HC Deb 18 February 1808 vol 10 cc665-84

On the order of the day being moved for the 2d reading of the Orders in Council bill,

Mr. Eden

said, that he could not allow this bill to go through another stage without declaring his sentiments upon it. He thought that our retaliation upon our enemies ought to be conducted in such a manner as not to injure unoffending neutrals. He was of opinion that the note delivered to the American negociators on the 31st of Dec. 1806, was still binding on the government of this country, as there was no appearance that America had submitted to the controul which the French government had attempted to impose on the commerce of neutrals with Britain. On the contrary, there was ample evidence that America had remonstrated against the French decree, and had obtained an exemption from its operation according to the explanation given by the French minister of marine, Decrés. To impose a tax upon neutrals was illegal by the law of nations, and by the statute law also. The measure would do no injury to France, but it would grievously injure those who were entitled to our forbearance, and as far as could be to our protection.

The Advocate-General

then rose and spoke nearly as follow: Sir, the house will naturally expect I should lay before them my opinion upon the subject of this bill, and the grounds of that opinion, upon this occasion. In doing this, it is necessary for me to look to the policy and the legality of the present measure, both of which have been charged against it by the hon. member who has just now set down. In taking a comprehensive view of this matter, I am afraid it will be necessary to trace back some of the circumstances which led generally to its adoption, because we must not consider a measure like this detached from the circumstances which preceded or accompanied it. Its policy and legality can only be fairly appreciated by such a consideration of the circumstances out of which it arose. It is evident then, that the Decree of the French government, of the 21st of Nov. 1806, is the foundation of the present proceeding. That decree purported to declare the British isles in a state of blockade, and to prohibit all commerce whatever, even with neutral nations, in the manufactures of this country. The effect of that decree was to exclude us from all foreign powers whatever; and to prevent them not only from carrying on their accustomed trade with this country, but even to exclude the possibility of one neutral nation trading with safety to another. An American vessel trading from one neutral port to another, was subject to be seized by that Decree of the French government.—Sir, it has been said, that we have misconstrued this Decree, and that it does not in effect blockade this country. In regard to its prohibiting the carriage of Our produce or manufactures, there can be no doubt; but it has been alleged that there could have been some other mode of avoiding its consequences. In my opinion, I do not see any great difference whether the threatened blockade was included in it or not; for if foreign ships had only been allowed to come to this country with their foreign produce, and not enabled to take away our goods in return, that surely amounted very nearly to a similar blockading declaration. I cannot but he surprised that any person can read this French Decree, and doubt its construction. The very Preamble of it recites what has been done by this country; but it must be admitted that these imputations are groundless and false. It states that this country had blockaded various ports against neutrals, and argues the necessity of retaliation, and of declaring the British isles in a state of blockade. The fact, however, is falsely assumed, that this country ever declared any port in a state of blockade, without previously investing that port. I shall do the late government of this country the justice to say that when they blockaded any of the enemy's ports, they anxiously inquired whether those ports had been in the first place regularly invested. The French government, in their decree, avowed their intention of retaliation, without previously investing our ports, and therefore all the consequences of that blockade must be presumed to follow that declaration. It goes on through six articles, and then states, that any vessel coming from the British ports with British goods, shall not be admitted into any port of that country, meaning France itself. Now there does seem something of an inconsistency between this article, and the first one in that Decree; the one, in a certain degree, doing away the effect of the other. It might, indeed, be doubted whether this was not done on purpose that no vessel should be admitted direct from our ports to those of France, till they touched at some intermediate one. It surely, at least, would bear such a construction: but still the previous part of it justified us in a contrary conclusion. That Decree of the French government avowed itself to mean a retaliation for an imaginary offence; and what, then, became the duty of this country, and other countries, in consequence of this outrageous measure? It surely became their duty to render such a mode of unaccustomed warfare to be retaliated and retorted upon the enemy. It was our duty to do this with as much forbearance as possible against other countries. Although it be a just principle in the law of nations that other countries must naturally suffer, in a certain degree, by the measures adopted, by belligerent powers; yet it is surely the duty of each to render that suffering as little injurious as possible. I certainly must justify the forbearance of the former ministry; but in doing so, I think it cannot be argued that if their measure was found insufficient for the purposes intended, others more vigorous should not be adopted, in order to remove those inconveniences this country was likely to undergo in consequence of French measures. What, then followed the measure of the last government, dated the 7th of Jan.? Did neutral nations interpose? Did the three nations whom the French Decrees materially affected interpose, in order to get them removed? Did Denmark, Portugal, or America interpose? I have not understood that any of these powers did endeavour to do so. On the contrary, I think we have a pretty strong Note now laid before the house, which was presented by the Danish government, complaining of the injustice of the Decree issued