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Mr. Sturges Bourne denied that his noble friend had used this letter for the purpose of influencing the decision of the house. He had been present when his noble friend made the speech which caused so considerable an impression, and he well recollected, that his noble friend stated the general fact of which he was in possession; and that it was not until in reply to a question put to him by the hon. gent. opposite, that he added that he had communicated that fact in a private letter to the right hon. secretary of state. If he abstained from going any further into this subject, at present, he begged to be understood, that he was not deterred from doing so by the high and dictatorial tone which the hon. mover, on this as well as on many other occasions, chose to assume. house and the public, would judge of the consistency of the hon. gentlemen oppo
refused to produce, on the only two occasions on which they were required to produce them, papers moved for by his hon. friends, but who now, after having exhausted their motions for public documents, were driven to the necessity of moving for the unwarrantable production of privatè correspondence.
ther the letter ought to be produced? If the letter had been kept altogether private, then there could be no call for its production, for there could have been no knowledge of its existence. But the case was not, whether a letter, said to be private, should be permitted to remain so; but whether one publicly brought forward, and made use of to influence the vote of the house, by one of the parties, should be produced in a tangible and authenticated state. A letter, though private, might relate to public affairs, and a minister might, to a certain degree, act upon it without thinking proper to produce it, but resting upon his general responsibility. But, when a letter of this kind was quoted by the writer, with a view to make an impression on parliament, the question was, whether that did not become evidence which before was not so; and whether it ought not therefore to be produced, sub-site, who, when they were in office, had ject, of course, to that sort of discretion which ministers must exercise, even with respect to public dispatches. As this was, in some measure, a new case, attention must be given to its nature, not only with a view to the present question, but in order to settle a rule for the future. Considering the matter in this light, the first thing that occurred was, that the public business might be managed by a private correspondence of this sort, in a way which would place the whole out of the reach of parliament. Some might remember how this principle was made use of in the trial of Mr. Hastings, where it appeared that, under the pretence of private correspondence, the salutary order of the Company, that all correspondence should be in writing, was evaded. The public trust was liable to be abused in the same manner; and the wholesome rule was, that when letters had forfeited their character of privacy, by being brought forward to influence the vote of the house, they should then only be protected by the same discretion to which even public dispatches were subject. What had we to justify the expedition to Denmark? Secret articles and private letters; the most convenient things for a bad minister that could possibly be imagined. This might mark the evil that would result from a principle of this kind, and, upon the whole, there was no comparison between the balance of danger from concealment and publicity. The ministers having then quoted the letter in question for their own purposes, the house had a right to its production... VOL. X.
Dr. Laurence observed, that the dictatorial tone and manner of the last speaker did not suit well with his complaint against a dictatorial tone and manner in another person. It would have come better from the right hon. secretary opposite, who was so remarkable for levity and jesting, that no one could pretend to equal him, unless he had a jest-book in his hand. As the expressions alluded to had been put in writing, every one must desire to see the whole of the paper, or at least as much as could be produced without detriment to the public service; for though they might have been very fairly stated by the noble lord, as far as he went, yet in the letter they might be so qualified as to make a different, impression. He allowed that stronger ground ought to be laid for the production of a private letter, than for the production of a public dispatch; but, if it was said that a private letter ought not to be produced at all, the doctrine was contrary to the principles of the British constitution; which held publicity, though attended with some disadvantages, to be, on the whole, preferable to secrecy. Information of the most secret nature had often, upon this ground, been produced, with only a concealment of names.
ministers, if their principle of secrecy was adopted, might recline on their bed of roses, or remain concealed, like moles in their apartments under ground, till they happened occasionally to blunder into light.
Mr. Hawkins Browne denied that the noble lord had in a former debate made any quotation from a private letter. He had used the fact in the way of argument, leaving it to the house to give what degree of credit they pleased to his assertion. He thought the production of the letter without the name would not be a sufficient guarantee for the safety of the person from whom the communication was received, and would therefore support the amendment.
