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requiring those ships to be giving back again to France, except that we entered into an agreement with Frenchmen in opposition to the then subsisting government, by which we engaged to restore the ships to Louis XVIII. when he should be restored to the throne of France. It could hardly be contended that such an agreement, either by its letter or its spirit, bound us to give back the ships to other persons than those for whom we took them in trust. The case of the capture of the Danish fleet was totally different, as it was taken not from enemies, but from neutrals. In considering the propriety of adopting the present resolution, he should argue on the ground of the necessity being completely acknowledged, although his own opinion of it was very different. If he were to decline however, stating what his opinion was of the justice and policy of the measure, he feared he should be thought to be, in some measure, coquetting with the house. He should therefore declare, that, in his opinion, there was no act that had ever been committed by the government of this country, which so much disgraced its character and stained its honour; and, as an Englishman, he felt dishonoured, whenever the national honour was tarnished. He could not avoid reprobating in severe terms the expedition to Copenhagen; it reminded him of
were to refer to the case so often quoted, of a person being justified by necessity in pushing another off a plank into the sea, it must still be allowed that the other was equally justified in retaining possession of the plank if he could, and that his endeavouring to retain it was no act of hostility against us. It appeared to him, that the right of Denmark to a restitution of the property so taken was by no means alter-` ed by any subsequent hostilities; and that this right was so clear, that we might' make up our minds to the restitution being demanded at the conclusion of peace. He therefore thought that we should keep them in such a state, as that the restitution might be made with as little expence or inconvenience as possible. He was perpared for doing justice; but he would wish in some degree to exercise a penurious justice, so that the restitution should not be more burthensome to the country than was absolutely necessary. For these reasons, he entirely coincided in the motion of his noble friend.
The Lord Chancellor said, that from the high respect he felt for his noble and learned friend, and from the weight his opinions always carried, he felt anxious to remove the impression which his noble and learned friend had made. The noble and learned lord had appeared to dispose in a very summary manner, both of the justice and morality of the Copenhagen expedition, and of the cases cited by his noble friend. He should however, take the liberty, on the former point, of expressing his sentiments in the same decisive tone, and say, that so far from feeling himself dishonoured, as an Englishman, by the expedition, he should have felt himself dishonoured, if, under all the circumstances of the case, he had hesitated to concur with his colleagues in advising the expedition. His noble and learned friend did, indeed, recommend a penurious' justice; for if indeed the expedition was unjust and dishonourable if it stained the national character and was contrary to honesty, then, instead of keeping the ships in any particular way, and at any given expence, they ought immediately to be restored, and ample satisfaction made; but he was always ready to contend, and he believed the feelings of the great majo
The ill omened bark, Built in th' eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark. He thought the object it had in view was most unjustifiable, and that even in the success of that object, it would bring great calamity upon the country. When it was attempted to be justified on the plea of necessity, it should be recollected, that by that word was meant an urgent necessity, and not a mere predominating convenience. It appeared to him, that many persons considered it justification enough to say, that it was very convenient for the country, in this instance, to appropriate to itself that property which another, who had the right, was possessed of. This was a sort of doctrine which he was so much in the habit of reprobating at the Old Bailey and other places, that he could not avoid expressing himself with some warmth when he heard that principle urged as an ample justification to the nation, which never could be ad-rity of the country was with him, that the mitted among individuals. As to what was stated of hostilities afterwards taking place with Denmark, he thought that circumstance made no difference. If he
national character had not been disho noured by an act which the circumstances of the times had rendered necessary. He believed the country would feel that this
