HC Deb 04 February 1807 vol 8 cc620-56
Mr. Perceval

rose pursuant to the notice he had given above a fortnight since, for the purpose of moving for the production of the Order of Council of the 7th of January last, relative to vessels sailing from port to port, such ports respectively being in the possession of France or of her allies;—a paper which, when produced, the house, he had no doubt, would think deserving of their most serious attention. But, however important the subject, and however serious the consideration which the paper deserved, yet he apprehended that he might appear to want an apology for himself, for having given to the motion which he was about to submit to the house, so much pomp and solemnity, by a notice so extended. Because, when it was understood that this motion was merely for the production of a paper which was already before the public, and known to all; which must have been in the possession of every one accustomed to enter a coffee-house, or read a newspaper for more than a month, which, in order to give it every possible publicity, authenticity, and authority, had been inserted in the London Gazette; and which, from its reference to the law of nations, and the regulation of neutral trade, was in its nature calculated to excite attention; he was apprehensive that those who were not in the house on the other night when this matter was under consideration, might suppose that he was acting an idle and injudicious part, in giving a distant notice of a motion for the production of a document which every one would consider, at the first view, as a thing to be granted of course. In this situation he felt it due to himself to state the real circumstances of the case.—When he first intended to make this motion, he naturally concluded that there could be no objection to it, and that it would of course be complied with, and therefore he gave notice that he would move for the paper on the following day. On his coming to the house for that purpose, the noble lord opposite (Howick) very openly and candidly stated that it was his intention to oppose it. He conceived that the ground of objection must be that the paper was already before the public, and that therefore the production of it was useless and unnecessary. But it was admitted that when any subsequent motion was intended to be founded upon any great public document, the regular and ordinary mode of proceeding was to bring that document formally before the house. He therefore found that this was not the ground of objection. He was desirous, however, that the house should be in possession of the real ground, whatever it might be, and therefore requested the noble lord to state openly, whether that was his objection, or whether he had a different one. The noble lord accordingly stated that this was not the ground on which he meant to object to his motion. He admitted that the regular and proper mode of proceeding, with a view to a subsequent motion, was to move, in the first instance, for the production of the document on which it was to be founded. But the noble lord stated, that he would oppose it, because he could not anticipate any measure that could be founded on it, to which he should not feel it his duty to object; and therefore, he would not even go so far as to countenance that subsequent measure, by acceding to the production of the paper. Under these circumstances, he was unwilling to bring the house prematurely to a discus- sion involving so many extraordinary considerations, and charged with doctrines and principles so entirely new. The abilities of the noble lord opposite, the eloquence with which he always enforced his sentiments, and the influence which justly and naturally belonged to the station he held, rendered it unwise to oppose him without having first made that preparation which was essential to the discussion which was to result from agitating so important a question under such extraordinary circumstances. But, it would be obvious to every one who was acquainted with the principles of parliamentary proceedings, and more strikingly so to those who were acquainted with the principles maintained by the noble lord and his friends, while they sat on the side of the house from which he (Mr. P.) now addressed the chair, what a novel and extraordinary, what an unparliamentary and unconstitutional doctrine it was, that no motion for papers should be offered to the house unless it should, at the same time, be shewn, that no proceeding was to be founded on those papers but such as government would countenance. He hoped the house would not countenance a precedent as different from its former practice as the noble lord's doctrine was from the tenets he and his friends had formerly maintained. He had been disposed to think the noble lord would have anticipated this motion by some previous statement, either to defend his principle or to withdraw his opposition. The paper itself was a measure of government, published with great care and anxiety, and intended to be acted upon. Ministers admitted, that the ground of objection was not, that the paper would be made known by this motion, but that it would be rendered too public. The paper was already known over this country, it was open to the inspection of all men; it was known over all Europe; and yet after all, the only persons, who were not to be allowed to see the paper, were those who were called upon particularly to discuss it. The representatives of the people, who were to approve, or to disapprove what was done in the interests of their constituents, were refused the means by which to direct their judgement. He was persuaded the house would feel that this refusal was no less unprecedented than it was unprincipled; and if the house should abandon their right to call for papers of this nature, they would abandon the means of prosecuting any enquiry into measures of administration, and establish a principle which would be in the highest degree disadvantageous, and would be attended with the most deplorable and ruinous consequences. The ordinary grounds of objection were not stated in this case; there was no mention of any inconvenience that would attend the production of this paper; no mention of the length of time which would be required to prepare it; no mention of the trouble and labour to which the public offices would be exposed. It was not stated that it was from any idle curiosity that it was called for, and, what was the most serious objection, it was not stated that any mischief could arise from that publicity which would be the consequence of discussion; for the paper was already as publicly known as it could be. Under these circumstances, could the house refuse to accede to his motion? The subject was acknowledged to be of a magnitude to require the attention of parliament, and the production of the papers was resisted merely upon the ground that no motion was to be founded on it to which government was disposed to give its approbation. Then suppose, for the sake of argument, that it was admitted that the noble lord would be able to satisfy the house that there were no grounds for any subsequent motion; suppose it should be admitted that after discussion the house ought to be perfectly satisfied with what had been already done by ministers, and should be of opinion that they acted wisely and properly in doing no more: though this should be conceded, did it therefore follow that the necessity for discussion was superseded, or that the house ought to rest on the authority of any minister who should take it upon himself to dictate to the house, and say, that enough had been done, and that there was no need of discussion? He never heard reasoning more completely irregular than that upon which the noble lord seemed disposed to rest his case. It was admitted that the document ought to be on the table, in order to lay the foundation for discussion. The document therefore was necessary to lay the ground of discussion; but we could not get the paper without first entering upon the discussion; therefore the discussion was necessary in order to procure the paper, and yet there could be no discussion till the paper was produced. This was a com- plete circle. The magnitude of the measure was a sufficient ground for the production of the paper: and, even if the noble lord could satisfy the house that it was not probable, that upon discussion, any fault could be found with the measures which had been adopted, still that would not be a proper ground for refusing to accede to this motion. But here ministers were so confident, that they would not even allow the house to deliberate upon the case, to point out any errors, or to shew where improvements and useful alterations might be introduced. They would not even allow them to consider whether any such alterations were required. He could not conceive how, for the credit of the measure itself, they could resist discussion. If the measure was a wise one, it would well bear discussion, and it would be advantageous to government, that it should be seen and shewn, for then the government itself would rise in credit and estimation, and the whole measure would be much more complete and satisfactory. But, if there was any other opinion respecting the measure; if there were doubts as to its wisdom or its policy, then indeed, he could conceive, that there might be objections to the production of this paper, and that the subsequent motion would not be such as would be agreeable to the noble lord. If there was a little consciousness that the measure could not be defended on principle, and that there was a defect in the execution; if, where there ought to be vigour, there was languor; if, where there ought to be strength, there was weakness; then the noble lord might be disposed to oppose the motion. This led him to say that the house might reasonably doubt whether the alleged ground of opposition constituted the real one. If the reason of his opposition was that which he alleged, namely, an unwillingness, so far