§ Mr. Tierney
rose to move that the house should resolve itself into a Committee of the whole house upon the Trade and Navigation of the country, or, if a select committee was thought preferable, he should have no objection that that course should be The object which he had in view was, that the house should have a full opportunity of discussing the Orders in Council after they were put into a shape and form, in which they were capable of being discussed. At present he did not moan to express either approbation or disapprobation of them. The present was one of the very few instances, in which an administration had brought such a measure before parliament without producing any information, or proposing some step by which information could be obtained, calculated to guide the judgment of the legislature upon the measure on which it was called upon to decide. In other instances, ministers had been rather disposed to challenge, than to shrink from a discussion of their acts; but in the present, the papers had merely been recommended in the king's Speech to the consideration 714 of the house, and it was left wholly in the dark, both respecting grounds upon which the Orders had been issued, and the effects Which were likely to result from them. The right hon. chancellor of the exchequer had thought it was sufficient to bring them forward in a Committee of Ways and Means, where it was impossible to institute any discussion, either upon their principle or tendency, and where they could be regularly considered only as a measure of finance. In this committee it was impossible to discuss either their legality or their policy, or the preamble of the bill. In every measure like the present, it had been the constant practice to submit the grounds of the measure to a Committee. In the American Commercial bill this course had been pursued, and likewise in the case of the Bank Restriction bill a secret committee had been appoint ed to inquire into the general state of its affairs, in short, this had been the uniform practice in matters of great magnitude and importance, connected either with commerce or finance. He disclaimed all intention or wish, by the present motion, to produce any unnecessary delay; but, conceiving the question involved in the Orders in Council to he of vital importance to the prosperity, and even to the existence of the country, it was material, surely, that the house should know what it was about before it decided upon them. He was ready to admit, for the sake of argument, that it was competent for the king's prerogative to have issued the Orders in Council; he would admit, for the sake of argument, that they were justifiable as a measure of retaliation against the enemy; and for the sake of argument, hex would admit, though he certainly was of a different opinion, that they were not inconsistent with the common usage of nations; but, what he wished to know was (and upon this point there was no information whatever to enable the house to form any opinion) what was likely to be their effect upon the trade of the country? In this single point of view, he considered the present as one of the most stupendous questions that ever had been agitated. It involved not a matter of subordinate regulation, not the prosperity of one branch of trade, but the commerce of the whole world, that commerce on which the prosperity and the very existence of England, in its present circumstances, depended. Was it therefore because our present situation was peculiar? Was it 715 because our affairs were in a more critical conjuncture, than they had ever been in before? Or Was it because the question Was more interesting and more important than any that could be canvassed, that even the most common precautions were hot to be adopted, and a decision passed with unprecedented precipitancy? In this country, from the existence of a body of Merchants of liberal education, enlightened views, unrivalled probity, and great experience, the house of commons could command means of information upon such a Subject, of which no other government was in possession? He wished to know the opinions of the merchants upon this subject. There were many persons, it was true, belonging to this respectable class in the house of commons, but they were prevented, probably, by the circumstance of their not being accustomed to deliver their Sentiments in public, from giving their opinions. These, however, they would give before a committee. This information he wanted, and to this information he was entitled. The right hon. gent. had this very day moved for a Committee to inquire into the present state of the West India trade; and not only that, but every other question, shrunk into nothing when compared with the present. Mr. Tierney said, he did not know on what information the right hon. gent. had proceeded in issuing the Orders in Council, but sure he was that he needed information. However well entitled that right hon. gent. was to the praise of great acuteness and much ability in many respects, yet he could not be supposed to be greatly conversant with commercial subjects; and the fact was, that there was not one individual in the present administration to whom the country looked up in matters of trade. It was but fair, therefore, that the house should know from what quarter the, information came upon which they acted. Trade was a subject with which the imagination had nothing to do, and on which all theories might be fallacious: here experience was the safe and only guide. He called upon the house to bear in mind, that they might soon, if the course of proceeding was not passing a bill, of the Merits of which they would be completely ignorant; and if the other house should send down a message, requesting to be informed on what grounds they had acted in so doing, what answer could they give, but that they had Complied with the recom- 716 mendation contained in his majesty's Speech, without examining whether the measure in