great national question ought not to be was, whether that house would resolve decided altogether by the ordinary rutes that it was expedient that the government which governed the decisions at the Old should reserve to itself the power of reBailey; but at all events he should hope, storing, eventually, the ships seized by us that if his noble and learned friend was at Copenhagen, to the Danes. But noreprobating the principles before a jury at ble lords swerved from this question, and the Old Bailey, he would not forget, when had gone to that of the justification of the he stated his opinion, to detail the evi- expedition itself. He certainly did think dence on which that opinion was founded. still, as he had always thought, that that He could not agree with his noble and expedition could not be warranted but learned friend, that the cases referred to upon the ground of necessity, and no case by a noble friend of his, were quite of necessity had been yet made out; that foreign to the present question. As to house, at least, was in possession of no evithe Toulon business, unless we were en- dence whatever to warrant them in decidtirely to throw aside the musty records of ing that expedition to have been the rethe law of nations, it would at first sight suit of hard necessity. He was not inhave appeared, that the French govern- clined at present to go into any exposiment might justly claim that restitution; tion of the shifting, prevaricating testimofor it was a rule acknowledged by all wri-ny, which had been resorted to in defence ters on the law of nations, that what of that measure; at one time Denmark was public property, belonging to a state was represented as sincere in her profesbelonged still to that nation, whateversions of neutrality, but too weak to act changes might take place in its government. The capture of the Dutch prizes, in the last war, was somewhat of the same principle: we took them from the Dutch while they were under the absolute influence of France, intending and engaging to restore them when Holland should again recover her freedom. After that period, we made a treaty of peace with Holland, in which her independence was completely acknowledged, and yet there was no restitution of the prizes taken from the Dutch before a declaration of war. He mentioned those cases, to shew that the instance then before the consideration of the house, was not, as had been represented, a case per se. He considered that the resolution would be highly improper, as pledging the country to make restitution of what there was no pretence to restore, after the hostilities which had since taken place between this country and Denmark; and he thought it would be much more improper, as it would be an acknowledgment that we had acted improperly on an occasion, where our conduct could be strictly justified by the principles of self-preservation, by the law of nations, and the circumstances of the case. Lord Holland thought it necessary to recal the attention of noble lords to what really was the true question before the house. It had been considerably misrepresented and mis-stated. The question did not, as had been apprehended by the noble and learned lord upon the woolsack, at all intrench upon or in any degree affect, the prerogative of the crown. It
up to her intentions; at another, they were told, that as her sincerity was questionable, her means of annoyance were to be feared and provided against; again, it was pretended that the sole ground of the expedition was the secret arrangements of the Treaty of Tilsit, and when it was attempted to trace their alledged information to any authentic source, Portugal was at one period brought forward as an informer; and at another the disaffected Irish. This sort of shifting naturally created suspicion in the mind of every impartial man. The noble lord then proceeded to consider the present motion in reference to the question of peace, and appealed to the feelings of noble lords, if it would not be more for the honour of the country, if they could commence a negociation, after a voluntary concession upon their parts, rather than the subsequent degradation of a forced surrender, exacted by the stipulations of a treaty?
Lord Harrowby defended the expedition, and opposed the resolution, which he considered would not only be dangerous to adopt, but improper in its principle. A noble and learned lord had begun by saying, that he should argue the question, as if the necessity had been proved; and yet he took occasion to reprobate both the justice and policy of the measure, in the most severe and unqualified terms. The only reason which he had assigned for departing from the line of argument which he himself had laid down, was, that he feared he might be considered as coquetting' with the house,
if he did not let them know his entire | bottom. He congratulated himself, that
opinion. The house might, perhaps, have excused a little of that sort of coquetting. The noble lords who entertained the same opinion that he did, might also have excused it. They might have applied to the noble and learned lord the well-known lines
Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love,
It appeared to him most undeniable, that a case of necessity was so made out, as fully justified the expedition, and the possessing ourselves of the Danish fleet; but as hostilities had since broke out between this country and Denmark, in spite of all our efforts to avert it, he did not see on what principle, or from what precedents we could be called upon to restore what we had taken from a neutral, but which was condemned as the property of an enemy after hostilities had broken out. As he therefore thought the expedition just, because it was necessary, and as he thought the ships had been fairly condemned, when the power they were taken from became an enemy, he could not support a resolution which implied that the seizure was unjust, and which would, in a manner, pledge the country to make restitution of that which he did not think we could be justly called upon to restore.