by G. Britain, but no inclination was evinced to revoke the previous Decree of France, nor intimating any sense of the forbearance of this country. That Note I think seems to be sounding pretty much of an Armed Neutrality, the favourite measure which Denmark has all along been aiming at; a measure on a principle which, once adopted and carried into effect, so as to increase the maritime power of the nations on the continent, must put an end to the maritime power of G. Britain. Such has all along been the disposition of Denmark. As to Portugal, such was the unfortunate situation of that country, that with every disposition to do justice to her allies, it could not be supposed that she could venture to interfere to procure a revocation of the French Decree, when she was obviously udder the necessity of endeavouring to purchase her own neutrality. So far from her being able to do so, it was well known that the port of Lisbon was made the entrepôt for violating the Decree we issued upon the 7th of Jan. and breaking through the prohibition of trading from one port to another. The country from which we had reason to expect the effectual interposition, was the United States of America. Upon a former occasion that country attempted what it was called upon to do, at least so far as respected its own honour. It may be in the recollection of the house, that there was a Decree somewhat similar to the present one issued by the French government in the beginning of Jan. 1798, when that decree was noticed in the President's speech, as most injurious to America, and stated to be a measure that could not be suffered to exist, without violating the independence of their country. That speech strongly showed what were then the feelings and the intentions of the United States upon this subject. It showed that it was then deemed to be an unjust attack against neutral rights, and that they owned that nothing but a thorough resist- ance to it could rescue them from its pernicious effects. Such was the sense of America upon the Decree of 1798. What, now, has been the sense of America upon the Decree of 1806? We have a right to look to that Government for the same sort of conduct upon that subject, when there was the same sort of Decree issued by France, with the addition of declaring the British Isles in a state of blockade. Was it too much to expect of America, that on being informed of that Decree, she should consider it as a measure issued totally regard less of her rights and independence? Was it too much to expect that she would make a firm resistance to oppose its consequences? We shall suppose, then, that America did actually interpose, and the question must come to this, was it done in such a manner as to satisfy her honour and her interest as connected with G. Britain? As it was a measure of warfare against this country, was it not tending to affect America remotely? She owed her interposition, undoubtedly, not only for her own honour but for her interest, and those duties she should have observed towards the belligerent power that was thus attacked, and with whom she was in perfect amity. It has been asked, upon a former occasion, in order to shew the illegality of our measures, has this French Decree been at all enforced in France? But I apprehend the question ought to be—has the measure been revoked by France? Are we to resort to the ministers of France for the purpose of knowing whether they can exercise their own Decree or not? After the discussion that has already taken place upon the subject of M. Decres' Letter, can any body consider that it contains that sort of revocation that ought to have satisfied America?. Has there been any Decree declaring that America was excepted out of the Order of the 21st of Nov.? If France chose to give a doubtful and prevaricating answer to America, was that to assure America that her commerce would be free from interruption? Did not the tenor and the maxim still continue? Were not her vessels, as well as those of other countries, obliged to pay higher insurance, in consequence of that Decree still existing? Undoubtedly it must be conceded that a private assurance of this sort ought not to have been considered any thing upon which America could rest satisfied. But, even let it be granted, that there had been a public assurance to America that she alone was to be exempted from its influ ence, would that have been a sufficient ground for us not to look further to our interest? What! because France chooses to except America from her injurious decrees, are we to consent to their continuance? If France thinks proper to violate the territories of several neutral powers and not to act in a similar manner towards another neutral, does it follow that those other nations are to submit and endure a misconstruction of her conduct? Such, then, is the construction that can be put upon her conduct by the law of nations, which is the principle of natural justice, honestly and bona fide employed. It is not by manœuvre and management of this sort that we are to be bound to make the same exception in our conduct towards France, that she may be pleased to make towards America, by that private assurance, if it may be so called, that passed through M. Decres.—What took place upon the 17th or 19th of Feb.? The Spanish Decree was then issued, and it may be looked upon as the act of France. Was there any exception in favour of America? If it was to be understood that America was excepted out of the Decree of the 21st of Nov. is it to be supposed that in that subsequent decree we should not have had some notice of that exception? This, surely, was a pretty strong proof that America was never intended to have been exempted. Did not the capture of the ship Sanson, by the Spanish officers, evince what was their understanding of the blockade of England? She was taken upon the sole ground of her violating that blockading decree. Now, let us go on to another point that will yet further elucidate the nature of that Decree. I allude to the Treaty of Tilsit. France now had consumated partly her object; Russia and Prussia had made their peace with France and were become neutrals; but do they call for a revocation that Decree? No; they are converted into the allies of France; and can any one doubt that it. was part of the system of that Treaty, that Denmark, Russia, and Prussia, were all to be condemned to comply with the confederacy? France now had accomplished what she