itself was right or wrong? did not now ask the right hon. gent. to give up his measure; let him only confess that he had been guilty of an omission; and let its progress be suspended till the house had put itself into a situation to judge of its merits. If, however, in spite of his suggestion, the right hon. gent. persisted in carrying it through, all that he would say was, that he admired the boldness, not to use a harsher word, of the right hon. gent. He must be sensible that the house was now acting upon no better ground than blind and implicit confidence in his judgment; and if he happened to err, the last hope of the country was gone. For if the measure should fail (he did not pretend to say whether it would or not), but if it happened to fail, to what sources did the right hon. gent. look, to supply the defalcation in the revenue which would result from it? The right hon. gent, seemed to think, that it would be the means of compelling the enemy to conclude a peace; but this was simply an opinion, and if it failed in producing this effect, was he sure that it would not diminish our means of carrying on the war; and if it should cripple our revenue, what would he then have to say for having refused information to that house? It would be a poor consolation then, that the right hon. gent. had taken all the responsibility to himself; and that the blame rested upon his shoulders. The right hon. gent. at three o'clock last Friday morning, had refused to accede to the smallest delay, but in the course of the next twelve hours, he had found it necessary to recede from his determination, and he (Mr. T.) was confident, that as he proceeded difficulties would press upon him at every turning. He even now ventured to predict, that he would be obliged to divide the bill into two parts, and to refer both back to a committee. He wished for nothing that would savour like a triumph over the right hon. gent.; on the contrary, he declared, upon his honour, that he was actuated solely by a wish to promote the interests of the country. Every person must confess, that now they were wholly in the dark, and the house owed it to the country to inform themselves respecting the tendency of it proceedings. It owed this to the country upon many grounds, but upon none more than to shew that it was alive to the distresses of the people. Only 717 forty-eight hours ago a petition, stating these distresses, had been presented to the house, signed by 30,000 people. (p. 692.) He was far from rejoicing that petitions this description were presented, but when petitions such as that were presented, and, as had been justly remarked by a right hon. gent. not now in his place (Mr. Canning), couched in the most respectful and becoming language, they were surely on that very account entitled to greater consideration. It ought never to be out of the mind of that right hon. gent. nor out of the mind of the house, that there were 30,000 individuals in the country who were in want of bread. The right hon. gent. might say, perhaps, that these petitions were determined on before the Orders in Council were issued, but they surely were a sufficient reason fir paying greater attention to every thing which might tend to give relief to the sufferers, and for avoiding any thing which might have the effect of aggravating their sufferings. And was the right hon. gent. sure that the present measure would not increase the number of these sufferers from 30,000, to 300,000. Was he fully aware of their tendency to produce a war with America; and had he taken into his calculation the injury which would accrue from such an event to the industrious and manufacturing classes of the people? Here Mr. Tierney adverted in terms of the highest praise to the able pamphlet of Mr. Baring, and asked if any merchant would take upon him to controvert the statements and opinions which it contained? He called then upon the right hon. gent. to look at the situation of 30,000 men, who told hint that they were in want of bread, notwithstanding the advantage they derived from living under the most indulgent masters, who were smarting under the pressure of every kind of difficulty, and when he did that, to say, whether he would persist in refusing to refer to a committee a measure by which it was at least possible, if not probable, that this difficulty might be greatly enhanced? Was not this such an extensive question of trade as to require the most extensive investigation? To this question he begged that he would say aye or no. If he was of opinion that it would be better to discuss it in a select or secret committee, he (Mr. T.) should have no objection to either; but do not let him hold out the house of commons to the country as careless and indifferent about a subject connected with its most impor- 718 tant interests. To this proceeding Mr. T. shewed there could be no objection, whether he considered it as a question of general policy or merely as a question of revenue. But as it was, the right hon. had first issued the Orders, then he had advised the prorogation of parliament lest it should have an opportunity of taking cognizance of them too soon, and afterwards, when it did meet, he would not give the house of commons an opportunity of discussing them. This was the course which the right hon. gent had pursued, and instead of blaming, he ought to thank him (Mr. T.) for endeavouring to turn him from it. He assured the right hon. gent. that it was idle to attempt to run a race of privation with the French; in the first place, because they were better accustomed to privations than we were, and in the next place, because he knew no class who were more susceptible to any species of hardship than the merchants, who would be first affected by this measure. He did not mean to say that they were at all deficient in loyalty, or that they were backward in contributing their full share to the wants of the country. But in order to make these contributions, they must have