to countenance any future motion that might be founded on this paper, as to agree to its production, he might say that he would not pledge himself to agree to any subsequent motion, and he might even disavow the implication which his assent might possibly occasion. This would put him exactly in the situation in which he said he desired to be placed. But really it was scarcely possible for him to conceive any rational ground of objection to this motion. There were two objections only which could possibly enter into his imagination. First, it might be desirable for the noble lord to know how far his influence over the members of this house might extend; how far they would submit their reason and their consciences to the controul and direction of the noble lord and think, speak, and act precisely as he would have them. If that was the object of the noble lord, then indeed it must be admitted that this was a favourable opportunity. To those who before sat with him on the opposition side of the house, he might say, "To you who followed me when we were in opposition, in calling for papers, and were convinced by the arguments which I then used, I will now shew the fertility of my invention, the versatility of my genius, and the abundance which I possess of powerful, cogent, and irresistible arguments. By these means I shall satisfy you, that the course which we before pursued ought now to be abandoned, and that as we have got to another side of the house, we ought to adopt new principles of conduct; only rely on me, while you trace back your former steps, and believe that though our arguments were good against the former ministers, yet the same arguments are bad when urged against ourselves." —There might be another ground of objection more dangerous than the one he had mentioned. He said more dangerous, because in this country when authority was carried to too great a length, it could not be of long continuance. The abuse of authority here was not the way to maintain it, and the attempt to force the opinions of the members of this house, would in the end be fatal to those who acted on such a principle. But what he was particularly apprehensive of was the precedent, which would be one of the most mischievous that could be conceived. It might be said here, that no inconvenience would result from the refusal to produce this paper. It was publicly known, and there was no occasion for producing it in a formal way. But, it the principle was once established, what would follow with respect to papers relative to negotiations for peace, or treaties of any sort? If there should be treaties where the rights of this country would be abandoned, we could only have surmises about the matter. If we asked for them, we should be told that ministers would oppose their production, because they could not conceive that motions could be founded on them to which they would be disposed to agree. Unless therefore, a case was made out in the first instance, no papers could be produced, though from the nature of the thing, the papers were absolutely necessary to lay the foundation of the case. The circular reasoning would be a constant resource, and the consequence would be, that the house of commons must blindly submit to the judgment of ministers. The noble lord opposite, had said on a former night, that no taunt should drive him from pursuing what he held to be his duty on the side of the house on which he sat, however inconsistent with his conduct on the other side. On the occasion to which he alluded, the Motion for printing the Army Estimates, the noble lord had to contend against a special precedent. In the present instance, he had to contend against universal usage, for there was not single instance before, of a paper of this kind being refused. But it was not with their former principles, but with their present professions that he wished to compare the conduct of the hon. gentlemen opposite.* How would their conduct upon the present occasion correspond with the desire they professed of giving all possible information, and facilitating every investigation with respect to their conduct. The noble lord opposite (lord II. Petty) had stated as the rule of his conduct, and that of his colleagues, the principle of the Roman Moralist, who wished to live in a house encompassed with glass windows, so that all his actions might be seen from every side. It might now be said to the noble philosopher, "there you are in your glass house, but you are so much afraid of the glass being broken, that we must not approach near enough to look at you." (A laugh.)—He believed he had now said enough to induce the house to vote for the production of this paper. But though he had done this, yet he thought it necessary to enter a little into the subject matter of the order of council, not at this time with a view to persuade the house to adopt any measure which he might think himself called upon to recommend in case his present motion was acceded to, but in order to shew that he had not resolved to move for the production of this paper without reason, and that there were serious grounds for a consideration of it. For this purpose he would call their attention to the order of council of the 7th of January; he would state that order, and what it recited. The recital was, "Where- * See vol. vi. p. 575. as, the French government has issued certain orders which, in violation of the usages of war, prohibit the commerce of all neutral nations with his majesty's dominions, and also to prevent such nations from trading with any other country in any articles, the growth, produce, or manufacture of his majesty's dominions; and whereas the said government has also taken upon itself to declare all his majesty's dominions to be in a state of blockade; and whereas such attempts on the part of the enemy would give to his majesty an unquestionable right of retaliation, and would warrant his majesty in enforcing the same prohibition of all commerce with France: and whereas his majesty, though unwilling to follow the example of his enemies, by proceeding to an extremity so distressing to all the nations not engaged in the war, yet he feels himself bound not to suffer such measures to be taken by the enemy without taking some steps on his part to restrain the violence, and to retort upon them the evils of their own injustice." After this recital, the paper went on to order, "that no vessel shall be permitted to trade from one port to another, both which ports shall belong to, or be in possession of France or her allies." Here it was stated that we had a full right to retaliate, an assertion which he would not dispute, for he entirely concurred in its justice. On the contrary, he thought that we ought to have retaliated, not on neutrals, but on the enemy, however hard that retaliation might prove upon neutrals. He would not go so far as to say, that if this violation of the law of nations had been merely accidental, or confined to some small territory, that we either had the full right or ought in reason to have applied the same principles universally; but where the principle was adopted and applied in its widest extent by our enemy, it was the maddest proposition that ever was laid down, that any belligerent power should be restrained by laws which its enemies had renounced. When we turned to the French decree, there was an avowal that they were not to be bound by the law of nations. Here it was necessary to attend to the considerations that induced states to accede to the law of nations. They did it with a view to the interest of nations in general, and of course expected that others would submit to it; for if others would not, then they suffered a manifest injury, and did not act so as to maintain their just and proper rights. Now the French decree recited, "that England had ceased to observe the law of nations; that she extended the right of conquest to the cargoes and property of individuals, and that she had monstrously abused the right of blockade, with a view to aggrandize the commerce and industry of England at the expence of other nations, between whom the communication was impeded. That as this was the object of England, all those who carried on traffic in English commodities on the continent, seconded her views, and rendered themselves her accomplices; and that France had a right to employ the same weapons against England, that England employed against her." It then went on to order, that "the consequences of the decree should be considered as fixed and fundamental laws of the empire, so long as England refused to acknowledge one and the same law, as applicable both to sea and land, and till she ceased to consider private property as good prize, and that all commerce and all correspondence with the British isles should be prohibited." Here then it was decreed, that till Britain renounced the right to capture private property, which was a right recognized by the law of nations, it was to be made a fundamental and fixed law of the French empire, that all commerce with the British isles should be prohibited. It was unnecessary for him to go on to prove the right of retaliation, because that was announced by the government in the order of council. But, when it became matter of doubt whether this right had been acted upon, it was not sufficient for government to say that they had acted upon it; that was a matter to be considered and discussed by the house. But if this right was conceded, it then became a question, whether it was politic or expedient to exercise that right, and to what extent. Now, that it was expedient and politic to act upon this right, he had the authority of the order of council itself for maintaining, for it was there stated, "that his majesty felt himself bound to take some steps to restrain this violence and turn upon the enemy the evils of which they themselves had been the authors." It was therefore admitted that we had the right to retaliate, and that it was expedient to act to a certain degree on that right.