§ Mr. Whitbread
rose and spoke nearly as follows:—Mr. Speaker; It has been announced, in the Speech delivered by the Lords Commissioners at the opening of the present session of parliament, that this is the crisis of the fate of the country; and I believe the assertion to be true. At various epochs of the war, persons speaking in this and the other house of parliament, have used the epithets alarming, disastrous, tremendous; and each has appeared to be appropriate to the period at which it was spoken, till at length an accumulation of events has brought us to the crisis of our fate. It still remains to be decided, whether that crisis shall lead to the destruction or the salvation of the empire. I profess myself to be of a disposition rather sanguine under the pressure of political difficulties; and I am so, not only from constitution of mind, but also upon the principle, that no man ought, to enter into the business of public life, without a determination never to despair of the public welfare. Such is the power of true wisdom, when once applied to the conduct of human affairs; such is what may be termed its vis medicatrix that no situation can be imagined so desperate as not to admit of remedy. It is absolutely necessary, however, to use the time which yet remains, with discretion, and we are in a situation in which no fresh error can be committed with impunity. I have felt it therefore to be my duty at this particular moment, to bring to the recollection of the house the transactions of the last few months, to propose the expression of an opinion upon the conduct of ministers with regard to our foreign relations during the time they have been in power, and a mode of proceeding for the future.—I am not presumptuous enough to imagine, that what I shall submit to your consideration will prove an infallible remedy; but at the same time I have a right to hope that my advice, if adopted, may probably, or possibly at least, lead to political salvation; for the experiment which I have in view, has been hitherto absolutely untried. We are at present, in my view and estimate of things, grovelling in error. The country is in a state of delusion, which was at the first artificially created, and has been kept up from time to time for interested purposes, till at last the whole community 802 appears to be, in an alarming degree, the too willing slave of its own prejudices. My object is to dispel these clouds, to lead the house, and the country to the true knowledge of the circumstances in which we stand, to ascertain whether our ruin be inevitable, and our salvation impossible: to induce you to act with justice both to yourselves and others; that, if it should please God that this great nation should at last be overcome, we may meet our fate with the resolution of men who had done all which depended upon them to avert it; and that if we do perish, we at least may perish in the light of day.—Sir, I do not intend to bring before the house the distresses of any of our countrymen arising from the war; and indeed I have refrained from all minute enquiry into the particular embarrassments felt in various of our most important branches of commerce, lest I should be tempted to dwell on the detail of such grievances, and appear to confine the matter now below me to narrow, or to party, grounds; or to induce the house to adopt a plan of action founded upon that, which of itself would not afford its justification. But there are many symptoms confirming the statement made in the speech of the Lords Commissioners, which it is impossible totally to overlook. The most prominent of them are the petitions, now lying upon your table, praying you to advise his majesty to enter into a negotiation at the first convenient opportunity, and which we are told, have already been signed by no less than from thirty to forty thousand persons. These petitions have this peculiar character about them, that they are the spontaneous expressions of those who have signed them. In this view, they demand our peculiar attention. For however strong our party divisions may be, however contentions our debates, I think that no one will presume to say, that any party influence has been used for the purpose of procuring them. At former times, it is well known that the whole weight of persons of consideration in the country, has been exerted to induce particular counties, districts, or towns, to come forward to express their opinions, either with regard to wars that might be then depending, or upon any other subject of political importance. Such has not been the case at present. Here give me leave to observe, that such petitions have at different times produced the most beneficial effects. What put an end to the American war, but the 803 petitions of the people? What produced those petitions, but the ruinous consequences of that war, which was at its commencement, and during a great part of its progress, a popular war? It was not till the stagnation of commerce, which at length took place as one of its deplorable effects, that the people were roused to a sense of their situation; when roused, their efforts produced the peace of 1783, which no one will now say was not a blessing to the country. But the petitions in those instances were excited and supported by sir George Saville, and other men of high character and eminence in their day: these now before you are the unsolicited expressions of the feelings of the people. Observe their character, their tone, and their temper. They relate the distresses of the petitioners without exaggeration, they propose, most respectfully, their wish that an attempt may be made to put an end to the war, by the continuance of which they declare that their ruin will be produced; but at the same time they manfully assert, that if the demands of the enemy should be found unreasonable, or inconsistent with the honour of the country, they will perish rather than submit. Their moderation calls for our applause, their sufferings must excite our attention, and in their final resolution we must be all prepared to join.—Many gentlemen have delivered their sentiments in this house upon the propriety and policy of these petitions. I am afraid the majority of opinions is against them; and certainly whatever influence has been exerted, has been adverse to their adoption. But such attempts have been, and must be in their nature vain. I also think them unconstitutional and impolitic.—I am glad to see the petitions upon the table of the house. First, because I know that when people feel acutely, they will express their feelings, and that if driven from what is their ordinary course, they must resort to a channel which would be neither so desirable nor so constitutional. Secondly, because I believe that the present ministers are extremely unwilling to negociate, and I am desirous in the actual circumstances of the country, that they should be forced to make an experiment, which (I repeat) has never yet been tried. It is absurd to suppose that the petitions can give encouragement to the enemy. He must be acquainted with the state of the country, and if he were not, the very attempt to put down petitions, would prove to him 804 two things:—first, that the distress actually exists, and, secondly, that you are afraid of its being known. By the very attempt to conceal you reveal the fact. Therefore, sir, I trust that these petitions will multiply, and that they will adhere to the some temperate, firm, and respectful language which has hitherto been used. If I were to devise a form in which petitioners should address this house, most meritorious for feeling, for manly fortitude, and for respect to the body before whom they appear, I should with perfect satisfaction exemplify my ideas in the words of the Bolton petition. [Here the hon. gent. read the said Petition, which will be found at Feb. 22.] Sir, it is necessary, however, for me to observe, that these petitions have had no influence upon my conduct on this day; I have not corresponded, or had any communication with any of the petitioners. I have neither impelled them, nor am I impelled by them. I act upon a deliberate view of the circumstances of the country. I certainly take upon myself a great weight of responsibility, both as to the act itself, and as to the time of performing it; but as I can have no hesitation as to the expediency of submitting my proposition to parliament, so it appears to me, that this, of all others, is the moment in which the step ought to be taken. I have. waited for seine time after the production of the papers, which by the King's command were laid upon the table of the house, for the purpose of obtaining further information, some of which has been afforded by ministers, but no rational hope can now be entertained that they will concede further on this point. And if any one could have flattered himself, that from France would have come any additional overtures, I think that expectation must now be at an end. The period of the year is advancing, in which the armies will begin to march. We are in a most critical situation with regard to America, and every thing seems to portend, that if the present moment be lost, none other so favourable can occur.—The circumstances in which we stand are rendered more alarming, from the spirit and conduct of administration. Putting aside, for the present, all consideration of the means by which they obtained their power, I look only to their character, while in power; and if I contemplate the repulsive arrogance of their communications, their destructive activity of enterprize, their perplexed and crude 805 efforts at commercial regulation, mixed with the symptoms of narrow-minded and cruel policy, which I see in this house, if the fate of the country be really doomed, it appears to me that they are expressly designated for its consummation. What has happened upon the continent within the period of their official life? After the dissipation of the delusion so widely diffused, respecting the eventual success of the allies in the last campaign, and of the error under which we laboured, as to the triumph of the Russians in the battle of Eylau; after the Prussian monarch had twice refused the overtures of France to conclude peace, and rejected the armistice which was signed in his name, some affairs of lesser importance were succeeded by the battle of Heilsbron, which was immediately followed up by the fatal battle of Fried-land, in which the remnant of the Prussian monarchy was consumed, the remaining forces of the Russian empire completely defeated and put to flight, and the assertion which I made in this house, in the latter end of the last session of parliament, was verified, the Emperor of Russia was prostrate at the feet of France. I will not now enter into any detail of the complaints which have been brought by Russia against this country, for neglecting to assist her in the moment of her need. I will not enquire whether the predecessors of the present administration were or were not to blame, whether they did or did not deceive the Emperor of Russia. I will grant it either way, for the purpose of avoiding controversy upon that point to-night; and in the view of my argument, it is unimportant which of these statements be true; but this is certain, that for the events, which I have just mentioned, the present ministers are not responsible. No, their responsibility arises from far different causes. Denmark in the course of the last summer has been attacked, insulted and calumniated: but she has been left with her strength unimpaired, and from a neutral forced into the situation of an enemy.—Russia, from an ally, is now in arms against you. America is on the eve of war, and the opportunity of obtaining a decision in our favor, when decision had become necessary, absolutely and entirely lost. In the place of that political wisdom which is expert at seizing those moments which folly overlooks and indiscretion neglects, the whole mind of the administration is employed in absurd custom-house regulations, which 806 never can be executed, but will only remain a monument of their political weakness. For the situation of Denmark, Russia and America towards us the ministers are responsible.—Sir, the war has been described by them, in the same speech from the throne, as a war purely defensive. There can exist no reason, therefore, against its termination, arising out of any expectations of positive advantage which can be formed from its continuance,—it must be a question purely of terms. Our means of defence, in the strict sense of the term, are great, although not perhaps adequate to the greatness of our external possessions. Our means of defence, by the way of offence upon the enemy, are little or none. For, I would ask, where is it possible to make any impression upon France? Where can you come in contact with her? By what means or in what direction can you use your armies for the purpose of making her desirous of peace? For my own part I see no possibility of making any effective attack upon the French empire, for I put entirely out of my consideration the preposterous contest of commercial privation, which the ministers have undertaken, and which it is too probable that parliament is about to sanction. What hope can there be that a great commercial nation like this should be able to carry on such a warfare with a country, which, from nature and situation, is almost, if not altogether, independent of commerce? The suspension of our commerce cannot be borne beyond a certain period: the annihilation of the commerce of France would be comparatively unimportant to her, and would leave her with her physical strength unimpaired. If then the war be purely defensive, and if the termination of it depends only upon the terms to be obtained from the enemy, it becomes us, in the first place, to consider whether opportunities of entering into negotiation for the purpose of ascertaining what terms might have been obtained, have not been lost; and I think I shall be able to skew to the house, that there have been moments in the course of the last few months, which, if wisely improved, might at least have been used for the purpose of putting the sincerity of the enemy to the test, and even if he had been found insincere, it would have been of the utmost importance in my opinion, to have placed his insincerity beyond all question or controversy.—I do not imagine that the house will suppose itself to be precluded, from the 807 consideration of the papers now upon the table, by any part of their address to the king at the beginning of the session: because the papers were not then before us, and certainly they must have been put there with a view to their examination, and for the formation of an opinion upon them, or the placing them upon the table of this house, would be mere mockery and insult. From an examination of those papers I think I shall be able to prove, that it was owing to mismanagement, and not to the impossibility of the thing, that negociation did not commence after the peace of Tilsit; that it was owing to petulance, and if possible, still more flagrant mismanagement, that the offer made by Austria to Mediate between this country and France, in the months of Nov. and Jan. last, was not turned to such an account as might have opened the door to negociation.—Sir, I beg the house to do me the justice to discriminate, and to do the petitioners also the justice to discriminate, between negociation and peace. They do not desire you, and I am not endeavouring to persuade you, to force ministers into the making of a hasty and dishonourable peace; no disaster to this country could be so great as dishonour; and we had rather perish than incur it—all I wish is to undeceive you upon the examples of failure in the late and former attempts to negociate, and by shewing you, that in no one instance has negociation with France been so conducted as to bring the matter to this decisive point, that peace cannot now be obtained, applying the word now to the period in which such negociation was going on, or might have been entered into, and thence to prove, that it would be expedient to enter into negociation, and that such negociation might be commenced with the hope of a favourable issue. Sir, soon after the battle of Friedland, and before the peace of Tilsit had been concluded, lord G. L. Gower arrived at Memel, as ambassador extraordinary from the court of London to that of S. Petersburgh, and he appears immediately to have addressed a letter to Gen. Budberg, minister for foreign affairs of the emperor Alexander, requiring some information as to the transactions then going forward; for the first letter we have is an answer from gen. Budberg to lord Granville Leveson, [p. 110] informing him that the report he had heard of the conclusion of the armistice was true: and that it had received its ratification. In fact the armistice was ratified 808 on the 22d of June; the battle of Friedland having been fought upon the 14th. Here I think it necessary to express my opinion on the subject of the peace of Tilsit. Ministers have described it in their declaration, as a peace injurious to the interest of the Russian empire; as having been concluded in a moment of despondency and alarm; as disgraceful to the emperor, and as detrimental to the interests of his empire.—I am totally of a different opinion. In one word, I conceive it to have been the salvation of the emperor, and of his empire. Ministers must know that after the battle of Friedland, there was nothing like a Russian army in existence; that the corps of troops which remained were flying in every direction, without order, and without a possibility of their being rallied; and that their numbers were so reduced, that they would have been unable, if they could have been again brought together, to have afforded any resistance whatever to the enemy. The peace of Tilsit was not only justifiable, but indispensibly necessary to the emperor of Russia. I cannot help adding, that to me it appears to have been a mark of the most consummate political wisdom in the French emperor to make that peace: that he stopped, at the very moment when he ought to have stopped; and that what has been considered as a military blunder, (the not pursuing and exterminating, as he certainly could have done, upon all military calculation, the remainder of the Russian force,) was not only an act of forbearance on his part, but an act of great prudence and sagacity.—But, Sir, to return to the correspondence. On the 28th of June, lord Granville Leveson wrote another letter to gen. Budberg, in which be expresses his alarm at the silence of gen. Budberg upon the subject of negociation in concert, and declares the readiness of the court of London to enter into such negociation, ending the sentence with this expression, "since it had made war (meaning England), for the sole purpose of obtaining a secure and permanent peace." [p. 110.]—Sir, that expression from the pen of the noble lord whom I am glad to see present at our deliberations, is most remarkable; for I think that noble lord might have said, and could not but say consistently with his former declarations, which are also upon the table of this house, that England would never make peace until she had completely destroyed the power of Buonaparte. Sir, I beg to read to you an article of the treaty of confederation be- 809 tween England, Austria, and Russia, executed on the 11th of April 1805, the æra the last disastrous coalition against France, which is signed by lord G. L. Gower; that article designates the object of the league, and what it is proposed to carry into effect by the concert against France, namely, "The evacuation of the country of Hanover, and of the north of Germany; The establishment of the independence of the republics of Holland and Switzerland; The re establishment of the king of Sardinia in Piedmont, with as large an augmentation of territory as circumstances will admit; The future security of the kingdom of Naples, and the complete evacuation of Italy (the island Elba included) by the French forces; The establishment of an order of things in Europe, which may effectually guarantee the independence of the different states, and present a solid barrier against future usurpations."