§ Mr. Sharp rose
and addressed the house as follows:—I am now, sir, to, intreat your attention, and the attention of the house, to a motion of which I some time since gave notice; but, sir, in giving that notice then, and now in rising to perform the promise implied in it, I am afraid that I have suffered myself to be too much influenced by irresistible feelings of disapprobation respecting the expedition to Copenhagen, and by those of deep regret for its consequences, and too little by a proper regard to my own want of pretensions to that indulgence from the house, which I have risen to solicit. I will not, however, sir, diminish that small claim to the accustomed generosity of the house, which every member may hope that he has not forfeited, by occupying one moment of its time with a topic that must be so little interesting to it, as the feelings and difficulties of an individual.—And yet, sir, the difficulties are neither few; nor inconsiderable, which must be surmounted by any man who has to request that the thoughts of parliament may again be directed to a subject already so frequently discussed in many of its parts, and on which most of the distinguished persons in this country have communicated the information which they had to give, declared the sentiments that they had formed, and detailed, too, at so much length and with so much ability, the arguments by which they supported such sentiments. Yet perhaps, sir, it may not be wholly useless, perhaps it may be very advantageous that parliament should be reminded, (though by me very briefly) of some of those facts, opinions and reasonings, in a stage of this important business, which it was impossible to omit, without leaving the discussion imperfect, and the sentiments of parliament undeclared.—But, sir, in truth these several debates, to which I allude, have rather been of a preliminary and preparatory nature, clearing the way for a final and solemn examination of the conduct of ministers, by which they have had the courage to say (courage is not the word, sir) that they have saved their country, but by which, in a transaction of the greatest importance to the national character and interests, the former may have obviously been disgraced, and the latter destroyed.—There are however, sir, other reasons rendering it highly proper to bring this subject again before the eyes of parliament for mi- 1186 nisters have thought fit in every debate to tell us in a triumphant and taunting tone, that what they, have been doing has been sanctioned by universal approbation. This assertion, so loudly and, so often repeated, renders it incumbent on every man who thinks himself and the public calumniated by this imputation, to take every proper opportunity of denying his concurrence, and of disclaiming any participation in the sanction so skilfully, but so unjustly taken for granted. The public opinion, sir, to this effect, may conditionally perhaps have been expressed very early in this proceeding (though I am far from thinking that it has), but that opinion, if it even existed, has certainly changed most rapidly, and the conduct of ministers in acting without the necessary evidence, or in suppressing that evidence, seems now to have occasioned an universal surprize and censure.—Such an approbation may have been obtained by false pretences, the conscience of the people may have been surprized; they may have thought it but justice to ministers to presume that they would justify their conduct, but, sir, we ought not to do the public the injustice to believe, that they deliberately approve this remarkable measure, unless it be defended by facts that are incontestible, and by reasonings that are unanswerable, both proving its overruling, evident, irresistible necessity.—It is, sir, very easy to conceive that the capture of many ships of the line, and an arsenal of stores would, at first sight, be very striking to the imaginations of the people of this country, who feel at all times with such extreme sensibility whatever is connected with the navy; the navy; sir, at once the source of their security and of their glory. But it would be libeling both their hearts and their understandings not to believe that they took it for granted, that information, indubitable information, would be afforded to them, proving the urgent necessity of obtaining these ships, and these stores, by besieging the capital, and destroying the inhabitants of a nation with whom, two very short interruptions excepted, their fathers and themselves had been at peace for centuries, and with whom our connections had recently increased in a Most remarkable degree, producing incalculable benefits both to them and to ourselves.—Sir, I could not congratulate his majesty on this success against his,neighbour, and his kinsman; I could not,,participate in 1187 this wretched triumph, nor could the people of England, unless they looked for such a vindication; for if they had, their joy would have been as absurd and as dreadful as that of an infant delighted with the blaze of its own garments on fire. Sir, the burthen of proof lies heavily on those who advised his majesty so to employ his navy and his army.