profits, and without profits it would be vain to make an appeal to their patriotism. The right hon. gent. did not contend that the measure was calculated to mend the present state of our commerce. [Here the chancellor of the exchequer seemed to dissent.] Well, said Mr. T. so I understood him; but if he really thinks that it will improve our trade, why is he unwilling that evidence of this should be given before a committee? Does he pretend to "do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame?" —But all that he understood him to expect was, that it would open a profitable career of smuggling, and he should be glad that his expectations were even so far well founded. In short, he confessed himself totally at a loss even to divine the motives of the right hon. gent. for his present mode of proceeding; but, whatever this might be, which he had no means of knowing, he conjured the house before granting its sanction to a measure of such magnitude, to avail itself of the information which it had the means of obtaining, and which was essential to regulate its judgment instead of putting every thing to hazard by a hasty and precipitate decision. He called upon the right hon gent. in particular, who was prevented by scruples, which he was most ready to admit were 719 sincere and conscientious, from conciliating the people of Ireland by a liberal and generous system of policy, at least not to encrease their present irritation by a measure which might seriously affect their trade. He concluded with moving, "That the house do resolve itself into a committee of the whole house, on to-morrow se'nnight, to consider of Trade and Navigation."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, if the objections so repeatedly made to the Orders in Council were only to prove vexatious to himself, he should not much regard them. With respect to these Orders they were expressly laid before the house, for the purpose of some practical measure being adopted upon them. He had been of opinion that this measure should be the imposing of certain Duties, and he had accordingly moved, that they be taken into consideration in a committee of ways and means. The right hon. gent. had said, it was sufficient to satisfy him if a fair opportunity was given for discussing the measure. Now, he would venture to say, that no man could have witnessed the proceedings in that house without acknowledging that such opportunity had been afforded in the most ample manner. How far these Orders in Council were agreeable to law; how far they were consistent with policy, not only had been open to discussion, but had actually been repeatedly discussed. On the first day, when he moved to have them referred to a committee of ways and means, both- these points had been argued. It was there open to any member of that committee to move any measure he chose upon them, and to endeavour, in any manner he thought proper, to prevail on the committee to adopt his view of the case. Supposing the committee to have been of opinion that the Orders in Council were so impolitic that they ought not to be acted on, could there be a doubt that they might have refused to sanction them, and might have ordered such information as they deemed necessary to support the opinion they had formed? But the right hon. gent, said, that ministers had acted with unbecoming boldness in taking this measure, intirely on their own responsibility. He denied they had done so. He referred to the house if, on the contrary, they had not submitted arguments to the house to show that, the measure was justifiable in law, and consistent with sound policy. The right hon. gent. had said, when petitions with 30 or 40,000 names adhibited to them, 720 were lying on the table of the house praying for peace, was it becoming to shew an indifference to peace, or to a subject so materially calculated as the present must be to affect the situation of the person's so applying? The right hon. gent. however, at the very same time had anticipated the answer to his own question, by supposing that he (Mr. P.) might say, that though these petitions had not been presented till after the passing of the Orders in Council, they had been prepared long before. This was his answer, and he thought it sufficient to prove that the Orders in Council could in no respect have contributed to the grievances complained of in these petitions. When, therefore, the right hon. gent. stated, that the government of this country was running a race of privations with our enemy, he could not sufficiently express his admiration and astonishment. The privations which the people of this country suffered, arose from the measures of the enemy. The measures since adopted by this government were not resorted to for the purpose of running a race of privations with the enemy, but to make him abandon the measures he had adopted, and to cause him to feel what must otherwise have been alone felt by this country. He, the right hon. gent. declared, if he thought the course pointed out better than the one which the house already had, and must still have, in the course of the different stages of the bill to pursue, he would not be withheld, by any idea of false dignity, from agreeing to it. As he had stated, however, the house had already had full opportunities of arguing the question, and three more would occur in the course of the bill now before the house so, unless there was something in the objection as to the want of form, which could not be got over, he was of opinion the motion of the right hon. gents was unnecessary. As to the point of form, he was thoroughly convinced there was nothing peculiar in a committee of ways and means, which precluded gentlemen from there discussing the merits of the measure, and as to the observation addressed to the chancellor of the exchequer for Ireland, he could only say, that he did not esteem that-the proper course of proceeding, and should not recommend it to his right hon. friend.