—The last article is a generality upon which we need not dwell, but I think no man in his senses could have had in contemplation the accomplishment of any of the former articles, which are specific, without at the same time contemplating the entire demolition of the power of the French empire. Therefore, Sir, I am much surprised to find the expression I have quoted in the letter of the noble lord; and I do not think that with truth and justice it can be said, that the sole purpose of the war made by England has been the obtaining a secure and permanent peace. If it had, the war might have been concluded long ago. Indeed it need never have been undertaken. This letter of my lord Granville Leveson is followed by a note from gen. Budberg to his excellency, dated at Tilsit on the 30th of June. [p. 111,] I beg the house to remark that this correspondence began only eight days after the battle of Friedland; and that the letter from which I am now about to quote was written by gen. Budberg, several days before the treaty of Tilsit was signed. This letter contains several reproaches against England for tardiness and want of co-operation in the war. As I have before said, I will put aside for the present, any consideration of the justice or injustice of those complaints; but one cannot help observing, that these complaints urged on the part of the emperor of Russia, in the moment of irritation and disappointment, even if ill-founded, were excusable, and on the other hand their having been made, is no proof of their being true. Sir, ministers by the manner in which 810 they have publicly expressed themselves in their declarations, and also in this house, would have you conceive that the offer of mediation resulted from the treaty of Tilsit alone, when in point of fact the first offer of mediation was made in this note of gen. Budberg, before the treaty of Tilsit had been executed, and not only before the treaty had been executed, but so many days before that event, and so short a time after the signature of the armistice, as to make it impossible that all those plans which are attributed to Russia and France, of a concert for the purpose of annoying England, could have beep entered into. When this offer was first made it was unclogged with the offensive limitation of time, upon which so much stress has been laid The offer is conceived in these remarkable words: "The Emperor my master offers his mediation to his Britannic Majesty, to make his peace with France; having a certainty that it will be accepted by the latter power." [p 113.] What could be more strikingly amicable on the part of Russia than I such an offer at such a moment, and conceived in such terms? When the fate of his own empire was at stake; after so complete a defeat, after having evinced his fidelity by rejecting all counsel which had been given him by the most experienced officers of his army, previous to the battle of Friedland; to enter into negotiations with the enemy; deaf to their representations, that his army was not in a situation to fight new battles; listening only to the call of honour, and alive only to the sentiments of fidelity to his ally! when his hopes were blasted, when he was reduced to the necessity of making a peace, which nothing but necessity could have extorted from him! in the hour of his anguish he thought upon England, and his first consideration was how he should be able to serve her by negociation, having ineffectually tried his strength to the utmost in the contests of the field. His first conversation with Buonaparte appears to have been directed to the welfare of England, and in the very first moments after the arrival of the king's ambassador, he makes him an offer of mediation. Not accompanied, as has been falsely stated, with the expression of his belief, that France would accept that after of mediation also; but having obtained a certain knowledge of the acquiescence of the French emperor.—What ought to have been the conduct of my Lord Granville Leveson at that moment? Do I presume to say that he ought at once 811 and without consulting his court, to have accepted the offer of mediation? That, certainly would not have been prudent on his part. But I think he might have so conducted himself, and might have given such an answer, as would have paved the way, either to the acceptance of the mediation afterwards; or to the possibility of opening a direct communication with France, if the situation of Russia after her signing the treaty, should have been found such as to render the acceptance of her offer of mediation inexpedient.—The next paper which we find is a note from Mr. Alopeus, [p. 113.] the accredited minister from the court of St. Petersburg, to Mr. Secretary Canning, dated London, the 1st of Aug. 1807, in which Mr. Alopeus offers the mediation of Russia, in a formal manner; and upon the ground of the thirteeenth article of the treaty of Tilsit. Here again I beg to remark, that the offer of Mr. Alopeus, is not accompanied with any communication of the limitation respecting time. The 13th article of the treaty of Tilsit, is alluded to but not communicated in the note: and the presumption is, that for whatever reason a limitation time might have been acceded to by the Emperor of Russia, in the treaty itself, he wished not to offend England, by accompanying his offer of mediation with the declaration that such mediation must be accepted or rejected within a given period. In point of fact Lord Granville Leveson well knew, and the king's ministers, through him, also knew, that the Emperor of Russia intended to pass by that limitation of time altogether.—Sir, the offer of mediation by Mr. Alopeus is conceived in the most friendly, the most explicit, and the most satisfactory terms—he declares that the Emperor of Russia is convinced of the disposition of his Britannic Majesty towards peace, that in many conversations held with the Emperor of the French, the Emperor of Russia had had reason to be convinced personally, that the Emperor of the French was sincerely desirous of the re-establishment of a maritime peace, upon equitable and honourable principles; and he not only offers his interposition for the attainment of so desirable an end; but he voluntarily promises the support of all the forces of his empire, for insuring the performance of all the stipulations of peace, when once it shall have taken place between France and England he goes on to say, that by this guaranty his Britannic majesty will obtain that which he has ever appeared to 812 desire; and may without distrust follow the bent of his humane end pacific sentiments.—Here, Sir, again it may be said, and perhaps justly, that the offer of mediation, even accompanied with the guarantee, in itself so desirable, could not have been accepted without some explanations from the emperor of Russia; but those explanations might have been asked in such a manner, as to have left it open to you, either to have accepted the mediation immediately, or failing that mediation to have opened a direct communication with France. Instead of this, a cold, format, and repulsive note is returned by Mr. Canning demonstrating no confidence in Russia, and no disposition to peace. It begins with the usual technical phraseology; and with the common expressions of a desire of the restoration of a general peace: boasting the ample proofs of the disposition to peace recently afforded by the accession of the king to the convention of Bartenstein, [p.114.] Sir, I had it in contemplation at one time, to have moved for the production of the convention of Bartenstein, but I apprehended, and indeed I had heard that this convention was never carried into execution, and therefore it could not have been laid upon the table of the House of Commons. But I should have been glad to have seen it, and I fear it would have evinced any thing rather than a sincere disposition to tile restoration of a general peace: because, if I am not much misinformed, it contained a renewal of those chimerical projects which even in the most distressing times, and under the most unpropitious circumstances, have been entered into for the diminution of the French power; and the restoration of peace is by a desperate policy deferred till after the accomplishment of objects, which none but madmen would contemplate as possible.—Sir, (after this preamble,) Mr. sec. Canning declares to Mr. Alopeus that it is impossible to return a more specific answer to the note presented by him than this, [p. 115.] "that his majesty waits with the utmost solicitude for the communications of the articles of the treaty concluded at Tilsit, and for the statement of those equitable and honourable principles upon which his imperial maj. expresses his belief, that France is desirous of concluding a peace with G. Britain." Sir, the formal demand of the communication of the articles of the treaty of Tilsit, appears to me to have been unnecessary, because in the event of the acceptance of the mediation, or even with- 813 out the acceptance of the mediation, the articles of the treaty of Tilsit would certainly have been made known to the king. A statement of the equitable and honourable principles upon which his imperial maj. expresses his belief that France was desirous of concluding a peace with G. Britain, was not only unnecessary but repulsive. What explanation could be given of equitable and honourable principles? the words equity and honor carry with them their own meaning, and admit of no explanation. I think, therefore, that the whole of the demand, made by the Secretary for foreign affairs of Mr. Alopeus, previous to his giving a more specific answer on the subject of the negotiation, was conceived, not in the spirit of confidence or conciliation towards Russia, which if you had any, the most remote intention of eventually accepting her offer of mediation ought to have been manifested, but in the spirit of distrust mid cavil, inconsistent with the fidelity she had displayed towards you. The expression of Mr. Alopeus was, that the emperor of Russia, "had had reason to be convinced that the emperor of the French was sincerely desirous of the re-establishment of a maritime peace;" [p. 113.] the expression of gen. de Budberg was, that he was certain that the emperor of the French would accept of the mediation of Russia; and this was artfully interpreted into a mere expression of belief for the purpose of the more readily escaping from the offer of mediation.—Sir, before I proceed to the second part of the papers which have been laid before us, it may be necessary to say some words upon the character of a mediator. We have been told that strict impartiality is necessary to that character, but it may be permitted to ask what, at the outset, do you mean by impartiality? It is not, I presume, that you would be stoically severe, and really he displeased that there should be a leaning in the mind of the mediator towards yourself? All that you would require would be, that there should be no bias in his mind towards your enemy; but it is necessary to make allowances, and there must be a distinction drawn between those feelings upon which partiality is founded, and that combination of circumstances which may lead to actions directly contrary to the line of conduct to which the affections of the mind would point. Now Russia had manifested to the latest moment her sincere friendship towards this country, If I am correct in my 814 reasoning, after the overthrow of her greatness she still displayed her affection towards you, by thinking of your welfare, at the time of her bitterest misfortunes. True it is that she had entered into engagements with France, which might be inconsistent with your interest, but those engagements, imposed by force, were not calculated to extinguish the feelings of affection towards this country, by which she had been ever actuated. On the contrary, they must have rather conduced to augment and heighten them, and therefore (as I should say) she would have been a most partial mediator, so far as her disposition went, for this country;—in the common acceptation of the word she was a mediator possessing strict impartiality, and on that account could not be rejected. Moreover, supposing she were not impartially disposed at time period of her making the offer of mediation, by what means could she be rendered impartial? If therefore you could not accept the emperor of Russia as an impartial mediator at that time, and under all the circumstances of the case, why not end the matter at once, in terms of decorum and civility?—The second set of papers begins with a dispatch from lord Granville Leveson to time secretary of state, dated the 2d of Sept. 1807. [p. 195.] His lordship informs Mr. Canning that he had held a conference with gen. Budberg, who was already apprised of the answer given by time secretary of state to Mr. Alopeus of the conditional acceptance by the court of London of the proffered mediation of Russia. Sir, I beg leave to remark that no conditions had been specifically stated in Mr. Canning's note to Mr. Alopeus, upon which conditions the court of London would accept the mediation of Russia. Mr. Canning said, that his maj. was waiting with solicitude for the communication of the articles of the treaty of Tilsit, and the statement of those equitable and honourable principles upon which France was desirous of concluding a peace; but he no where states the conditions upon which England would accept the mediation of Russia; and it is lord Granville Levison himself, who in this note for the first time states those conditions. In the conference with gen. Budberg he tells the general, that he is instructed in the first instance to request the communication of the secret articles of the treaty of Tilsit; and a frank declaration of the general views and intentions of the court of Petersburgh. Upon 815 the first of these two conditions I have to observe, that I think it was absolutely impossible for Russia to accede to it. The very word secret implies that there was something to be withheld by the two powers; the revealing of which would be a violation of the very conditions of the articles themselves. I refer you for the justice of my remark to what has recently passed between this country and Portugal. I asked in this house for a communication of the treaty which had been executed between the two powers previous to the departure of the court of Lisbon to the Brazils. The answer made to me was, "England is bound to keep that treaty secret; and it cannot be disclosed without the consent of Portugal." The answer was irresistible, and I immediately desisted from my enquiry. But does that apply to England alone? And is not the rule of honour for England the rule of honour for France, for Russia, and for all the rest of the world? How then was it possible for the king's ministers to demand a communication of the secret articles of the treaty of Tilsit? It might indeed be very proper to ask whether there existed any secret articles at all, and if the answer was that such articles did exist, it might also be proper for England to say, if you are under secret engagements to France, we cannot accept of your mediation. It appears to me that the repeated assurances of Russia respecting the innoxious nature of the secret articles in relation to England, might have been relied upon with a degree of confidence sufficient to justify the acceptance of the mediation, if otherwise desirable; because in the course of the negociation, England might have proposed and insisted upon any provisions to secure those interests which she suspected to be in danger from the operation of the secret articles. But to ask for a communication of such articles was insulting to Russia, and it was manifestly impossible for Russia to make it. As to the general views of the court of St. Petersburgh they were sufficiently disclosed by the offer of mediation itself. The decided opinion of the court of St. Petersburgh was, that a general peace was necessary for the interests of mankind; after having made the experiment of war as far as that experiment could possibly be carried. There was no occasion, therefore, to ask what the general views of the court of St. Petersburgh were: and it was an unnecessary expression of an ill-founded doubt of the 816 sincerity of the power which offered you her mediation. The noble lord continues, that "impartiality was the first requisite in the character of a mediator;" upon which point I have already touched. He then very truly asserts, "that it is essentially necessary England should be placed with regard to the mediating power on an equal footing with France." But, Sir, this assertion is superfluous, because it could not be previously supposed to have been in the contemplation of Russia, that there should be any inequality between the two powers; and her intention of making any inequality between them, could only be shewn by her conduct in the progress of the mediation; any preliminary assurance, therefore was in the nature of the thing perfectly unnecessary.—The noble lord proceeds to state "that uneasiness had been excited in England, by the confidential intercourse which had taken place between the two emperors at Tilsit; and that he could not conceal from gen. Budberg, that the period peremptorily prescribed to his Majesty for the acceptance of the Russian mediation had created in London a very unfavourable impression against the intervention of his imperial majesty." [p. 196.] What uneasiness could have been excited by the mere circumstance of those two great potentates conferring together upon the interests of their respective empires, I am at a loss to conceive; and I am sorry that lord Granville Levison introduced any observation upon the limitation of time for the acceptance of the mediation, because I have reason to know that at the moment when he wrote this letter, he had been informed by lord Hutchinson, "that the emperor Bart declared to him in a communication which took place between lord Hutchinson and the emperor of Russia on the 23d of Aug. and which was communicated to lord Granville Levison, that the emperor of Russia did not intend that the limitation of time should have any effect whatever.—I am sorry, sir, that the house refused to address his majesty to lay before us the letter of lord Granville Levison to Mr. Canning, containing an account of the conversation, for it is most material that it should be before the public. But I know, that such a conversation did take place: and I know his imperial majesty stated to lord Hutchinson, "that he had offered his mediation to England; that he attached no false vanity to the acceptance or rejection of that mediation, but that it was his most sincere wish 817 that England would make peace; as he was sure that it was his interest and also that of Europe, and our interest that we should restore tranquillity to the world." Lord Hutchinson answered to his imperial majesty, "that he had not given sufficient time for England to accept or reject his mediation, because a much longer period than a month must elapse before any answer could be received, and though the disposition of his mind inclined towards peace, neither he nor any other man would accept it but on conditions the most reasonable and honourable: and that as far as England was concerned the events of the war had been highly favourable;" to which his imperial majesty replied "that the time allowed was of no importance: because we might take three or four months if we pleased to accept or reject his mediation; but his anxious wish and desire was that we should make peace. That he had a perfect knowledge of the feelings and character of the people of England; that he had been made acquainted by Buonaparte with the conditions of peace intended to be offered; and, he had no doubt but lord Hutchinson himself would consider them highly reasonable and honourable." [p. 351.] Now, sir, with a knowledge of this conversation, held by a person of unsullied honour, and the greatest talents, a man respected by all Europe; and justly in the confidence of the emperor of Russia, both on account of his high military achievements, and his indisputed integrity; who had been deputed by the preceding administration as the accredited minister to the court of Prussia, and had attended the Russian armies in the latter part of their disastrous campaign; whose communication with the emperor, if lord Granville Levison had not expressly desired, he had unequivocally concurred in:—with a perfect knowledge, I say, of all these facts and circumstances, how came my lord Granville Leveson to dwell so much and with such serious importance upon a point which he must have known to have been entirely waved; it was throwing an ill-timed obstacle in the way of the acceptance of the mediation, it was irritating to the emperor who had expressed himself so satisfactorily upon the subject, and it was undignified as laying that stress upon a comparatively trivial circumstance which was due only to matters of real and essential moment. Further, lord Granville Levison not only states conditions without which the mediation 818 cannot be accepted; but he desires preliminary marks of good will on the part of Russia, and particularly the renewal of the treaty of commerce; than which surely, no request could be more unreasonable. The treaty of commerce had expired, and frequent attempts had been made by the last administration to obtain the renewal of it, all of them unsuccessful, even during the time of warlike co-operations. Was it then a reasonable thing to ask such a mark of good will on the part of Russia at such a moment? and was it not rather adding to the existing difficulties, and creating disgust in the mind of Russia when it ought: to have been our object to sooth, to conciliate, and to appear almost implicitly to confide? Gen. Budberg answered, "that there did exist secret articles in the treaty of Tilsit," and then comes an expression in the letter of a very equivocal nature, "there, were some, he said, which in no way concerned the interests of England." [p. 196] Sir, I am bound to suppose that lord Granville Levison received an equivocal answer from gen. Budberg, because he has expressed himself in an equivocal manner. As no suspicion however of intentional duplicity seems to have arisen in the mind of lord Granville Levison to the prejudice of gen. Budberg during this conference, or at least none is expressed, I conclude that there were no secret articles in the treaty of Tilsit, which in the estimation of gen. Budberg, had any relation to England whatever. I should do so the rather after having read the following sentence, in which gen. Budberg says, "that he could assure lord Granville Levison, and as an honest man he would not say it, if it were not truth, that there existed no secret article whatever which stipulated the shutting the Russian ports against the British commerce."