Lord Erskine argued at considerable length to shew the injustice and impolicy of the expedition to Copenhagen, and the expediency of agreeing to the noble visc.'s motion. He concurred with his noble and learned friend, as to the Old Bailey kind of necessity urged in its defence. And with respect to eventually retaining the fleet in our possession, it was surely impossible that we could think of doing so, after the declarations made to the Danes, in which it was expressly stated, that their fleet was required as a deposit' in our hands. Were we to attempt ultimately to keep them, we should act like a man, who, from the apprehension of being attacked by thieves on the road, should, for his defence, seize a fowling-piece from a neighbour, who was too weak to resist him, and afterwards point the identical weapon against its master's breast, and go out sporting with it for a whole season. His noble and learned friend had been accused of kicking his majesty's ministers down stairs in the debate. This he certainly had not done, for the former discussions on this subject had long left them at the
he had at least entered a solemn Protest against the measure adopted by his maj.'s government, and by that means had escaped the accusation of being a partner in their guilt. This country had formerly been the day-star of Europe. To her Europe had looked for an example of steady fidelity and honour, and adherence to the law of nations. If from this proud eminence of reputation, she should be hurled by the criminal conduct of his majesty's ministers, we should irrecoverably sink into the gulph of ruin and infamy, and no one would say God bless
The Earl of Westmoreland opposed the motion of the noble viscount, and deprecated the conduct of that eighth wonder of the world, the last administration, who having by their weak counsels, and total inaction, placed the country in a state of the utmost peril, censured the wise and energetic measures of his majesty's present government, by which we had been rescued from the danger. The necessity for the steps which had been taken by us was notorious. His majesty, in his most gracious speech, had declared that information of that necessity had been received by him; a declaration which, constitutionally speaking, ought to have been received without hesitation. This information was of a nature that could not be communicated to parliament, but, did it follow, that the executive government were not justified in acting upon it? If the executive government were restricted from acting but on information that they could communicate to parliament, the country might soon become like the wrestler, so beauti fully alluded to by Demosthenes, who, instead of defending himself from blows meditated against him, was occupied in guarding against blows already struck.
The Earl of Selkirk argued, that the question had not been fairly met. The motion did not go to pledge this country to the restoration of the Danish ships, but merely to keep it in our power, if circumstances should hereafter enable us to do so with safety. It must be a matter of doubt whether that situation of things would or would not arise; but to look to its probability could not imply a censure on the expedition to Copenhagen. It had been said, that the motion was only an indirect censure, and could not meet the concurrence of any, but those who reprobated the whole of our conduct towards
Denmark.—The noble earl said, that in his own individual case, he found a proof of the reverse. He considered the seizure of the Danish navy as justifiable, on the ground of the notorious interest of France to make use of that navy against this country, and the notorious incapacity of Denmark to resist her demands. The expedition had, indeed, an appearance of deviating from the usual moderation of the British government, and, on that ground, he had felt at first a repugnance to the measure. But, after a fair consideration of the arguments on both sides, he could not deny that the urgency of the case, and the necessity of our own preservation, formed a sufficient apology for the aggression. Since, however, it was only on the plea of necessity and of self preservation that we justified the harshness of our conduct towards a peaceable and unoffending state, our measures ought not to be carried farther than this necessity required. So far from being inconsistent, the very principles of the expedition should dictate the adoption of the motion. The necessity of withdrawing the navy of Denmark from the grasp of France, could not imply any necessity for employing the Danish ships in preference to our own it was due to the national honour to shew that the conduct of this country had not been actuated by motives of rapacity, and that the conciliatory offers, made by our commanders at Copenhagen, were not mere pretexts, which we intended to disregard, as soon as we had secured our object.