—Every man must hold such an unprovoked breach of neutrality in abhorrence, unless it be unanswerably justified, and those who have bestowed upon it an approbation before enquiry, are now entitled, are now called upon to retract that approbation, unless they have proof that the necessity was not to be resisted, and the violence not to be avoided. What, sir, has been the conduct of ministers? they seem to have formed themselves into a Society for the Suppression of Papers. They have denied all the material documents, and have only granted others to answer private purposes. They have denied to parliament what ought to have been the materials of their defence, and have compelled us to bring them to trial without the evidence to which we had a right. They stand at the bar, sir, by their own fault, under the strong, the natural prejudice, that either their allegations are wholly unfounded, or that if they do possess any knowledge from which parliament is excluded, that the effect of that knowledge would have been to condemn and not to acquit them.?Sir, they must be either condemned or acquitted. Parliament, as it values its own character both abroad and at home, must pronounce a sentence on this transaction, and as scrupulously, as if sworn to determine according to that evidence. This country, sir, Europe, the world, expect that we shall do our duty strictly. And the world will esteem or despise parliament as it conducts itself on this great, this serious occasion.—Sir, I own that there is one discouragement that I feel, for it is not possible to conjecture what may be the result even if their violence be condemned, since, unhappily, sir, we have too recent an experience, that a verdict of guilty pronounced by an awful tribunal may lead to reward; a sentence of condemnation, may be a title to promotion. But, sir, I own that I am not discouraged by a recollection of the majorities that have hitherto supported ministers, (although, sir, such is my reverence for a majority, and so parliamentary is its nature, that a majority 1188 of one is entitled to as much respect as of an hundred,) because, sir, fortunately We have lately learnt that a resolution sanctioned by the whole chorus of the majority may be rescinded by the same majority, and that papers denied when wanted to elucidate the proceedings by which the safety and honour of England were endangered, will be granted, when any one of his majesty's servants thinks such papers are necessary to his own vindication. Since majorities can so easily change their opinions for such purposes, it is but treating them handsomely to suppose, that a similar change may take place when such a change is demanded by their duty and their consciences.—The facts of this astonishing event are few and striking. In a season of profound peace with Denmark, and in truth at a time of increased communication and connection with that neighbouring kingdom, a large British army and fleet sail to the attack of its capital, invest it, besiege it, fire it, bring destruction on its peaceable inhabitants, and finally obtaining possession of it, bring home all the ships in its harbour, and all the stores in its arsenal.—This is the transaction which the ministers are bound to justify not only to the consciences of a majority of this house, but to the complete satisfaction of every honest man in the nation, and every reflecting man in Europe, since his majesty confesses in his declaration of the 25th of Sept. 'That he owes to himself and to Europe a frank exposition of the motives which dictated his late measures in the Baltic.'—And since he adds, feeling it to be a cruel necessity, 'He did forbear as long as there could be a doubt of the urgency of the danger, or a hope of counteracting the means and dispositions of Denmark'—Whether such a frank exposition of the motives of the measure has been given: Whether every doubt of the urgency of the danger has been removed: Whether not a hope did remain of counteraction by any but the violent means employed? These are the questions, this is the issue Which the house is now to try, and in trying it, the house itself is on its trial, and every man in it too on his own trial, before the face of this country, of Europe, and of the world.—The Justifications are, 1 'That France designed to obtain possession of the Fleet, by seizing Jutland and Holstein. 2. That Russia had combined with France for this purpose. 3. That Denmark had intrigued 1189 with the enemy, and was hostile. 4. That Denmark though friendly, was unable to resist. 5. That the danger arising from these facts, was certain, urgent and so extreme, as to create a case of urgent, paramount necessity, leaving his majety's ministers no choice; but, while it was yet time, to seize the ships, and that they might obtain them, to besiege and fire the city and destroy its peaceable inhabitants'—1. Of the first there is no dispute —It is saying nothing to say that France is hostile, ambitious, active, unprincipled, ready to break all laws divine and human, to obtain her purposes. This we know, and knowing, have not hitherto dreaded her power, or so dreaded it, as to take, till lately, cruel and impolitic counsel of our fears.—Violent and intemperate as the ruler of the French is, it may be said of him as it was of Philip of old, that in one respect, you may never doubt his veracity: you may always believe him when he threatens. Yet even in using this plea, his majesty's ministers have contrived to put themselves in the wrong, or at least to render themselves subject to contradiction, by stating in the declaration that they had positive information of the enemy's determination, which assertion the Crown Prince mentions with indignation, as founding the attempt on mere vague rumour, and pretended information.—The whole amount, too, of the alledged information, extends only to their making preparations for collecting a force. —2nd. 