[p. 196] Lord Granville Levison however, having found it impossible to consider the answer given by gen. Budberg as sufficiently satisfactory to authorise him to accept the Russian mediation, gen. Budberg said he would request the permission of the emperor to communicate without reserve the secret articles of the treaty between Russia and France; and to be empowered to continue negotiations, and conclude a treaty of commerce with G. Britain. [p. 197.] So far it appears that the Russian minister conducted himself with perfect moderation; and, without doubt, if the secret articles of the treaty of Tilsit had been in his opinion prejudicial to England, gen. Budberg would 819 not have undertaken to interest himself with the emperor, for their being revealed. Sir, I do not blame lord Granville Levison for not accepting the mediation unconditionally; but the course which he steered does not appear to me to have been the right one; it was not calculated to turn to the best advantage, either the disposition of the court of Russia, or the opportunities which might have been created if they did not present themselves, of opening a direct communication with France.—A second dispatch front lord Granville Levison, [p. 197] dated on the same day, gives an account of another conference with gen. Budberg, in which he conducted himself in a most amicable manner; and in the apology which gen. Budberg is there represented as having offered for the expressions of dissatisfaction contained in the note which he wrote from Tilsit, he accounted for them on those obvious principles which I have before detailed to the house.—A third dispatch, dated also on the same day, transmits to this court a note [p. 198] delivered to the English ambassador on the subject of the fatal preparations against Copenhagen, and destroys the momentary illusion which had been created in the mind of lord Granville Levison, on what has been termed the reviving confidence in the court of Russia.—The fourth paper of this series communicated by the king's command to the house, is a dispatch signed by Mr. Canning, and dated on the 27th Sept. 1807, [p. 200.] The next is a dispatch from the same gentleman, and addressed likewise to my lord Granville Levison, dated on the following day. The tone of these two dispatches is perfectly dissimilar. The one is written with all cordiality, and in all confidence towards Russia; the other is written, as it would appear, under feelings of the greatest irritation towards that power, and expressing not only doubts of her sincerity, but a belief in her hostility towards this country. One would imagine, upon a review and comparison of the two dispatches, that they could not have been written by the same person, with all the dispatches of lord Granville Levison, dated the 2d of Sept. before him; and yet it is manifest that they were so, not only because those dispatches were sent off on the same day, but because Mr. Canning in the outset of his first letter acknowledges that they were all received by the same hand and at the same time. Now, sir, I will take the liberty of calling the attention of the house to the contents of both 820 these letters. To begin with the first. Mr. Canning applauds lord Granville Levison for not having accepted the mediation of the emperor of Russia, and he states succinctly and intelligibly the points upon which the question of this acceptance turns. First, the frank communication of the articles of the treaty of Tilsit, secret as well as avowed. Upon that I have already said so much that I will not trouble the house any further. Secondly, a distinct explanation of the basis upon which France proposes to treat, and which appeared to his imperial majesty at Tilsit so just and honourable. [p. 201.]—Sir, it seems to me that a basis, as preliminary to negociation, is calculated rather to throw difficulties in the way of a negociation, than to remove any embarrassment winch might eventually occur in the course of it. Many treaties of peace, in the most complicated and perplexed state of Europe, have been negociated, and successfully terminated without the previous recognition of a basis; and even if a basis were necessary, preliminary to a negociation, it does not follow that a basis is necessary as a preliminary to the acceptance of a mediation. It was not for Russia to communicate the basis, but for France; and if you had frankly accepted the offer of mediation on the part of Russia, and still thought a basis necessary, as preliminary to negociation; and that, added to this necessity, it was further expedient for such basis to be laid down by the enemy, rather than by yourself; the natural course would have been to desire the mediator to ask of the contending party to furnish you with that basis. A still more simple course of proceeding would have been for you to lay down to the mediator, the basis upon which alone you would treat, for the purpose of having such communication made to the enemy; but it is inconceivable to me that the communication of a basis from the enemy should be necessary, for the purpose of enabling you to accept a mediation.—Mr. Canning proceeds to state, that without these conditions the acceptance of the mediation by his majesty, can be nothing else "than a complete surrender of his honour and his interest into the hand of the mediator if not of the enemy." [p. 201.] A more absurd assertion was surely never made. In what way when you accept the mediation of a party do you confide your interest or your honour even to him, much more to the enemy? if indeed you elect an umpire, then you do confide both your in- 821 terest, and your honour to that umpire. Even in that case you do not confide them to the enemy. But when you accept a mediation, you only accept a facility of communication with the enemy; which from the hostile situation in which you have long been reciprocally placed, you are not able to find without a mediator. There are difficulties to be overcome, asperities to be smoothed, punctilios of etiquette to be removed, which prevent either the one party or the other from making the first communication: the mediator brings you together, and by communicating from each to the other, makes a channel of intercourse, and prevents that sort of communication which even if intercourse was begun between two hostile parties, might terminate ineffectually, merely on account of the temper in which each was disposed to communicate towards the other. As we proceed in this letter Mr. Canning expresses doubts as to the sincerity of general Budberg, in the assurances he had given to lord Granville Levison; assurances conveyed in terms such as could leave no doubt in the mind of any person (who did not think that general Budberg was one of the basest of mankind,) that he was speaking the truth, when he took upon him to assert that there was no stipulation in the treaty of Tilsit, for the exclusion of the commerce of Great Britain from the ports of Russia. Mr. Canning says, "it will immediately have occurred to your excellency, a distinction might probably have been taken in general Budberg's mind, between a stipulation for the immediate and eventual execution of a purpose; and the agreement to resort to it eventually under circumstances which may not yet have occurred, and that supposing the former only to be the sense of Mr. de Budberg's assurance, that assurance might be literally true, without in fact conveying any thing essentially satisfactory." [p. 201.] Such a distinction would never have occurred to my mind. If general de Budberg was a man worthy to be conversed with at all, I should have thought it unworthy in me to have harboured such suspicions with regard to him; and I think that the mind which could entertain them must be of a construction, not the most simple, or free from a disposition to give a colour to things different from that which they ought really to bear. The letter goes on to express suspicions upon other parts of the treaty of Tilsit, and to desire lord Granville Levison to call for explanations upon that public 822 article of the treaty which recognizes the king of Naples, as king of Naples only; and to ask whether it may not be contradicted by a secret article which adds to this title, that of the two Sicilies. There is no end of creating difficulties of this nature, and there could be no end of asking and answering such questions if the mind was disposed to raise doubt upon every article of the treaty. If there did exist secret articles of this sort, for the reason before given, they could not be disclosed; and the bare recognition, without a stipulation to co-operate for the purpose of making that recognition effectual, could be of no avail. A stipulation of that nature would directly affect the interests of England; and you had already been told by general de Budberg, that there existed no such article. In the whole of this dispatch however, Mr. Secretary Canning writes as if he had been acquainted merely with the conciliatory conversation which had taken place between general Budberg and the English ambassador; and as if he had no knowledge of the angry note respecting the affair of Denmark. He proceeds to direct lord Granville Levison to abstain from all reproach, even when confessing the suspicion of engagements which the king cannot but disapprove. Then in the true principles of the new morality, in the conclusion of his letter, he hints that it would be better for the Emperor of Russia to break all the engagements which he has entered into with France, and to return to the alliance of Great Britain, and a co-operation with her in the further prosecution of the war. This is no less than calling upon Russia to violate the most sacred ties, calling upon her to do that which would render it impolitic and inexpedient to enter into any alliance with her yourself; because if she could be induced to break one treaty, there is no treaty which she could make which she might not on the same principles be called upon by other powers to break. From all obligation she must thenceforward proclaim herself to be absolved, whenever her interest should call for such absolution; and she is urged to this measure at a time when if she had been infamous enough to take the advice, from the position of the French armies, she must have been involved in total and irremediable ruin.—The dispatch, No. V. [p. 203.] is dated on the following day, the 28th of Sept. and the secretary of state informs lord Granville Levison that he incloses him a copy of the Declaration of the 823 king on the subject of the attack upon Denmark. Having written on the preceeding day with all the documents before him, with a knowledge of which he now writes, desiring the ambassador to abstain from all reproach towards the court of Russia, he now tells him, "that the offer of mediation tinder all the circumstances which belong to it, was calculated to excite any other feeling rather than that of confidence in the Emperor's good will; and that every account received in England, of the temper in which that proposal was made, and of the light in which it was put by the enemy, justified the belief, that it was intended by Russia rather as preparatory to hostility, consequent on his majesty's refusal, than as likely to lead to a pacific result through his acceptance." [p. 204.] Is it possible that the same man can be so contradictory to himself? He goes on to state that he thinks there is evidence not only of the designs of Buonaparte towards Denmark, but of the "connivance, if not of the participation, of Russia in those designs:" "and that Russia formed a large part of the danger, which the measures taken against Denmark by the king of England were calculated to repel." Why, sir, if this were the feeling of the king's minister, was it not his duty to have told lord Granville Levison directly to break off all communication with the court of Petersburgh? Russia was not only partial to France, but was conniving in measures calculated for the destruction of England; or according to the emphatical words of lord Granville Levison in his note to general Budberg, dated the 2d of Sept. she formed a large part of the danger "which in the view of England, threatened not only the welfare of his people, but the existence of his crown." [p. 199.] Was it possible that he could advise his majesty to accept (with whatever conditions annexed), the mediation of a power so circumstanced? But we see that the foreign secretary does not absolutely disown the possibility of the acceptance of the Russian mediation. He still hesitates. This is extraordinary. But what must surprise us still more, is, that hesitating upon the acceptance of the mediation of Russia, as between France and England, declaring that mediation to be offered in a manner evincing an hostile, rather than an amicable mind, in the court of St. Petersburgh, and affirming that Russia is conniving at, if not instigating the hostility of France towards this country 824 through the means of Denmark, and is a part of that danger with which G. Britain is threatened; he calls upon the emperor of Russia (under such circumstances) to mediate between Denmark and G. Britain, to mediate between G. Britain and the power in whose cause Russia, by her public declaration, delivered to lord Granville Levison, declares herself to be greatly interested, against whom Russia declares that Great Britain has acted with the grossest violence and injustice; whose cause Russia declares that she is determined to espouse; between England and that power he calls upon Russia to mediate, having before declared that impartiality was the necessary character of a mediator, having before declared that in the mind of a mediator, not only there must be no hostility lurking towards either of the parties on whose behalf the mediation is proposed, but that the absence of all such hostility must be made manifest by the complete exposition and promulgation of all the acts done, all the engagements entered into both public and private between the mediating power and the other Belligerents! Sir, I defy the right hon. gent. to reconcile these inconsistencies in his own conduct; and I think such inconsistency of conduct shews that the person to whom it is justly attributable is not fitted for the high and important situation which he holds under his majesty's government.—The rest of the correspondence from lord Granville Levison, gives an account of the removal of gen. Budberg from his office of foreign minister; the appointment, ad interim, of count Soltikoff: and the further appointment of count Romanzow to the same office, I shall not dwell upon that part of the correspondence, because it relates principally to the subject of Denmark, which I now wish to leave wholly out of my view. I will only observe, that upon the appointment of each of those ministers, lord Granville Levison still requested a communication of the secret articles of Tilsit; that count Soltikoff said, that he would take the emperor's orders respecting the communication of those articles, that having taken those orders, he told lord Granville Levison that the emperor had refused them, adding these remarkable words; "that the emperor did not refuse them on account of their containing any stipulations prejudicial to England, but having once determined that they should not be made public, he saw no reason for receding from his determination." [p. 207.] The subject of the 825 Commercial Treaty was again touched upon, and again put aside. The same demand was renewed by lord Granville Levison to count Romanzow, and again refused. it is only necessary to observe that count Romanzow made use of terms expressive of the emperor's friendship towards his Britannic majesty; and of his anxious desire for the re-establishment of peace. The last of these communications is dated the 19th of Sept. [p. 209.] But although the mediation had not advanced during this interval, the discussion respecting it had not ended. Demands were still made with which Russia would not comply, but her non-compliance did not induce us entirely to break off upon the subject of the mediation; and it was not till the 29th of Oct. more than five weeks after the date of the letter I have just mentioned, giving an account of the conference between count Romanzow and lord Granville Levison, that his lordship delivered an official Note to the court of St. Petersburgh to bring the matter of mediation to a point. [p. 211.] It does not appear that any answer was given to that official note. On the 8th of Nov. the Declaration of the emperor of Russia on the attack of the English upon Copenhagen was made public; and a Note was delivered to lord Granville Levison which put an end to all communication between G. Britain and Russia, and placed them in a situation of hostility with regard to each other. [p. 216.]—Sir, I have thus gone through the papers which have been submitted to us upon the Russian offer of mediation, and the investigation furnishes me with this conclusion; that there were three modes in which the king's servants might have proceeded with regard to that mediation. The first was to have accepted it in the only way in which it could with propriety be accepted; with promptitude, frankness and confidence. I do not say that ministers are censurable for not having done this. The responsibility they would have taken upon themselves, was undoubtedly great: the issue might have been fortunate. No blame, however, attaches to those who declined such a decided line of conduct. The second course which might have been taken, was to have told Russia immediately, that in the circumstances of the case, England could not accept her mediation: but to have done this, accompanied with all the expressions of tenderness, conciliation, and confidence towards Russia, which could have been 826 devised. At the same time, adding that although the mediation of Russia was declined for the reasons stated, a direct communication with France would be accepted, if offered on the part of that power; and even avowing frankly to Russia, not only that such was the disposition of the English government, but that if England felt that her overtures would be received in a manner becoming her honour and dignity, and upon the footing of equality, she would not be indisposed to make such overtures. I am of opinion, that if such overtures had been made at that moment, it was a period of the war most favourable for them, and that they might have led to peace. There was a third course; that of suspicion, petulance, and half confidence, to which the evil genius of England directed the councils of her ministers. This was a course which was sure to fail; a course which must necessarily bring discredit upon the government of the country. It has failed, it has brought discredit upon the councils of the king, and what appears to me to have been a golden opportunity for entering into a negotiation, has been irretrievably lost.