deemed a grand object towards excluding the commerce of G. Britain from all the continental ports. What was the answer of Buonaparte himself, as to America? He expressly disavows any intention of excluding her from his measures, even when he began to feel that the blockade of this country might tend to retort upon him the evil of his own injustice. Now, let us look a little into the situation of this country and Europe, as affected by the Treaty of Tilsit, in the latter part of Oct. or beginning of Nov. last, when these Orders in Council were issued. The fact was, that with regard to England, she was excluded from every port of Europe, except the island of Sicily. Her produce and manufactures were completely interdicted. Yet, it has been stated, that these Orders have been the ruin of our commerce. Look at our situation without these Orders, and then let us consider the question. Not a port was open at the period they were issued. The continental market of Europe was completely shut against us. But then it is said, that those vigorous measures of the French government would not have been carried into execution, had not our Orders been adopted. Now, I answer to this, that we have not read a single news-paper, for many months back, that did not bring us accounts of fresh measures being taken for the rigorous and strict observance of that original decree. Besides this, let us look to the probability of the fact. It might very probably have been the case, had France continued at war with some of the other continental powers, that she would, from necessity, have softened the rigour of her Decree, and connived at neutrals introducing British commodities upon the continent; but, when Buonaparte has consummated his grand scheme for the destruction of our maritime power, can any person believe, that he would any longer have suffered this connivance? Would he not have done every thing to forward his grand object of excommunicating G. Britain from the society of nations? We have only to refer to the newspapers of the month of Oct to find, that at the very moment when Buonaparte restores to their legitimate sovereigns the districts of Mechlenburg and Oldenburg, it is upon the express condition that they shall exclude British commerce. If this, then was the case, what was the situation of this country? We might send our manufactures for the consumption of our colonies, and in return we could brim home our colonial produce, but there our commerce ended. Not one article of British manufacture could find its way to the continent of Europe. Will any person say, that this situation would not be the destruction of the resources of this country: We could have nothing to do, but either to at- tempt to force open the door to the continental market, or submit to those terms of peace which France was willing to impose upon us. If France had the means of obtaining from other sources those articles of which she stood in need, is it at all probable that she would ever have consented to admit our produce? When France is deprived of those articles, is it not natural to suppose that she will become the violator of her own prohibitions? Will she not then be induced to receive our commerce into her territories? Is there any chance of her doing this, if she could be supplied by other means? It is true, that before these Orders in Council were issued, there was a considerable degree of benefit, in my opinion, derived by the effect of the Order of the 7th of Jan. That Order pressed very considerably upon the continent of Europe; and the more so as the powers gradually came under the dominion and controul of France, as there was then no neutral intermediate power through which they could violate those Orders. We must be aware, however, that the coasting trade of Europe was necessarily open to very considerable evasion, by stealing along their shores in small vessels; and besides, that there were means of communication through the great rivers of Europe, by which with considerable inconvenience to themselves, they might be supplied with the various products of the continents. But with respect to the foreign commerce, they were actually under no inconvenience whatever, notwithstanding all our boasted maritime superiority. Our enemies had, in fact, better opportunities for procuring foreign commerce, than if they had employed a great maritime force to protect their trade. This may, indeed, appear paradoxical, but the truth is, that by means of neutral vessels they could bring home, not only all the produce of their islands, but even the produce of America, as securely as if they had not been in a state of warfare: under neutral names they enjoyed a complete supply of all the products from the various quarters of the world. They collected the duties upon the export of them from their colonies, and they were even doing something more than this; they were granting bounties for the carrying of those very products to the mother country. Wines and brandies and other products of France, went in exchange for oils, soap, and other products of their colonies, without being in the slightest degree ques- tioned. In short, they were in the full enjoyment of all the advantages of peace, by having an ample supply of all sorts of goods. The regular tea sales at Amsterdam went on without any the smallest interruption, just as if the Dutch were in a state of the most profound peace; ships that traded from Amsterdam to China being allowed to navigate with the greatest facility. Even the capital of every Dutch Merchant was fully employed. Most of the houses in Amsterdam have houses in America, or have agents in that country, so that the money was advanced in many instances before a single bale of goods left America. They had then colonial and other produce conveyed to them just in the same manner as if we had not the enjoyment of any maritime superiority at all. I do not know whether or not I have been succesful in my view of the subject, but it does seem to me, that looking to the situation of Europe, and of this country, at the time of issuing these Orders, it was ruinous to us in the extreme. While this country was in this state of blockade, America could not take from us a single bale of British goods without the risk of her vessels being lawful prizes to the French. Our commerce and colonial produce might have remained in our warehouses and rotted there; as I cannot help thinking that the more Buonaparte acquired