'That Russia had combined with France, for the purpose of putting the fleet into the possession of France'—See declaration against Russia, p. 4. and Mr. Canning's dispatch 28th Sept. p. 9. Of this combination the only proofs offered are, an assertion that such a confederacy formed part of the secret arrangements at Tilsit; and another assertion, that information to this effect had arrived from Portugal.—This intelligence could not have arrived in time to occasion the expedition; nor is it to be depended on, since it came from that Portuguese minister who had misled us in his communications to a former ministry, respecting the arrival of the French at Bayonne. This, sir, is distinctly and directly contradicted both by Russia and by France; and such a confederacy is utterly inconsistent with the conversation that took place between the emperor of Russia and lord Hutchinson. Lord G. L. Gower vindicates our conduct towards Copenhagen, by alledg- 1190 ing the intention of France, and the positive data he had of such intentions, but he says nothing of the confederacy; and speaking of this vindication in a subsequent dispatch, he says, 'that so far from concealing the reasons which produced that expedition, he had declared them with the utmost frankness.' In Mr. Secretary Canning's reply to the dispatch of 2nd Sept. he says that his 'majesty entirely approved of the answer returned by lord G. L. Gower to general Budberg's note, on the subject of the operations at Copenhagen.' Lord G. L. Cower also in another dispatch, states expressly 'that it was sometime after this that the French mission considered itself as having triumphed'—. But, sir, the dates alone are sufficient to destroy the credibility of the pretext, and with its credibility to destroy too all our pretensions to veracity and justice. The treaty was signed on the Niemen, on the 8th July, and the order for the sailing of the expedition was on the 19th. It is remarkable, too, that the object of this expedition had been announced several days before in more than one newspaper. The collection, too, of so extensive an armament required much previous exertion, and much previous time; nor will any facilities arising from former preparations, account for the early embarkation. This plea, however, has not been supported by refusing papers, &c. and has been abandoned. Russia was at issue with the declaration on a question of fact, and his majesty's ministers have run out of court afraid to stand trial.—On the whole it it seems to be believed that his majesty's ministers might have received some intelligence to the supposed effect, but that they found themselves deceived, after having largely rewarded the informant, and that having used the allegation as a- pretext, it was not possible to own that they had been duped.—3rd. But, Denmark has been charged with having been caught intriguing with Russia and France, and with having been guilty of collusion. Sir, the ministers in advancing this charge, which was so soon abandoned, Seen to have acted on the base principle of giving others a bad name, that we may save ourselves the trouble of doing them justice; and the same unjustifiable motive seems to have actuated them in charging her also, more generally, with bearing an hostile mind to this country. The hon. secretary endeavours to prove it from the conduct of the Danes in 1801, (ascribed 1191 in the declaration only to an inability to resist the dictation of Russia and France,) and from their joining the armed neutrality in the American war.—Now, sir, it is not denied that Russia was concerned, or rather was the principal in both these hostile acts, and yet we properly enough confided in her subsequent treaty with us, and hostility in Bohemia and Poland, against France. Were we to reject her aid, or at least to place no reliance on it, because she had thought fit to be jealous of Our maritime superiority, to slew disgust at some of the exercises of it, and to combine for its diminution? But, while the hon. secretary was consulting history for past proofs of present hostilities, why did he stop so short? If he had but gone back to the Heptarchy, he might have found irresistible evidence of the hostility of Denmark, and of the propriety of revenging on the Danes, our contemporaries, the injustice we had sustained from their forefathers. Sir, there is undoubtedly some levity in such a remark, but the right hon. gent. must be the last to complain of the introduction of levity into important affairs, and indeed it is very difficult to treat such arguments in a grave manner, or to honour such frivolous reasons with the ceremony of serious confutation.—Not-satisfied entirely to rest the proof of this hostility on such feeble grounds as these, the respectable authorities of lord Grey and Mr. Garlike have been introduced to support this accusation against the Danes: to both of whom have been imputed declarations of their belief in this supposed hostility. It is unnecessary for me, sir, to comment on the peculiar mischief that may arise from encouraging any minister to be at once so communicative a member of parliament of extracts from documents to answer a purpose in debate, and so reserved a minister when the whole of the documents are wanted by parliament to enable it to judge of the necessity of a new war; because, sir, the futility and unfairness of such an imputation have been abundantly shewn by the subsequent defences of the noble lord, and by subsequent proceedings in this house. It is enough now for me to state, that neither the noble lord, nor our minister at the Danish court, did, in their dispatches, express any opinion of the sort that has been imputed to them. I am well aware that here, sir, there are topics of censure against the right hon. gent. which are fruitful enough and would be tempting, 1192 were it not that these circumstances have undergone a separate and serious discussion here, have incurred a solemn reproof elsewhere, and were it not also that I have no pleasure in dwelling upon the misconduct of that right hon. gent. of such extraordinary talents.