§ Dr. Laurence
said he should be happy if by the discussion of the present question one day of reflection could be gained to the house to consider or the ruinous mea- 721 sure they were about to adopt. Form, he was of opinion, should at all times be regarded; it was often the only barrier to oppose to rashness and overweening confidence. Was not the present a measure which went to overturn every part of the navigation Acts? It was at the same time so much of an experiment that the right hon. gent. himself could not even give a name to the amount of the duties which it might be supposed to produce. If he could not tell us this, it was impossible he could tell us what the effects of the measure would be in other respects: and were we not, before we allowed every thing to be put upon the cast of a die, to. inquire if it was likely to answer any good purpose? Something had been said as to the Petitions for Peace, now lying on the table. He was one of those who never could recommend such petitions, being satisfied that they had a tendency rather to put to a greater distance the object they had in view. But Was it not of consequence that we should hesitate when such petitions were before us and not run headlong into an act calculated to lead us into a new war, and that, too, with almost the only power with whom we wore now at peace?
§ Mr. Adam
could not agree with the.right hon. gent. opposite (the chancellor of the exchequer), either in the answer he had given to the speech of his right hon. friend, or in the advice he had given to the chancellor of the exchequer for Ireland. He thought the house had committed an error which it should correct; and that it would commit another error if it followed the advice of the right hon. gent. as to Ireland. The Grand Committees belonging to this house were introduced in the best days of our parliament. To involve the Committee of Finance, or the means of making good the Supply to his majesty, with the Committee of Trade and Navigation, was to root up and destroy one of the most salutary privileges of that house. When any measure, was to be brought before the house, they knew its different stages for discussing the principle and detail. But when Grand Committees were established, one additional stage was granted, attended with this advantage, that members were not limited as to the number of times they might speak on the principle of the measure in one sitting. The question was, had this been done in the present instance in the proper committee? It was said, it had been discussed in the committee of ways and 722 means. If so, he contended, that was not the proper place. To discuss the question with propriety three different heads presented themselves—finance, legality, and policy. How was it possible that the two last of these could be at all considered in a committee of ways and means, where nothing but finance was cognizable? He should state a fact, which, in his opinion, was decisive of the question. In the year 1731 it was found necessary to change the duty on Irish linen from the fund in which it then stood to the aggregate fund. It was impossible that any thing could have a greater relation to finance than this,.yet, by the advice of a gentleman who then sat at the table of the house, than whom none was ever more competent to point out the proper mode of proceeding, it was resolved that the house should in the first instance go into a Committee of Trade, to which it was properly considered that every thing relating to trade, though it might latterly become a subject for financial regulation, primarily belonged. He-should suppose a case, that his majesty might be advised to make an alteration in our courts of justice, and to connect with such alteration a question of revenue. He would ask, would it be allowed, would it be borne, that such proposed alteration should be taken into consideration in a committee of ways and means? He felt himself called on to say, if the house laid it down that the measure in question had been properly taken into consideration in the committee of ways and means, and that a similar mode of proceeding ought to be adopted as to Ireland, it would lay down a principle which would equally apply to the Grand Committees of-Justice, Religion, &c.
thought the hon. and learned gent. had confounded the Grand Committees with the Standing Orders of the house. When there was any material innovation made, then it was proper that the measure should go through a committee was no innovation: it was only a due exercise of the king's prerogative. He did not say that the exercise of such prerogative was not to be inquired into by parliament; but here opportunities of doing so had been afforded.