Mr. Secretary Canning would fairly state, that he had hitherto abstained from speaking on the subject, because whatever might have been the course of the debate, if it had been possible that the argument of the hon. gent. should have influenced the house, or that the arguments of his noble friend should not have influenced the house on what he conceived to be the clear question before them; if the inclination of the house had shewn itself to be unfavourable to his view of the subject; he should then have stood up, not merely to argue against the motion, but to entreat the house, that if they did not place in him that confidence, without which it was impossible for him adequately to fulfil the duties of his situation, they would permit him to retire, retaining his honour. Not one spark of that honour should he conceive he retained, if he were to divulge that which at the time when it was communicated, and since, and now, he felt, was communicated in confidence. Under that impression, however great the deference which he entertained for the house, and however anxious he was to how to their decision, were that decision to call for the production of the paper in question, he would rather incur their displeasure, than thus compromise, his own. honour and character.. Having said thus much, he, should proceed to remark on some of the arguments that had been urged by the opposite side of the house. A right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) had imagined a possible case in which the private correspondence.between the secretary of state at home and the minister abroad, might be pushed to such an extreme, that all official intercourse might be carried on in that manner, and
the historian be left to search in vain for public documents on which to ground his relations. The impossibility was so erident (since the chasm must so soon be discovered by the colleagues of the minister, and by the sovereign, who could not fail to be surprised at the departure and arrival of messengers without dis patches), that he was astonished how the right hon. gent. (who, to great acuteness of understanding, joined that knowledge of business, which certainly must shew him that acuteness of understanding though theoretically advantageous, might be practically injurious to business) could advance such a monstrous supposition. As his noble friend. had justly stated, many cases must occur, in which a minister ata foreign court might, in his public official dispatches, relate facts and occurrences to his own government, and, at the same time, confide to them, in secret communications, what he conceived to be the springs and motives of those occurrences An ainbassador might be put in possession, through confidential channels, of such information. He might receive it on the score of his own personal character, or be might be trusted, under the understood obligation of his office, by a friend, a mistress, or a courtier of the sovereign, in whose capital he resided. The whole na ture of the information would then consist in the authority, which authority was precisely the circumstance that could not be divulged. Otherwise, when a British minister went to a foreign court, he ought loudly and generally to declare to al about him, do not tell me any thing which you do not wish should be laid be fore the British house of commons.' Un fortunately, too much already had been divulged, and so far from depriving the future historian of his materials, we an ticipated him. It would be easy to point out books that had been translated into other languages, which had caused the disgrace and death of individuals, impli cated by them. But, then, said the hon gent. if this letter was unfit for production, it ought not to have been quoted by the noble lord. The answer to this was, that it had not been quoted by him. His noble friend stated a fact; he was asked by the hon. gent. whether he had stated that fact before, and he answered in a private letter; and this the hon. gent. chose to call a quotation! Of course, the hon. gent. asked his noble friend to reply to this question as a courtesy; for surely
he would not pretend to arrogate to himself the right of demanding from every member in that house an answer to any I question that he might think proper to propose to him. If the hon. gent. did so arrogate, he would say, that to him exclusively he would deny that cour esy. The hon. and learned doctor (Laurence) had taken very angry notice of the manner in which the dictatorial tone of the hon. mover had been reprehended. For himself, he could not say that the tone of the hon. mover had been much higher tonight than he usually chose to pitch it; and he hoped it would not make greater impression on the house than it usually had made. With respect to the arguments of the hon. and learned doctor on the question before the house, he had himself anticipated the answer to them, by admitting that, prima facie, strong ground must be laid for the production of a private letter, and if any names which it contained ought in discretion to be suppressed, they should be so suppressed. How did this apply to the present case, in which the name was identically the matter of consequence? If the learned doctor discredited the statements of his noble friend, let him say so. Such a proceeding, though not very civil, would at least be intelligible; but it was most extraordinary, by way of putting his noble friend's truth to the test, to move for the production of a letter, the only part of which by which his veracity could be ascertained, must be suppressed!--The right hon. secretary proceeded to state on what grounds he supported the other part of the amendment proposed by his noble friend. Since the speech of his noble friend on a former night, an attempt had been revived to prejudice in the minds of the public that administration in the year 1805, which had endeavoured to establish a continental coalition against France. He would not now enter fully on this subject, not conceiving that it was comprised in the hon. gent.'s notice, although he should always be prepared to meet any attack on the merits of the great individual, now no more, who had so principal a share in that transaction. It had been thought by the hon. gentlemen opposite, that in the speech of his noble friend they had found something derogating from the policy of that confederacy; on the ground that the administration of that day were content to sacrifice to its accomplishment a question in which the country had ever felt deeply