—This being admitted, the only question that remained was, as to the extent to which it ought to be acted upon. He wished the house to attend to the data upon which he had proceeded so far. The right was admitted to retaliate to the full extent, but if we had a right to destroy the enemy's commerce entirely, then it followed as a corollary, that we had a right to do it with some conditions. These being conceded, to what extent ought we to proceed? In order to form a correct opinion on this point, it was necessary to consider the views which we ought to have in resorting to measures of retaliation at all. Now, there were two objects which we ought to have in view, the right and the expediency being clear. First, we ought to retaliate in the mode best suited to counteract the evil effects resulting to ourselves from the measures of our enemies; and secondly, we ought to retaliate so as to make our enemies feel as much as possible the evil of their own injustice, as the words of the order had it. Now, if these were the principles on which we ought to have proceeded, then he might venture to say, that the portion of the enemy's trade, which had been selected as the object of retaliation, was that portion which offered not one of the advantages in view, to any thing like the extent in which they would have been furnished by other trades. The first object was the greatest, and that was to counteract the effects of the enemy's measures, and make the evils be felt as little as possible by ourselves. Then it could hardly be said, that stopping the coasting-trade of the enemy was the best way to answer that purpose. But what was the mischief? He hoped that the effects of the enemy's measures would be in a great degree counteracted by the elastic principle of trade itself, and that our commodities would find their way to the continent, in spite of all prohibitions. But no one could doubt that some mischief would be done. None could doubt that the hazard and inconvenience would send our commodities to the foreign market at an increased price. Something at least would be added to the insurance, from the risk of capture and confiscation, and this would force the seller to enhance his price, and consequently enable others to come into competition with him, and even to undersell him. It must therefore be clear, that though our commodities should not be excluded from the continent, they must find their way there, with greater inconvenience, and at an advanced price. Why, then, if there were goods, which were almost excluded from the continent by the increased risk, inconvenience, and increased price consequent on a state of war, they must by this additional burthen be totally prevented. In that point of view, it was impossible to consider the order of council as affording us any relief. Then, if this was so, it remained to look at the other object, which was to distress our enemies as much as possible. Now, the order ought to be made to bear on the trade which we could most effectually destroy. The coasting trade! Was that the trade most easily interrupted, when the vessels could so easily run into creeks and get under the protection of their batteries? It must be evident, that it would be impossible to make any very serious impression on this trade. But supposing that it could be effectually prevented, he would ask, whether that was the way in which the greatest mischief could be done to the enemy? He allowed that the interruption of this trade would be mischievous to the enemy, and therefore he would by no means preclude the government from retaliating in that way. But every body must be sensible that this trade was in a great measure internal, and that it could be carried on by land as well as by sea, though not with the same ease and convenience. The Brest fleet, for instance, might be perfectly well supplied by land carriage, though the coasting trade should be annihilated. We might press heavily upon the internal trade of France by this means, but we could never prohibit it. Now, if there was any trade by interrupting or preventing which we could in a great measure, or completely, exclude certain necessary commodities from that part of the continent under the dominion of France, that was the trade which ought to have been preferred for the purposes of retaliation. The house might have anticipated him in what he was going to say. But he begged to be understood as not peremptorily insisting upon any particular measures, as those which ought certainly to have been adopted. All he wished to do was, to shew that there was much reason to doubt whether the measure that had been adopted by government was the most efficient that could have been adopted under the present circumstances. He thought that the best plan would have been to prevent the importation of the commodities of the co- lonies of France and Spain into France, and the countries under her dominion. Suppose that we could not succeed in doing this completely, yet we should increase the cost, and render the conveyance more perilous. We should enhance the price of these articles, and enable our own commodities to meet them with advantage. We should improve the market, therefore, for our own merchants and manufacturers, and promote the sale of their goods. We should then have that trade which could be most easily interrupted, and which our enemy could not extricate from our grasp, and he would literally be made to feel the evil effects of his own injustice. It might be said that this would interrupt the accustomed trade of neutrals. But to interrupt the trade of their colonies to France and Spain was, most of all others, that which would least interrupt the accustomed trade of neutrals. It had been said, that this subject ought not to be discussed until the time when the stipulations of the treaty with America would come regularly before the house. He disclaimed all sort of animadversion on that treaty, as the noble lord had distinctly declared, that his majesty had reserved to himself a right to retaliate to the same extent to which the enemy had carried their unjust aggressions. But at the same time he must say, that he could not conceive what was the value of that right unless it was acted upon.—If, then, the measure of government on this subject was not so adequate as it might have been, upon what ground was it, he would ask, that the means were refused of considering whether any measure more effective might not be adopted? It might be said, that this was from our fear of neutrals, for we might apprehend some danger if we proceeded to vigorous measures without consulting them. This, however, was not a defence for government, for they had done something already without consulting neutrals. But, if our right was clear and manifest, there was no necessity for consulting them. All that they could reasonably expect was, a notice. Those already on their voyages should not be interrupted, and this was all that they could reasonably hope. A reasonable time ought to be allowed them for receiving information, as had been provided for in the order. They could claim nothing farther. But, could you say that your apprehension of neutrals was the ground of this very lenient procedure? This would not be avow- ed by any government. But there was great reason to suppose that this was the true ground when it was considered that the negociation with America was going on at the time of the passing of the non-importation act, and concluded before that act was suspended; and those who said that this act had produced a wholesome effect, would, when they knew this circumstance, find that they had better authority for saying so than they at first imagined. But, if you should be right in point of justice, the pressure of your measures on neutrals was not to be ascribed to any fault of yours. The blame rested with the enemy who forced you to adopt them. He was therefore at a loss to conceive upon what principle it was, that something like these measures, which he had mentioned, had not been carried into execution by government. But there was another measure. You might turn the provisions of the French decree against themselves, and as they have said that no British goods should sail freely on the seas, you might say that no goods should be carried to France, except they first touched at a British port. They might be forced to be entered at the custom-house, and a certain entry imposed, which would contribute to enhance the price, and give a better sale in the foreign market to your own commodities.—Having stated this, he did not go the length of saying that we ought to retaliate to the full extent of our right. All that he said was, that the measure adopted by government was inadequate, and the motion which he meant to have made would not have gone farther than to state that ministers had not taken the most effectual means to avert the evils of our enemy's injustice from ourselves, or to retaliate to the proper extent upon him. If this motion had passed, he meant to have left it on the table, that ministers, influenced by the weight and authority of this house, might have adopted such further measures as might appear best calculated to answer the intended objects. Now, if he had not succeeded in proving that the plan which he had mentioned was the best that could be adopted, he hoped he had at least shewn that there was something in this order of council that deserved the serious attention and consideration of the house, and that there was no principle which could justify the exclusion of the paper itself. Here he would therefore leave the subject, and only further trespass on the attention of the house by moving, "That an humble address be presented to his majesty, praying that his majesty may be graciously pleased to direct, that there be laid before this house, a copy of the Order of his majesty in Council, dated the 7th of January last, relative to vessels sailing from port to port, such ports respectively being in the possession of France or of her allies."