of the continent, the more rigorously would he be inclined to enforce his measures. And be it recollected, that our commerce constitutes the sinews of war, and therefore those measures of retaliation which we adopted were absolutely necessary for our preservation and defence. We have only imposed those privations upon France which would induce France, or at least the inhabitants of that country, (for I am not supposing that we could compel their government to agree to these measures), to become the violators of their own decrees. Now, upon the ground of retaliation we are perfectly justified. It has been said, that our Orders have been a violation of the law of Nations; but need I revert to any other authority upon this subject than that of the late government themselves? I confess that I cannot see any difference in the principle, although there may be some in the degree, between these Orders and that of the 7th of Jan.; they were founded upon the principle of retaliation. This principle was completely set forth by a noble lord (Howick) in a note to Mr. Ris,[p.402,] in which he strongly re- presents the injustice of the French Decree of Nov. 1806, and justifies the conduct of his majesty in issuing the Order in Council, of 7th Jan. which Order was founded upon the just principle of retaliation. This principle seems to have been asserted by France herself. I do not feel it, notwithstanding these authorities, necessary to plead the justification of these Orders, by the precedent of that issued by his majesty's late governments—No; think, and I am sure, this house will feel, that they are perfectly justifiable; and, I will add, founded on the law of nations. In 1798, Russia feeling at that period the aggressions and overweening tyranny of France, did issue an Order of a much stronger stamp than those issued by G. Britain, and so much complained of; that Order authorised the seizure of all ships proceeding to France. I do contend, that the question of the conformity of these Orders to the law of nations, cannot be viewed in the abstract. It may be asked, will you repel injustice with injustice? No. —But, I would ask, is it to be endured, that one belligerent shall be suffered to act towards another in a manner the most unjust, and the most contrary to the laws of nations, and that the other belligerent shall be bound to observe the accustomed usages and conduct towards her? I do contend that France has acted towards this country in open violation of every law of nations; and I do maintain that this country is justified in retaliating upon her. If it be said that the law of nations ought not to be observed, I do from my heart protest against such a principle. I do think that nothing but the most urgent necessity can warrant its nonobservance. If, however, your enemy will not be bound by it, I do think that you have no other resort but that of going back to first principles, and looking to self-preservation.—Much has been said of the infringement of neutral rights, but I have heard very little said of neutral duties. In the operation of these Orders in Council, it never was in the contemplation of the framers of them to oppose neutral rights. If America suffer, it is what is unavoidable where her interest is so connected as in the present war between this country and France. These measures against America were alone intended to annoy France, not to injure or infringe upon the rights of neutrals. Every concession, that was compatible with the defence of the country, I do maintain was made in favour of neutrals. America was, as before, admitted to go to the colonies and bring back their produce for her own consumption. I cannot consider it a hardship to require or a neutral whom you admit to go to an enemy's colony, to be subject to certain restrictions for such admission. If you have a right to interdict it, you have a right to point out such regulations as you think fit. It has been said that the measures adopted towards America will be likely to produce misunderstanding between her and this country. I do not believe it; on the contrary, I am thoroughly persuaded that America will feel, when she views these measures with that temper and coolness that I think she will, that this country has been actuated by no hostile feeling against her, but that whatever injury she may sustain, was absolutely unavoidable on our part, and indispensable to our preservation and existence. It is impossible that America should not see that this country has done every thing in its power compatible with its security, to accommodate and convenience her. I am proud it has been so; convinced as I am, that the prosperity of the one country is the prosperity of the other. Different has been the treatment of France to America. All communication with G. Britain has been interdicted, under the threat of destroying her independence. The conduct of France towards America, I do contend, has been one continued scene of insult and injury. G. Britain has, on the contrary, uniformly acted with moderation and forbearance, and with every wish to cultivate amity and friendship between the two countries. I am satisfied, from all these considerations, and from the good sense of the people of America, that no rupture will take place between us and her. A great deal of objection has been raised against the shape of these Orders in Council, against the particular time at which they have been issued, and against their being too rigorous; but I do trust the house will feel the weakness of these objections, and agree that they have been founded both upon policy, justice, and law. These Orders, I am satisfied, will cause severe privations on the continent, and visit upon the head of its tyrant the evils intended to be entailed upon us. The period in which we live is awful beyond example, and the contest in which we are engaged, great beyond precedent. We are possessed of the dominion of the sea; France of the land; so far we are on a footing of complete equality. I regret to hear that so much clamour has been raised, by I know not what infatuation, for peace at the present moment. Are those who are such advocates for that measure, satisfied that it would be a lasting, solid, and safe one? I very much fear that no peace of the kind could be obtained at present. I am satisfied, that by carrying on the contest with that spirit and energy that become a free people, the issue, will be speedy, honourable, and glorious.