said the practice of the house had been, that questions of navigation, trade, justice, religion, &c. should be considered by committees of the whole house. The right hon. gent. who spoke 723 last had supposed that the present measure stood in a different situation in consequence of its flowing from the king's prerogative. He would ask, could any exercise of the king's prerogative be figured in which that house not only was not intitled, but even in which it was not absolutely bound to interfere, in order to see that his majesty had been well and properly advised? Here his majesty had expressly referred the Orders in Council to the house. His majesty had not desired, or even suggested to the house, what sort of measures it was his wish should be adopted, but had simply referred them to the consideration of parliament. In that situation it became the duty of the house to proceed to the consideration of the business in the most regular and parliamentary manner. He should state a case from the Journals, arising out of one of the most unexceptionable and undoubted prerogatives of the crown, which he believed did exist, and which he presumed to think was not by any means so important in its nature as the present—namely, the making of a treaty, which sufficiently pointed out the mode of proceeding in such cases. In his majesty's Speech in the year 1787, he found a passage stating, that his majesty had concluded a treaty of Navigation and commerce with his most Christian majesty, and that he recommended to parliament to adopt the best means of carrying it into effect. How did parliament act in consequence of this reference? Did they carry it into effect, as ministers had now done? Did they proceed to bring in a bill directly? Or did they refer the treaty to a committee of ways and means? They did neither. They proceeded in the way that was proper and established. They resolved that the house should, on a given day, resolve into a committee of the whole House to consider so much of his majesty's speech as related to navigation and commerce; and they referred to that committee to see, if the king had been properly advised in the exercise of his prerogative in concluding that Treaty. On the 21st of Feb. following, the committee of the whole house approved of the exercise of the royal prerogative, and appointed a committee to prepare an address, notifying to his majesty their approbation of the exercise of his prerogative. They then referred to the committee of ways and means, for the purpose of enacting resolutions of finance. There was no doubt, however, that the 724 business had been conducted directly in the face of the regular proceedings of the house. It was impossible, in a committee of ways and means, to enter into the merits of these Orders in Council, or to judge in that place, whether his majesty had been properly advised in the exercise of his prerogative. The justice or propriety of the measure could never, there, be decided on with effect. In a committee of ways and means, nothing could be examined into which was not referable to duties. What his right hon. friend had said was perfectly apparent, that this was a question of the greatest importance, infinitely more so than that of a treaty of navigation and commerce. In the present measure all the world was interested; yet here we had neglected what we had done in cases of much less importance.
§ Mr. Tierney ,
in reply, did not deny that the house had had opportunities of discussing the question as to the merits of these Orders in Council; what he complained of was, that they had never been allowed an opportunity of deciding on them. In a committee of ways and means they could have no means of deciding on any question. They could not command any materials for that purpose, nor could they effectually touch on any thing unconnected with finance, unless they had received special instructions to that effect. It had been said, that there -was nothing in this measure contrary to the navigation laws. He would ask, was it nothing contrary to the navigation acts to force a vessel out of her tract to this country, and then to tell her you may proceed to the place of your destination, but you must leave the most valuable part of your cargo behind you? This he considered to be not only a novelty, but also to be a novelty which was perfectly disgraceful to this country. He still maintained, that merely because measure related to trade it must originate in a committee of the whole house, and not in a committee of ways and means. If the committee of Ways and means, where no instructions had been given, would enable all proper steps to be taken for deciding on the justice and policy of the measure, as well as on its financial merits, then he was wrong; if it could not, then he was right. He recollected a bill having been introduced. by the lord advocate of Scotland, during the last parliament, for altering the practice as to Teinds in Scotland, in which the Speaker interfered, and put the learned lord to rights as to the form; 725 it being requisite that such bill, as affecting religion and also justice, should originate. in a committee of the whole house. He conceived the present bill to stand in a similar situation, and he begged to have the opinion of the Speaker on this point.
§ The Speaker
thought that the rules of the house were sufficiently clear on the subject, and that it was only the application of them that could be dubious. with respect to Grand Committees, near a 160 years had elapsed since any report had been made by one. The standing order of 1770 was the rule by which the house was now governed; that order said, that all matters of trade should originate in a Committee of the whole house. It was true, however, on the other hand, that until these very few years the committee of ways and means had not been so separately employed on ways and means alone as to exclude from their discussions every other subject. Now, certainly the practice of the house was, that not any thing should come before the committee of ways and means but what related to the duties to be granted to his majesty. In that committee, however, it was perfectly competent to any member to use all the arguments and inducements, direct and collateral, which were calculated to produce assent to or dissent from the question agitated. Undoubtedly, evidence could not be examined in that committee; but should evidence be deemed indispensible, the chairman might report progress, and the house, if they thought fit, might go into a larger scope of enquiry.