—I now pass on to the series of papers relative to the mediation of Austria. The first of these carries us back to the 18th of April 1807, when it appears that Austria made an offer of her mediation to all the belligerent powers. The offer of Austria and the answer of England, are both of them conceived in the most dignified and appropriate terms. I do not know that there is any reason to make further observation upon the two first papers, excepting so far as is necessary to call the attention of the house to one paragraph of the Austrian note, which is this: "in considering how very complicated and extensive the present war is become, the emperor would think that he had but very imperfectly expressed his fervent desire for peace, and a hope of its complete and speedy re-establishment, if he did not at the same time state the entire conviction he feels, that it is only by the united endeavours of the powers principally concerned in the war, and by a negociation in common, which should embrace the whole of their reciprocal interests, that permanent tranquillity, and a secure and solid peace, can be attained, a peace which should secure the future political relations of Europe." And to the concluding sentence of the paragraph immediately succeeding that which I have quoted, in which it is said that the 827 essential relations of all the parties interested should as far as is practicable be combined." [p. 102.] An official answer is returned by Mr. Secretary Canning in a Note dated the 25th of April, and I have no fault to find with that official document. [p. 102.] It is only to be remarked that England acknowledges the intention of Austria that her mediation should be applied to all the powers concerned in the war on both sides. And the mediation is accepted upon that condition. This offer of mediation was issued on the same day to the courts of France, Petersburgh and London, but before all the answers could be received at Vienna, the events of war had reduced Russia and Prussia to the terms of the conqueror. I did expect that there would have been some supplementary documents between the note dated the 25th of April, and the next note which we find from the Prince de Stahremberg, dated on the 20th of November, but I have been informed that none such exist. On the 20th of Nov. the prince de Stahremberg addressed a note to Mr. Secretary Canning, by the positive order of his court, making the most urgent representations upon the importance of obtaining a pacification between England and France; acknowledging the constant desire expressed by the court of St. James's for the re-establishment of peace, and requesting to know what were the sincere intentions of his Britannic majesty at this time upon the same subject. [p. 104.] I beg the house to attend to the date of this communication. The last note on the subject of the Russian mediation was delivered at St. Petersburgh on the 29th of Oct.; the renewal of the offer of Austrian mediation was made at London on the 20th of Nov. Now supposing for a moment that the emperor of the French was desirous of obtaining peace, through any channel by which he could effect his object; finding that he had failed at St. Petersburgh, by the date it will appear that he renewed his offer through the means of the court of Vienna, at the very first moment at which by possibility it could be renewed. There is just time for the news of the total failure of the Russian mediation to have arrived at Paris, and for a communication to have been made by the count de Metternich (the Austrian ambassador at the court of the Thuilleries,) to the prince de Stahremberg in London, between the 29th of Oct. and the 20th of Nov. Sir, I do not build much upon this, but at the same time 828 there is a coincidence of dates, which at least will justify some observation upon the fact. To this note of the 20th of Nov. a cold and distant Answer [p. 104,] is returned by the English secretary of state: but such a one as did not prevent further intercourse. For on the 1st of Jan. 1808, another very short Note [p. 105,] is delivered by the prince de Stahremberg to Mr. Canning, to which I beg to call the serious attention of the house, and even to the particular construction of the phrases of it. First, Sir, I deem the communication of the 20th of Nov. to have been a renewal of the offer made on the 18th of April, and not to be an absolutely new offer in itself; and therefore that the court of Vienna meant England to understand, that in this renewed proposition, she included the whole of her original offer of mediation; and that all the conditions said by her to be necessary for bringing the negociation to a happy issue, (and particularly that of including all the powers engaged in the war on both sides,) was referred to, and remained in full force. If I am right in this assumption, there could be no ground for doubt as to the true interpretation of any equivocal phrase that might be used by the prince de Stahremberg: but even without such assumption, I think I am warranted in saying that the very terms of the prince de Stahremberg's letter conveyed the same offer. Sir, the prince de Stahremberg says, that he has the orders of his own court, and conforms to the desire of the court of the Thuilleries in giving the information with which he is then charged, and that he is ordered to propose in consequence of the pacific dispositions evinced by his Britannic majesty, in his note of the 23d of November, that plenipotentiaries shall be immediately sent to Paris, to treat for the re-establishment of peace. Now, sir, I beg to quote the French expression, "entre toutes les puissances actuellement en guerre avec l'Angleterre." [p. 105.] The translation given to this phrase is, "for the establishment of peace between all the powers at present at war with England." This upon the face of it is wrong; it cannot be meant the establishment of peace between all the powers at war with England to the exclusion of England, which is the strict grammatical import of these words. But having thus made a false translation, Mr. Canning in his answer to the prince de Stahremberg's note, builds upon it a reasoning which leads us to sup- 829 pose that he interpreted the French original as follows, "between England and all the powers in alliance against her," (to the exclusion of the powers in alliance with her). That, Sir, I say is not a fair interpretation of the phrase. I have taken some pains to inform myself on the subject, and I think I can venture to assert that the true interpretation is, "a pacification among all the powers at war, including England." The real meaning then of the prince de Stahremberg was the furtherance of the original offer made by Austria, namely to mediate for a pacification among all the powers at war, both with England and against her.—I have dwelt with some particularity upon the construction of this phrase, and I must further observe, that the word avec in French, and with in English as applied to war in the respective languages to which they belong, admit of equivocal interpretations; (in common parlance) when you say, that one power is at war with another, you mean that one power is at war against another: but it is not uncommon to say, and it is sufficiently correct to say, for instance, that Russia is at war with Prussia against France, it would indeed be more correct at all times to say, England is at war against France, than to say England is at war with France. But if there could exist any doubt upon the interpretation of this phrase, why, before the right hon. secretary dwelt upon it in the manner Which he so injudiciously adopted in his answer to this note, did he not ask the prince de Stahremberg in a private communication, what the real meaning and intention of Austria was? Instead of that, giving his own interpretation (and that as I contend a wrong one) to the phrase in question, he builds upon it the most offensive paragraph of his offensive answer. But in my view of the matter, it is most material as to the future, that it should be impressed upon the mind of the house, and upon the public, that such was the offer of Austria, and such the intention of France, because it will strengthen the main argument, that it is possible still to negociate with France upon the footing of equality, and that the French government hitherto has not manifested any design, that England in any negociation that may be entered into with her, should be placed on a footing of inequality with respect to France.—Sir, I pass on to the Answer signed by Mr. Canning, upon which I must dwell in detail. 830 It is conceived in any thing rather than the spirit of conciliation and wisdom. It is rude, petulant, full of point and cavil, laying down no principle upon which great statesment ought to act: dwelling upon those particularities, and insisting upon those conditions, which England ought to have put entirely out of the question, and going out of the way for the purpose of behaving in a manner offensive and uncivil towards the prince de Stahremberg himself. In the second paragraph, (the first being merely a paragraph of formality), Mr. Canning says, (p. 106,) "that the prince de Stahremberg has omitted to explain, from whom he has received his commission to propose sending plenipotentiaries to Paris, whether from the Austrian minister, or from the government of France;" such explanation was wholly unnecessary, he certainly had produced no powers from France, but he professed not to be the accredited agent of France, nor indeed to be the agent of France in any way; he told you that he acted under the orders of his government; and, in so acting "conformed to the desire of the court of the Thuilleries." He had his credentials from Austria, they were in your hands, he was therefore the minister of Austria only; from Austria alone he had received his powers; you could not doubt whether he was the Austrian or the French minister, and pretending to have such a doubt, was in itself most offensive to the person whom you addressed. The alternative is then put, that the prince de Stahremberg acts under the authority of the court of Vienna: and recognizing the ambassador in his proper character, his majesty complains "of the little reference that is had by the court of Vienna, to the conditions which were in April stated by his majesty to be indispensible preliminaries to the opening of a negociation, for while the note of the undersigned of the 23d of November last, is cited by the prince de Stahremberg the foundation of the present proposal, his majesty observes with surprise, that this proposal nevertheless extends only to the powers combined with France in the war against G. Britain, and not to the allies of G. Britain in the war with France." Sir, in dwelling upon the expression contained in the note of the prince de Stahremberg, I have said all I have to say, upon this part of Mr. Canning's answer. I contend that the expression, in the prince de Stahremberg's 831 letter, is, to say the least of it, equivocal; that if it be equivocal, it was the duty of Mr. Canning to have obtained from the prince de Stahremberg, a distinct interpretation of it; and if he did not think that necessary, he ought to have given an interpretation the most favourable to the court of Vienna; which would have been, that she adhered to her original proposition of the 18th of April; but that it is most unjustifiable to put an arbitrary construction upon an equivocal sentence, and then argue as if that construction were it's real, true, undisputed construction. In this case, undoubtedly, the grammatical construction of the sentence in question was of great importance: and I am persuaded, that neither Austria offered, nor did France intend that the mediation of that court should be offered to the exclusion of the allies of G. Britain. The other alternative is then taken, that the prince Stahremberg speaks in the name of the court of the Thuilleries. It is on this hypothesis said, that in professing to speak in the name of another power, besides that of Austria, a statement of some precise authority on the part of that power should have been made, or some specific and authenticated document produced which alone could justify the court, to which he addressed himself, in founding a public and important measure upon such a communication;" certainly if he had professed to speak in the name of France, powers from France ought to have been produced; but the decisive, and ready answer to the whole of that paragraph is, that he did not profess to speak in the name of France.—We now come to a most extraordinary part of the Note, in which the secretary of state says, "that it was reasonably to be expected, that a pledge as solemn and authentic on the part of France, as that given by his majesty to France, should have been communicated before his majesty could be called upon to make any further advance." I should have thought that the proposal on the part of France, for England to send negotiators to Paris, was a pledge of the pacific disposition of France; but to my great surprise, I find that this desire is most grossly "misconstrued into an implication of an unjustifiable doubt of the sincerity of his majesty's professions." I really am quite at a loss for any ground, upon which this can be plausibly stated. It appears to me so completely different from the notion that any person endowed with the least degree of candour would have formed, 832 of such a request made by France, that I must pass it over without comment. Very soon after, is revived the difficulty about a basis, and a complaint is made, that no intimation is given of the basis upon which it is proposed to negotiate. The answer to that, I have before given. If you think a basis indispensible, it must be presumed that you are prepared with one; if you are prepared with one, why, instead of raising a difficulty with regard to the enemy, do you not level the difficulty by making a communication of your own basis? It is then observed, that if ever it could have been matter of doubt, whether the previous settlement of a basis of negociation were necessary to the hope of its successful termination, the experience of the last negociation with France would have placed that question beyond controversy. Sir, undoubtedly I think it would, but not in the way intended by Mr. Secretary Canning. I think that the preliminary condition of a basis was the bane of that negociation. That its introduction into the discussions was fatal to them, and that owing to the insisting upon the preliminary basis, it was impossible to ascertain whether peace could or could not have been accomplished.—Then comes a paragraph which in itself is perfectly unexceptionable; and if it had been sent to Paris, accompanied only by one or two preceeding sentences of form, and one or two succeeding sentences of conciliation, a negociation might have now been on foot. The paragraph runs thus, "his majesty is willing to treat with France, but he will treat only on a footing of perfect equality; he is ready to treat with the allies of France, but the negociation must equally embrace the allies of G. Britain." Had the answer been confined to that one paragraph, and the reply on the part of France had been in the negative; no question would have remained that she was insincere, and there would have been an end of the whole matter. Had the answer been in the affirmative, no obstacle to negociation could have presented itself. Another unnecessary difficulty is raised in the course of this note, and a punctilio created between this court and the court of the Thuilleries, which, but for the ingenuity of the secretary of state, would never have existed. I am not aware of any inconvenience which has ever resulted from the negociation carried on at Paris. I do not recollect that lord Malmsbury stated any inconvenience arising from this source, and 833 I do not know of any circumstance in the mission of the earls of Lauderdale and Yarmouth, that should induce England to declare positively that she never would again send negotiators to Paris. I know that my view of the negociation of 1806 is not that which is taken by the right hon. gentlemen over against me, and I perfectly well recollect, the delay in giving passports to lord Lauderdale was dwelt upon with great indignation and acrimony by those right hon. gentlemen; but I viewed that circumstance in a light very different from them; and at all events they will allow me to recall to their recollection, that admitting the demand of passports had not been attended to with the respect and promptitude which is due to all such demands made by a negotiator in the country of the enemy; an apology for the delay was both demanded and made; and that lord Lauderdale did not renew his conferences, until he had obtained the satisfaction due to his court. Here, however, is an unnecessary difficulty created. You profess only to be upon a footing of equality with France, she offers you a place of negociation which you peremptorily decline, whatever place for negociation you may designate, she will have an equal right to refuse. How are these disputes to be terminated, and which power is to concede this false point of honour? Sir, I only hope that ministers may be more wise, than to think it necessary to abide by their own premature and intemperate declarations. I cannot pass over the remainder of the note without some observation. The prince de Stahremberg is a person of consequence in his own country. Throughout Europe, he is known to be attached to the interests of England, and has even suffered, on account of his avowed attachment to her welfare, some indignities on the part of the French emperor. He is a man of high honour and reputation, and a person, for whom one should imagine, as well on his own account, as on account of the court of Vienna, which has been faithful to England under all circumstances, might have met with respect from his majesty's ministers. But Mr. Canning having gone out of the way to offend him, by separating the person of the prince from the character of the Austrian ambassador, concludes his note by the most extraordinary declaration perhaps that ever was made at any time by any minister. It is this: the prince de Stahremberg (so accredited from the 834 court of Vienna, and professing to act under the orders of that court in the communication he had made), and having in this very note received the exposition of the sentiments of the court of London, on the important subject of negociation between the belligerents, is expressly told, " that he has no authority to speak in the name of his majesty to the government of France." To what end then has the whole been written? Sir, it appears that the bitter and sarcastic language contained in this note was not intended to answer any practical purpose whatever, and that the only object of it was to offend the prince de Stahremberg, who had been guilty of the high crime of acting in obedience to the orders of his own court, and agreeably to the desire of that of France—I have now, sir, gone through the whole of the Austrian correspondence; and can only say, that if ministers were determined that this offer of mediation should not issue in a negociation, and should not be productive of any avenue to negociation, in any way whatever, they could not have conducted themselves otherwise than they did; and that if they had conducted themselves in any conceivable manner, different from that which they have done, a negociation must infallibly have been the consequence. I have only further to observe a little, upon one of the conditions stipulated both here, and in the Russian mediation, that of a preliminary basis: and I do so with a view of calling the attention of the house, and of the right hon. gent. himself, to his own opinions upon that subject.—For myself, I must always consider the demand of a precise basis, (as preliminary to the acceptance of mediation, or even as preliminary to entering into negociation) neither wise nor expedient, and if I wanted any confirmation of my opinion upon that subject, I think I could find it in a pamphlet published under the name of Mr. Canning, purporting to be a speech delivered by him in this house, on the 5th Jan. 1807, in a debate on the conduct of the late negociation with France. In that speech, Mr. Canning is represented as making use of these remarkable expressions. I trouble the house with the passage at length, because I think his argument clear and decisive upon the point. Mr. Canning says, 'and if, as the 'noble lord (Howick) has informed us, Mr. Fox rejected the suggestion of taking the stipulations of the treaty of Amiens for the basis of negociation, be- 835 cause he thought that they were vague, and indefinite; and that more time therefore would be lost in defining and adjusting the basis, than might he sufficient (if well employed) for discussing and settling the main points of a negociation, is it possible that the noble lord should not perceive that the adoption of the uti possidetis would have been liable to similar embarrassment; that he should not be aware of the perplexed and interminable discussions which must have arisen in the attempt to define the precise degree of possession, occupation, or controul which should or should not entitle to the benefit of the uti possidetis? to determine, for instance, whether the kingdom of Holland, whether the principalities of the Rhine, whether Southern Germany, whether the fortresses of Austria herself, should at the outset of a negociation, be acknowledged by us to be the lawful and confirmed possessions of France, except so far as they might be redeemed by such equivalents as we might be able and disposed to give in exchange for them. I am confident, (and the very argument which the noble lord himself has advanced, renders me still more confident in the opinion) that such was Mr. Fox's view of the subject, that his passing by the treaty of Amiens, when it was first suggested by M. Talleyrand, and proceeding to suggest, instead of it, something which he called a basis, but which in fact amounted to nothing more than the statement of a principle, which might be taken for granted to prevail in every negociation, the honour and glory of the two countries, was dictated, by precisely the same motive which afterwards induced him in his answer to M. Talleyrand's letter of the 2nd of June, to accept so easily M. Talleyrand's proposed additional principle of continental and maritime guarantee, in preference to (and one must fairly say in exclusion of) the other offer, which is asserted to have been made at the same time through lord Yarmouth, of uti possidetis, and the motive which in each case operated with Mr. Fox, appears to have been simply the desire to avoid any technical basis, as utterly inapplicable to the existing state of the world, and as likely to require (as the noble lord Howick has himself contended would have been the case with the stipulations of the treaty of Amiens, and as I think I have shewn would equally have arisen in 836 any attempt to apply the uti possidetis) more time in the application and adjustment of the basis than would have been sufficient to discuss and settle the terms of the most complicated negociation.