The Advocate-General () sir John Nicholls

began with regretting that he did not feel himself better qualified to resist the arguments, in his mind rather specious than solid, which had been advanced by his hon. and learned friend, in favour of the present motion; but, however inadequate he might be to the task, he certainly should not shrink from the undertaking of briefly stating his reasons for thinking the present motion unnecessary, and that the reasons by which it was attempted to be supported were more indebted to the plausible ingenuity of his hon. and learned friend's mode of putting them, than to any intrinsic force in the arguments themselves. The motion, as to the shape in which it at first presented itself, was certainly liable to no serious objection; but he conceived the question for the house to consider, in the present instance, was, what was the real nature of the motion, and what the ulterior proceedings which were to be founded upon that motion, if acceded to; and in this view he had no hesitation in maintaining, that the present motion was altogether unprecedented. He called upon his hon. and learned friend to adduce an instance in which parliament consented to the production of a paper until the circumstances of the proceedings to be instituted upon the ground of that paper had been clearly and explicitly laid down, and as generally understood. Ignorance, at least, was not among the pretences, for it had been admitted by his learned friend, that the paper in question had appeared in the London Gazette, and had found its way to the table of every coffee-house in London. This not only proved that there was no necessity for any additional information upon this subject, but tended sufficiently to retort any idle jokes that the volatile humour of gentlemen might tempt them to cast upon the alledged mysteriousness of his majesty's government. If the publication of the paper now called for, in every daily vehicle of information, was a mark of mystery, and of the wishes of his majesty's ministers to conceal and to suppress the interesting intelligence therewith connected, he confessed himself totally mistaken in his understanding of the terms secrecy, mystery, and disguise. It was equally unfair to argue, that his majesty's ministers in that house were averse to the production of the paper from an apprehension of an active and searching discussion, which as it was pretended, it might be prudent in them to decline; for, if that were the case, they would not have persisted in that refusal, which more immediately involved them in the supposed difficulty, and gave his learned friend, upon the opposite side, the most plausible pretence upon which he could urge his present motion—a pretence which had been dwelt upon with all his learned friend's characteristic address, but which, at the same time, was certainly rather to be admired for its declamatory display, than assented to for its reasoning force. But leaving all further argument upon this part of the subject, he should now proceed to argue the merits of the case, as if the document required were really before the house: confident, as he was, that whenever it should be expedient to produce that document, the measure would not be found likely to produce those effects which his hon. and learned friend had been pleased to attribute to it. The conduct of the French government, in issuing the edict alluded to by his hon. and learned friend, was allowed on all hands to be in direct violation of the law of nations, and of the rights of neutral powers, with a view solely to destroy, if possible, the commerce of this country: or what were its tenour and purport? Why, to declare, forsooth, all the ports of the British isles in a state of blockade (although France was not able to send a single ship to the mouth of any one of them, to support the manifesto), and to announce her determination to capture and confiscate every neutral ship, with its cargo, that shall have touched at any of those ports, on its way to a continental port, or shall be found approaching thereto, until Great Britain shall have renounced the right of capturing the private ships of any nation with which she may be at war, and to confine the exercise of the right of capture merely to the ships and vessels belonging to the government of the belligerent nation. But this was a principle as novel in the usages of war between belligerent powers, as the edict itself was contrary to the law of nations. The usage of capturing the commercial ships and cargoes of an enemy at war was, he contended, as old as war itself; it was an usage asserted by every nation, and a right still more important than that of capturing an enemy's ship of war; because the commercial vessels of an enemy contributed so greatly to increase his revenues and resources for carrying on and protracting war; and yet this was the sole ground of pretence upon which the French government proceeded to declare the ports of these islands in a state of blockade! His hon. and learned friend did not venture to sustain the conduct of France on this occasion; he was of opinion, that neutral nations had full right to retaliate; and that those nations would allow the like right to this country, and of having recourse to similar means for distressing an enemy, who had so flagrantly outraged the law of nations. The question, then, to be considered was merely, to what extent it would be politic and advisable to exercise that right, without first giving due notice to those nations? Were we to press and crush unoffending merchants by the actual execution of severities to the utmost extent of the enemy's menace? He believed the house would not go with his hon. and learned friend so far, but would rather prefer mild and moderate measures at first, if likely to be efficacious. It became a great and magnanimous nation to be always moderate in the application of its power; and he was sure the house would approve of the reluctance with which his majesty's ministers yielded to the necessity of adopting measures of retaliation upon the enemy which would occasion so much distress on neutrals. It was not denied that some steps in retaliation were necessary, and the question was, how far the ships that had been taken were adequate; his honourable friend said, we ought to have gone the length of interdicting all commerce with France, and suggested some measures which the house was to compare with those of ministers now carrying into execution. It was necessary to allow a fair trial to what ministers had adopted. A total prohibition of all commerce in the produce of the enemy would be attended with the most distressing consequences to the few provinces that remained neutral, and perhaps with some mischief to ourselves. Spain, Italy, Holland, the North of Germany, all the coast from the Elbe to the gulph of Venice, with the exception of Portugal, were under the dominion of France, and all powers that covered this extent of country were leagued with her in the war; and on the other side were Russia, Prussia, and Sweden, co-operating with us. The only powers that were neutral, were Austria, which had only the single port of Triest; Denmark, which had no means of supplying its colonies, or of disposing of its colonial produce, if we carried a general interdict into execution; Portugal, which would feel the same disabilities; and America, with respect to which such an interdict would be the means of infinite distress. He could discover that a jealousy of America was at the bottom of all these complaints. But was it to be conceived that we also should not suffer by adopting and enforcing a total interdict? For if we shut the door upon neutral commerce, we must also shut it in a great degree, upon our own. If the commerce of neutrals with the continent was stopped, we must be totally debarred from all access to the continental market. If neutrals are deprived of the continental market for their colonial produce, they will not have the means of purchasing from us. America exports to the continental nations, but imports chiefly from Great Britain. The commerce of neutrals with our enemies was also necessary to us in another view. We wanted some of the produce of the enemy's country for our manufactures; the silks of Italy for instance, and the wools of Spain. We wanted a little of the wines and brandies of France to cheer and comfort us. France had no maritime power to enforce her decree; but if her intimidation deterred neutrals from coming to us, it would be then time enough to recur to extreme severity. The restriction of the commerce between one port of the enemy and another, was the measure of present retaliation, which it was conceived would fall heaviest on the enemy, with the least possible annoyance to neutrals. Much trade was carried on from port to port of the enemy under neutral names. The whole trade of the enemy was, in fact, carried on under a system of neutralization. This trade from port to port of the enemy, was a trade in which neutrals were not concerned in time of peace, though they had a right to exercise it. Their interference in it increased in proportion as our maritime superiority grew on the destruction of the marine of the enemy. In times when maritime power was nearly ba- lanced, every country carried on this trade in its own bottoms by means of convoys. It was thus carried on in time of peace. The restriction now imposed, while it would be very annoying to the enemy, would still allow to neutrals a gainful commerce, by making their ports the entrepôts between one enemy's port and another. It was honourable to us as a great nation, that in proportion as the enemy was violent, we were moderate. Our moderation would be, besides the means of procuring us the supplies of the articles we wanted from the enemy, and of introducing our commodities among them. He would ask, whether the intervention of neutrals would not afford a great facility to what Buonaparte was most hostile to, the introduction of British goods into the countries under his controul, and our obtaining from those countries the supplies we wanted from them. The commerce from port to port, in a line of coast extending from the Elbe to Venice, with the exception of Portugal, could not be carried on by small craft, creeping along shore under the protection of batteries. Small craft could not creep from Amsterdam to Bourdeaux, from Bourdeaux to Barcelona, from thence to Leghorn, and from Leghorn to Venice. The number of vessels employed under the system of neutralization in this extent was very great, and the trade itself was of vital importance to France; and was it to be contended, that the application of our maritime superiority to the prevention of this trade on so vast a line of coast, was a measure that would be attended with no effect, at a time when our cruizers were so numerous on every station, that no ship could move without the greatest risk of being captured? The learned gent. then adverted to the opinion of an hon. and learned friend (sir W. Scott) who presided over the admiralty court, relative to the importance and extent of the coasting trade. This was an authority which the house would look to with respect. The opinion had been stated by that learned gent. in giving judgement in a cause tried before him, and the coasting trade was represented by him as one of the greatest accommodations to any country. Some conception might be formed of the importance of it, if gentlemen would suppose France to be possessed of the same naval superiority, which this country at present had, and that the coals of Newcastle were to be brought to the port of London, and every other necessary for the consumption of this great metropolis, in neutral vessels. His hon. and learned friend, therefore, was not correct in stating that the interruption of the coasting trade would be no great injury to France, or that the order of council for that purpose signified nothing. That order was but one step, and an important step, of those that would, if necessary, be resorted to for retaliation. From the manner in which this subject had been treated, it might be supposed that no such measure as that of the enemy had ever been resorted to before. But in the administration of that illustrious statesman, now no more, (Mr. Pitt) and whose loss he regretted as much as any member of that house, much more rigorous measures had been resorted to by the enemy than the present. In the year 1797, after the French had made peace with Austria, and the army, which had been arrogantly called the Army of England, had been collected at Brest, with a view to turn their whole force against this country; in that year, on the 29th Nivose, year six, that is, in Christian language, on the 19th day of January, 1798, a decree was passed by the French government, making all vessels that should be freighted in the whole or in part with English commodities, good prizes. A vessel proceeding from Copenhagen to Tranquebar, or from Lisbon to the Brazils, which had but a single bale of English goods on board, was to be confiscated, if captured by French cruizers. The house would perceive that the former decree was much more atrocious than the late one. In order to shew what had been the feeling of the neutral nations on the subject of that decree, he need only refer to the speech of the president of the United States on opening the session of congress, on the 8th of December, 1798, in which he declared, that "as the decree of the 19th of the preceding January was still in force, in consequence of the failure of an attempt to procure its repeal, he considered it as an unequivocal act of war, and a breach of the independence and sovereignty of neutral nations, which was only to be met by a determined resistance." As the chief magistrate of America had expressed so strong a sense of the aggression in that instance, there was no ground to suppose that he would not act as decidedly on the present occasion. And this was another consideration why this country ought to abstain, for the present, from any act which might prove grievous to the trade of America, until it should be seen whether the American government would follow the same course now as in 1798. The decree of 1798 had continued in force during the last peace, and though it had been evaded by means of neutral ships, no vessel was allowed to enter a port of France, without a certificate of origin from the French consul, or commercial agent, at the port whence it had sailed. Yet that decree had passed unnoticed in that instance, and, on the authority of that precedent, it was his opinion that no measures should be taken in the present case, except such as would be attended with as little rigour as possible to the trade of neutrals. As to the measure proposed by his hon. and learned friend to be substituted for the order of council, namely, that no ships with colonial produce should be suffered to enter the ports of France; did he suppose that such a measure would be more distressing to the trade of France than to that of neutrals, or to our own trade? It would be injurious to our trade, because the neutrals, by carrying the colonial produce of the enemy, are enabled to export our manufactures in great quantities. The house of commons would not therefore, in the exercise of its inquisitorial powers, interfere with this act of the executive, until it should see what effect would be produced by the measure that had already been resorted to. It was his opinion that the cutting off of the coasting trade would be highly distressing to France. But if France should, in the madness of her policy, think of shutting up the remaining neutral ports upon the continent, she would soon find that they were now as necessary to her as to Great Britain. As soon as she should begin to feel the distress arising from shutting up those ports, she would open again those ports which were at present in her occupation. It was therefore his opinion, that they should in the first instance make trial of the measure that had been adopted, as they would at all times have it in their power to resort to measures of greater extremity, if such should be found necessary. The adoption of moderate measures in the first instance, would be creditable to the national character, and in the national character consisted, in a great degree, the national strength. If the enemy should persist in their decree, and attempt to enforce it, then he was convinced that the country had sufficient means, and his majesty, sufficient vigour, to resort to such measures as should be deemed necessary for a complete retaliation. On all these grounds, he thought that no good reason had been stated for the production of the paper.