a part in the confederacy armed neutrality was forme country in the North of Eur was almost the first to take And upon the late occasion, w upon her to give up the flee in our hands, did she not obs every overture that might commodation? What oth could be drawn from all t Denmark was secretly fa views, and would not resist made by France to get poss fleet. Under all these circu seizure of that fleet was not able, but ministers would hav the most criminal negligen not sent an armament to seiz But as to any idea of restori how could it be done with were in a state of open hostil Was it fit to propose such a time when the emperor of Rus ing his fleets against us, a Danes themselves were France? To offer such a thing be holding out beforehand th accommodation, which ought the subject of future negociati
Earl Darnley did not think ters had made out a case to steps they had taken. The flattered themselves that John] no farther than the capture of the line, would think it a glori ment. But they were mistaker find that the people of this c not to be so easily deluded Lord Redesdale perfectly coincided indemned the expedition in toto, opinion with the noble earl near him, that concurred in the motion. the present motion went to pass a censure on his majesty's ministers; and as such he could not agree to it. It had been said by a noble lord, that Denmark had been friendly towards this country. He denied the truth of this assertion. It fell to his lot to know that Denmark had not been
friendly towards us. He had it on the authority of persons who resided a considerable time at the court of Copenhagen, that the Danes, so far from being friendly, had for many years past entertained hostile sentiments towards this country. They had uniformly submitted to every aggression on the part of France, while they never gave up any point to England. When almost all the other powers of Europe had confederated against France, Denmark uniformly resisted every attempt that had been made to induce her to take
The Earl of Mulgrave begg call their lordships' attention state of the question. It had by the noble visc. who brous the motion, that the measure o dition to Copenhagen was out tion; but still he had couched in such a manner, as to make more nor less than a direct co of his majesty's ministers for th with regard to that expedition sired the paper, or summons to No. 3, to be read, [p. 223.] read accordingly, and purpor the terms then offered were not the conditions stipulated with the fleet must cease. His lo that after hearing that, he wou the house whether the whole a to the ships being taken as a d
not as a capture, was not entirely at an end. With respect to the argument of the fowling-piece, used by the noble and learned lord, he thought it made directly against the motion; for the person whom his lordship stated to have the fowlingpiece, attempted to defend it against his intended protector, and said, that rather than surrender it he would join with the person who attacked him; so, in like manner, the neutral who put himself under the protection of the enemy, became liable to seizure. The question of to night, he said, came at the very worst period it possibly could come. It was called on at a time when it was acknowledged, that even a restoration of peace would not do away the hatred of the Danes: at a moment when it was evident the emperor of Russia was anxious to revive the old system of the armed neutrality, which every one of their lordships might be convinced it was so much the interest of this country to resist and to destroy by every means in her power: at a moment when it had been clearly shewn, that Denmark was ready and willing to throw herself into the arms of France; and it ought to be remembered, that Denmark, by the late expedition and seizure of her fleet, had been deprived of the power of carrying her hostile intentions into effect, for she was not in a situation to replace or restore such a fleet. It had been said, by those who supported the motion, that we did not want ships but men; but on what data was this taken up? He did not think it necessary to enter into a detail on that subject, but would content himself with reminding those who used it, that the history of this country had invariably proved that men would spring forward, and have done so on all occasions when the service of their country required them so to do, but that ships were very difficult to be procured. On the contrary, the enemy did not want men, but they were in the greatest want of ships; and, therefore, depriving them of 16 sail of the line was of the utmost importance in the present state of affairs in Europe. If the arguments of the noble and learned lord were true, that 40 shipwrights could build a ship of the line in 12 months, and that from the number the ruler of France had it in his power to employ, he might obtain 100 sail of the line in a year, it was the more necessary to deprive him of all contingent assistance. The supporters of the motion did not, he said, condescend to bestow on him and his colleagues, who
were poor weak men devoid of ta same portion of allowance they h to others in similar circumstances the so-much-talked-of capital of was attacked on a former occasion the administration of the noble consequence of the court of Denm ing become a party to the armed hity, a ship had been taken. Di ble visc. in his generosity, dign magnanimity, give up that ship she was taken into actual servi the same circumstance took place ing her, which had been so much ject of sarcasm and censure in tha her name was changed, and from stein she was christened the Na was evident, therefore, that what found so much fault with in the of the present ministers, had b tually the practice of their prede and as he could not view this m any other light than a palpable an right censure of the expedition, w received the approbation of their lo he must give his decided negative
Lord Grenville denied that th had yet come to a decision on th of the expedition to Denmark; dence relative to which had not b before it. If, therefore, the ho decided, it must have decided evidence, from which, indeed, it too willing to turn aside. The un ness to look at, much less to exan merits of this case, was but too and general. Even its warmest a betrayed their feeling of its real ch by their anxiety to rescue it from gation, and to pronounce on it evidence. When this measure v talked of, it was attempted to be by the allegation of some secret art the treaty of Tilsit, tantamount to lation for the surrender of the Dan to France; and certainly that all had considerable weight with his n no doubt it had with that of other the manner in which this allegati afterwards sustained, the successi lications which served step after fritter away its force, speedily led the opinion, that the ground upon the supporters of the expedition p to act was utterly untenable.-W gard to the doctrine, that the un disposition of Denmark towards thi try was a justifiable cause of war, tl lord in the most impressive ter tested against it. According to