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Parliamentary Debates

During the Second Session of the Fourth Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Kingdom of Great Britain the Twenty-first, appointed to meet at Westminster, the Twenty-first Day of January, 1808, in the Forty-eighth Year of the Reign of His Majesty King GEORGE the Third. [Sess. 1808.


Thursday, January 21, 1808.

had the result of the Negotiations at Tilsit confirmed the influence and controul of France over the powers of the continent, [THE LORDS COMMISSIONERS' SPEECH.] than his majesty was apprized of the inThe Second Session of the Fourth Parlia- tention of the enemy to combine those ment of the United Kingdom was opened powers in one general confederacy, to be this day, by commission; the commis- directed either to the entire subjugation of sioners were, the archbishop of Canterbury, this kingdom, or to the imposing upon his the lord chancellor, and the earls Camden, majesty an insecure and ignominious peace. Aylesford, and Dartmouth. At three That, for this purpose, it was determined o'clock the lords commissioners took their to force into hostility against his majesty, seats upon the woolsack; and the Com-states which had hitherto been allowed by mons, pursuant to message, having attended, with their Speaker, at the bar, the Lord Chancellor informed them, that his Majesty had been pleased to direct his commission to certain lords, therein named, to open the session; which commission they should hear read, and afterwards his majesty's most gracious Speech. The commission was then read by the clerk at the table; after which, the Lord Chancellor read the Speech, as it here follows:

"My Lords and Gentlemen, "We have received his majesty's commands to assure you, that in calling you together at this important conjuncture of affairs, he entertains the most perfect conviction, that he shall find in you the same determination with which his majesty himself is animated, to uphold the honour of his crown, and the just rights and interests of his people. We are commanded by bis majesty to inform you, that no sooner VOL. X.

France to maintain or to purchase their neutrality, and to bring to bear against different points of his majesty's dominions the whole of the Naval Force of Europe, and specifically the Fleets of Portugal and Denmark. To place those fleets out of the power of such a confederacy became therefore the indispensable duty of his majesty.-In the execution of this duty, so far as related to the Danish Fleet, his majesty has commanded us to assure you, that it was with the deepest reluctance that his majesty found himself compelled, after his earnest endeavours to open a Negotiation with the Danish government had failed, to authorize his commanders to resort to the extremity of force; but that he has the greatest satisfaction in congratulating you upon the successful execution of this painful but necessary service. We are commanded further to acquaint you, that the course which his majesty had to pursue Ᏼ .


with respect to Portugal was happily of a | ror of Russia, pending the Negotia nature more congenial to his majesty's Tilsit, as well as of the Official Not feelings: That the timely and unreserved Russian minister at this court, whi communication by the Court of Lisbon of tain the offer of his Imperial majest the demands and designs of France, while diation, and of the Answer retu it confirmed to his majesty the authenticity that Note by his majesty's comman of the advices which he had received from also Copies of the Official Notes other quarters, entitled that court to his Austrian minister at this court, and majesty's confidence in the sincerity of the Answers which his majesty comma assurances by which that communication be returned to them, shall be laid was accompanied. The Fleet of Portugal you. It is with concern that his was destined by France to be employed as commands us to inform you, th an instrument of vengeance against Great withstanding his earnest wishes t Britain; that Fleet has been secured from nate the war in which he is engag the grasp of France, and is now employed the Ottoman Porte, his majesty' in conveying to its American dominions vours, unhappily for the Turkish the hopes and fortunes of the Portuguese have been defeated by the mach monarchy. His majesty implores the pro- of France, not less the enemy of th tection of Divine Providence upon that than of Great Britain.-But while enterprize, rejoicing in the preservation fluence of France has been thus of a power so long the friend and ally of nately successful in preventing th Great Britain, and in the prospect of nation of existing hostilities, and i its establishment in the New World, ing new wars against this country. with augmented strength and splendour.-jesty commands us to inform y We have it in command from his majesty the king of Sweden has resisted e to inform you, that the determination of tempt to induce him to abandon the enemy to excite hostilities between his ance with Great Britain; and that majesty and his late allies, the emperors of jesty entertains no doubt that Russia and Austria, and the king of Prus- with him, the sacredness of the dut sia, has been but too successful; and that the firmness and fidelity of the the ministers from those powers have de- Sweden impose upon his majesty, manded and received their passports. you will concur in enabling his m This measure, on the part of Russia, has discharge it in a manner worthy been attempted to be justified by a state- country.-It remains for us, acco ment of wrongs and grievances which have his majesty's commands, to state no real foundation. The emperor of Rus- that the Treaty of Amity, Comme sia had indeed proffered his mediation be- Navigation between his majesty tween his majesty and France; his ma- United States of America, which jesty did not refuse that mediation; but cluded and signed by commissione he is confident you will feel the propriety authorized for that purpose, on the of its not having been accepted, until his December 1806, has not taken e majesty should have been enabled to as- consequence of the refusal of the P certain that Russia was in a condition to of the United States to ratify tha mediate impartially, and until the princi- ment. For an unauthorized act ples and the basis on which France was committed against an American ready to negotiate were made known to war, his majesty did not hesitate his majesty.No pretence of justification immediate and spontaneous rep has been alleged for the hostile conduct but an attempt has been made of the emperor of Austria, or for that of American government to connect his Prussian majesty. His majesty has question which has arisen out of not given the slightest ground of com- pretensions inconsistent with th plaint to either of those sovereigns, nor time rights of Great Britain: su even at the moment when they have re- tensions his majesty is determined spectively withdrawn their ministers have admit. His majesty nevertheless they assigned to his majesty any distinct that the American government wil cause for that proceeding. His majesty tuated by the same desire to prese has directed, that Copies of the Official relations of peace and friendship Notes which passed between his majesty's the two countries, which has eve ambassador and the minister for foreign enced his majesty's conduct, and t affairs of his imperial majesty the empe- difficulties in the discussion now