*'—Sir, I am perfectly well aware that Mr. Canning is here stating what was Mr. Fox's reasoning upon the subject of a basis; and what the line of his conduct appeared to have been. I agree with him in the position he has laid down with regard to Mr. Fox, and I think that the reasoning which he has given to Mr. Fox upon the impropriety of insisting upon any technical basis whatever, is incontrovertible. I am however warranted in supposing that the right hon. gent. also himself thinks that reasoning perfectly correct; because, after having stated it so clearly and ably as he has done in that pamphlet, he gives no opinion in contradiction to it, although in the course of the speech he took every opportunity to stigmatize such errors as he supposed imputable to the conduct of the whole of the administration engaged in that negociation. And he evidently contrasts the wise policy of Mr. Fox, with that which he represents as in the highest degree blameable in those who succeeded him in the management; of the negociation.—Sir, a question may be here asked of me, why, if you think the paragraph which you have quoted, and which is contained in the letter of Mr. Canning to the prince de Stahremberg, namely, "that his majesty is willing to treat with France, but he will treat only on a footing of perfect equality; he is ready to treat with the allies of France, but the negociation must equally embrace the interests of the allies of G. Britain;" why, if you think that paragraph contains all that would be necessary as an overture to France for entering into negociation, do you require any thing more at the hands of the administration? Sir, I allow that the paragraph in question contains the whole that would be necessary for my purpose: but a paragraph may be so accompanied as to make it obnoxious in the company which it keeps, when by itself it might convey an amicable meaning. Such is the present case. And moreover Mr. Canning has so contrived it, that even if there were nothing offensive in the letter, to detract from the amicable construction which might be put upon the paragraph separately considered, he has *See vol. viii. P. 393 837 precluded the possibility of eventual advantage by telling the Austrian ambassador that he is not to communicate to France the intentions of the king's government; and therefore the paragraph is without effect, excepting so far as it may be calculated, in common with the rest of the letter, to offend the court of Austria, in the person of its ambassador. Upon the whole, I think that in all the records of diplomatic transactions, no production can be found more replete with offence, or more inconsistent with the true and genuine character of a statesman. It may be said in extenuation of Mr. Canning's conduct, that it is evident from some short notes of a posterior date, that the prince de Stahremberg could have had no authority for his conduct from the court of Vienna; because in answer to a question put to him by Mr. Canning, relative to the departure of Mr. Adair from Vienna, the prince de Stahremberg says, that he has received no dispatches from his court since the 30th of Oct. In answer to that, I have only to remark that the count de Metternich, the Austrian ambassador to the court of the Thuilleries, was at Paris: it was therefore very possible that communications should be transmitted from the count de Stadion, the minister for foreign affairs at Vienna, through count Metternich to the prince de Stahremberg, and that he might have authority for every step that he took (as in fact there can be no question that he had), without any immediate and direct communication with Vienna.—Another observation may be made, upon the situation of the court of Vienna, as offering to mediate at this period, between G. Britain and France. It may be objected that the state of subserviency in which that court was placed towards the court of the Thuilleries, disqualified her for the office of mediation. If such indeed had been stated by the king's ministers to have been the reason of their rejection of the mediation, it would have been fair to argue, that as on the one hand, the subserviency of the court of Vienna to the French government, disqualified her for the office of mediatrix; so on the other hand, that France being in possession of the full powers given to the Austrian minister at Paris, to make such communications as France should think fit to dictate to the Austrian minister at the court of London, and knowing that England could not be approached, except in the way of mediation, 838 France humbled herself to adopt the only path which England had left open for her advances. In that light indeed I am inclined to view it, and I cannot conceive any thing more desirable than that one of the belligerent powers should avail herself with the utmost promptitude of the influence which she possessed over another power recognized by both, as competent to exercise the high and friendly office of mediation, to communicate her intentions directly to the other belligerent. It is in vain to dwell longer upon this subject, because no such objection has been started upon the part of government.—I ought to apologize for having detained the house so long upon this part of the question; but in justice to the right hon. gent. so deeply interested in the transaction, I was bound to go into a minute detail. In justice to myself, and to the propositions which I intend to establish upon these papers, it was necessary that I should discuss them much at length, and I trust that I have in some measure succeeded in convincing the house, that another golden opportunity has been lost, not indeed of making peace, (for I beg the house again to understand, that I do, and always have carefully abstained from the assertion, that peace in any case might have been made) but of entering into negociation, for the purpose of ascertaining whether peace could or could not be effected. I have thought it my duty to expose to the severest censure of this house, the conduct of the king's government upon this occasion, and more particularly that of his majesty's secretary of state for foreign affairs; because it does appear to me necessary to state my opinion to the house and the country at large of his utter insufficiency to guide us through the dangers and difficulties which surround us in this crisis of our fate. I am sure the right hon. gent. from the freedom that he has taken with the characters of some of his colleagues in office, will excuse the freedom which I have taken with his official character; having on a former occasion declared in his place in this house, his colleague lord Hawkesbury unqualified to hold the office of foreign affairs, he cannot object to my expressing the opinion that I entertain of the comparative merits of his majesty's present secretaries of state. Upon a review then of the papers which have been laid upon the table of the house of commons signed by lord Hawkesbury, and those signed by Mr. Canning, I can have 839 no hesitation in saying, that I had much rather the seals of the foreign office were in the hands of lord Hawkesbury, than in those of their present possessor. In lord Hawkesbury's correspondence, there appears to be a frankness, a simplicity, and a temper which are totally wanting in the correspondence of the right hon. gent. and which are very ill compensated by the smartness and satire so conspicuous in his dispatches. If therefore, the administration must needs consist of the same component parts, I could wish, for the advantage of the country, that these two persons should change situations. But, sir, however material it may be to review the conduct of ministers, and for the house to express its opinion upon that conduct, what is past is of much less importance than what is to come; and it remains to be considered what course we ought now to pursue. What is past is lamentable, but irremediable; what is to come requires the utmost efforts of human wisdom to turn to the best account. If I shall have persuaded the house, or any considerable proportion of it, that at no period the experiment of negociation has been carried to the utmost; and that in the two last instances, it was not the perverseness of France, but the folly of England, which prevented our entering into negociation, I shall have effected a great deal, because I shall have persuaded the house, or such persons in it upon whom my arguments may have made any impression, that they ought not to cast away all hope of peace, and that it is not necessary to stifle all desire of it. My opinion is now what it has been from the commencement of the first revolutionary war: peace has been all along essential to the interests, it is now more than at any preceding period necessary to the salvation of the country. I deny the insane proposition, that peace is more dangerous than war. I will not assert that, with peace we can insure safety, but I am convinced that in everlasting war we must find our ruin. A rapid review of our internal situation, and even a repetition of the name of our sister kingdom, and the catalogue of our foreign dependencies, will too clearly establish that proposition. Look at the petitions upon your table, and read what they contain. Look at Ireland, at India, and your possessions in the West Indies; and, having done so, ask yourselves whether a continuation of the war must not bring the greatest calamities upon the 840 country, unless you can effect a firm and general conviction that it is the ambition and injustice of France alone, which prevents the accomplishment of peace. But it is necessary that a negociation very different from any of the preceding ones, should be entered into, for the purpose for ascertaining that fact.— Sir, I believe there are many who have such a horror of peace with France that they would be inclined to vote with me upon the third proposition, which I shall submit to the consideration of the house, upon the expediency of making a direct overture for negociation with France, if they could be convinced that that overture would terminate unsuccessfully, after the example of Mr. Dundas, who told the house of commons, that in the failure of the negociation at Lisle and Paris, the country had had two great escapes. Such is the hatred of some towards France, such the infatuation of others, and such the controul of interest, as I fear, over many, that for these different reasons desiring a prolongation of the war, they would wish to throw the whole blame upon France, and they would be glad to enter into a mock negociation for that purpose. Such certainly is not my view of the subject. I wish to enter into a negociation not only for the purpose of ascertaining the sincerity of France, but in the hope, nay even in the expectation of being able to procure peace, upon honourable and equitable terms. Sir, it has been said by some, that a peace of security would content them; and that for the present all idea of our honour must be out of the question. I am of a very different opinion. I certainly would not consent to any peace, in which the honour of the country was not consulted. As to security, when can it ever be obtained? The volumes of treaties, with which our libraries are loaded, show that peace has seldom been maintained between contracting parties, whenever it became the interests of either the one or the other power to break the contract. With the power of France, so enormous as it now confessedly is, when can you say that you are secure in peace? If you wait until you can have security, that the peace which you make shall be maintained during any given period, you must abandon all hopes of peace; but I should enter into negotiation, expecting that it would terminate in peace; and hoping that such peace would be permanent and secure, or as much so as at any other period with 841 any other government.—The right hon. gent. in the Declaration which I take to be his production, has described in glowing terms, the present state of the French power; he has asserted, and most truly, that 'kingdoms are prostrate at her feet, and that the population of nations is ranged under her banners. 'Formidable indeed is the power so described, but what has laid kings prostrate at her feet, and what has ranged the population of nations under her banner? the infatuated policy of England, during the last fifteen years. Is there any hope then by a perseverance in the same policy, that this power can be in the smallest degree diminished? Let us not deceive ourselves, nor stand aghast as if something preternatural had been effected! there is no miracle in all this, it is simply the consequence of one man, of extraordinary talents, taking advantage of the folly and the blunders of the rest of mankind. We talk of the machinations, the artifices, and the intrigues of Buonaparte: they all resolve themselves into four great battles, Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena, and Friedland. These are the machinations by which he got the continent into his power. You made it necessary for him to fight those battles; you combined the world against him, he has conquered the world combined, and he has combined the world against you. We talk again at other times, of the fortune of Buonaparte, as if there were some good genius attendant upon him, which led him to the accomplishment of his objects, and as if an evil genius at all times attended the coalitions formed against him, and led them to defeat and to disgrace: Sir,The lucky have their moments, those they use, Th' unlucky have their hours, and those they lose.That is the solution of this great mystery as it respects Buonaparte and the powers engaged against him. What could be more absurd, not to go back to former periods, than the last coalition excited by England against France? To enter into the detail of all the Papers, which were imprudently thrown upon the table of the house of commons,* at the time lord Mulgrave held the office of foreign secretary of state, would not be possible at this time; but I would refer the house, and the public, to a review of them, for the proof of what I assert. Austria was totally unprepared. She was a power at that time as * See Appendix to vol. vi. 842 great, if not greater, than before the revolution of France. Her dominions were more concentrated, her population greater, her spirit, even under the most cruel reverses, had never been broken; and if you would not have dragged her forth at a time when she was conscious of her inability to stir, she might have recovered; and, at some future period have opposed to France a most formidable and effectual resistance. Forced by your impolicy she ran upon her ruin; and although she has been suffered to remain a great power still, much more time will be requisite before she can again make head upon the continent. Russia was an unbroken power, but it was madness to call her forth at the moment that you did; and the formation of the last coalition was one of that series of acts of impolicy, or rather the most absurd of all those impolitic acts of which England has been so long guilty. It has been of fatal consequence, not only as it has led to the defeat and disgrace of the combined armies, but as it has given to the French emperor a proof of his power, when engaged against those armies. When we talk of artifice and deceit, let us recollect that the foundation of the hope of that coalition, was the deceit practised upon the French emperor; that that deceit, up to the period at which you expected its detection, was successful. Sir, we have now drank the cup of experience to the dregs, and I think the most infatuated enthusiast in politics can no longer look to the continent for any hope of curtailing, much less of destroying, the power of France. How much more formidable have you rendered the French emperor, by bringing his armies in contact with those of every power of the continent! before you had done so, expectation might have been entertained by yourselves, or by the powers who had not tried it, either separately, or jointly, that France might have been resisted by a combination of those powers: and indeed a doubt might have been entertained in the mind of the French emperor himself, whether, with his consummate military skill, and with such an engine as the French armies, and the armies of the nations then dependent upon France, he could make head against the other powers of the continent. You have absurdly strewn him, that Austria and Russia combined, are no match for him; you have shewn him that Russia and Prussia combined are no match for him, and it is now no matter of speculation, but a thing which 843 you have forced him to put to the proof, that he is superior to every, and to all the armies of the continent. You are now alone: and how are your individual interests to be consulted? When I say alone, I do not forget that you have an alliance with Sweden; but that alliance is a weight upon you, rather than any assistance to you.—I say then, that you are alone in the war; and how are your individual interests to be consulted, but by peace? Upon what appears to me to be the folly of commercial warfare, I have touched in the earlier part of my speech.—It has often been said, and with great truth as it applies to this country, that we ought to be extremely thankful to Providence, that we are unacquainted with the actual horrors of war: that this country has not been its theatre, at least for a long period; and that whilst desolation is spread over the plains of the continent, we are in all the enjoyment of profound peace. But although to us this is a blessing, I much question whether it is not the reverse of a blessing to all the rest of mankind; for there is a wide difference between giving large sums of money, the which in truth does not deprive the majority of those who give them, of any even of the comforts of life, much less of its necessaries, and being subject to those calamities which are inevitable where the contest is actually carried on. If the horrors of war were but once tasted amongst us, I do not think that the indisposition to peace would be so strong as it has hitherto been, and as I perhaps fear it may even now be.—If we continue the contest, it may come nearer home.—Ireland may be the theatre of war, nay it is not out of the reach of possibility, that the theatre of war may be transferred to England herself. God avert it! I am not one of those who ever gave way to the expression of sentiments which those who uttered them I am sure never seriously entertained: I never said, "a speedy meeting to Buonaparte upon our own shores!" God grant that he may never attain these shores! but if the war is to be interminable, that is one of the scenes which must eventually be acted.—Sir, I will here notice one of the grounds of alarm which I have heard expressed on the subject of peace, arising out of the extension of the French empire, which we witnessed during the short interval of the peace of Amiens. I would ask gentlemen to review the comparative progress of the power of France during war, and during 844 peace; we shall find that war has not stopped but materially accelerated that progress; there are no means in war to prevent its further progression. The French power is more progressive during war than during peace. But during peace the power of England and her allies would be upon the recovery. But what effect may the continuance of the war produce upon our external possessions? Do not ministers know that a most formidable attack upon our Indian empire is in the contemplation of France? Do they not know that the means for that attack are in preparation? That so soon after the peace of Tilsit as the 12th of Aug. 1807, general Gardane was at Constantinople, on his way to Persia, for the purpose of preparing for the march of an army to India? that since that period, men of science and military knowledge have been from time to time passing from France into Persia, with a view to the same object? and do they not also know that the thing itself is of much more easy performance, than many of those achievements which the emperor of the French has accomplished? and can they point out any means by which, if the attack should be made, it can be repelled? Does not the continuance of the war then put to hazard the existence of our Indian empire? does it not put to hazard the existence of every English subject in India? Here then is another reason, why, while there is yet time, we should attempt to negociate for peace. What is the state of Ireland? the bare mention of Ireland brings her situation home in a most terrific manner to the bosom of every man; and does not the state of Ireland afford a reason why you should attempt, while there is yet time, to negociate for peace? What is your situation with regard to America, are you not, by mismanagement or otherwise, upon the eve of a rupture with that country? would not the addition of America to the number of our enemies be of the greatest possible consequence to us? and is not our critical situation with regard to her, another reason why you should make an attempt to open a negociation? even for the sake of your ally, Sweden, should you not attempt to negociate? for a perseverance in the Contest must be to her ruin, in spite of all the assistance she may receive from England.—To all this it may perhaps be shortly answered by the king's ministers, we are desirous of opening a negociation with France, whenever a fair opportunity can be found, upon a 845 footing of equality, and in a manner honourable to the country. Sir, the ministers are constantly talking about their disposition to peace, but let us look a little for what they are waiting: first of all, for an impartial mediator. Why, Sir, whether partial or impartial, there is no mediator now left upon the face of the earth.—Next, till France shall send a proper basis, and propose an unobjectionable spot for the purpose of treating:
Rusticus expectat dum defluat amnis
What remains to be done? nothing, but that this country should make an overture to France, as direct as the French emperor has ever made to you. Is there any humiliation in this proposition? if there be, the French emperor has twice sufficiently humbled himself before you; for twice he has made direct overtures of negociation. Can there be any expectation that he will repeat them? Recollect the abrupt and repulsive manner in which he was received in 1800, when he made his first overture to the king, on his being invested with the chief consulate of France! recollect the deceitful (I had almost said the treacherous) Mode in which he was received the second time, when on assuming the imperial dignity, he again made a direct overture for peace. You told him at that time, that before you could give him any answer you must consult your allies. You did consult your allies; but not for the purpose of obtaining from them their consent to enter into negociation, but for the purpose of exciting them to a coalition, the object of which was to overwhelm and to destroy him. Is there any hope then (even if you were so to reverse the character you draw of him, as to represent him one of the most moderate and equitable of mankind), is there any hope that he will again attempt to approach this country by direct overtures? After the manner in which I have shewn that you have treated the two offers of mediation of Austria and Russia, is there any hope that he will again hazard any indirect; attempt? Is it reasonable to expect it? and even if he were inclined to do it, what ministers have you at your court, or what ministers has he at his, through the means of whom he could make any such attempt? I repeat the question then, what is there left but a direct offer of negociation on the part of England?—Sir, I have the authority of the present secretary of state, that in a direct proposition from this country, there can be nothing 846 degrading. In the speech I have already quoted, he distinctly says, "that at any time when negociation is desirable, he cannot conceive that any delicacy, as to which party should make the proposal, ought to stand in the way." I agree with this theory, and I recommend to him the practice of it. In confirmation of its propriety, I refer him to a person in whose diplomatic shool he was bred, of whom he has always professed a great admiration, and for whom I entertain the highest respect; I mean lord Grenville. During the period in which he held the office now occupied by the right hon. gent. three propositions were made from this country to France: all of them direct, and all of that manly character which belongs to the noble lord. First, when he ordered Mr. Wickham to address Mr. Barthelemi, it was to ask directly of the French government, whether they were inclined to treat for peace? no mention of preliminary basis, no delicacy or feeling of humiliation in being the first to court that which was then deemed desirable; it was a direct, honourable, and manly proposition. It failed. On the second occasion, a question was asked through the Danish minister at Paris, who answered the noble lord, that the then French government would not allow of any indirect communication. Lord Grenville immediately wrote to the French minister of foreign affairs: a negociation was the consequence, which ended unfortunately. The third time, without any attempt at indirect means, lord Grenville wrote a letter, most judiciously expressed, to the minister of foreign affairs at Paris in the first instance. It is not necessary now to go into an investigation of the merits of those negociations: they were discussed at the time, and my opinions upon them are the same as they were then: but with regard to the conduct of lord Grenville, in the different overtures, no doubt was entertained then, nor can it now, that it was wise, politic, honourable, and consistent with his own dignity, as well as with that of the country; it was such a line of conduct as ought to be pursued at this moment.—The question then occurs, what difficulties would arise in such a negociation? the course of events has very much smoothed them. The war you say is purely defensive; the question of peace then is purely a question of terms. But would France accede to our offer of negociation? I have no doubt she would, and eagerly too. It is quite unnecessary 847 for my present purpose, to enter into any argument upon the question of terms: that is a different consideration, and for the present is wholly out of my contemplation. All I want to ascertain is, whether peace be possible or not, by which I always understand an honourable peace; and if I can ascertain that fact even in the negative, I shall have produced great advantage to the country. A conviction of the want of moderation in the French emperor, and of the impossibility of obtaining peace, would unite all hearts, and all hands, in the defence of the country. Every privation would be submitted to: the honour of the country and its salvation would be paramount to every feeling of individual distress. I should no longer be apprehensive of the power of France. She would have created against herself an invincible barrier; and we, secure in the justice of our own cause, should be invincible against all her efforts. Is it from any enthusiastic feeling that I am making this assertion? is it the result of a sanguine mind, or introduced merely for the purpose of supporting my own argument? no, Sir, I rely upon historical example. What produced the salvation of Holland in the seventeenth century, but the injustice, the cruelty, and the inordinate ambition of Louis the XIVth? Let us look at that period of history, and we shall find that the liberties of mankind were thought, by those who then lived, to be in danger as imminent as we deem them to be in at present. At the head of a vast military force, commanded by the greatest generals, and guided by the counsels of the wisest statesmen of the age, actuated by an ambition as immoderate, and cursed with a heart as unfeeling as ever was attributed to any conqueror upon the face of the earth, Louis the XIVth, in conjunction with the prostitute administration of Charles II. attacked the liberties of Holland. There appeared to be no salvation for the country. He had but to approach, and to overrun it with his armies. Such was the state of despondency and dejection into which the inhabitants of the Low Countries were sunk; such were the distresses which the people felt, that a deputation was sent to the French king to request that he would name the terms upon which he would grant them peace; and they were ready to accept terms of greater humiliation than had ever before been imposed upon any independent power. But the arrogance of Louis the XIVth knew no 848 bounds; he exacted from them more than human nature could endure. From that moment there was a revulsion in the mind of the Dutch nation. Having done their utmost to procure safety, by submission, and finding that it was not to be obtained, their hearts were steeled against their oppressor; they rallied under that mighty genius, the prince of Orange, our great deliverer William the IIId, who conducted them to victory and to glory. The injustice of Louis the XIVth formed the pedestal, from which arose the exalted fame of that illustrious monarch, which has spread over every region of the earth. From the moment that the deputies of Holland returned from the presence of the French monarch, his projects were all baffled, and his army was ultimately compelled to retire in disgrace. If then the French emperor should eventually conduct himself in the manner which so many persons are willing to attribute to him, but as I think falsely, I am warranted in anticipating such consequences as followed from the same conduct on the part of Lewis the XIVth.—It is evidently necessary, however, that we should conduct ourselves towards the chief of the French government with the same policy, that we would use towards any other person with whom we were about to negociate, or with whom we were negociating, either in a private or public station of life. It is not consistent with the policy or the dignity of a great nation, to approach another power, with a manifestation of feelings of disgust, of suspicion, or personal antipathy. Such, nevertheless, have been the manner and feelings with which the emperor of France has always been approached on the part of England. There has been no period in which the conduct of England towards him has been wise or conciliatory. There has been no person employed, on the part of England, who, in my opinion, has understood the character of the man. At no time has he been treated with the consideration due to the situation which he occupies, and to the achievements which he has performed. I think that lord Whitworth, in the conversations which he held with him, previous to the rupture of the peace of Amiens, grossly misunderstood his character and intentions. I think that at the period of the negociation of 1806, his character was again greatly misunderstood. Sir, I hope I shall not be misrepresented, as if I wished that the ministers of England should conduct themselves with adulation or servi- 849 lity towards the French emperor. I mean not, and cannot. be supposed to mean, any such thing.—But in negociation with foreign powers, as well as in the conduct and business of private life, if we cannot talk with confidence, we had better not talk at all; a communication upon any business would be very injudiciously carried on by a party, who in the outset should tell the person with whom he is communicating, that he has the worst opinion of him in the world. Such, however, is really the way in which this government has always conducted itself towards the present ruler of France; and setting out with a determination not to believe any thing that is told us, we are surprised that our communications have not come to a happy issue.—Sir, I cannot help observing upon the sort of personal hatred and antipathy towards the French emperor, which appears to prevail in the minds of a large part of the community, as if each man had a personal quarrel with him. The origin of this feeling is to be traced to the various endeavours which have been made to excite the public hatred from the moment he attained the consular power. It argues a great degeneracy of national character, and it has given rise to many very disgraceful publications. A national antipathy, founded upon the crimes perpetrated by the chief of a government, whether crimes of state, or of a more private nature, can be no ground for a continuation of war between two countries. The murder of Don Carlos by Philip the second, was never urged as a cause of war against Spain. The execution of the Czarowitz Alexis by Peter the Great, was never considered as a just cause of hostility against Russia. The punishment of the crimes of princes, is in the hand of the Ruler of princes; and it is not for us, to make them the cause of punishment to their guiltless people and our own. Providence, in its inscrutable wisdom, works by means, and often deigns to produce the greatest good by the most ignoble and vicious instruments. I do not suppose that any person will question the advantage derived to this country from the introduction of the reformation. Yet by the brutal lusts of Henry the VIIIth, was that reformation, introduced among us. The advantage accruing to the cause of true religion, morality, and virtue, is the same, whether he who effected it were the most virtuous or the most vicious of mankind.—Sir, it has been much the practice in this house, to substitute recrimination 850 for defence. Could the present ruler of France obtain a verdict of acquittal from any charge preferred against him, provided he could shew that his accusers had been guilty of a parallel crime, he would have no great difficulty in standing clear with the world. If, for instance, he were charged with violent and unjust aggression by Austria, Prussia and Russia, he might answer in one word—Poland. At all times the answer he could have given to England might have been—India; and now, unhappily, he might add the decisive name of Denmark. I fear there is nothing arising out of the particular purity of this country, which can justify us in saying, that we will have nothing to do with the government of France. If France be loaded with political crime, so are the nations she has conquered, and so are we. Let us view the trespasses of France, with the same indulgence we think due to those of other countries, or to our own. Or at the least let us not set up an hypocritical reason for refusing to negotiate with her. Again, if we are in the high situation, at times described in colours so glowing, by orators on the other side of the house, let us follow the example of Buonaparte, and seize the propitious moment of national elevation. In the zenith a our strength, let us make one frank and generous overture for pacification.—Sir, it will be objected that such is the inordinate ambition of Buonaparte, there can be no hope that he will be seriously inclined to peace. That his ambition is great, nobody can doubt; but it is an ambition much under the guidance of prudence: he never fails to take every precaution for his security. He never proceeds without knowing, in case of reverse, how he is to retire; and his ambition has never yet, as far as I have been able to observe, tempted him to go much beyond the true line of his interest. In talking of inordinate or insatiable ambition, we mean that passion when carried to such an extent as to predominate over prudence and discretion. Such was the ambition of Charles the XII. which was truly insatiable, and disdaining even the slightest controul, hurried him to his ruin: but the ambition of Buonaparte has always been subservient to his policy. Previous to the treaty of Campio Formio, the Austrian capital was in his power: he stopped because it was his interest to do so. After the battle of Austerlitz, when in possession of the capital of the Austrian empire, did he make a peace with Austria 851 different from that which the coolest politician would have prescribed? Did he display the features of a savage ferocity, or did he gratify by acts of barbarity that disposition to vengeance, which is attributed to him? Did he not rather conduct himself towards the Austrian monarchy, its sovereign and his people, in a manner, which, if it had been adopted by any other than Buonaparte, might have been extolled as of exemplary moderation? the same may be remarked of his conduct subsequent to the victories of Jena and of Friedland.—If then, upon a review of the Whole of his conduct; I perceive that his policy has controuled his ambition, and has allayed if not extinguished his thirst for revenge: and I at the same time perceive that it would be conducive to his interest, even now to make peace with England; my hope of accomplishing such a peace is not without foundation, and my desire that ministers would attempt to open a negociation, is not ill-timed or improper. Sir, I am no apologist of any crimes which he may have committed; but I am aware that I may be represented, by my opponents, as the apologist of the French emperor; I know that I am not so. I am endeavouring to do some degree of justice to the character of that extraordinary man, in order that ministers may do justice to the country.—Sir, I will again shortly recur to the period of Louis the XIVth. The power of France was then almost physically as great as it is now. When a prince of the blood of France, was placed upon the throne of Spain, and the Pyrenean mountains were no more, Wm. the IIId. no longer filled the throne of England: the French armies were still commanded by generals of the highest reputation. There was every prospect that the whole of Europe would be overwhelmed by France! there was no obstacle in the mind of the French monarch, arising out of humanity, good faith, the ties of honour, or the calls of justice. He had exemplified his contempt of treaties, by suffering Philip to seize the Spanish crown: by his ravage of the Palatinate, he had shewn how callous he was to the miseries of mankind. There remained nothing but strength to oppose to strength; and there did providentially arise at that period that greatest and noblest bulwark of nations, men of transcendent talents, who eventually reversed the fortune of war. The potentates confederated against France, under the auspices of the duke of Marlborough 852 and prince Eugene, reduced the power of her arms, and brought her to the lowest state of humiliation. Let us not, however, forget that the cruel bigotry of Louis the XIVth. materially embarrassed his military exertions, and blending domestic contentions with foreign war, heightened his own distress, and powerfully contributed, among other causes, to effect the salvation of Europe.—But is it the power of France that we now contemplate? Sir, I maintain that it is not the power of France, but the power of the French emperor. The mighty mass of dominion which you in your attempts to destroy him, have placed within his grasp, he alone can wield: none but Ulysses can bend the bow of Ulysses. But as in the course of nature, his life must at length terminate, God forbid it should be cut short by any improper means! the power of France would then no longer be what it is now. Nay, even suspend for a time the operations of war, and the power of the French emperor would be no longer what it is now. By your resistance you created, and by continuing to resist, you. consolidate that power. It is the contest of the wind and the sun; by urging the tempest of war against him, you bind faster all those ties, which have placed the different powers of the earth under his controul; the genial influence of peace would tend gradually to disunite and to dissolve them. Look at the map of Europe and see whether the arrangements that he has made, and those which he is about to make, are not such as must create in themselves a division of interests, amongst the persons who obtain those possessions, from whatever family sprung, or however united by blood or otherwise. In process of time new combinations must arise: and, there are upon the continent the elements of great powers, which may at a proper time be called into action. There will be the means of resisting the power of France hereafter, provided France should shew herself incapable of maintaining the relations of peace and amity. Give them but time to breathe, and they may be beneficially and effectually used. The existence of one great man, at any period of the world, changes the whole face of human affairs. Great men have indeed existed in our day, but their warnings have been disregarded. If the advice of the gallant and patriotic Archduke Charles had been taken, the last coalition would never have been formed, and Austria would have remained that great power, 853 which she was subsequent to the peace of Luneville. If the admonitions of Mr. Fox had been attended to, the bloody tragedy of the French revolution would never have been acted; Buonaparte would never have been emperor of the French, "he would not have had kingdoms prostrate at his feet, and the population of nations under his banners." Having petitioned the name of Mr. Fox, I willingly acknowledge myself his true and genuine disciple. I am only feebly urging the sentiments which he would have forcibly uttered, had he not been unhappily taken from us. I trust that I am treading in his footsteps; would to God that his countenance were now upon me! would to God, this humble effort over, I could feel myself as I have often done, secure under the impenetrable egis of his eloquence! How bitter is the reflection! Had this country but hearkened to his prophetic voice, all the horrors which have passed during the last fifteen years, would have been averted; prophetic I may truly call it, for there is not one of his predictions which has not been exactly verified. The period of delusion is now at an end. We can no longer entertain any expectation of intestine convulsion in France; we can no longer flatter ourselves with the hope, that the moment Buonaparte quits Paris, some terrible commotion will take place. We have seen the capital, nay all France emptied of soldiers, and the whole country tranquil. We can no longer hope for a general revolt produced by the supposed misery of the people, groaning under the oppression of his tyranny. Sir, I believe that an impartial observer, in travelling through France, (at least from all the information I have received, it is so), would find that the situation of the inhabitants of the country, is improved rather than deteriorated, since it fell under his dominion. We can no longer hope, that the soldiery, discontented with the distant expeditions to which he has led them, will be excited to a spirit of mutiny against him. We can no longer hope that the countries which he has conquered will rise in one general mass, and vindicate their own cause by the massacre of his troops. The experiment in all these cases, has been made, and the predictions of those absurd and foolish prophets who foretold these and similar events have been, completely falsified. The union of the great powers of the continent to defeat him is no longer practicable. I repeat that I am not the apologist of France, 854 I am the advocate of England. I want to shew to England, that it is expedient on every account to make peace, and possible to maintain it; and, that those who would still induce them to believe, that there is any prospect of obtaining better terms than we can now have, at any future period, grounded upon any of the common-place topics, which have been dwelt upon during so many years, have no foundation for their assertions.