Earl Temple

thought his hon. and learned friend, who had just sat down, had departed from the investigation of the question before the house. He contended, that the principle of self-preservation laid down by his hon. and learned friend in defence of these Orders in Council, was not made out. If it had been, he would admit it to be a justification of them. The injury done to neutrals, it was contended, was unavoidable, and was with a view to the ultimate injury and annoyance of the enemy. He contended, that we could have no right to attack neutrals directly in order to injure the enemy collaterally. The Order issued by his majesty's late government, in Jan. 1807, was issued on grounds totally distinct from the present Orders. The former was in perfect. conformity with the laws of nations; the latter in direct violation of them. In order to justify our conduct towards America, it would be necessary to shew that she acquiesced in the provisions of the French Decree. The contrary, however, appeared to be the fact. On the appearance of the French Decree, in Nov. the American minister required an explanation of it, stating, that it was contrary to the treaty of amity and commerce existing between America and France. The answer of the minister of marine was, that it was not in the contemplation of the French Decree to affect American ships. He had heard it said, that this was idle assertion; but he would be glad to ask, if the communication or the explanation of this Decree, by the President of the United States of America to Congress, was nothing more than idle assertion? It was a well-known fact, that the merchants of this country, whose opinions upon these Orders in Council were certainly the most correct, and who uniformly complained of them, had not, in consequence of the French Decree, been obliged to pay a single additional shilling insurance on the trade between this country and America. Spain was obliged to issue a similar decree at the time France issued hers. An American ship was brought into a Spanish port for a violation of this decree; she was brought to trial in the Prize Court, and ordered to be released. Another instance occurred in France, when an American ship, under the same circumstances, was released. What? he would ask, could be so convincing as these facts? and what could more strongly shew that it was not the intention of France to injure or restrict American traders? There were other facts which proved Mr. Munroe's letter to Mr. Secretary Canning, [p. 598] stating it not to be the intention of France to interfere with the trade of America. In the teeth of all this evidence, and three weeks after the receipt of Mr. Munroe's letter to Mr. Canning, these Orders in Council appeared. It was said that America did not obtain the revocation of the French Decree—but how could that be expected? It might not be, nor was not in her power to do so.—The noble lord proceeded to consider the Orders in Council as contradictory to the established principles of municipal law; quoting part of Magna Charta, with the commentary of Montesquieu, to prove that this country ever had considered the rights of even foreign merchants as part of their own constitutional liberty; hence, he maintained, the exertion of the king's prerogative in the publication of these Orders, and their enforcement, had effectually violated the established law of the land. The rights of war should only be exerted by the king on the property of the enemy, and by no means should they be extended to that of neutrals. This measure had even proceeded so far as to raise a tax, and levy supplies, Without the consent of parliament.—With respect to the policy of the measure itself, if the inexplicable nature of the Orders permitted him to say he could form any just idea even of their tendency, he must acknowledge his decided conviction of their tendency to injure our trade, to depreciate our character among other nations, and to deprive us of the means of meeting the pressing emergencies of the times. These Orders, as affecting the sugar and cotton trade, had the worst possible effect. He could never comprehend how this measure could be denominated a retaliation, since it affected primarily ourselves, and next our allies. The French would contentedly suffer some embarrassment and inconvenience, being well ap- prised that the sinews of our strength laid in our commerce. Hence the whole force of this injurious system reverted on ourselves.—He concluded with entering his formal protest against the measure.