ing may be effectually removed.-His majesty has commanded us to state to you, that, in consequence of the Decree by which France declared the whole of his majesty's dominions to be in a state of blockade, and subjected to seizure and confiscation the produce and manufactures of his kingdom, his majesty resorted in the first instance to a measure of mitigated retaliation; and that, this measure having proved ineffectual for its object, his majesty has since found it necessary to adopt others of greater rigour, which he commands us to state to you will require the aid of parliament to give them complete and effectual operation.-His majesty has directed copies of the Orders which he has issued (with the advice of his privy council) upon this subject, to be laid before you; and he commands us to recommend them to your early attention.

play in this crisis of the fate of the country the characteristic spirit of the British nation, and face unappalled the unnatural combination which is gathered around us, his majesty bids us to assure you of his firm persuasion, that, under the blessing of Divine Providence, the struggle will prove ultimately successful and glorious to Great Britain. We are lastly commanded to assure you, that in this awful and momentous contest you may rely upon the firmness of his majesty, who has no cause but that of his people, and that his majesty reciprocally relies upon the wisdom, the constancy, and the affectionate support of his parliament."

The commons having retired, the lords commissioners withdrew to unrobe. Lord viscount Lake and lord Gambier were introduced with the accustomed formalities, and took the oaths and their seats. The archbishop of York and earl Grey, also took the oaths and their seats. Their lordships then adjourned during pleasure. At five o'clock the house resumed. His majesty's most gracious Speech was then read by the lord chancellor from the woolsack, and afterwards by the clerk at the table, after which

"Gentlemen of the House of Commons, "His majesty has directed the Estimates for the year to be laid before you, in the fullest confidence that your loyalty and public spirit will induce you to make such provision for the public service as the urgency of affairs may require. His majesty has great satisfaction in informing you, that notwithstanding the difficulties The Earl of Galloway rose, and adwhich the enemy has endeavoured to im- dressed their lordships as follows:-My pose upon the Commerce of his subjects, lords; after the Speech which your lordand upon their intercourse with other na- ships have heard delivered by his mations, the resources of the country have jesty's command, it is expected some continued in the last year to be so abun- member of this house should present himdant, as to have produced both from the self to your notice, to solicit that attention permanent and temporary revenue a receipt which the importance of the subject deconsiderably larger than that of the pre-mands; and by endeavouring to obtain ceding year. The satisfaction which his majesty feels assured you will, derive, in common with his majesty, from this proof of the solidity of these resources, cannot but be greatly increased, if, as his majesty confidently hopes, it shall be found possible to raise the necessary supplies for the present year without any material additions to the public burdens.