Mr. Jacob

was of opinion, that this country ought always to assert its claims to its full rights, but, at the same time, he did not think that, in the present circumstances of Europe, it should exercise them to their full extent. If the whole colonial trade was to be stopped, he would ask the learned gent. whether he thought it would be more injurious to France than Great Britain? Above one half of the colonial produce consumed in France was British colonial produce. What inconvenience, therefore, might not result, if the trade that supplied France with that produce was to be put a stop to? If the measure proposed by the learned gent. were to be adopted, the only effect of it would be, that it would be injurious to that already suffering class of the community, the West-India merchants and planters, and irritating to neutrals, and the whole of the remaining civilized states of the world. He was of opinion consequently, that no gound had been laid for the production of the paper.

Lord Castlereagh

rose to make a few observations, just to shew the grounds of the vote he meant to give on the motion of his learned friend. It did not appear to him that any arguments of any weight had been brought forward to resist the able arguments of his learned friend, and certainly no parliamentary objection had been started to the production of a paper, which was already in the hands of every body in the country. The hon. and learned gent. opposite (sir J. Nicholls), who was justly entitled to the confidence of that house and of the country, had not produced any sufficient objection against the motion of his learned friend, and, as that hon. and learned gent. was so fully competent to decide upon this question, he did not suppose that any hon. member who should follow him, would be more successful in the arguments he might bring forward. The right of war he was ready to admit was a prerogative of the crown, but then it was subject to the controul of parliament. He contended that his learned friend opposite was bound to make out a case, to shew that the papers ought not to be produced, before he could call upon him, or his hon and learned friend near him to make out a case of the paramount necessity for its pro- duction. If, however, they were so called on, their difficulty would not be great, because they could shew that the measure that had been resorted to was inadequate to its professed object. Whatever objection there might be to the production of the paper, on the ground of the adequacy of the measure, or of the delicacy of his majesty's ministers on the subject, they would more properly apply to the proceeding that was to be grounded upon the production of the paper. This question was one of too much importance for any man to bring forward lightly; or unless he could state sufficient ground for the production of the paper. He derived some consolation from the argument of the learned gent. opposite, that this measure was not final. He was surprised that his learned friend had been so misunderstood, as to have it conceived that the order of council would have no practical effect. On the contrary, he had allowed that it would have a great practical effect; but as the present circumstances of the country, arising out of the order of the French government, were different from any in which it had ever been placed, he contended that more vigorous measures should have been adopted. As to the period of our history, which had been alluded to, he should presently shew that the time of the American government had been wasted in negociations and in intrigues to corrupt the French ministers. Whatever might be the feelings of government towards America, whatever might be the principles on which the late negociation had been conducted, these were no reasons for delaying the adoption of more vigorous measures of retaliation against the enemy. He thought it impossible that the house could form an adequate opinion whether the measure of government was wise or unwise, adequate or inadequate, unless they should look at the state of the country as to its maritime rights. It would be futile for him to dwell, in this instance, on the importance of its maritime rights to this country, but it was necessary for the house to look a little at the two systems of maritime rights which it had under different circumstances been called on to accede to. They would recollect the claims made by the armed neutrality of 1780, and of 1800, that neutral ships should make free goods, and that neutral vessels sailing under convoy of ships of war should not be molested, and that such claims had been resisted even unto war. But the claims advanced by France in the present instance, not only extended to neutrals, but to the free navigation of the mercantile shipping of the enemy. As the claims now urged by France were so much larger than any that had been before made, gentlemen should take care not to assist the views of the French government by opposing the motion of his learned friend, which might lead to the adoption of such measures as would visit the aggressions of the French government upon itself, the object of his hon. friend being only to shew that the order was inadequate to its object. There was as great a difference between the situation of this country at present and in the year 1798. Though France had then considerably added to her territory, she had not identified with the whole of Europe as she does at present. She had the central of Holland it was true, but she had not the ports of the North, Hamburgh, and the Hanse towns. She had not extended herself over the whole of Europe. She had the north of Italy, but not the south, or the kingdom of Naples. Her dominion had not been established over Spain, and Portugal was a substantively independent kingdom, and not tributary as at present, when she is allowed to import articles of British produce, only by paying a tribute to the French government. The relative situation of Europe had therefore undergone a great change since the year 1798. The influence and the power of the French government had been then great and formidable; but they could not employ with such effect, as at present, the pressure of their military force against the commerce of this country; and, therefore, a greater forbearance might have been practised towards them than at present. He contended, that considerations of forbearance respecting America, should not induce the house to abstain from adopting, not an act of practical injustice, but the measures which the circumstances of the times required, namely, to warn American vessels, in the first instance, against entering French ports; but not to capture them, unless they should be found contumaciously bent on entering the ports of France. What had been said, therefore, did not appear to them to be any ground why his hon. and learned friend should desist from prosecuting his motion, because it would be obvious, that what was lost to this country by its forbearance, would be gained by France. It was also desirable, that the house should have a more definite statement of that unexplained period that was to elapse between the present measure, and the more vigorous measures that were to be adopted by government. Notwithstanding the vast superiority of our navy, uncontested and incontestable, France had a surprising facility of importing the produce of her own, and the Spanish colonies, to as great an extent as during peace. Unless some measures of more vigorous retaliation should be adopted, she would hereafter have a larger share of this trade than heretofore, because she would not only supply herself with colonial produce, but absolutely have a monopoly of all the continental markets, against the colonial produce of this country. It was impossible for him, with the documents he had, to state to what extent this would take place, but certainly France would be put in a better situation than this country; and the house would be able to judge of this question, when aware, that the object of the French government, as stated in her decree, was to annihilate the trade and commerce of this country. It might assist in forming his judgment, to look at the amount of colonial produce imported into, and exported from America in the last year. The gross amount of its imports was of the value of 75 millions of dollars, of which 28 millions of dollars value had been re-exported to Europe, the greater part of France, by fictitious changes of ownership. However, it was contrived; the amount of the export he took from an official American document, and the produce reached the ports of France, wherein a revenue was collected upon it, that enabled France to carry on the war against this country; and all this from our forbearance, relative to neutrals. If they were to look only to the question of insurance, they could find that a cargo from a French colony to a port of the mother-country, without some protection of convoy, can be insured on the same terms as a vessel from Jamaica to Great Britain, whose squadrons cover the ocean. By these means the revenue of France was fed as effectually as in time of peace, and the French government enabled to carry on the war with so much facility and effect. But the learned gent. opposite had said, that we had no right to interfere until we should have ascertained whether America would submit to the aggression of France. Did the hon. gent. mean to say, that, until the American merchant should be afraid to risk his cargo, which he might cover by insurance, lest before its arrival at its destination, it should be captured, we should defer taking the vigorous measures, which the measures of the enemy had rendered necessary? That this country was to wait till it should know what might be the representations of the American government, by the conduct which that government had adopted during the last war, when it was every way in a better condition to resist the injustice of the enemy? But if they were to wait till the American government should insist upon those principles, by which the law of nations is upheld, they might wait till doomsday, as, whatever might be their feelings, the commercial people would attend to their commercial interests. Since the publication of this decree, which had been at first general as to all nations, some communication had taken place between the American minister in this country and the French government, in consequence of which some practical relaxation of the decree had taken place. This was one ground why we should look upon America with jealousy; and it was an aggravation that she had, by a secret understanding with the French government, contrived to take her shipping out of the operation of the decree, that was at first general, and placed herself in a situation of connivance with the French government. An American agent might have represented to the French government, how little it could gain by the execution of the decree, so far as America was concerned; that France had not the power of intercepting American vessels, and therefore as she could not gain much, that she might the more readily take from the Americans the necessity of vindicating their own rights, by resisting the execution of the decree, and leave their neutral flag still to cover French colonial produce. It was not surprising that the deputies of Hamburgh, and the Hans Towns, had failed in their mission to the French ruler; but when the case of America had been stated to him, it was too obvious not to awaken him to a sense of the policy of attending to it. If it should not also awaken his majesty's government to a sense of what they ought to do parliament ought to make them alive to the measures which should be adopted in consequence of the aggressions of the French government, and the supineness of his majesty's ministers. On all these grounds he should support the motion of his honourable and learned friend.