—We are told that if peace were made with France, she would immediately turn the whole or chief of her attention to the restoration of her navy. Undoubtedly she would do so, and France has always done so, during any peace that has taken place between the two nations: and she has always so far succeeded, as very much to improve the number and condition of her ships. The consequence has only been upon the renewal of war, to give fresh triumphs to G. Britain, and such I am confident would again be the case. But there is this difference: the French emperor is at this moment, and has been for a considerable time, as fully employed in the construction of ships, as he could be in time of the profoundest peace; but what he wants, and what France will always want, is sailors. From the relative situation of the two countries, it is utterly impossible that as long as the commercial greatness of this country exists, the French navy can ever become, by many degrees of comparison, equal to that of G. Britain. By the continuation of the war, you risque the eventual loss, or at least the serious diminution of your commerce, the foundation of your naval greatness. By peace your commerce will be restored, enlarged; and your naval greatness will be proportionably augmented. It is therefore in my opinion a most chimerical apprehension, that during any interval of peace, such a navy could be created by France, as would be at all formidable to the marine of G. Britain.—Lastly, it has been said, that the French emperor has sworn the destruction of this country, and will therefore never allow you to be at peace. I would ask when, where, and how, was this tremendous oath taken? not when he was created chief consul of France, for at the moment of his elevation he eagerly applied for peace. Not when he was created emperor, for then he repeated in earnest and dignified language, his request for peace. Not in the course of the last summer, when victorious over Russia, when he again attempt- 855 ed to open a negociation for peace. Not even in the beginning of the present year; when he perhaps for the last time, made advances for the same salutary purpose. The recognition of the consular power, was at the time of his first pacific overture of the utmost importance to him; the recognition of the imperial dignity, he would also I think, have purchased at a great price; but you have forced him to appear personally in every part of Europe, and that title which he vainly attempted to obtain from your friendship, or at least from your discretion, he has asserted and established at the point of his sword. Still, however, it would be highly conducive to his interest, to have that power acknowledged by this country. In point of military reputation, he has nothing to wish for, he stands pre-eminent in the history of past or present times; the primary object of his ambition must now be the firm and durable establishment of his authority over France, and the other nations which are under his dominion. That he cannot accomplish except he be at peace with England. If peace then be his interest, and it be likewise ours, why should any foolish punctilio, why should any petulance of temper, stand in the way of so desirable an object? I think I have shewn that to offer peace, would be neither humiliating nor discreditable. I have shewn it, from reasoning upon the nature of the offer itself, and from the examples which I have produced, both at home, and abroad. I have shewn by reviewing the situation of our own country, the difficulties and dangers attending a continuation of the war; and they are such as it would be the most unpardonable presumption to encounter without an adequate necessity. If I should be successful in persuading the house to adopt the three resolutions, which I shall have the honour to propose, and that an offer to negotiate should be made by this country, I would then remind those who make it of the rule laid down by Mr. Fox, which I have before quoted in this house, namely, that in conducting a negociation, far from displaying an eager and inordinate ambition we should be moderate in the extreme; that we should fairly and impartially place ourselves in the situation of France, whenever engaged in any great political transaction with her: that is, that we should abide by a maxim, which as a disciple of the old morality, I am not ashamed to avow to be the corner stone of all moral, 856 and political wisdom; that divine maxim, which however the disciples of the school of the new morality may, by their actions contradict, and by their insinuations deride it, they will not in terms venture to disown, that in all cases nations as well as men should do unto others, as they would that others should do unto them. Sir, I propose,—1. "That it is the opinion of this house, that the conditions stipulated by his majesty's ministers for the acceptance of the Mediation offered by the emperor of Russia, were inexpedient and impolitic.—2. That it is the opinion of this house, that the conduct of his majesty's ministers on the subject of the Mediation offered by the emperor of Austria, was unwise and impolitic, and not calculated to ascertain how far the restoration of the blessings of peace, might or might not have been attainable through the means of such Mediation.—3. That there is nothing in the present state of the war, which ought to preclude his majesty from embracing any fair opportunity of acceding to, or commencing a negociation with the enemy on a footing of equality for the termination of hostilities on terms of equity and honour."
expressed his sense of the disadvantage under which he rose, after the admirable speech of his hon. friend. As to the two first Resolutions, he perfectly concurred with him; and in the third likewise he agreed as to the letter, but differed as to the spirit and effect, and as to the propriety of passing such a resolution at the present moment. With regard to the two first, no man who considered the conduct that had been displayed by ministers, as to the Russian and Austrian mediation, could doubt that they manifested a tone, a temper, and a language which were wholly adverse to peace. The right hon. secretary had demanded an impartiality from Russia, which it was impossible to attain or to expect; but it was needless for him to enter upon that point, after what had been said by his hon. friend. It was the most silly and absurd idea that could possibly be entertained, that because a power whose disposition was known to be friendly had suffered a momentary depression, its mediation ought not to have been accepted. Russia was our friend; Austria was also our sincere friend. Because events had reduced them to a low condition, could we believe that they loved Buonaparte more than 857 us, or would prefer his friendship to ours? It was amazing, with the events of the war before them, that they could have indulged in such ungenerous suspicions, and in such irritating language. Holland had been, ever since the year 1794, under the dominion of France; and yet, as the disposition of the maritime part of that country was hostile to the French, they had never been able to produce more than one effort against this country. The engagement of De Winter with lord Duncan was the only one of any consequence, arid in that battle they had only seven ships. In the East Indies their fleet surrendered—In the Helder, too, their whole fleet surrendered; and the indisposition of the Dutch to fight the battles of France, rendered her powerless at sea. Why, then, should it, be supposed that we had lost the affections of our allies? He did not say that we ought to have proceeded to a treaty; all that he said was, we had lost an opportunity of trying whether France was disposed for peace, and had irritated those nations who were willing to befriend us. No step had been taken by ministers to get the country out of the difficulties with which their own conduct had contributed to involve us. How did they mean to continue the war? Did they mean to allow Ireland to remain as it was, without taking a single step to secure the attachment of that country? The inhabitants of this country could not be led away by any machinations of France, and here we were secure. But though he was willing to hope the best of Ireland, yet he could not conscientiously say that we were equally secure there as here. If we conciliated the people of that country, we should be enabled to look France more boldly in the face: but, unless we did this, Ireland would be a source of weakness to us, and a source of confidence to our enemy. Could we make any impression on France, under the commercial reguations of ministers, by which they had efected the object which France had in view? If this was the way to contend with France, why was it not tried before? Why was it not resorted to before our allies on the continent had fallen? But they would not produce the smallest impression on the enemy. He agreed with his hon. friend that a negociation ought to be entered upon if possible: if this could not be done, the country ought to know it, and then they would bear their privations with comparative patience. The poorest man in the country ought to know its situation. 858 He ought to understand whether peace could be attained or not. If it could not, then the same effect would be produced as had been produced in Holland in the time of king William. Entertaining these sentiments, it became him to state tile reasons why he differed from his hon. friend on this occasion. The third resolution, if adopted, would bind ministers to take immediate steps towards a negociation. Now, although he agreed, that this was the true policy of the country, he was not prepared to say that it was so at the present moment. The motion must produce one of these two results:—having tried the inclination of our enemy, ministers would come back to the house, and say, 'We have tried him, and find him cold and averse to negociation, or in such a state of irritation, that it is in vain to expect him to treat on any thing like honourable terms.' This, of course they would assert, was the effect of the passing of this resolution. Or, again, if they did go into terms, and a dishonourable peace was concluded, this would be giving ministers an opportunity of saying, 'We could not get a proper peace, on account of this Resolution;' and if it should be a very bad one, which he was afraid it would be, they would say, 'The reproach does not lie on us; blame yourselves. You were too impatient. It is to you, therefore, not to us that the stigma must attach. You are the authors of the calamity.' He was averse, therefore, to any thing which could force ministers into negociation. His hon. friend, however, had said, that the petitions for peace had put an end to the American war. He did not think that case applicable to the present. Every person knew, that it was foolish to continue a contest which was no longer attainable. The object was to induce France and Spain to abandon the contest against us, conscious that America, urged on as she was by the spirit of enthusiasm, would never yield, and that no force we had to employ could compel her. We had, therefore, some advantages to expect, and little risk to run, in attempting to get out of that contest.—Another consideration weighed extremely in his mind. He confessed, he had no opinion that ministers were anxious for peace; of which his conviction they had exhibited most satisfactory symptoms in the two offers of mediation, which they had already slighted. Was the country insensible of its state? Did not the house every day receive petitions for peace, not only not encouraged by any political cha- 859 racters, but even thwarted and discountenanced by them. This circumstance showed, that these petitioners had no opinion of the sincerity of ministers. If the house, therefore, were to adopt the last Resolution, would they not be giving countenance to such petitions? On this ground he felt a difficulty in agreeing to the resolution. Now, although he did not believe that ministers were desirous of peace, he was against pushing the matter at this moment. He might do them injustice in the opinion he had formed; of course, he could not say he was prepared on this night to come to the resolution now proposed. He might this day week be persuaded that the resolution was proper, but he was not in that situation at the present moment.—There was another reason which operated strongly with him. The petitioners told the house of the pressure under which they laboured from the markets on the continent being shut against them. It well became the house for the welfare of the country, to take care how they aggravated such a feeling. If we were, in consequence of agreeing to the present proposition, to send an ambassador to France, might not Buonaparte say, 'It is not six weeks since you sent away the Austrian ambassador, whose mediation you rejected. You talk, however, of a pressure on your manufactures. Is it so? Then I will persevere in following out the measures I have adopted, and, taking advantage of this pressure, will force you to accept of any sort of a peace I chuse to grant you.' Was this the language it was natural for Buonaparte to hold; or was it rather to be expected of him that he should say, 'These good people of England are anxious to be at peace with me, and they are greatly distressed. I have been fighting against them these 14 years for the purpose of destroying them, but, now I find their manufacturers are poor and hardly pressed, they are even starving, and I am now inclined to take compassion on them?' If it were once to be laid down, that on account of a pressure on any branch or one part of the community, the whole nation must give way, he could not look on England in any other light than as a conquered country. It was necessary in such circumstances to submit to deprivations, and he was convinced, there was not a man in the country who, when he knew that peace could not be procured on honourable terms, would not submit to any deprivations whatever, nay, who would not lay down his life 860 sooner than submit to France. In saying this, he did not mean to induce ministers to persevere in the war if peace could be obtained. On the contrary, he was eager for peace. He only wished, that the question should lie over a little longer to try what might turn out. The parliament had not been met above five weeks, and it might have to sit for some months. He did not say, that he might not in the course of a month be of the opinion of his hon. friend. He agreed with him at this moment, as he must do at all times, that peace was better than war. His hon. friend was bolder than he could bring himself to feel on that subject. He was afraid, that instead of promoting peace, the resolution might have the effect of protracting the war. If his hon. friend, therefore, would not withdraw his motion, he should now move the previous question.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
agreed with the last speaker, but for very different reasons. As far as he could understand the object of the third Resolution, it went merely to say of ministers, that having misconducted themselves in transactions past, they were not entitled to confidence in future. He should not endeavour to go through the numerous papers that had been the subject of comment; but he conceived that there might be very fair grounds for doubting of the propriety of accepting the proposed mediations of Russia and Austria. A right hon. gent. had asked, whether we thought that those powers had transferred their affections to France? That might not be the case; yet they might be governed by a less generous sentiment. Russia might be led to consult her own security, at the expence of our interests. Austria might be in similar circumstances. He confessed, he could wish that our last answer had been different; but, under all the circumstances of the case, the offer could not be put upon the footing of former offers, and certainly not a fair mediation between us and France. In general, it might not be necessary to lay a basis in such a case in the first instance; but when we were called upon by a third power under doubtful circumstances, a case was afforded in which, if at any time, we were justified in entrenching ourselves behind certain general principles and particular considerations. He could see no reason for supposing why his right honourable friends should not wish for peace whenever a favourable opportunity offered.—He was desirous of speaking thus early, because it gave him 861 pain to find another topic wholly omitted. Session after session the house had been occupied with discussing the best means of calling forth the internal military defence of the country. How could we talk of making and maintaining peace with France without such measures? Were all those ideas on which these discussions proceeded gone by? He then paid some compliments to the industry and attention to business of his noble friend (lord Castlereagh). He hoped his mind was exercised on that subject, and that the house would shortly hear more from him on that important topic. The country must place its security on its means of defence, and then, after peace, repose upon its strength. He alluded to the shortness of the interval between the peace of Amiens and the renewal of hostilities, which he admitted to proceed from faults on both sides. Could we doubt that in peace France would increase greatly her marine, when there would be no interruption to her receiving naval stores? It should never be forgotten that this great country ought not to be contented with not being conquered: it must not be suffered even to be endangered. We might yet have to contend upon British ground: and there was no way of procuring a certain peace, but by maintaining a strong and secure internal defensive force. He wished to restore the blessings of peace; and he conjured the house and the country to submit to measures of a trying and difficult nature, in order to insure that blessing. It was a subject near to his heart. When he considered the turn of the debate, he might be led to suppose that the great military power of France, instead of having conquered the continent, had been itself defeated. He did not fear our safety, if we adopted efficient measures. Defensive war was comparatively easy; and a great, rich, brave, loyal, and free country, like this, never could be conquered, unless by its own neglect. Let us prepare for peace with safety. He would not hamper himself with declarations; but he was a friend to peace, and would earnestly desire it, whenever it could be obtained with safety, and maintained with security.