§ Mr. A. Baring
conceived the regulations in the bill to be a complete innovation of the navigation laws. It was a bill not of finance, for the right hon. gent. could not name the amount of the duties to be expected from it; but it was a bill of regulation and prohibition, which never could originate in a committee of ways and means. It was a financial measure in appearance only; in reality it was a measure of commercial regulation, and that, too, of the very greatest importance. He had only got the bill to. day, and hoped it would not be pressed forward this night; but that a committee of trade would be appointed to consider it.
§ Earl Temple
wished to know, whether the duties imposed by the bill could, if the bill were passed, be petitioned against by the persons interested, during the present year The answer would show what was the character of the bill.
§ The Speaker
observed, that the bill came before hint only as a revenue bill, and consequently that the duties could not be so petitioned against. The house then divided:—
For Mr. Tierney's motion 55 Against it 118 Majority 63.
[ORDERS IN COUNCIL BILL.] The house resolved itself into a committee on the Orders in Council Bill. On the first clause of the bill being read,
§ Mr. Tierney
took an opportunity of censuring the incongruity between the bill and the American Treaty bill, that had been recently passed, which he contended were in direct contradiction to each other.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
replied, that there was no inconsistency in the bills to which the rt. hon. gent. had alluded. The American Treaty bill went merely to continue the provisions of an act that was shortly to expire, and as that was a measure to which America was no party, and contained a clause for its amendment or repeal in the present session, any alteration which th legislature might think fit to make in it could not be a violation of any engagement with America. The bill then before the house would have the effect of repealing only one or two clauses of that bill, whilst the remaining clauses it contained would still continue in force.— After some further conversation the clause was agreed to.
On the clause enacting certain duties on Cotton Wool or Yarn, and Jesuits bark, being read,
§ Mr. Whitbread
rose to move, that the words 'Jesuits Bark' be omitted. He did not think it very necessary to examine minutely the details or the bill, believing that it could never be executed, as a war with America would probably be the consequence. But he wished to mark his most decided disapprobation of the principle of the prohibition, as far as it regarded the bark. In the first place, the right hon. gent. was deceived in supposing that there was such a want of bark on the continent. He had said, that bark had risen in France from 10 to 70s. the pound;—but that which bore the higher price was not the common bark, but the red bark, which was always dearer. There was no reason whatever to suppose that the pressure from want of common bark would be such as to be an inducement to the enemy to apply for peace. The continent, according to the intelligence which he had re- 727 ceived, was well supplied with bark, and with sugar for two years consumption, so that it must be a long time before the right hon. gent.'s scheme could operate. Sugar was cheaper there than it had been this time 12 months. Upon the view which the right hon. gent. had of the subject, therefore, his measure was the most childish and nugatory that could be conceived. In another view, however, it was most detestable, for it was a war with the helpless, the sick, and the hospitals,—one at which the feelings of all mankind would revolt. It was reviving the savage practices of remote antiquity, and substituting them for that modern civilization which rendered even war itself less horrible. Bark grew in our enemy's colonies, and though the right hon. gent. should send tens of thousands of poor sick persons to their graves, yet the enemy would have the means of a severe retaliation, for they might say, that we should have no bark from their colonies. But, did the right hon. gent. know so little of the science of medicine, as not to have heard, that there were many substitutes for bark? There were many instances in history to illustrate the bad effects of an atrocious and malicious hostility of this kind, and the good effects of generosity. It was not very long since an application was made for bark by France to this country; and the answer was, that they might have as much as they could carry away. But this turned out to be a mere private speculation; for so little was it wanted, that the French government prohibited its entrance. He sincerely hoped that this part of the bill would be given up. If you prevented the removal of disease, you must, on the same principle, wish its increase; and this principle would lead to the promotion of pestilence, poison, and assassination. If it once became the policy of this country to starve the continent, the evil might be visited on ourselves. The ports of the Baltic were shut; and we were provoking a war with America, while we might be in want of corn. If we pressed this, they might say that we might starve; and reap in that fatal vengeance the fruits of our own detestable policy.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that the arguments of the hon. gent. applied to the provisions of another bill which it was his intention to bring in, not to the clause under consideration, which went only to impose a duty on the exportation of Jesuits Bark. But the statement 728 of the hon. gent. refuted itself. If France had the supply he asserted, France could suffer no practial inconvenience from the measure. The information upon which he acted, however, represented France as much in want of bark, and that there were many orders received in London for the supply of that article to the continent. As to the policy of the prohibition, he should state that his object was, that as the exportation would be permitted by licence, under certain circumstances, France should not be allowed to receive that article, without taking, at the same time, other articles from this country. The effect expected, was to break down that barrier which France had raised against the commerce of this country. There would be no difficulty felt in obtaining any quantity of this article, the moment the enemy took off his prohibition from the importation of other articles; the inconvenience, therefore, which might be felt, was not to he imputed to this country: what difference, he would ask the hon. member, was there between this article and articles of necessary sustenance?