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My Lords and Gentlemen, "We are especially commanded to say to you, in the name of his majesty, that if ever there was a just and national war, it is that which his majesty is now compelled to prosecute. This war is in its principle purely defensive: his majesty looks but to the attainment of a secure and honourable Peace; but such a peace can only be negotiated upon a footing of perfect equality. -The eyes of Europe and of the world are fixed upon the British parliament. If, as his majesty confidently trusts, you dis

your cordial concurrence in an Address of thanks to his majesty, for his gracious communication, to mark your approval of the sentiments it contains. I can assure your lordships I am perfectly aware of the inadequacy of my abilities to open subjects of the magnitude and importance of those now offered for your discussion; but you will separate the advocate from the cause, and, I trust, be disposed to extend to the former that indulgence, which it is your lordships invariable practice to do, at the same time doing ample justice to the serious import of the other. I must claim also your lordships indulgence in consideration of my habits and pursuits, which have differed widely from those which are requisite to qualify me to make an adequate appeal to an assembly like this; but again I trust this deficiency on my part will in some measure be supplied by the goodness of the cause I have to

that a difference of opinion exists this subject (not in the country), bu some members of your lordships' If that is the case, I own I am curi learn the argument that is to be adv Is it possible, my lords, that any and impartial person can doubt the mount necessity of this expedition mit me, my lords, to put the ca other way, and to suppose that h

advance. I will not consume more of your lordship's time by a longer preamble, being sensible many noble lords will be extremely 'anxious to deliver their opinions also; I shall therefore proceed to animadvert shortly upon the prominent features of the Speech, leaving to others the detail, who will be better able to do justice to the same. In the first place, my lords, we are informed in the speech, that soon after the Treaty of Tilsit had an-jesty's ministers, confiding in W nounced the dereliction of Russia to the cause she had espoused, his majesty's ministers received the most clear and positive information, that it was the intention of the enemy to compel the courts of Denmark and Portugal to subscribe their navies to a general confederacy about to be formed against this country, and with a promptitude and decision that does them infinite credit, they immediately resolved to frustrate so formidable a combination. It is known to your lordships that this has been effected, with respect to Denmark, by force of arms. The hostile sentiments of that court, evinced in many ways during some years past, rendered fruitless every other mode of proceeding. It was an unfortunate circumstance, my lords, that the Danish fleet, the only object of our solicitude, should be encircled by the walls of the capital, thereby causing misfortune, which every humane mind would wish to have avoided; but it is creditable to the arms of this country, and meritorious in the officers commanding the expedition, that every attempt was made to prevent a loss that was inevitable. As soon as success, my lords, enabled you to judge for yourselves, you found verified every prediction of the government; an arsenal over supplied with every material of equipment, magazines replete with stores, ascertained to have been purchased by the agents of France, and those demonstrations which could not escape the eye of seamen, that the fleet was on the eve of being fitted out. The result I need not add; that fleet is now safe and secure in the harbours of England, ready, if necessary, to be employed in her defence; and by so many ships of the line of which it is composed, by so many degrees do I consider the liberties of this envied country secure. My lords, it is justly said in the speech, "That to place out of the reach of this confederacy the fleets of Portugal and Denmark was the 'indispensable duty of his majesty." And yet, my lords, I have heard it rumoured,

termed the faith of treaties, and re
all other evidence, had neglected t
themselves of the naval superiority
country to secure the Danish-fleet,
would have been the result? Wi
man doubt that the speech would n
rect us to prepare against a naval
deracy composed of a force equal to
sail of the line, from supposing the
pendent monarch of Sweden had
able to remain a quiet spectator, an
this force was destined against the
vulnerable parts of our empire. My
would not indignation have swelle
breast of every man in this country a
a government so deficient and re
Censure would then have been a
priate; and at present I cannot ad
to be so; if the idea does exist.
gratifying, my lords, to reflect up
means employed to secure the navy o
tugal from the grasp of France, by r
mending to that court to transfer the
of their government to the Brazils?
gratifying to see one government o
rope prefer emigration to submissi
France. My lords, I consider that
(next to securing the Danish fleet
most consequential that has occurred
the commencement of this eventfu
and provided a strict friendship and l
policy is pursued by both nations
most beneficial result may be seen.
gratifying also to reflect, my lords
at the very moment when our merc
are deprived of their trade with Russ
large a portion of the continent of
rica is thrown open to their enter
Upon our late transactions with R
my lords, I do not mean to dwell;
one of your lordships must have rea
majesty's reply to the aspersions o
court of Petersburgh; and every ca
and impartial mind must be satisfied
the conduct of England is justified
manner as honourable for the natio
creditable to those who framed that
paper; but, my lords, I am anxio
extract some good out of this evil, a

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