« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
The speech from the throne was, in the mean time, allowed to be as well appropriated to the circumstances of the times, as any that had been delivered since the commencement of the war. It mentioned the disappointment of the French in their attempts in Germany, and the internal difficulties under which they continued to labour. Their present situation af forded a well-founded presumption, that they would listen to equitable and moderate terms of peace. In order to obtain such terms, it would be necessary to shew that Great Britain was able to maintain the contest, till such a peace ensued, as accorded with its dignity and interest. The other particulars of the speech referred to the preparations for a vigorous continuance of the war, the treaties concluded with foreign powers, the prosperous state of commerce, and the means of providing against the present scarcity.
Lord Dalkeith moved the address, and was seconded by Mr. Stuart: the latter gentleman dwelt chiefly on the exhausted situation of France, and the oppressive methods it was reduced to adopt for the raising of supplies. The situation of this country was the reverse: whatever money was demanded was instantly found, without oppressing the subject; the confidence of monied men in government keeping pace with all its exigencies. Much had been said of the conquest of Holland by the French, but they were obviously indebted much more to fortunate casualties, than to their own prowess, and could place little reliance on the attachment of the natives, who were now convinced of their imprudence, in trusting to the friendship of the French.
Mr. Sheridan was extremely se vere in the reply which he made on this occasion. Among other invectives, he reproached ministers for their unskilful management in the West Indies, where the force employed was totally inadequate to the objects proposed, and numbers of the men had been lost through negligence, and want of medical assistance, in that unwholesome climate. He accused ministers of designing to restore despotism in France. He called upon them to act as Spain and Prussia had done, by treating with those persons whom the republican armies looked upon as entitled to their obedience. He advised ministers to beware of a connection with the house of Bourbon. It was through such connections that the Stuart's had been expelled. The Bourbons had invariably proved the enemies to Great Britain; and this enmity would revive, were they to be re-established on the throne of France. The rash and fruitless attempts, to restore that family, ought therefore to be totally relinquished, and government should declare itself willing to treat with the French republic.
He was replied to by Mr. Jenkinson, with the many arguments, so frequently repeated, in justification of ministerial measures. He added, that the retention of the United Provinces, by the French, rendered all treating with them inadmissible. It was necessary, therefore, to compel them to abandon this new conquest, or to make such acquisitions as might counter-balance it, and induce them to give up the possession of that country. the members of the coalition acted with fidelity to the cause they had espoused, the French would, by this
time, have been forced to abandon their lofty pretensions.
In answer to this, the prospect of affairs was represented, by general Tarleton, as very disadvantageous. The numerous army, with which the French had lately obliged the king of Spain to come into their own terms, would now be employed in the invasion of Italy, while our efforts against the French possessions, in the West Indies, would probably be frustrated, as they had been on the coast of France, through misconduct on our side, and the difficulty of the very attempt itself. It was vain to repeat exertions that had been so successively foiled. Ministers were no longer deserving of confidence; their evident incapacity required their immediate dismission, and the trial of new men, as well as of new measures.