stated the price of bark at Amsterdam, at different periods since Nov. in order to sheen, that the price would not he enhanced by this measure, the price in Nov. having been 10s. per pound, and at the latest account, 25s. for the very best quality.
said a few words against, the clause: he saw no insuperable obstacle to the restoration of peace, but the obstinacy of ministers.
Mr. Secretary Canning
justified the principle of the clause, because, though innocent persons might suffer by its operation, there was no mode of warfare in which that was not the case. if the hon. gent. could devise any mode of carrying on war, by which the injuries would be made to fall not on the innocent but on the guilty, they would bestow a benefit on mankind. He was at a loss to distinguish the privation under this measure, from the privation of necessary support from the civil inhabitants of a besieged town. We were justified in retorting his measures upon the enemy, and on this ground we should be justified in the complete prohibition of the exportation of bark. The measure was not intended to promote the greatest possible degree of affliction amongst our enemies; God forbid! the object was to endeavour to bring the system acted upon by the enemy to an end. The statement of the 729 hon. gent. that France had sufficient bark for two years consumption, depreciated the whole of the other part of his argument. Even on the sheaving of the hon. gent. (Mr. Lushington) opposite, the price of bark had, risen considerably on the continent, and the statement respecting the plentiful supply of sugar on the continent was so improbable in itself, that it could not be credited without the strongest evidence. A war of this kind was detestable, he admitted, but unfortunately it was the only means left for procuring a solid peace. The guilt rested with the enemy.
§ Mr. Whitbread
observed, that if the committee agreed to the proposition of endeavouring to prevent bark from reaching the continent, instead of throwing the odium of a want of humanity on the character of Buonaparte, we might most probably find that there would be too just ground for founding a reflection on the character of our own country. The emissaries of Buonaparte might go to the hospitals, and say, here is an English act of parliament; you see what it is that prevents you from obtaining a remedy for your complaints.' He put it to the honourable feelings of gentlemen on the opposite side, whether the enemy would not at least have an opening here against us?, [Here some significant gestures were made use of by some of the gentlemen on the treasury bench.] He was not surprised that the editor of a celebrated Manifesto, or that the bombarders of Copenhagen, should express some disapprobation at the mention of this circumstance. For his own part, he recollected when it. was generally supposed, and by some, he believed, it was hoped for, that the French army were likely to be destroyed by a dysentery; and if he, who was rather favourable to the old morality, were to be asked what he would do, if in such a case he was in possession of such medicine as would be likely to relieve them, he would answer, he would. give it to them; he would do so not only from 'natives of humanity, but he was also convinced it would be beneficial, in a political point of view. Some gentlemen took up and laid down. the cloak of morality so frequently, changing as it suited their purpose, that he could not say what might be their opinion at the present moment. But he would say, that in a book which a right hon. gent. last week despised, it was related, that at the siege of Jerusalem, The famished inhabitants were permitted to come out. In 730 more modern times, we might recollect a circumstance which was more immediately applicable. The French convention decreed, that no quarter should be given; did the English government retaliate by the passing of a similar decree? no: What was then the consequence? The consequence was, that the French soldiers refused to put the sanguinary order of their government into execution. Here, then, was an object of policy likely to be gained by mitigated rigour towards an enemy, exclusive of all ideas of principles of humanity. But the house would here pardon him for mentioning a circumstance which this brought to his recollection. He was informed, that soldiers were convicted of acts of gross misconduct whilst they lay before Copenhagen. He was not aware of the facts to which he now alluded, at the time of the Thanks being voted to lord Cathcart, or he should. have mentioned them. For he was informed, that after these men to whom he alluded were tried and convicted, they were not only not punished immediately before the enemy, but they were released and suffered to go at large. This was a subject which required further elucidation, for the sake of the honour of the nation, which was sufficiently, he should have thought, tarnished by the attack itself, without such acts of aggravation.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
was of opinion, that one consideration might alone decide the question. It was hoped, that we should be likely by this means in some degree to weaken the military force of Buonaparte. But, was it not to be fairly concluded, that he, both as an object of policy to preserve his strength, and with a view to increase his popularity with his soldiers, would at all events procure them this medicine if it were necessary. The odium would then be cast upon us, and his" character would be exalted, so that the means were not calculated to accomplish the desired end. The general of a blockading army might fairly hope to make some impression on the besieged army, or that he should be capable of making the general of the garrison sympathise in the feelings of the suffering inhabitants; but could it be supposed, that a similar impression would be made on the feelings of that general who at present commanded the great garrison of the French nation? The measure might possibly excite a more general union of hatred against the English nation amongst all ranks of the French people; it might add 731 to the ferocity or unfeeling character of the contest, but it could not possibly be the means of putting an end to it. He therefore supported the amendment.
