« ZurückWeiter »
than by referring to the language which had then been em. ployed by the right hon. Gentleman on the other side (Mr. Addington), when the merits of the definitive treaty were so fully discussed. [The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the debate on the 14th of May 1802.] At that time, in answer to some arguments to prove that the peace could not possibly be of long duration, the right honourable Gentleman had said, “ I am impressed with a thorough convi&tion that the peace which has now been concluded will, in all probability, be of as long duration as any of the pacifications concluded at various periods of the last century. I see nothing in the appearance of the present times, in the present Government of France, or the character of the individuals of whom that Government is composed, which at all induces me to think that the peace will not be lafting.” On that occafion he was among the small number of those who, fortunately or unfortunately was not then to be considered, had uniformly argued in favour of the propriety of an address to his Majesty, recommending an immediate sertleinent of the various points which the treaty had left open to discussion, and from which we anticipated a Tupture at no very diftant period, unless an adjustment was effected. This proposition had, however, been refifted by Ministers and rejected by the House. What then was the state of the information which Ministers communicated to Parliament? The fact was, that no information of any kind was communicated to the last Parliament after the fignature of the treaty, except what was communicated through his Majesty's gracious speech at the conclusion of the session. · In that speech an expectation was certainly held out that there was a profpect of the continuance of peace, and a recommendation was given to cultivate the advantage which a ftate of peace presented. With this general impression the last Parliament was diffolved. He certainly had never heard it asserted, and he could in no case admit the position, that the prospect of a speedy diffolution of Parliament at all leffened the obligation of Ministers to communicate full and fair explanation of the state of public affairs
In this state the matter continued till the opening of the new Parliameni on the 23d of November, and then, as before, all communication was withheld. Here, however, it became important to inquire what were the facts which had occured during the interval. When those who fupported the resolutions contended that no information of the seal state of the country was laid before Parliament, at the opening of the session in his Majesty's speech from the throne, they at the fanse time argued that every one of the grounds of war enumerated in his Majesty's declaration had then taken place, and were as well known to Ministers as at the period when the declaration was published. To thew that this affertion was well founded, he should beg leave to direct the attention of the House to a few of the principal grounds of complaint and aggression which the declaration contained. The first to which he would advert, was the complaints of the molestation to which our commerce was exposed. From documents now on the table, it appeared, that from December 1801, to the fame period in the following year, a feries of these complaints had been preferred to Ministers, and no fpirited remonftrance had taken place on the subject. The vifit of the military consuls was known before his Majesty's speech was delivered, for it appeared by a paper which was a few days since Jaid before the Houfe, that the instructions of Talleyrand to Fauvelet, who had been sent to take foundings of the harbour of Dublin, that they were dated at an early
part of the month of November, and consequently were known to Minitters when Parliamaent was opened. That the designs of the First Consul of France with respect to Switzerland were known, was a matter of general notoriety. Ministers themselves had presented a remonftrance long before that period. On this part of ile fubje&t he Mould, before he sat down, submit some iinporsarit considerations. With the annexation of Piedmont to France, Ministers were not unacquainted. The confiscation of the revenue of the Spanish priories of the Order of Malta, there was also every reason to think that Ministers were acquainted with even before the definitive treaty was concluded. The miffion of Sebastiani, Minifters were fully apprized of long before they thought proper publicly to allude to it. They were not ignorant of the time when he left France, and on the 29th of November a dispatch from General Stewart announced his arrival in Egypt. Thus did it appear, that all the principal grounds of the declaration were pero feally well known to Ministers long before the declaration made its appearance. But, he would not confine himself to these circumstances, but would refer to others of not less importance, though they were not introduced into the declaration, and very materially implicated the conduct of Ministers. The first of the le points to which he begged leave to allude, was the arrangement of the German indennities, which Vol. IV. 1802-3.