Mr. Rose

defended the legality of the measure, contending that it had not violated any law whatever, but on the contrary was expressly provided for by act of parliament. When these Orders in Council were made, he assured the house, they were not pointed at America, but were intended as a direct and justifiable retaliation against France. He then adverted to the state of the navigation of America, and the immense increase of her shipping and carrying trade, her trade from the East Indies with all parts of the world, and the reduction in the sale of all East India goods, pepper, tea, &c. He repeated, that nothing was more desirable than to avoid warfare with America, and he could not help hoping, that when America came to consider coolly and deliberately upon the subject, she would be satisfied that these Orders were never intended against her; that to preserve peace with that country was most desirable; and he was well assured that government would see it in its true light—that of a measure of retaliation adopted through necessity.

Mr. Hibbert

had been anxious to thank his learned friend (the Advocate General) for his excellent speech, but could not omit, at the same time, to recollect with gratitude another speech of that learned gentleman,*in which he had ably defended the Order in Council of Jan. 1807, not only as founded on principles of natural justice, which were the basis of the law of nations; but as directly bearing upon the enemy and considerate towards neutrals. The principle of that measure was so clearly expressed in a State Paper which had been alluded to in the course of the debate,† that he begged permission to read the words; "Neutrality, properly considered, does not consist in taking advantage of every situation between belligerent states, by which emolument may accrue to the neutral, whatever may be the consequences to either belligerent party; but in observing a strict and honest impartiality, so as not to afford advantage in the war to either; and particularly in so far restraining its trade to the accustomed *See vol. viii. p. 633. †Lord Howick's Letter to Mr. Rist, see p. 402. course which is held in time of peace, as not to render assistance to one belligerent in escaping the effect of the other's hostilities. The duty of a neutral is, 'non interponere se bello, non hoste imminente hostem eripere;' and yet it is manifest, that lending a neutral navigation to carry on the coasting trade of the enemy, is in direct contradiction to this definition of neutral obligations, as it is, in effect, to rescue the commerce of the enemy from the distress to which it is reduced by the superiority of the British navy, to assist his resources, and to prevent G. Britain from bringing him to reasonable terms of peace."—Here was no assumption of the principle of retaliation, but a measure purely belligerent; the justice of which could not be affected by the variable and occasionally relaxed practice of nations. It did, indeed, treat as France, all that France held in absolute control; an extension consistent with the principle by which alone it was to be tried, as in practice it was not even strictly true that neutrals in peace had no share whatever in the coasting trade of individual France. They had shared in that trade before the revolution in the proportion of about 6,000 in one million of tons of shipping.—But the recent Orders in Council, retaliating upon the enemy his vain threat of blockade, which so far as America was concerned he had not attempted to execute, pronounced upon a large portion of the world, including nearly the whole of Europe, a constructive blockade, and then proceeded, with our immense naval force, to act towards neutrals as offensively as if such blockade were actually carried into effect. We boasted, indeed, of our relaxations, as we were pleased to call them, by which confiscation was commuted for revenue, but these provisions were in his opinion a vicious feature in the measure; they stamped upon it that air boutiqueére, which would ensure its condemnation by neutrals. It was in vain we declared that revenue was no part of our object; America would not believe us. He would leave however the question of legality to others who would, he was sure, most satisfactorily discuss it.