§ General Gascoyne
observed, that with respect to the circumstances which an hon. gent. had related as having occurred at Copenhagen, it was to be recollected, that at courts martial appeals were frequently made to the mercy of the commander in chief; there might be some circumstances in mitigation of punishment which had not reached the ears of the lion. gent.
§ Sir A. Wellesley
reminded the house, that it was impossible to prevent acts of improper conduct at all times in an army. As to the facts alluded to, he believed that after the persons had been tried, some doubt remained on the mind of the noble lord who held the chief command. In that case it was not to be contended that the noble lord did wrong to hesitate, before he put judgment into execution. The case he was informed, was now under the consideration of high legal authority.
§ Mr. Whitbread
stated, that he alluded to three distinct charges, namely, robbery, rape and murder.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that it would have been much less grating to the feelings of the noble lord, whose name had been mentioned, and it would give him a fairer opportunity of instructing some member of that house, as to the particulars, so that he might be able to speak in his behalf, if it was made the subject of a specific motion, of which notice should he previously given. As to the case which the hon. member alluded to, there were some doubts as to a point of law, which was referred to the consideration of some of the highest legal authorities.
§ Mr. Whitbread
then gave notice that he would, on an early day, bring the question before the house.
The Attorney General
stated, in corroboration of what had been said by the hon. bart. that the powers of the commander in chief were now under the consideration of the highest authority in the kingdom, and the inclination of opinion was, that they did not authorise the execution of the punishment. In a country governed by law, it could not be matter of surprise that when punishment could not be legally inflicted, the individuals, however morally guilty, should escape punishment.
§ Mr. D. Giddy
spoke in favour of the Or- 732 ders in Council, as consistent with the law of nations and the municipal law of the land, and consequently should give his support to the clause.
§ Mr. Tierney
proposed to take the sense of the committee on an amendment which he should move, for leaving out the words "cotton wool, or yarn," after his hon. friend had taken the sense of the committee on the propriety of omitting the words "Jesuits Bark."
§ Sir C. Price
asserted, that the price of bark at Paris was, at present, what it had been stated to be by the chancellor of the exchequer, 70s. Per pound, and that there were unlimited orders at this moment in London, for any quantity of that article that could be supplied.
§ Mr. A. Baring
observed, that gentlemen need not be so extremely tenacious of the provision, that was here alluded to; for if only one ship laden with bark were to arrive safe, it would be sufficient for the whole continent.
The Advocate General
supported the principle of the Orders in Council, and the enforcement of these prohibitions, on the maxims of the law of nations, which authorised a belligerent to re-act upon its enemy the severity of its own means of annoyance.
§ Sir A. Piggott
argued ably against the principle of the bill, as subversive of the essential interests of justice. He considered it nothing short of the most violent outrage, to arrogate a right of confiscation over an innocent neutral, although he had not violated the provisions of a blockade, or in any degree contravened the Orders this country had issued. Still such an effect did follow from the new system of ministers: and therefore he should take every opportunity of declaring his decided hostility to it.—The question being loudly called for, a division took place, first upon the amendment of Mr. Whitbread, relative to the prohibition of Jesuits Bark, when the numbers were—AyeS.78; Noes 165; Majority against the Amendment 87.— A second division then took place on Mr. Tierney's amendment, relative to the prohibition of cotton yarn, &c. when the numbers were—Ayes 76; Noes 167; Majority against the amendment 91.