Abbildungen der Seite

tended with some inconvenience for them to call their primary assemblies, in order to cancel a law which is incompatible with the principle of fair negociation? Shall we forget our own honour, our own dignity, and our own duty, so far, as to acquiesce in a principle as a preliminary to negociation, intolerable in its tendency, unfounded in fact, inconsistent with the nature of things, and inadmissible by the law of nations?

Bat this is not all the sacrifice they demand. This is not all the degradation to which they would have us submit. You must also engage, and as a preliminary too, to make no propositions which are contrary to the laws of the constitution, and the treaties which bind the republic. Here they introduce a new and extraordinary clause, imposing a restriction still more absurd and unreasonable than the other. The republic of France may have made secret treaties which we know nothing about, and yet that gevernment expects that we are not to permit our propositions to interfere with these treaties. In the former instance we had a text upon which to comment, but here we are in the state of those diviners who were left to guess at the dreams which they were called upon to interpret. How is it possible for this country to know what secret articles there may be in the treaty between France and Holland ? How can we know what the Dutch may have ceded to France, or whether France may not have an oath in heaven never to give up the territories ceded to her by Holland ? Who can know but her treaty with Spain contains some secret article guaranteeing to the latter the restitution of Gibraltar, or some important possession now belonging to his Majesty? And how can I know whether the performance of all these engagements may not be included under the pretension which the French government now holds out? How is it possible for me to sound where no line can fathom? And even after

you have acceded to these preliminaries, in what situation do you stand? After accepting of terms of which you are entirely ignorant, and giving up all that it is of importance for you to keep, you at last arrive at a discussion of the government which France may chuse to give to Italy, and of the fate which she may be pleased to assign to Germany. In fact, the question is not, how much you will give for peace, but how much disgrace you will suffer at the outset, how much degradation you will submit to as a preliminary ? In these circumstances, then, are we to persevere in the war with a spirit and energy worthy of the British name and of the British character; or are we, by sending couriers to Paris, to prostrate ourselves at the feet of a stubborn and supercilious government, to do what they require, and to submit to whatever they may impose? I hope there is not a hand in his Majesty's councils that would sign the proposals, that there is not a heart in this house that would sanction the measure, and that there is not an individual in the British do. minions who would act as the courier.

Mr. Pitt concluded with moving,

“ That an humble address be presented to his Majesty, to assure his Majesty, that that house also felt the utmost concern that his Majesty's earnest endeavours to effect the restoration of peace bad been unhappily frustrated, and that the negociation, in which he had been happily engaged, had been abruptly broken off by the peremptory refusal of the French government to treat, except upon a basis evidently inadınissible, and by their having in consequence required his Majesty's plenipotentiary to quit Paris within forty-eight hours.

“ To thank his Majesty for having directed the several meniorials and papers which had been exchanged in the course of the late discussion, and the account transmitted to his Majesty of its final result, to be laid before the house.

" That they were perfectly satisfied, from the perusal of these papers, that his Majesty's conduct had been guided by a sincere desire to effect the restoration of peace, on principles suited to the relative situation of the belligerent powers, and essential for the permanent interests of his Majesty's kingdoms, and the general security of Europe: whilst his enemies had advanced pretensions at once inconsistent with those objects, unsupported even on the grounds on which they were professed to rest, and repugnant both to the system established by repeated treaties; and to the principles and practice which had hitherto regulated the intercourse of independent nations.

“ To assure his Majesty, that, under the protection of Providence, he might place the fullest reliance on the wisdom and firmness of his parliament, on the tried valour of his forces by sea and land, and on the zeal, public spirit, and resources of his kingdoms, for vigorous and effectual support in the prosecution of a contest, which it did not depend on his Majesty to terminate, and which involved in it the security and permanent interests of this country and of Europe."

The House divided on an amendment moved by Mr. Fox, censuring the conduct of ministers in the negociation:

For the amendment
Against it

212 The address was then agreed to.


February 28, 1797.