He was followed by Mr. Fox, who inveighed, with great animation, against the assertions made by ministry, as fallacious and delusive. Instead of the flattering description they had given of the situation of this country, the fact was, that one hundred millions had been added to the national debt, and four millions a year to the standing taxes. In lieu of reducing the enemy within bis former bounds, he was master of all the Austrian territories on the west of the Rhine; nor was there any well-grounded hope of our reCovering them. He was preparing to invade Italy with a great and victorious army. The scarcity that afflicted the kingdom had been foretold; but ministers disdained to listen to the warning, though enforced from the most respectable quarter. The propriety of persisting in the war was argued from the distress to which France was reduced by
the depreciation of its paper cur rency: but was this an argument proper to be adduced by men ac quainted with the transactions of the American war, and who must be conscious of the futility of pecuniary calculations, when people were determined to suffer every hardship that human nature could bear, and to try every expedient that necessity could suggest, rather than admit the idea of submission? It was time to abandon so hopeless a cause as that of the royal family of France. The opinions of so mighty a nation were not to be subdued by force of arms. When pressed to listen to pacific language, ministers alleged the incapacity of the French government to maintain the usual relations of harmony between different states: but had such objections held good in the cause of Spain, Prussia, and even the king of Great Britain himself, in the quality of elector of Hanover? Had not this far-fetched and absurd obstacle vanished before the reasonableness of putting an end to the calamities of war? It was ridiculous to insist upon danger from treating with the French, because they had subverted their former, and adopted a new constitution: the permanence of a treaty depending on its equitableness, and correspondence with the reciprocal interests of the contracting parties. It was become nugatory to talk of our allies: we had, indeed, mercenaries in our pay, whom we could only retain by excessive bribes, and who were, every moment, hesitating, whether to accept of them, or of the terms proffered by our enemies, to detach them from this country. Adverting to the scarcity so heavily complained of, Mr. Fox ob. served, that war, and its fatal concomitants,
comitants, tended, undeniably, to impede cultivation, and to desolate the countries where it was waged: the most fertile parts of Europe having lately been the continual scenes of this destructive war, the productions of the earth had been necessarily diminished, and it was unreasonable to deny that the war was, in a very considerable degree, the cause of a deficiency in the necessaries of life. He concluded by moving, that such conditions of peace should be offered to the French, as would consist with the safety and dignity of Great Britain.
The ideas of peace and security were, in answer to Mr. Fox, represented by Mr. Pitt, as incompatible with the situation of this country respecting France. Every motive militated for a perseverance in the contest. The enemy felt his increasing debility, and, notwithstanding his successes in the field, betrayed a consciousness that his strength was materially diminished. Hence it was that he had latterly shewn a disposition to peace. But the interest of this country required a deliberate consideration of the state of France, in order to judge of the expediency of entering into negociations at the present moment. Such was the fall of the French paper in circulation, that it was now sunk to one and a half for every hundred of nominal value. Seven hundred and twenty millions sterling had been fabricated and made current, and this enormous quantity was still on the increase. Was it credible that a nation, reduced to such straits, would be able to make head against the formidable enemies that were preparing to assail it with redoubicd vigour, and whose situation was so much more advantageous in point
of pecuniary resources? However successful on their frontiers, through military efforts, and the chances of war, the system of the French was so radically heinous, that it could not last. Were the European powers to reunite against them, they could no longer stand their ground. The interior parts of that large kingdom were in a state of the utmost wretchedness. Trade and commerce were annihilated, and industry found no occupation. Hence proceeded the facility with which the French recruited their armies, and the desperate spirit, that animated men, who could procure no sustenance but at the point of their swords. But energies of this kind were not in their nature durable, and would certainly terminate in a short lapse of time. So great was the difficulty of procuring specie for the most urgent demands, that necessary articles, in kind, were given in payment, and people were glad to accept of any thing that bore the semblance of pay. Would it not, therefore, be the height of impru dence, after reducing them to such a situation, to pass by so favourable an opportunity of reducing them still lower, and of securing, to our selves, the advantages resulting from their evident and undeniable depression? After adducing farther arguments, in vindication of his conduct, a division took place, when two hundred and forty voted for the address, and fifty-nine for the amendment, moved by Mr. Fox.
On the next day, which was the thirtieth of October, the address was moved, in the bouse of lords, by lord Mountedgecomb, who supported it with much the same reasonings that had been used in the house of com
mons. He was seconded by lord Walsingham,
Walsingham, who dwelt particular- lay these grievances before the sovereign, and to supplicate him to relieve the sufferings of the nation, by consenting to a negociation for peace, which was the only effectual remedy for the many calamities under which the people laboured, in consequence of this unfortunate
ly on the dangerous consequences of a precipitate peace, which would be throwing away the advantages we had gained by our perseverance in this arduous contest, and yielding to despondence, at a time when we ought to make the most of the difficulties our enemies had to contend with, and were not likely to surmount, if we continued to act with the resolution that had hitherto characterised our measures.