—But, sir, in reference to the letter of lord Howick to Mr. Rist, I must say, that a most unstatesmanlike and illogical use is made of dispatches, if controversies of a commercial kind, however warm and eager, are to be considered as indications of a disposition to fixed political hostility, of a determination to aid the French in their endeavours, not merely to humble but to annihilate this country, to extinguish the light of the world, to beat down the head of the Protestantism of Europe, and, as I might have called it, before the fatal expedition which is the subject of our consideration, the bulwark of civilized society, and the last assertor of the humane and beneficial laws of nature, and of nations.—Sir, there is a peculiar, an allowed irritability to such commercial discussion—something of the spirit and of the haggling, and chaffering, even of the pettiest traders whose interests are at stake, enter into the discussion between the powers themselves, and have never before been considered as evidences of an alienation in our political relations.—If such disputes are to be taken as evidence of an intention to go to war, we never can hope to be at peace; and here, sir, I cannot but observe that many of the commercial regulations in France and in other countries of which we complain, they have an undoubted right to make even in peace.—But, sir, here too I need not content myself with observing that ministers have not offered even the semblance of proof; for here, too, there are not wanting presumptions, and proofs of a positive kind, tending to discredit wholly this unfounded charge against the Danes.—In the first place, no such charge is made in the Proclamation issued by lord Gain-bier and lord Cathcart, nor is any such made in the Declaration, which only slightly intimates that Denmark might be hostile, because she was once before engaged in a hostile confederacy.—The encampment, too, of. their forces in Holstein, where they might be of, use against France, and in Zealand, where we might be expected, is another presumption, and not to be reconciled to the supposition of her having engaged in any confederacy against us. She had not made any demonstrations 1193 with her navy, which continued just in the same state of preparation in which it had been for nearly half a century, nor could it have been ready for sea, in less than six or eight weeks. Her merchant ships were, too, chiefly in our ports, or in the seas which we command, and her sailors were distributed over the world, but mostly in our employ and in our power. Even our West India ships have been chiefly manned by Danish sailors, our native seamen having been constantly impressed into his majesty's service, so that merchants can scarcely retain even the ship's apprentices, and too frequently even the masters themselves are carried off There are, indeed, a few invalided men from our ships of war, and here and there a single landman who wishes to go to sea; but ail the remainder of the mercantile crews are Portuguese, or Swedes, or Danes; of the former a few, of the Swedes more, but incomparably the roost have been Danes. And this, sir, has been the fact for many years. I leave the house to judge the importance of this fact, both as it affects our power of retaining them in case of hostility, and as it leaves little doubt of the tempers of the seamen themselves. They have, indeed, for more than ten years been half Englishmen, and the Zealander, Holsteiner, and Norwegian sailors have become almost as much attached to this country as to their own.—It so happened, sir, that at the time of the expedition sailing, most of those Danish ships were here which bring the summer importation, and carry away those articles of our manufactures and colonial produce, which they want for their autumn trade and their winter consumption. It is usual for the Danish merchant or captain who order these goods, to give to the manufacturer or dealer a credit on the merchant here, to whom the sale of the imports has been consigned.—Of the merchants one of the most extensive and respectable is the Danish consul, and to him frequent applications were made by the .manufacturer or dealer for his opinion as to the probability of war, and prudence of preparing the goods.—So slow, sir, was this gent. to believe that hostility would ensue, that, I know that he steadily persisted in advising the captains to be tranquil, and the tradesmen to go on, although his own interests and that of his .correspondents must have been deeply injured by such advice, if founded on error.—And now, sir, I am come to the consideration of that 1194 Case of 'urgent, imminent, paramount, irresistible necessity,' but it is gone, vanished, and has left no traces. I can find no substance left, not enough to set up even as a man of straw, that I might combat it. For, sir, every failure of the reasons assigned for each separate cause of dread, the abandonment of the plea derived from. the alledged articles, or engagements, or arrangements at Tilsit, from the charged, but abandoned collusion and hostility of the Danes; as well as the deficiency of proof even as to their inability when aided by us and by the Swedes, all these are so many props taken away from the support of that crazy building, the fortress of the arguments of ministers, namely, that the danger to this country was certain, extreme, and imminent, and the possession of the Danish ships the only means of averting it, creating together a case of urgent necessity, leaving his majesty's ministers no choice, but, to use their own words, while it was yet time, to seize the fleet and stores, and in order to obtain them, to bombard the capital and destroy its inhabitants.