MR. Pitt moved the order of the day for taking into consideration the following message from his Majesty,


“ His Majesty thinks it proper to communicate to the House of Commons, without delay, the measure adopted to obviate the effects which might be occasioned by the unusual demand of specie lately made from different parts of the country on the metropolis.

“ The peculiar nature and exigency of the case appeared to require, in the first instance, the measure contained in the order of council, which his Majesty has directed to be laid before the House.* In recommending this important subject to the immediate and serious attention of the House of Commons, his Majesty relies with the utmost confidence on the experienced wisdom and firmness of his parliament, for taking such measures as may be best calculated to meet any temporary pressure, and to call forth, in the most effectual manner, the exclusive resources of this kingdom, in support of their public and commercial credit, and in defence of their dearest interests.

G. R."

* See next page.

The message being read by the Speaker,
Ms. Pitt rose:

Sir, Igave notice yesterday that I should first move an address to his Majesty, returning him thanks for his most gracious communication, and assuring him that the house would immediately proceed to take into consideration the object recommended in the message to their serious attention. I stated that my next motion would be for the appointment of a select committee to enquire into the amount of the outstanding engagements of the bank, and the means they had of making good their engagements. As with respect to my first motion, for expressing our thanks to his Majesty, and assuring him of our readiness to take immediate steps to comply with his recommendation, there can scarcely be

* Copy of the Order of Privy Council. « At the Council Chamber, Whitehall, February 26, 1797. By the Lords of his Majesty's most honourable Privy Council. Present.

The Lord Chancellor, Earl Spencer,
Lord President,

Earl of Liverpool,
Duke of Portland, Lord Grenville,
Marquis Cornwallis, Mr. Chancellor of the Excheques.

« Upon the representation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, stating, that from the result of the information which he has received, and of the inquiries which it has been his duty to make respecting the effect of the unusual demands for specie that have been made upon the metropolis, in consequence of ill-founded or exaggerated alarms in different parts of the country, it appears, that unless some measure is immediately taken, there may be reason to apprehend a want of a sufficient supply of cash to answer the exigencies of the public service. It is the unanimous opinion of the board that it is indispensably necessary for the public service, that the directors of the Bank of England should forbear issuing any cash in payment until the sense of parliament can be taken on that subject, and the proper measures adopted thereupon, for maintaining the means of circulation, and supporting the public and commercial credit of the kingdom at this important conjuncture; and it is ordered, that a copy of this minute be transmitted to the directors of the Bank of England ; and they are hereby required, on the grounds of the exigency of the case, to conform thereto until the sense of parliament can be taken as aforesaid,



supposed to take place any difference of opinion, I will not in prefacing that motion detain the house any longer, but content myself with moving,

“ That an humble address be presented to his Majesty, to return thanks for his most gracious message, and to assure him that the house would proceed, without delay, to the deliberation of the important subject, which his Majesty has recommended to their attention; and that his Majesty might rely on the earnest and anxious desire of the house to adopt such measures as may be best calculated to meet the pressure of any temporary

difficul. ties, and to call forth at this present conjuncture, the extensive resources of the kingdom, in support of our public and commercial credit, and in defence of our dearest interests."

Mr. Dundas seconded the motion, which was carried nemine contradicente.

Mr. Pitt then proceeded :

I suggested that it was also my intention this day to submit to the house a motion, that there should be appointed a select coin. mittee to make such enquiry into the state of the bank as might be conceived to be necessary, and to collect such information with respect to the circumstances of the time, as might be sufficient to point out the necessity of the measure adopted by the bank in consequence of an order of council, and at the same time justifying the members of that house in taking the proper steps to confirm and enforce that measure.

With respect to the first step to be ascertained, the state of the bank, that already has in a great measure been ascertained by the confidence of public opinion. Of this public opinion the most unequivocal and satisfactory proofs have been afforded, even within the short space that has elapsed since the minute of council has been issued. It has been clearly evinced that there is no doubt entertained with respect to the solidity of the bank to answer all the demands of its creditors. At this trying period that has called for the exertion of the good sense and the fortitude of Englisbmen, their good sense, and their fortitude have been displayed in a way equally creditable to themselves, and auspicious to the

« ZurückWeiter »