In reply to these assertions, it was observed by the duke of Bedford, that it was more consistent with the dignity of a British par liament, to frame an address of its own, than to copy the speech of the minister, though delivered from the throne. His sentiments differed materially from the ministerial lan guage he bad heard. It represented the French as on the verge of ruin; but the truth of facts, opposed to the illusion of words, was that they were hitherto superior in the contest, notwithstanding the constant predictions of the minister and his partisans, during the three preceding years, that they had not sufficient resources to prolong it another campaign. The duke adverted with great severity to the reiterated allegation, that the French government was incapable of fulfilling the customary duties and relations of amity and good understanding with other states. He reprobated with equal asperity the fruitless destruction of men in the West Indies, and the ill-fated expedition to the coast of France. These, and the other evils of the war, particularly the scarcity that afflicted the nation, he imputed to the misconduct and incapacity of ministers. It was therefore the duty of parliament to
The observations of the duke of Bedford were warmly controverted by lord Grenville, who insisted that the situation of this country was evidently superior to that of France in every point of view. Our successes at sea were far more conducive to the internal prosperity of the kingdom, than the dear-bought victories of the French had, or could ever prove to the people of France. The depreciation of the paper currency in that country, was, in his opinion,a circumstance to its detriment, and in our favour, that fully deserved the reiterated notice that had been taken of it. The most judicious of the French financiers were deeply sensible of the effects it would ultimately produce, and strongly deprecated the farther issue of any notes, and the withdrawing of no less than ten parts out of thirteen from circulation. With such glaring proofs of the pecuniary distresses of the enemy, was it prudent or reasonable to advise pacific measures, when, with a moderate degree of patience on our side, he would probably be soon compelled to listen to more reasonable terms of peace, than the pride resulting from his late successes would now permit him to accept. He concluded, by representing the failure of the expedition to the coast of France as occasioned by the treachery of those French corps, that had been too confidently relied upon,
He was replied to by the marqui of Lansdowne, who pointedly animadverted on the prosperous situa tion wherein ministers asserted the country stood at the present moment. What he had foretold was come to pass; our allies had deserted us, and our enemies were every where victorious. The trite argument of their ruined finances was still revived; but in what state were our own? were they inexhaustible? were they equal to the support of ourselves, together with the weight of those pretended friends who had taken our money, and converted it to purposes entirely foreign to those for which it was granted, and who were waiting with their accustomed avidity for fresh grants. Taxes could only be carried to a certain length beyond which they would in this country, as in all others, become intolerable. But money alone was no security for success; sagacity was of far greater consequence. The ministerial projects and enterprizes displayed little of this essential requisite; failures and disappointments continually attending them. This however was not surprising, as their attempts against the foe were glaringly marked with imprudence. The expedition to St. Domingo, for instance, was an unpardonable act of temerity; here the French were insurmountable: it was the capital seat of their strength in the West Indies; of this the great lord Chatham was so well convinced that he wisely forbore, even in the midst of his successes, to make it an object of attack. The French, it was true, were straitened for money, but they had that which was better; they had good soldiers and excellent commanders; on those they chiefly depended, and
fortune had favoured them. rage was inexhaustible, but wealth had its limits: and the example of France ought to warn us of the danger of stretching the pecuniary resources of the nation beyond their natural bearings. The war had tried them to such an extent, that it was time to cease the experiment how far they would go, and to make negociation take place of hostilities.
The earls of Mansfield and Darnley spoke in favour of the address, and the duke of Grafton and the earl of Lauderdale against it. The latter inveighed bitterly against mimisters for the assurances they had given to the public in the former sessions, that such was the superior might of the confederacy, that France would be utterly unable to resist it; but how different the reality from the fair appearances they had held out! defeat and desertion had characterised those allies in whose name such lofty promises had been made; and to complete the picture of the national calamities, we were now visited by a scarcity, undeniably owing to the improvident conduct of those at the helm; yet ministers boldly asserted that our condition was improved, and that of the enemy worse than ever. But did not facts give the strongest denial to those shameful asseverations? was not the enemy in possession of all we had conquered, and preparing for new conquests? was not the coalition broken and dissolved, and some of its principal members in treaties of peace and amity with the French ? could any man of sense and integrity interpret such things as improvements in the situation of this country? did they entitle us to expect that the