§ Lord Milton
expressed his surprise that his hon. colleague should have resorted to so strange an argument against the proposition of the hon. mover as that he had just alluded to; as if it was the business of gentlemen on that side of the house to propose measures for the defence of the 862 country, or to spew that it was in a proper state of defence, He completely agreed with the hon. mover in the two first resolutions, satisfied as he was that ministers deserved censure for their conduct in slighting the Russian and Austrian mediation. He could not, however, go the length of the third resolution, not being satisfied that there was yet ground to address his majesty to remove his ministers as being disinclined to peace, which he was of opinion must necessarily accompany the third resolution of his hon. friend.
The Hon. J. W. Ward
expressed considerable regret that he should be under the necessity of differing from many of those valuable friends, with whom he was in the constant habit of acting and voting; yet, feeling so forcibly as he did, that some attempts ought to be made to obtain peace at this period, he could not do otherwise than support the whole motion of his hon. friend. The first and second resolutions he must support, because, in his opinion, ministers had shown the most extraordinary disregard to the real welfare and interests of this country, in so rashly rejecting the two opportunities they had of entering upon negociation through the several channels of Russian and Austrian mediation; but the third resolution was what struck his mind as by far the most important, though disavowed by so many of his hon. friends, because in that the feelings and fortunes of almost every one in the kingdom, who possessed either, were most intimately and deeply concerned. He believed there were many persons in this country who had, from the arguments that were daily and hourly advanced respecting the ruler of France and his views, imbibed the false and ridiculous idea that they would be safer in war than they could be in peace; but nothing could be more Mistaken than that notion. These people seemed to form their opinions, that our safety was peculiarly owing to the number of our ships; but this was not the case. France, Spain, and Holland combined, might be able to build more ships than we could; but what gave us the proud superiority we had so long been able to boast, was the invincible spirit, the native hardiness, and the excellent training of our men to the science of navigation and the practice of gunnery, which, aided by their native courage and bravery, rendered them an overmatch on the ocean for any seamen in the world. The French revolution had shown that an army might be raised and 863 brought to a state of discipline in one campaign; but a navy required great time and practice to bring it to perfection; and for that reason he should never fear the number of ships that any enemy could bring against us. What particularly struck his mind with considerable weight on the present motion, so far as it regarded peace, was the immense change that had taken place in the situation of France. That country had, 15 years ago, begun the war with a confederacy of all Europe against her, headed by England; and the war she was now prosecuting, was a confederacy of all Europe, joined with her, against England, who now stood alone in the contest. The cause of coalitions, which this country had made such mighty and repeated efforts to form, was now extinct; and those who had deluded themselves with dreams of victory at Austerlitz, at Jena, and at Eylau, bad now no point of contact, and could no more expect to unite other powers against the French, than if they lived in another planet. When our ancestors attempted to check the power of France, they did it by the superior prowess of their men, aided by great alliances; but at this moment we could boast but of one ally in all Europe. He ridiculed the idea of our entering on a commercial opposition, in which we had every thing to lose and nothing to gain. We depended almost solely on commerce. France was a country of such extent and resources that she could much better bear the want of it. If it were merely a race of luxury against luxury, of sugar against sugar, and so forth, it might bear some degree of comparison; but France had been, during the whole time since the commencement of the revolution, obliged to submit to one privation after another, and had, on that account, a decided advantage over us in this work of what ministers called retaliation. In the midst of this unequal warfare, however, it was extraordinary and surprising to observe the conduct of his majesty's ministers. When his hon. friends on this side of the house attempted to point out the weakness of their measures, down came the chancellor of the exchequer to the house, and, with all the pride and pomp of office, boasted that he had found a certain remedy for all our misfortunes, and that he would force Buonaparte to relinquish his terrible decrees, by prohibiting the exportation of Bark—a notable expedient, truly, and such an one as must astonish all Europe! It might be the characteristic 864 of themselves, but it certainly was not that of the country, to wish to wage war against the sick, the lame, and the blind, and, instead of boldly and manfully attacking their camps, directing our whole force and artillery against their defenceless hospitals. He was really surprised to see so much reliance placed on such trifles, and thought that they bore the strongest evidence of the necessity of endeavouring to obtain an honourable peace. What could we do to serve ourselves by carrying on the war? We had not, as he had before observed, a single point of contact. Buonaparte took every thing by land, and we took every thing by sea; and so we might go on till this country, which was wholly commercial, should be entirely ruined. There were many other topics on which he could have wished to touch, but the lateness of the hour would not permit him, and he must therefore confine himself to such as were the most important. To those who were really advocates for the continuance of the war, he thought it absolutely necessary to address one plain question. Was the country in such a state as to be able to bear it? Did not the house think that the state of Ireland was such as to merit their most serious attention? Four millions of subjects, forming a considerable majority of the people of that part of the united empire, were anxiously solicitous to be allowed a participation in the dearest and best rights and privileges of the constitutution, from which prejudice had so long excluded them, and to which if they were not speedily restored, they must remain in a state of the greatest discontent. He entreated the house to consider also the danger to which India was exposed. He mentioned that particularly, because it had escaped the observation of others; but all well knew that Buonaparte had long had an eye towards India, and that he was at the present moment meditating, if not actually putting in practice, the attempt of reaching that country through the continent of Europe; an attempt which the continuance of war must facilitate, by giving France an opportunity of exasperating and stirring up against us the native princes of India. He condemned the system adopted, of the extension of our territories in India, though he meant not lo attribute blame to any particular person, but could not do otherwise than consider it as highly impolitic. He was much surprised to hear it urged, that the ruler of France had vowed to wage eternal war with this country. 865 That very argument was in his mind a strong reason for endeavouring to negociate a peace; because, if by so doing we could establish the fact, that he had really made such a vow, or that he had determined not to make peace but such a one as would be dishonourable or disgraceful to this country, he had no doubt but the good sense and spirit of the people would exert itself, and that they would resolve to bear, if not with cheerfulness, at least with patience, all the privations they might suffer in consequence, rather than the national honour should be tarnished. The present war, he said, had been originally entered upon to prevent the fulfilling the conditions of a treaty—a matter which in itself he thought highly blameable. It had since been carried, on, as had been acknowledged, from mere punctilios of honour respecting Russia; and he must say, it was astonishing to him how his hon. friends, or any of them, could differ in opinion with the hon. mover of the present question.—We had, he said, long had houses of commons who had permitted ministers to go on with the war, he hoped they would, now have one that would stop them in the career they had shaped out for themselves of eternal war. He could not avoid once more adverting to the state of Ireland, of which ministers had not taken the smallest notice, in that, elaborate manifesto they had given in the shape of the king's speech. He could not but reflect with the deepest concern on four millions, the proscribed majority of that country, which it appeared to be the intention of minisiers to persecute, instead of holding: forth the gentle hand of conciliation. In short, he was very sorry to say, that from every appearance, and from every information he had been able to collect on the subject, that country was at present in imminent danger. It was the duty of ministers, because it was their true policy, to use every means in their power to conciliate Ireland, which could only be done effectually by peace and toleration, and by rendering Catholic emancipation less urgent. He was, however, afraid that would never be the case with the present ministry, whose avowed intentions and charter to their present offices had shewn them determined on persecution.
§ Mr. Blachford,
in a maiden speech, lamented the prejudice and perversion of opinion and talent to which a spirit of party and faction seemed capable of deli 866 vering over some descriptions of men. There were those who turned with indifference or scorn from the hardships of their own countrymen, while struggling in the cause of the honour and independence of the country, and yet shewed themselves tenderly alive only to the sufferings of America and Denmark. But such men misinterpreted the opinion and the feelings of the country. The country valued wealth, and certainly much of its power and energies depended upon that wealth; but under circumstances like the present, it felt that wealth must be subservient to honour. That sentiment neither Buonaparte, nor the friends of Buonaparte, wherever they moved, nor all the violence of his sanguinary decrees, would ever be able to extinguish. It was not to be extinguished by the partial sufferings of some of our manufacturers;—no, nor could it be extinguished by the complete stagnation of our whole trade. Those who held a different language of the character of their country, could be only the indisposed few who endeavoured to blow every spark of disaffection and discontent into a flame, and to place in an odious light the conduct, of the present administration, chiefly because they felt the damning contrast which it exhibited with their own. Men who, while in opposition, were clamorous; while in government impotent; whose apathy was called moderation, and whose attempts to delude the people were dignified with the name of patriotism. Give him much sooner the inflexible firmness, the persevering fortitude, of the men who now guided the destinies of the nation, than the pusillanimous precaution of those who would seek for comfort and ease at the expence of honour and security. Fresh aggressions called only for fresh resistance, and more determined resolution. Such, at least, he trusted, were the sentiments with which his majesty's ministers were nerved, and that he might venture to say of them, what the poet said of the resolute and just—
Si fractus illabatur orbis, Impavidum ferient ruinæ.
§ Lord Mahon
observed, that all the maxims which were laid down on the opposite side had a tendency to support the principle of eternal war. There was not an argument that was advanced this night in opposition to the motion which might not with equal propriety be urged in favour of any other war, at any other time, or under almost any other circumstances. Every 867 power in Europe that was formerly our ally was now converted into an enemy. From this consideration, together with that of the distressed state of our manufacturers, he thought it his duty to support the motion. The house ought to consider these things in fact of its own free will; but from circumstances which had lately occurred, it appeared to him that they were called on by the imperious voice of the people to the performance of this duty, in order to avert, if possible, a tremendous evil, and prevent incalculable distress from falling on the working part of the community.
§ Mr. John Smith
wished to know how long ministers meant the war to continue. If it continued two years longer, was there any prospect of negociating for peace on more honourable and secure terms than at the present moment? He certainly would be sorry to present the subject of peace to that house, were there not one particular circumstance to induce it to be immediately procured, namely, Ireland.
Mr. Secretary Canning
did not think it proper to intrude himself upon the house at an earlier period, because he conceived it to be the duty of his majesty's ministers on this subject, to leave it to other members of the house to express their sentiments before they should themselves take any part in the debate. He expressed his readiness to enter at any time into negociations for a peace, consistent with the honour and the dignity of the country; but he maintained, that until certain information was received that the French government was prepared to enter into negociations on an equitable basis, it would be imprudent to attempt any. It was obvious, that if any negociation which might be undertaken, should fail, peace would be placed at a still greater distance, and the sufferings of the people, which had been so much exaggerated, instead of being diminished, would be augmented.—He could not help making a few observations on the subject of the Austrian offer of mediation. The first offer of mediation on the part of Austria might have been worthy of attention, if the fortune of Bonaparte had not taken a different turn. Austria fell under the controul of France; and no security existed in negotiation. The last offer of mediation proved palpably fallacious, and both attempts exploded together. It was the intention of the British government to enter into negociations for peace, but in the official notes which 868 passed through the hands of count Starhemberg, the Austrian minister, an ambiguous style was conspicuous, evidently the effect of design. After the 12th of June, 1807, Austria was no longer an independant power. She was so completely influenced by the minister of France, that her prince had no choice but to aid the views of France. The hon. member who had alluded to the subject of these offers of mediation, would find no instance where a neutral, under the influence of a superior power, had been accepted as a mediator. We were called upon to accept an unaccredited agent in the person of the Austrian minister. There was no basis established for negotiation which constituted security. In the year 1805, Austria offered her mediation to France, who said, shew me a basis. She afterwards offered to mediate for Russia, who also required a basis. If these powers considered it necessary to make such demands of Austria, this country was right in demanding strictly the basis of negociation before we accepted the offer of mediation. With respect to Austria, it was well known that this country had preferred her friendship, and offered her every indulgence, while she remained in the interest of G. Britain; but when she became under the controul of France, it was not our interest to trust her. Was it not well known, two years since, that the British flag was expelled from the ports of Austria? England had not retaliated, under a belief that Austria was under the direction of France. He stated these facts to prove, that a mistrust was properly entertained towards Austria. Ministers had determined not to enter upon negociation, unless it was upon a footing that was likely to insure a successful issue. It had been said, that the enmity of France was directed against this country, in consequence of the offers made for peace having been rejected during former administrations. He would ask, if it was fair that the present ministers should be responsible for the conduct of others with whom they had no concern? This argument applied to the conduct of the hon. gent.'s friends, who composed the late administration, and who broke off the last negociation. It was true the hon. gent. had disagreed with them also on that point, he therefore could not deny him the merit of having acted with consistency.
§ Mr. Wm. Smith
thought the two first resolutions involved in so much difficulty, that he could not vote for them; but if 869 the third was to be brought to a division, it should have his vote. He conceived that ministers, by their own shewing, gave very little hopes of peace. He thought that it would be acting more consistently with the honour, the interest, and the dignity of the country, to enter into negociation now, that at any future period.
§ Mr. Sheridan
did not agree with his hon. friend who had just sat down. He would vote for all the three propositions. He contended, that ministers had shewn an aversion to peace in two instances, and that they ought not to be trusted to reject a third offer. He was sorry to hear a great deal stated respecting commercial distress, from a very respectable quarter: but he was certain that the picture which had been drawn was greatly overcharged. He knew there was no such distress in the country; and if it did exist, he never would avow it: for to hold such language was to capitulate at once. It had been said, to vote the third resolution would be to encourage petitions for peace. In his opinion it would completely put an end to them. As it did not appear that the discussion could be terminated this night, he moved that the debate be adjourned until to-morrow.
§ the house divided on each of the three Resolutions, which were all negatived. The following are the numbers which appeared on each division: 1st division, Ayes 70; Noes 210; 2d division Ayes 67; Noes 211; 3d division Ayes 58; Noes 217.
§ List of the Minority on the third Resolution.
|Abercromby, Hon. J.||Colborne, N. W. R.|
|Adam, W.||Craig, James|
|Anson, G.||Combe, H. C.|
|Antonie, W. L.||Creevey, T.|
|Aubrey, Sir John||Dundas, Hon. C. L.|
|Bewicke, C.||Dundas, Hon. R. L.|
|Biddulph, R. M.||Fergusson, R.|
|Bouverie, Hon. G.||Greenhill, R.|
|Bradshaw, Hon. A. C.||Halsey, J.|
|Brand, Hon. T.||Herbert, H. A.|
|Browne, Anthony||Hibbert, G.|
|Burdett, Sir F.||Horner, F.|
|Byng, George||Johnstone, G.|
|Caicraft, Sir G.||Jekyll, T.|
|Cavendish, Lord G.||Lambe, Hon. Wm.|
|Cavendish, W.||Lambton, R. J.|
|Cavendish, G. H. C.||Latouche, J.|
|Latouche, R.||Piggott, Sir A.|
|Leach, J.||Russell, Lord W.|
|Lyttleton, Hon. W.||Scudamore, R. P.|
|Lloyd, J. M.||Sheridan, Rt. h. R. B.|
|Macdonald, J||Smith, J.|
|Madocks, W. A.||Stanley, Lord|
|Martin, H.||Walpole, Hon. G.|
|Marle, Hon. W.||Ward, Hon. J. W.|
|Milbanke, Sir R.||Wardell, G. L.|
|Miller, Sir T.||Wharton, J.|
|Mosely, Sir O.||Whitbread, S.|
|Parnell, H.||Mahon, Viscount.|
|Peirse, H.||Smith, William|