—As to the expediency of the measure, it was one principal motive in his rising to state; that the West India interest had neither promoted, nor approved it. There was an erroneous opinion on this subject among the public, not among his majesty's ministers, for they must well know that in Dec. last the West India Committee had unani- mously and decisively expressed in a communication to the chancellor of the exchequer their belief, that these Orders in Council could afford to our own colonies no relief, but might, on the contrary, facilitate and legalise the supply and support of the enemy's colonies. The British West India planters had been also accused of suggesting and promoting a quarrel with America. This, also, was false; for a great majority of them felt and acknowledged that war with America would be one of the greatest calamities to which our colonies could be subjected. They had, indeed, been sorely grieved by the abuses of the neutral trade, and as America was chiefly instrumental in those abuses, expressions of anger and irritation had been wrung from them in their distress. But, the remedies they had so long and earnestly suggested, were, that the colonies of the enemy should, in their turn, be subjected to the chances of war; that they should be blockaded by a portion of our great naval force, or that the rule of the war of 1756 should be enforced. And, objectionable as the latter of these measures might have appeared to America if suddenly resorted to, he was persuaded that it would have proved less so than the measures we had adopted. It might have been alleviated by conceding to her a temporary traffic in so much of our own colonial produce as must otherwise be wasted or brought hither to the ruin of the planter, and it might have been justly defended as a belligerent measure, most consistent with our own situation as masters of the sea, and with our unquestionable right to impoverish those sources to which the enemy must look for establishing himself as a rival maritime power. What was it we were dreading, in the event of peace, so much as that France should thereby obtain a navy? and was it not true that to her colonies principally she must look for that purpose?—It would be found on attentive survey, that the naval force of France had always kept pace with the prosperity of her colonial trade, and yet, without regarding on whom the reproach might fall, he must say, that in the long course of this contest we had been very little solicitous to prevent her from receiving back her colonies at a peace, in a condition much more prosperous than that in which we had maintained our own.—If our West India colonies were not to be benefitted by this measure, he was at a loss to conceive by what description of traders the advantage was to be derived. It was the commencement of a war of privation by the greatest commercial nation in the world, and it must be remembered that in this conflict there might be two kinds of distress: distress from the need of buying, and distress from the need of selling; in his opinion, the latter feeling was more likely to press upon this country than the former upon France. We could not accomplish both objects, that of distressing the enemy by subjecting him to wants, and that of relieving our own trade by supplying him; one of these aims we might partially attain; but, in proportion as we should approach to it, we must recede from the other. The policy of wantonly rushing into a contest with the only remaining neutral, while we were so dependant upon foreign demand, he could not see. The conciliatory language held a few nights ago by the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer had been hailed by him as the promise of a better disposition: that right hon. gent. had said, that the prosperity of America was the prosperity of G. Britain; and he might have added, that the prosperity of the world was the prosperity of G. Britain.—Such language was not the mark of despondency or submission, it was more apt to spring from confidence in moderate views and in a just cause. Why should it not be used in speaking of other foreign relations? it might invite or cultivate dispositions of returning amity, and he trusted could never be interpreted as an inclination to surrender one essential or important interest of the country. Such language, too, would discourage Petitions for Peace. The course we were pursuing must prolong our own commercial distresses, and, in his Opinion, would have no other effect on the enemy than that of furnishing him with a new stimulus to the enthusiasm of his immense armies, in maintaining the contest against us until what he would denominate our maritime tyranny should be effectually controlled.

Mr. W. Smith

felt particularly the injury that would be sustained by the interruption of the American corn trade, shut up and deprived as we were of all supplies of that essential necessary from the Baltic. The right hon. gent. who brought in this bill in one hand, ought, therefore to have brought in a General Inclosure bill in the other. He greatly rejoiced at the sentiments expressed by the right hon. gentlemen as to the value of the connexion with America, but he feared their acts contradicted their sentiments.

