rest a motion.
Mr. Jones, as a proof that this country was a party in the convention of El-Arisch, stated, that it was an article in this, that passports should be given to the French by the Porte, and by its allies, Russia and England. “ As to the form of the motion,” said Mr. Jones, “ I am prepared. On such occasions as these I generally go doubly armed, and now move, That an humble address be presented to his Majesty, that he will be
graciously pleased to give directions that copies of all letters from the commander-in-chief of the fleet in the Mediterranean to General Kleber be laid on the table of this house." This motion was rejected by eighty noes against twelve ayes.
Lord Holland also failed in the Upper House to bring this matter in full light, his motion being negatived by twelve votes to two.
Mr. Pitt, in his speech, distinctly avers that Sir Sidney Smith had no authority to sign the treaty-a sentence that must convey a severe condemnation upon the conduct of that officer. The question then is, what authority had he ?did he possess the usual powers of a plenipotentiary-or were those powers so circumscribed, that for every delicate conjunction of circumstances—when slaughter that ought to have been stopped was going forward-when the miseries