« ZurückWeiter »
law, in which a proof of the expediency to alter or extend a particular law was given by this circumstance. Formerly, to entice any of his Majesty's forces to desert from his service was only a misdemeanour; but soon after the accession of the family of Hanover to the throne of these dominions, that law was revised and altered, and any person found guilty of that offence, incurred an additional penalty. Would any man pretend to say then, that a person found guilty of enticing any of his Majesty's forces to desert, should incur a heavy penalty, and that they who enticed his forces, not to desert, but to employ their arms in breach of their allegiance should go unpunished? Indisputably not! And for that reason he had undertaken to provide such a remedy as to him appeared most likely to prevail. 'He regretted that the offences were so secret and so complex in their nature, that it was impossible at present to define them, and under those cir. cumstances he was sorry to add, he could not propose any measure so definite as he wished. In point of moral guilt, the persons who had been so artful and so active in their operations, to seduce the forces from their allegiance, and excite them to rebellion at so dangerous a crisis of the public safety as the present, were the worst traitors to society, and certainly deserved the highest and most exemplary punishment; but on the other hand, as the precise nature and extent could not be determined, he thought the medium would be the best and most serviceable way to proceed against them,
Having said thus much, both by way of proof of the necessity of some restriction, and his opinion of what that restriction ought to be, he should now come to the description of the remedy he intended to propose. What he had to propose then was, to treat any traiterous attempt to excite sedition and mutiny in his Majesty's service, or to withdraw any part of his Majesty's forces by sea or land from their duty and allegiance, as an aggravated species of misdemean our, leaving to the discretion of the court the power of inflicting not only the penalties of fine and imprię spriment, as in other cases of misdemeanour, but, as circumstances might require, the penalties of banishment and transportation also,
This was a short statement of the measures he meant to propose, and wishing to be cautious how he contributed to extend the criminal laws of this country, he was willing to press his restriction of the offences he had described, in this shape in preference to any other. The penalties for such offences could not, in his opinion, press too much, consistently with the future security and happiness ; and in the mode he had suggested to the consideration of the house, he hoped and trusted they would not be found to press too little. He therefore moved for leave to bring in the bill.
After some further discussion leave was granted, and the bill was brought in, read a first and second time, and ordered to be committed the following day.
November 10, 1797.
The order of the day being read for the House to take into consideration the papers, which had been laid before them by his Majesty's direction, relative to the late negociation at Lisle, and the address of the House of Lords being also read, Mr. Dundas moved " that the House do concur with their Lordships in that address.”
After Sir John Sinclair and Lord Temple had spoken, the former of whom moved an amendment to the address,
MR. Pitt rose, and delivered his sentiments as follows:
Sir-Having come to this house with the firm persuasion, that there never existed an occasion, when the unanimous concurrence of the house might be more justly expected than on a proposal, to agree in the sentiments contained in the address which has been read, I must confess myself considerably disappointed, in some degree, even by the speech of my noble relation, (much as I rejoice in the testimony which he has given of his talents and abilities, and still more by the speech of the honourable baronet, and by the amendment which he has moved. I cannot agree with the noble lord in the extent to which he has stated his sentiments, that we ought to rejoice that peace was not made ; much less, Sir, can I feel desirous to accept, on the part of my self of my colleagues, either from my noble kinsman, or any other person, the approbation which he was pleased to express, of the manner in which we have concluded the negociatioa. We have not concluded the negociation—the negociation has been concluded by others; we have not been suffered to continue it; our claim to merit, if we have any, our claim to the approbation of our country is, that we persisted in every attempt to conduct that negociation to a pacific termination, as long as our enemies left us, not the prospect but the chance or possibility of doing so, consistent with our hroniour, our dignity, and our safety. We lament and deplore the disappointment of the sincere wishes which we felt, and of the earnest endeavours which we employed ; yet we are far from suffering those sentiments to induce us to adopt the unmanly line of conduct that has been recommended by the honourable baronet; this is not the moment to dwell only on our disappointment, to suppress our indignation, or to let our courage, our constancy, and our determination, be buried in the expressions of unmanly fear, or unavailing regret. Between these two extremes, it is, that I trust our conduct is directed; and in calling upon the house to join in sentiments between those extremes, I do trust, that if we cannot have the unanimous opinion, we shall have the general and ready concurrence both of the house, and of the country.