Lord H. Petty

contended that America had submitted to no injury on the part of France, and therefore we were not entitled to inflict any injury on the ground of retaliation. He instanced two cases of the detention of American ships, one by a Spanish, and the other by a French cruiser; both were released with costs and charges after a hearing in a French and Spanish court of prize appeal. He hoped that the same sense of public duty which had in another place triumphed this night would here also put the public in possession of the necessary information upon this important point. It was not for the interest of this country to force a war between America and France; next to a war between England and America a war between France and America would be most injurious. The neutrality of America was the means of diffusing the manufactures of G. Britain. The retaliation of French prohibition would but deprive the more wealthy among the French people of a few luxuries, while the annihilation of neutral commerce would be most injurious to the manufactures of G. Britain. The accumulation of sugars that would be created here by the collected produce of the various islands conquered by this country; by the importation from the French islands, in American bottoms; and by the importation from the Brazils, now sanctioned by act of parliament; the arts of substitution which the French people would learn, and the privations to which they would accustom themselves, would be lasting injuries to this country and her colonies. Thus, this measure, which promised so much benefit at the outset, was attended with much mischief in the result. He deprecated proceedings which would involve the country in a quarrel with the only remaining neutral. He ridiculed the idea of those who abused the Order of the 7th Jan. as imbecile, and who now quoted it as authority of force in this question, and who, in like manner, censured as ruinous invasions of the navigation act, the provisions of the act of last sessions, for allowing the Americans to import the necessaries of life into our West India colonies. He trusted the house would pause, before it gave its sanction to a measure of such effect, and so little founded in right and law.

Lord Castlereagh

contended that the Orders in Council were founded on a principle of forbearance towards America, and not likely to injure their commercial interests in any degree, as much as the adoption of the rule of the war in 1756. The statement contained in the answer of lord Howick to Mr. Rist, that the government of this country would not cease to act upon the order of the 7th of Jan. until neutrals should procure the revocation of the French Decree, but ill accorded with the sentiments expressed by the noble lord opposite (lord H. Petty). Whatever relaxation of the rigour of its decree the French government might have found it covenient to adopt at home, it was most rigidly enforced in all the French colonies. It was not till after the peace of Tilsit that France found herself in a condition to execute that Decree generally over the continental countries subjected to her controul. While she was excluding our produce from all parts of the continent, was this country to submit without throwing any impediment in the way of her supply of her colonial produce? If the rule of 1756 were to be applied to America, it would deprive her of full one half of her exports. Could the noble lord contend that it was not an advantage to America that we had not declared the enemies colonies in a state of blockade? The Americans would have no right to complain of the duties proposed to be laid on, because they were only the carriers, and the duty would, of course, fall upon the consumers. As to the effect that might be produced upon the commerce of this country by the state of the continent, he admitted that its exports might for a time be checked, but that could not last long, because no pressure could keep down the vast extent of territory under prohibition, in such a manner, that the interests of individuals would not induce them to procure such articles as might be necessary for them. As to the question relative to our relations with America, he could assure the house that he and his colleagues were extremely anxious to avert the interruption of peace and amity with that country. If the calamity of war should unhappily take place, whenever the conduct of his majesty's ministers should be brought under consideration, it would be seen, that no effort had been spared in order to prevent it. If war should be the consequence, it would appear, that no concession or submission could have prevented it. The arguments of the noble lord came with a bad grace from those who had held the language contained in lord Howick's answer to Mr. Rist; rather should they now maintain the principles which they then professed, at a time, too, when the dangers of the country were not so imminent as at present. The consequence of a war would be the loss to America of her whole export trade, whilst only one-fourth of our exports would be endangered by that event. Our means of shutting American produce in her ports, in consequence of our vast marine, were far more extensive than her internal means of excluding us, and, consequently, a considerable portion of what this country now exported to America, would find its way into that country notwithstanding a war. We were not, from the mere apprehensions of a war with that country, to shrink from the assertion of those maritime rights which were so essential to our national strength and prosperity. The question now was, whether we were to be conquered by the French or not? Buonaparte had essayed his military warfare against us ineffectually, and he was now trying the success of a commercial warfare. It was an attack upon the public spirit of the country, and he was convinced the nation would not decline the contest. In order to obtain any peace with France, in order to made her live in peace, we must prove to her that she can make no impression on us. The only prospect of living with that country in civil or political intercourse, was afforded by a perseverance in the war, till by a proud defiance of all her means, we should convince her of her inability to destroy or weaken ours: so might we enjoy relations of amicable intercourse, not of suspended warfare with her; but that could never be expected, till we should have established the proof that no instrument she could employ, would avail for the reduction of the power or the resources of this empire.

The gallery was then cleared for a division, when the numbers appeared—

For the second reading 214
Against it 94
Majority —120
While strangers were excluded, another division took place upon the question, That the Bill be committed this day
For the question 147
Against it 55
Majority —92

Adjourned at half past 3 on Friday morning.