—Sir, but as to the case of necessity, it is my sincere opinion, that had the danger been made out, the necessity could not have been inferred, and this, I know not how, seems to have been too much taken for granted even by those who deny, and justly, the existence of such necessity. We look too much at our own fears, and too little at the other link of the chain, the means of delivering us from danger by the possession of the Danish, ships and stores. This latter part of the necessity we have never been suffered to dwell upon, but it has been hurried away from our contemplation almost as soon as it has been offered to it. Ministers have the courage to say, as I have already observed, that they have saved their country, because they have seized the ships in a way much more likely to endanger than to secure us.—They say they have worked a miracle, but, alas, there are no believers.—Saviours of their country!—They have at least the reward of virtue, although without its merit, for it seems that they are happy in their own approbation.—But these are vain boastings to conceal their fears, and vainer self praise to conceal their humiliation.—Sir, we have riot got possession of the fleet of Denmark—the fleet—the fleet of Denmark, this is the constant boast.—We have only the ships, the carcasses, while the living, animating, principle has escaped from our grasp—and is gone 1195 to assume some new and terrible form in aid of our bitterest and most powerful enemies. We have left behind us, the real dangerous enemies, the sailors, the harbours, the docks, the resources of Denmark; and we have obtained the hulls of ships, valued at less than one quarter of the sum which is the usual estimate of our efficient vessels, and we have lost what might have been must have been ours, had not our affairs been mismanaged. We have lost in Zealand the outpost which must have been the impregnable defence of this country.—Sir, the words and the images are not pleasant, but I know not how else to illustrate the exploit of ministers, than by saying that they have taken the empty purse and: a few copper coins, but have left the silver and gold for a more dextrous and sagacious robber.—Sir, in the Declaration, and in the Speech, and in the Proclamation, and in the arguments of ministers, after the most earnest and patient examination, I can find nothing but what is frivolous and unproved, but a constant reference to the power and inveteracy of France. Still some flourishing declamation against the inveterate enemy, though less than heretofore pressing against him the charges of being a violator of the laws of nature and nations. This one argument is to serve the same purpose, that of supplying the deficiency of all others. Is the argument from the secret articles a little the worse for being exposed to examination?—A tirade against France and her misdeeds is the resource;—is the proof of the 'hostility,' &c. of the 'inability,' &c. Still the same dish in every course.—Beef at top, at bottom, and on each side, hot, cold, and réchauffé; and declared, like brother Peter's crust, to be at once fish, flesh, and fowl, though nothing more than the old half-eaten mouldy morsel on which this house has been fed,or rather starved, for so many years past. This fear is at war with our honour, trade, constitution, and with our security.—I own, sir, that herein I have discovered some proof of the sincerity of ministers, in their belief and fear of that extreme danger which they assert:—for fear, sir, confounds the understanding, disturbs the imagination, and suggests counsels the most absurd or the most mischievous. It magnifies what is little, and almost creates what does not exist. It sees giants in windmills and enchanters in flocks of sheep. It has so subdued the minds of his majesty's counsellors, that, like the painter who had 1196 painted an infernal spirit, they have been driven out of their senses, by the image of their own formation.—Sir, had we lost our confidence in the navy of G. Britain, since its great and glorious victories at Trafalgar, and under sir Rd. Strachan, and at St. Domingo? Was England in such danger in 1805 as that we then had thoughts of seizing on all the means of defence? Is it a correct account of the state of the public mind then, and of the apprehensions of the ministers at that time, that we were trembling for our safety, because the combined fleet was at Cadiz. No, sir, all that was then wished for, and prayed for, was that which then did happen, the coming out of the hostile navy, and all that was then expected, was what did then take place; a great, decisive, and honourable victory.—Sir, it seems to me, that is a clear, intelligible, decisive answer to the plea of necessity; but it is clearer than the light of a summer's day, if we attend to the great, the inestimable, the necessary addition to our force, or diminution of our fears, which is said to arise from the possession of the spoils of Denmark.—Saviours of their Country!