Sir, before I trouble the house, which I am not desirous of doing at length, with a few points which I wish to recapitulate, Jet me first call to your minds the general nature of the amendment which the honourable baronet has, under these circumstances, thought fit to propose, and the general nature of the observations by which he introduced it. He began with deploring the calamities of war, on the general topic, that all war is calamitous. Do I object to this sentiment? No: but is it our business at a moment when we feel that the continuance of that war is owing to the animosity, the implacable animosity of our ene. my, to the inveterate and insatiable ambition of the present fran
tic government of France, not of the people of France, as the honourable baronet unjustly stated itis it our business at that moment to content ourselves with merely lamenting in com mon-place terms the calamities of war, and forgetting that it is part of the duty which, as representatives of the people, we owe to our government and our country, to state that the cons tinuance of those eyils upon ourselves, and upon France too, is the fruit only of the conduct of the enemy; that it is to be im, puted to them, and not to us?
Sir, the papers which were ordered to be laid on the table have been in every gentleman's hand, and on the materials which they furnish we must be prepared to decide., Can there be a doubt, that all the evils of war, whatever may be their consequences, are to be imputed solely to his Majesty's enemies? Is there any man here prepared to deny, that the delay in every stage of the negociation, and its final rupture, are proved to be owing to the evasive conduct, the unwarrantable pretensions, the inordinate ambition, and the implacable ani. mosity of the enemy? I will shortly state what are the points, though it is hardly necessary that I should state them, for they speak loudly for themselves, on which I would rest that propo- . sition ; but if there is any man who doubts it, is it the honourable baronet? Is it he who makes this amendment, leaving out every thing that is honourable to the character of his own country, and seeming to court some new complaisance on the part of the French directory - the honourable baronet, who, as soon as he has stated the nature of his amendment, makes the first part of his speech a charge against his Majesty's ministers, for even having commenced the negociation in the manner, and under the circumstances in which they did commence it who makes his next charge, their having persevered in it, when violations of form and practice were insisted upon in the earliest stage of it? Does he discover that the French government, whom we have accused with insincerity, have been sincere from, the beginning to the end of the negociation ? Or, after having accused his Majesty's ministers for commencing and persevering in it, is the honourable baroret so afraid of being misconstrued into an idea of animosity against the people of France, that he must disguise the truth, must do injustice to the character and cause of his own country, and leave unexplained the cause of the continuance of this great contest? Let us be prepared to probe that question to the bottom, to form our opinion upon it, and to render our conduct conformable to that opinion. This, I conceive, to be a manly conduct, and, especially at such a moment, to be the indispensable duty of the house. But let not the honourable baronet imagine there is any ground for his apprehension, that by adopting the language of the address, which ascribes the continuance of the war to the ambition of the enemy, we shall declare a system of endless animosity between the nations of Great Britain and France. I say directly the contrary. He who scruples to declare, that in the present moment the government of France are acting as much in contradiction to the known wishes of the French nation, as to the just pretensions and anxious wishes of the people of Great Britain-he who scruples to declare them the authors of this calamity, deprives us of the consolatory hope which we are inclined to cherish, of some future change of circumstances more favourable to our wishes.
It is a melancholy spectacle, indeed, to see in any country, and on the ruin of any pretence of liberty however nominal, shallow, or delusive, a system of tyranny erected, the most galling, the most horrible, the most undisguised in all its parts and attributes that has stained the page of history, or disgraced the annals of the world ; but it would be much more unfortunate, if when we see that the same cause carries desolation through France, which extends disquiet and fermentation through Europe, it would be worse, indeed, if we attributed to the nation of France that, which is to be attributed only to the unwarranted and usurped authority which involves them in misery, and would, if unresisted, involve Europe with them in one common ruin and destruction. Do we state this to he animobity on the part of the people of France? Do we state this