interested. and in which it must now feel more deeply interested than ever-the maritime rights of England. The reverse of this was the fact. If the hon. gent. had attended accurately to his noble friend, he must have been convinced, that the form of the declaration was of itself a proof, that it was not a matter of concession. Had it been so, it would have made part of the price of that concession: it would have made part of the treaty. What was it, that at that time, under the appellation of the law of nations,' attracted the attention of Europe? So far was this term from applying to our maritime right, that it never happened that in any public document the maritime code was meant or mentioned. What were the cases to which that expression referred? The recent seizure of the duke D'Enghien on neutral territory, and dragging him to slaughter; the recent seizure of a British minister (sir T. Rumbold), on neutral territory, and carrying him prisoner to France. Did the hon. gent. see nothing in this seizure of a British minister, and this murder of a French prince, but that which must attract the attention of the continent to the maritime code of Great Britain? On that maritime code, a separate provision had been proposed, in an article to which his noble friend on the part of G. Britain had refused to be a party. By the first of the papers which would be produced, in consequence of the motion before the house, being a dispatch dated the 7th of April, it would be found, that his noble friend had declared, that no consideration whatever, not even the certainty of a total rupture with the confederating powers, would induce him to consent to the proposition made by the Russian minister, to submit the maritime code of G. Britain to a congress of the great powers of Europe; and that he was fully authorised to declare, that the British government would never consent to such a reference or interference. Was this the language, were these the symptoms, of concession? Unquestionably, after the rejection of the article proposed, after the signature of the treaty, his noble friend had received and transmitted home the Declaration alluded to; but he had it not in his discretion to refuse to do this; and he accompanied the reception of the Decla ration with a strong expression of his regret, that his imperial majesty had thought it
necessary to make it, and with a firm repetition of what he knew to be the sentiments of his court on the subject. Did
his noble friend forfeit the favour of his sovereign by this conduct? Were his majesty's ministers lukewarm on the occasion? On the contrary, as would appear by the papers when produced, on the reception of the treaty, lord Mulgrave wrote to his noble friend, expressing his majesty's approbation of his proceedings, and declared his majesty's determination not to submit his rights of maritime war to any mediation whatever. This was during Mr. Pitt's administration. Nor was this determination concealed from the foreign ministers; for the copy of a letter of the same date from lord Mulgrave to the Russian ambassador would be produced, in which his lordship expressed similar sentiments; declared that no statesman would ever be found in this country, who would venture to unsettle that on which the power and prosperity of the country rested; and stated, that his noble friend had discharged a decided duty in the rejection of the proposition that had been made to him. Where was here the sacrifice of honour and of rights? Whatever the hon. gent. might think of other parts of his noble friend's character, they must know his candour too well to suppose that his observations on a former evening were intended for the purpose of producing, not an exculpation, but a panegyric on the conduct by which he evinced, that he was determined not to compromise that which was the solid foundation of the power of this country. He congratulated the house and the public, that such a determination had been evinced. He trusted that similar principles to those which pervaded this negotiation, would pervade any other negotiation in any other hands. He trusted that the great example which the administration of that day had set,by refusing to purchase an object, however desirable and important, by the sacrifice of that which was not the peculiar strength of Britain alone, but which was the source and support of the general strength, by which that object appeared to be attainable, he trusted that that example would be followed to the end of time. He trusted that what we had not given to acquire a great good, we should never give even to avert a great evil. He trusted that what we had refused to grant to the request of friendship, would never be extorted from us by the menaces of hostility.
Mr. Whitbread, adverting to the personal imputations that had been cast upon him
in the course of the debate, observed, that if there was any thing dictatorial in his manner, he was sure that such manner could less become any man in that house than himself, who had so few pretensions to assume it. As a member of parliament however, he did not arrogate great privileges, and he never would allow those privileges to be derogated from by those, who in the most dictatorial manner charged him with being dictatorial; and who in the most arrogant manner accused him of arrogance. To the right hon. secretary who had treated him with so much freedom, he would say, that the vices of his manner were levity and misrepresentation. The first was manifested in the mode in which that right hon. gent. jeered his hon. and learned friend near him (Dr. Laurence), one ounce of whose sterling worth he would not exchange for all the gilt gingerbread on the other side of the house. Of the second vice of his manner, misrepresentation, he had given a striking instance, by introducing a debate on papers, before the papers were laid on the table, and by pronouncing a panegyric on the noble lord, before the house was in possession of the means of ascertaining whether that panegyric was well or ill-founded. As to the inutility of presenting the letter with the names suppressed, it would be advantageous to have it even in that shape. The mere declaration of the noble lord was fugitive, and could not be made the ground of any subsequent parliamentary proceeding. He could not see the necessity under which the right hon. secretary would labour of resigning, were his motion agreed to. That dreadful calamity to the country surely need not take place; but, dreadful as it would be, he owned he would rather see the right hon. gent. quit office in that manner, than that he should be turned out by the dark junto which lurked about the throne. He repeated his former assertions as to the unfair manner in which Mr. Garlike and lord Hutchinson had been treated, and after some other observations, concluded by calling upon the house to take this opportunity of asserting their rights to have formally before them, that which was used in debate for the purpose of influencing their judgment.
A division then took place, when the numbers were: For the amendment, 114; For the original motion, 50. Majori ty, 64.