Lord Temple

said, if he had had any doubts as to the propriety of granting the paper moved for by the hon. and learned gent. when he had given notice of his motion on a former day, he felt that those doubts would have been greatly removed by the speech of the learned gent. himself, and of the noble lord who had just sat down. Nothing could be more hostile to the constitutional principle than what had been stated by the learned gent. as the ground of his motion; nothing more hostile to the feelings of that house, or to the interests of the country. It had always been his opinion, that it was the duty of that house to watch the conduct of his majesty's ministers; that it was the duty of the house to give them its confidence, until it should see some sufficient ground for withdrawing it, and to carry up advice to his majesty with respect to the great concerns of the government. But this was the first time in which it had been proposed to recommend to his majesty from that house a great measure of warfare. This was the first instance of the house having been called upon to go to the foot of the throne to tell his majesty, that the house, not approving of a particular war measure, recommended another to be adopted in its place. If the house was of opinion that the war had been improvidently conducted by ministers, it was their duty to state to his majesty, and to the house, that circumstance: that they had forfeited their claim to confidence, and to address for their removal from office. But he looked upon the present proceeding as being most unconstitutional as it was most unprecedented, inasmuch as it had for its object to force government to alter the measures it had adopted with respect to the neutrals of our allies, before it could be known what effect they would produce. If the ground of the learned gent.'s motion were admitted, it would prove injurious to this country, and favourable to the enemy. The learned gent. had made an attack on his hon. friends for their opposing this motion. But he could have wished, that the learned gent. had called to remembrance his own conduct, when he (lord T.) and some friends of his who disapproved of the treaty of Amiens, had supported a motion for some papers relating to that treaty. It had then been objected to them, that the treaty was concluded, and no person had given a more decided opposition to that motion than the learned gentleman, with the whole force of his eloquence. The learned gent. had asked, whether there was any precedent of a similar paper, when moved for, having been refused? but he should ask that learned gent. for a precedent of a similar paper having been asked to be produced? Many orders of council had, on different occasions, been called for; but this was the first time in which an order of council had been called for immediately after it was made, and before it could be known what effect it would produce. It was agreed on all hands, that this country possessed the right of retaliating; but the question was, whether it would be politic in us to exercise that right to its full extent? The noble lord seemed to think it a great object to prevent her colonial produce from reaching France; and the learned gent. had stated, that if that were effected, it would raise the price of our colonial produce in France. He admitted that such an effect would be the consequence. But was the noble lord aware of the consequences that would result to the commerce and manufactures of this country, if the neutral colonial trade were done away? The exports from this country amounted within the last year to 24 millions, which, he admitted, had unfortunately not all been exported in British vessels: 11 millions of these had been exported to America, a small portion of which were for the American consumption, and the rest were disposed of in payment for colonial produce, which was afterwards brought to Europe. The utmost produce of the French colonies in one year, did not exceed 4 or 5 millions, so that the whole of the remainder must have been the produce of the British colonies. The effect of putting a stop to the colonial trade, therefore, would be to diminish the amount of the exports from Great Britain. The exports to America had sunk considerably during the last peace, because the trade which the Americans had enjoyed exclusively before, was then carried on by the mother countries. Another objection that appeared to him against measures of rigorous retaliation was, that if American trade to, French ports were to be stopped, according to his apprehensions, the interruption could not be extended to their trade to friendly neutral ports. The result therefore would be, that French colonial produce would be spread by the Americans all over Europe, and by meeting our own colo- nial produce in every market diminish its value. The learned gent. had expressed some satisfaction that the right had not been conceded, though he could not conceive how the right could have been reserved if not acted upon; certainly it could no otherwise be a right reserved them by not being acted upon, viz. a right dormant until an occasion should occur for exercising it. The hon. and learned gent. had recommended as a substitute for the present measure, to compel Americans to touch at British ports, before they should be allowed to proceed to the ports of France. This appeared to him a most extraordinary proposition, that French colonial produce should be warehoused as British stores, and pay duties in this country. After the statement of his learned friend, it was not necessary to go more at length into this question.

Sir Thomas Turton

expressed his surprise that any reluctance should be betrayed to grant papers, for the production of which the most constitutional parliamentary grounds could be urged: that at least was his opinion, and he did not despair of being able to maintain it. The paper that was moved for, bore upon the face of it every possible mark of imbecility and indecision. All the commercial towns in the kingdom, indeed the whole country, considered it in that light, and lamented the want of that vigour and energy which should characterise the measures of a British Administration. The house was told, indeed, that to push measures to a proper degree of retaliation would be to act in a manner not only injurious to neutral powers, but prejudicial to the interest, of our own commerce. He was at a loss to see any satisfactory proof of such an assertion. In his mind, the real cause of this pusillanimous forbearance, was the fear of offending America, the dread of breaking off the treaty lately pending between this country and the American government. That was the pistol held to the breast of ministers; and this their great anxiety to ward it off. He was happy, however, to learn that ministers did not mean to stop here, and that the present measure was only an experiment. If any thing farther was done, the country would be indebted for it to the motion made that night by the hon. and learned gent. Mr. Perceval); for without such incitement he was sorry to observe, that ministers seemed of themselves little disposed to adopt any thing like vigorous and energetic measures.