to a considerable degree involved British interests. When he said this, he meant to allude to the insuli which had been offered to his Majesty, by mulcting a part of his Hanoverian dominions to larisfy the avarice of the greater powers. Complete mystery had almost wholly covered the whole buli. ness of the indemnities to the House of Orange For this arrangement an article had been intsoduced into the treaty; but till the papers were laid on the table the House had been totally ignorant in what train the negotiation on this subject had been left by Ministers. The whole business about the order for the evacuation of the Cape, and its subsequent re. tention, was entirely passed over in silence. By papers fubfequently called for, it appeared, that on the 16th of October, Ministers had dispatched orders to retain the Cape, though, by a solemn treaty, it was to be given up within a limited period. Ministers, by this treaty, entered into a ftipulaiion, which stated, that within a certain period the Cape should be surrendered to the Batavian Republic. The treaty containing this ftipulation had been laid before both Houses of Parliament, and had received their approbation. Under such circumstances, Ministers had taken on theinselves to violate a direct ftipulation of the treaty. They had chosen particularly to dispatch orders to suspend the execution of The trealy, and of consequence to declare the country in a state of war. At what time, he desired the House to confider, was it that this extraordinary step had been taken by Ministers? It was just about one month from the time that Parliament assembled. Did Ministers, when Parliament affembled, inform the House of the extraordinary measure to which they had reforted? They had not said a single word on the subject. In a very few weeks after, it had appeared proper 10 them to evacuate the Cape, and then a war virive ally intervened ; ftill Ministers continued to observe the same frience. Some hon. Members, and particularly an hon. Gentleman under the gallery (Mr. I. H. Browne), whom he must ever esteem, had commended Ministers for the silence they had so long observed on the state of public affairs. He could not at all accede to this doctrine. The system pursued by Ministers would, under the cloak of responsibility, destroy every conftitutional principle of parliamentary right, of difcuffion, and inquiry. He sincerely believed, for him. self, that if the negotiation, which had lately terminated, had taken a favourable turn, we should have heard nothing, of the whole of the orders and counter-orders of Minillers;
the whole would in a short time have been involred in the darkest night. Every discussion would have been discountenanced by Ministers, and conversation in the public prints would have fupplied the place of official documents on a matter of the highest importance. It would not be forgotten what the docunients were which Ministers had laid down on this subject. In case of war they were not unwilling to grant what information was required. On the other hand, if there had been a favourable period put to the negotiations, Ministers did not indeed say that they would refuse all explanation, but they reserved themselves as to the cases on which they considered such information expedient, useful, or neceffary. Having gone through these observations, as tending to thew the propriety of the iwo first resolutions, the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to examine in detail the grounds on which the third resolution was founded. From the two first resolutions, the third appeared 10 flow as a necellary inference. It involved a variety of serious and weighty observations. Firlt, in the allacks which had been made on our thips by the officers of the French Government. One hon. Gentleman seemed to consider, that on this point there was no reasonable ground of complaint. If injuries had been received, British subjects had only to appeal to the national courts of justice. But, whai he begged the House 10 consider, were these national courts of justice.
The principal ground of complaint was, that these courts of appeal decide only by taking immediate poffeffion of the prizes submitted to their decision. But what does the First Conful say to the complaints of British subjects? Why, he tells them they must appeal to the tribunals of the country, 10 the very tribunals from which all the injustice complained of had been received. Lei justice take its course, is the language of the First Consul; and the groffeft injustice is the course which this pretended juitice invariably pursues. The' capture is divided, and the British claimant is forced to bear those losses, against which the remonftrances of Ministers had failed to protect them. In failing to remonstrate with vigour againft a species of aggression, lo contrary to every principle of intercourfe between civilized nations, Ministers had incurred a very grave and serious responsibility. The iniffion of the French military consul did not appear to him 10 be described in his Majesty's declaration, in terms at all correspondent to the nature of the insult. It was an outrage in all refpe&s fo gross, that Ministers ought with much
greater spirit to have resented the attempt to violate the usages of independent nations. It afforded him no inconsiderable degree of satisfaction, on a former occasion, to find that two eminent, and the most considerable Members of the House, were completely agreed in opinion that the million of these individuals was a gross insult, and that in twenty-four hours after their arrival they ought to have been peremptorily required to quit the country. But this was an inadequate satisfaction; and, if the French Government refused to give satisfaction, there could be no doubt that war, to avenge this national insult, would have been justifiable. In vain, however, had these two great characters expreffed such an opinion. Ministers had chosen to pursue a course totally different. No memorial could be laid before the House, not because they had not remonstrated, but because the remonftrance had taken place merely in a verbal conference with the French Ambasador. Here, as well as with respect to many other parts of the documents on the table, he could not but lament that every thing had not been reduced to a regular memorial, instead of being submined to a statement dependent on verbal recollection. This was an evil in diplomatic proceedings which was frequently attended with very serious consequen
It left too much dependant on memory, necessarily liable to considerable deficiency. It placed important stalemenis 100 much exposed to be distorted by party prejudice and private views of interest. The next point on which he withed to touch, was one which, he said, he considered as of the highest importance. He meant to allude to the situation of Holland.
On this subject it also afforded him real delight, as he was sure it must have done to the House at large, to find the iwo sight hon. Gentlemen (Mr. Pilt and Mr. Fox), to whom he had al:eady alluded, speaking, with respect to the policy which this country ought to pursue with respect to Holland, those truly British sentiments, which every true Englishman could not fail cordially to approve For his own part he had no difficulty in saying, that he cinsidered the conduct of the French Government to the Batavian Republic, independent of all other confiderations, to be a full, fair, and unanswerable ground of war. What he had to complain of in the conduct of Ministers was, that they had not thewn that zeal and activity with regard to the necessity of remonstrating against the violence and injustice of the French Government 10 the Dutch, which their duty to the public imperioodly