Lord Howick,

although he felt it almost unnecessary to add any thing to what had already been offered upon that side of the question which it was his wish to defend, yet he could not reconcile it to himself to give a silent vote, and therefore as no one among those with whom he had the honour to act, seemed disposed to address the house, he could not forbear to request its indulgence for a few moments. As to the grounds upon which he felt it his duty to resist the production of the document alluded to in the motion, and which grounds were not correctly stated by the mover, he would take occasion to state them shortly to the house. Those grounds were, that unless a parliamentary ground were laid for the production of any public document, it was not usual to grant it; therefore it was by no means a matter of course to accede to such motions. And in opposing the learned gentleman's motion, he felt that he was supporting a constitutional principle of that house, so far as it regarded the regularity of its proceedings. He could not assent to the production of this paper, precisely for the reason which the learned gent. was so often forward to assert when on his side of the house; namely, as he before said, until a parliamentary ground for its production was made out. Why, then, if such an objection were conformable to the usage of the house, and the suggestions of common sense, it was for the house to examine the nature of the ground alleged for such a motion, to enquire whether it would be consistent with its duty, with the interests of the country, and the confidence fairly due to his majesty's government to enter into the discussion. —With respect to the learned gent.'s charge, that he had manifested a disposition to desert the general principles which, while on another side of the house, he was very tenacious of asserting, he challenged the learned gent. to make out that charge. In what instance, he would ask, had he ever maintained that that house, to whom it belonged to enquire, deliberate, and decide, upon every proposition submitted to it, was bound, as matter of course, to agree to the production of any paper of this nature that might be called for? Unless the learned gent. could shew that he had upon some occasion supported this extraordinary doctrine, the charge he had hazarded must fall to the ground. Indeed, the learned gent. himself confessed, soon after he had made his charge, that it was not tenable; for he stated that he remembered no precedent in which a similar paper was refused, which formed a pretty strong evidence that none such was ever applied for by the party with whom he had the honour to act; although a tolerably numerous list of orders of council were issued during the period in which that party occupied the bench upon which the learned gent. now sat.—Having stated that there was no precedent whatever for such a proceeding as the learned gent. would persuade the house to adopt, he had no hesitation to add, that the reason was obvious. For such a proceeding would be nothing more nor less than to supersede the functions of the executive government, while it would call on the house to judge upon a subject, with regard to which it would be incompetent to decide without information which it would not be consistent with the public interest to grant. He apprehended that the case to which the motion referred would appear to be precisely of that sort which it would not be proper for parliament to discuss, for such discussion must amount to a direct and prejudicial interposition with government in the conduct of the war, upon a measure just in its progress, and upon the propriety of originating, or the means of executing which, it would be impossible to form a fair and adequate opinion without information, such as it would be highly imprudent to make public; such indeed as could not be called for, or at least such as he believed had never been called for before.—Now, then, what was the state of the case as to the learned gent.'s argument? Why, that because the French government had issued a decree, not less remarkable for impotency than for its injustice and extravagance; that because a proceeded upon the most fallacious and mischievous principles; that because it proclaimed a threat which it had not the power to execute, and which was only to be paralleled by another decree, issued some years back from the same nation, we should be called upon to discuss the question as to the propriey tof retaliation. The learned gent. must recollect that the recent decree of the enemy was two-fold; the first part related to the confiscation of such articles of British produce and manufacture as might be found in those countries on the continent, which might be subjected by their arms; the second part referred to the confiscation of such British goods as might be captured at sea on board neutral ships. Now, surely, the learned gent. would not, as to the first part, recommend that we should seek to retaliate upon those unfortunate states which were subjugated by the arms of France; that those who were entitled to all the forbearance and moderation which the strong should grant to the weak, should become objects of our resentment, for an act of submission to which nothing but their weakness could reduce them. What did the learned gent. mean by asserting that we had not taken a measure of complete retaliation? did he mean to say, that because the enemy was guilty of violence and injustice, we ought to imitate him? There was a maxim in politics which he was almost ashamed to be under the necessity of maintaining on this occasion, that every right is subject to considerations of political expediency. Indeed; if it were not so, there were many rights which would become burthensome. Taking this maxim, then, into consideration, would the learned gent. himself maintain, that we ought to go to the full extent of our right in this instance? We had a right to confiscate all the French property to be found in England, in the funds or elsewhere; we were entitled to call upon every man who had property in the funds in trust for any Frenchman, a subject of France, to declare upon oath, and to surrender the amount of that property. But would the learned gent. advise the exercise of that right? (Here Mr. Perceval expressed his dissent.) The learned gent., added the noble lord, seemed to revolt at such a proposition. Why, then, the question under consideration came to be regulated upon grounds of political expediency, and upon those grounds the learned gent. would call upon the house to decide as to a measure which his majesty's ministers felt it their duty, after the best deliberation in their power, to adopt. He submitted, whether, if these ministers were deserving of the confidence of the house, and he would ask no unreasonable confidence, for them, it would be right to entertain a discussion as to the propriety of their conduct at present, particularly as the order referred to in the motion, being a question of political expediency, must depend upon the consideration of various points which it was quite impossible that that house could at present consistently touch. Into this part of the subject his learned friend (sir John Nicholls) had already entered, and had left little for any man to add. But there were two or three points connected with the subject of the order referred to in the motion, which he could not forbear to mention, because they would serve to shew what kind of information must be laid before the house, in order that it should become competent to decide upon the question which the learned gentleman would urge the house to investigate. Now, first of all, it would be necessary to shew the nature of our communications and relations with other powers, how far they concurred in the matter of the order alluded to; how it was likely to affect them; also, how it was to affect ourselves; how it might, notwithstanding the rigour of the French decree, operate to promote our commerce; how, in fact, it was likely to become a great means of sustaining and advancing that commerce. Would the house desire that such communications should be published? Certainly not. For these circumstances were such as could not be made known without exposing some vulnerable points on our part, and on that of the enemy, and defeating the ends which we had in view.—With these observations, he thought he might very well close, fully satisfied that the justice of the cause he supported was fully established; but there were a few remarks from the noble lord (Castlereagh), which he felt it proper to notice. That noble lord had asserted that the French decree of 1798, relative to our commerce, did not go so far as that to which the order of council alluded. But the noble lord was mistaken: for the former decree condemned to confiscation both the ship and cargo, if any portion whatever of English commodities were found on board; while the latter only condemned the cargo, and not the ship, as the hon. and learned baronet (sir T. Turton) had ignorantly stated. And as to the noble lord's allusion to Portugal, there was no material difference with regard to us between the connection with France, in 1798, and that Which she had at present. But to return to the decree of 1798: it surely could not be pretended that there was such a difference between the relative circumstances of that country and this, at that time and the present, as to justify the ministry of that day in thinking that this decree required no measure of counteraction whatever, if the present ministry were to be condemned for not going the full length of imitating the wildness and extravagance of the enemy. How was it to he Made out that total abstinence from retalia- tion was proper in the one case, if some effort to retaliate was to be culpable in the other, because that effort did not go to the extreme of an indiscriminate retaliation? He did not put this from any wish to find fault with the conduct of ministers in 1798. On the contrary, he believed their forbearance wise, although the power of the enemy to execute his menaces was, it would be recollected, materially greater in 1798, than it was at present; for at the former period his maritime strength was considerable. The battle of the Nile had not then been fought.—On the whole, the noble lord declared that he could not see any reason to warrant total forbearance in 1798, if it were inconsistent at all to forbear in the instance under consideration. But as to the manner in which the French decree of 1798 had been executed towards neutral powers, the noble lord (Castlereagh), he observed, dwelt particularly on the circumstance of its having been repealed with regard to America, and the noble lord seemed very jealous lest the Americans should be exempted from the operation of the late decree also. Indeed, the noble lord had stated, that he understood the resolution to relax this decree with respect to America, had been already communicated to the American minister here. Where the noble lord had obtained that information, he could not pretend to say. Certainly the noble lord was better informed than he was; for he had heard of no such thing, but he was authorized to say, that the American minister had received no official communication of any such nature. But supposing that a relaxation of this decree in favour of America had actually taken place, and admitting all that the noble lord had stated to be really true; what course would the noble lord recommend to us in consequence? Would he advise, that because America was exempted by France, from the operation of a measure hostile to all neutral powers; that because our commerce and manufactures were allowed the opportunity of conveyance in American ships, to that part of the continent, our direct intercourse with which the enemy had it in his power to obstruct, we ought to declare war against America? In truth the whole amount of the noble lord's argument, seemed to be this, that as America was exposed to the injustice of France, she ought to be exposed to farther injustice from this country.—With regard to our treaty with America, he could not conceive the grounds upon which the learned mover of the proposition before the house could warrant his very frequent allusions to that treaty. It was a subject that he dared not enter into, because this house would not allow it; but yet, he was perpetually nibbling at it; aware that ministers could not consistently answer his insinuations. The learned gent. had stated that the existence of the non-importation act rendered it degrading in us to enter into a negociation with America. But to this he would only say, that whether it was right or not to enter into the negociation, or what the circumstances were under which it commenced, were questions which he should not much enquire about, if the treaty should be found such as consistently with the honour and interest of the country ought to have been concluded. If, however the learned gent. thought the commencement of the negociation so very disgraceful to the country, why did he not last session of parliament, when he had not so much information upon the subject as he had at present, move an address to his majesty for the removal of those ministers, who could have involved the country in a proceeding so dishonourable as to treat with a nation which held a hostile tone?—But to return to the measure of forbearance and moderation in the order alluded to in the motion, and of which the learned gent. so loudly complained; he would again seriously ask him, whether he would prefer the country to retaliate any proceeding of the French government which might be dictated by hostility to us? If so, he must be betrayed into gross inconsistency, and something more, for he must recollect the decree of 1798, already referred to; but still more, he must recollect the sanguinary decree issued at the early part of the revolution, ordering that no quarter should be given to English soldiers, and that no retaliation was attempted to either. Where, indeed, could the man be found in this country, capable of proposing reprisal for the latter? Nothing of the kind was ever mentioned in this country, and it was found in France that the order could not be reduced to practice. Such also, he had no doubt, would be the fate of the decree under discussion, and that the commerce of this country would be the best consulted, and its prosperity most securely preserved, by a perseverance on our part in that system of forbearance and moderation which we had heretofore pursued, and to which those flourishing circumstances which the noble lord so often brought forward his numerous accounts to prove, were so materially attributable. That by continuing this system, we should continue to prosper, he had not the least doubt, notwithstanding the violent decree of the enemy, unless, it were determined, by adopting the learned gentleman's advice, to assist the views of that enemy for the destruction of our commerce. Really, he knew nothing to which to compare the learned gent.'s advice on this subject, but to an old story he had once heard of a poor man who wished to get some cocoa-nuts. So he sat about throwing stones and rubbish at a monkey which he perceived in a cocoa-tree, and the little animal in revenge flung the cocoa-nuts at him. So the learned gent. in revenge for the provocations of Buonaparte would fling the commerce of England at him. Under all the circumstances of the case before the house, the noble lord trusted that the conduct of ministers would not be judged of upon imperfect evidence, and that they would not be called upon to assent to the production of a public document, upon such grounds as had never before been recognized or assented to. He demanded, on the part of ministers, no more confidence from parliament than was necessary to enable them to execute the duties of their offices. If they were undeserving of that confidence, they were unworthy of those offices, and ought to be removed. To make a motion at once to that effect, would, in his judgement, be a more fair and manly mode of attack than to submit such a motion as that before the house, and to such a discussion which the mover professed to have in view. The noble lord concluded with disclaming the construction applied by the hon. baronet (sir T. Turton) to the words of his learned friend (sir John Nicholls), namely, that he had stated ministers to have an ulterior measure in view, upon the subject of this order. He did not understand any such thing from his learned friend. All he had said was, that if the order referred to in the motion should be found not to answer the end in view, further measures would be resorted to; and no doubt they would. There could be no reason to apprehend that his majesty's ministers would hesitate to adopt any measures that should be thought necessary, from the fear of any government whatever.

Mr. Perceval,

in reply, declared that he must think it impossible that he could have been so completely misconceived by any person who had heard him deliver his sentiments upon the present subject, as he appeared to be by the noble lord who had just sat down. The only way in which he could possibly account for the noble lord having delivered the speech he did, and apparently directed as an answer to him (Mr. Perceval), was, that he supposed his lordship had adopted a mode which was very frequently, nay, generally, adopted by the ablest orators, of considering what objections could possibly be urged against the statements which he had laid down. In making this calculation, he had evidently anticipated the arguments which were to be advanced on this side of the house; he had accordingly formed his answer to these imaginary objections, and the anecdote of Sinbad the sailor his lordship thought to be so extremely applicable to his purpose, that he could not possibly let slip the opportunity of relating it to the house. The hon. and learned gent. then entered into a minute reply to all the observations that had been advanced in support of the refusal to produce the order in council. Several of the assertions that had been laid to his charge, he felt it to be a duty which he owed to himself, most positively to deny. Then, as to the declaration which had been made by a noble earl on the other side (earl Temple), that, if this motion were to have been followed up by another for the removal of his majesty's ministers, that then and then only, he would have given it his support; this really appeared to him to be so extravagant, that it would lead to this conclusion, that parliament would be so circumscribed that, unless the member who called for a paper in some degree implicating the conduct of ministers were prepared immediately to move for an address, praying that such ministers should be dismissed from his majesty's councils; unless this were the case, parliament could never hope to be put in possession of any paper which had a tendency, in the slightest degree, to reflect on the conduct of his majesty's ministers. With respect to another argument, that a measure should not be enquired into, while it was in the progress of its execution; if this inference were correct, then every address which was ever moved for in that house, praying that a concl sion might be put to a war, on account of its circumstances, and its manner of being con- ducted, was erroneous; the house should never have said a word upon the subject of the war at that time; no, they should have waited till the war was ended, before they should have presumed to have seriously entertained a motion of that nature. What he had said was, that the measure would not be productive of any very serious injury to the enemy, and that it could not possibly produce any very material benefit to this country. If in the present circumstances of Europe, if in the present state of the enemy, and in the present state of our own marine, we adopted such an inefficient measure of retaliation as this was, he thought that it would be declaring to the enemy, it would be also publishing to all neutrals in the face of Europe, that we were not prepared to assert our right in any circumstances whatever. As to France herself, he conceived that she had put herself out of the pale and protection of the law of nations, and, as to the hardship upon the subjects of neutral powers, he must confess that he would be sorry for them, but then it would be evident to the world that this evil had been brought on by the enemy, that on our part it was only a measure of self-defence. The noble lord (Howick), however, at the end of the debate, had stated, that as a minister he could not feel himself authorised to declare to the house the full particulars upon which the measure was founded, lest it might tend to a disclosure of circumstances that would, or might eventually, be prejudicial to the interests of neutral powers. This, however, was not mentioned until now; he did not know how it could possibly affect the interests of other nations, but he must bow to the noble lord in the situation he was and give him full credit for his assertion. Wiith his understanding he should not press his motion any farther under such circumstances. [Here the hon. and learned member conceived that he saw a smile or some gesture indicative of triumph on the treasury bench.] There was no such great reason for triumph as gentlemen seemed to imagine: the question appeared to be entirely abandoned by ministers, and, had the noble lord been equally explicit on a former occasion, he would not, perhaps, have been troubled with the present debate.—The question was then put on Mr. Perceval's motion, and negatived without a division.—The other orders of the day were then disposed of, and the house adjourned.

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