—Are, then, the valour and the discipline of the navy, the valour and the discipline of the army, the valour and discipline of the militia, the patriotism and the numbers of the Volunteers of so little value? Are the virtues that animate these our real defenders, these our real saviours, of so little value, that they stand in need of a little fraud in the administration to eke them out, and render them equal to the defence of England? They say, they have saved their country, by depriving Buonaparte of these ships.—They have stunned the lion, and not killed him.—No, sir, this is not the way to lay the. gigantic enemy in the dust.—Were, however, sir, this supposed case of necessity,' supported by reasons less entitled to our contempt than those which have been urged, I must own that I think that there is one consideration which, in a sound and well reasoning mind, it would have been difficult to snrmount.—I trust, and I believe, that in declaring my trust in this, that I shall not be confessing. a vain, romantic, and unsubstantial faith, but. a solid, serious, and well-founded conviction.—I own, sir, that I. cannot believe that such a change, such an awful change, has taken place in the world, as to render a breach of the law of nations, and a violation of neutrality, the necessary means of security, for a 1197 great and noble nation. It has never yet happened, and I am as confident, as I can be of the existence of any being superior to man, that England would not have been annihilated, if she had preserved the maxims of good faith. No, sir, no future historian of this country will ever write as its epitaph that she might have preserved her independence, or her rank, if she had been unprincipled, and unjust.—But the: ministers say that they have precedents in the conduct of their predecessors, and they alledge the examples of Lisbon, Alexandria and the Dardanelles: and here, sir, it is remarkable that they seem to have other views for searching into the events of that administration, than the flippant reason assigned on a former occasion. It was said with great and reprehensible levity, that the task of the present ministers was in ore respect easy, that they had nothing to do, but to look into the measures of their predecessors in order that they might adopt measures directly contradictory. Here, sir, they seem to have had other purposes in research: they seem to have wanted to steal a little sense for their exercise, to have sought for examples to follow, and not to avoid; but unawares to have fallen into the course which they pretend to pursue, for surely, sir, contrariety, direct opposition, are the only relations that exist between the attack on the Dardanelles, and the precautionary measures taken in the Tagus. In the former they sent out positive directions to the admiral not to take any measures till the minister informed them that war had taken place; and then what was the fleet to do? to enforce the performance of the treaties and engagements of the Turks with our ally. And at Lisbon! they did not bombard the city, destroy its inhabit, ants, and convert an ally into an enemy; did not take' possession of it, and then abandon it; in their Instructions they only gave orders to secure the fleet in the event of a possible ease, of the actual invasion of Portugal by the French, and the actual refusal of Portugal to receive aid from us, and to contend with the enemy.—But, sir, all this is merely a fresh instance of that mole of defence to which they have resort on all occasions.—A smart recrimination on the last administration. This practice has been resorted to by the present ministers to an extraordinary degree. Whenever a distinct accusation is brought against them, they immediately reproach their predecessors with some 1198 similar, error or job.—What, sir, is this to the house of commons? what is it to the country. It is indeed a most convenient mode of defence for those who have no other to plead. It is a good scheme to divert from their own misconduct the attention of the public, who are too apt as unskilful sportsmen to hunt the drag with as much eagerness as the game. It is an evident advantage to those who have many errors and many jobs to defend, to find, or to invent some inadvertence, which, however inconsiderable, may be used as a justification against any enormity.—Few criminals but must escape, if they had a right to their acquittal by giving evidence of the infirmities of the jury, and of the judge. Some people never think themselves -right, but when they think others in the wrong. If, sir, the last ministry have been guilty of misconduct, or of meanness, bring forward the charge, let the trial commence. This is what they ask, and the, denial of this justice is a pretty clear proof of the futility of the accusation. Sir, this would be, to defend forgery by saying, sir, you write your humble servant to a letter. I scarcely talk with a member of either house who does not complain of this. But, sir, this mode of defence has another effect, and I fear one of equal value in the estimation of those who employ it, and has become habitual like air instinct. It keeps up the profligate cry, that all public men are alike; all are interested rogues. It tends to degrade the house of commons, and the men distinguished in the country by their fortunes, education and public spirit. Here, Sir, daily appears that favourite object of all administrations, but of two very short ones. In this policy the ministers for more than 40 years have been always steady, always persevering, however fluctuating and trusting for public measures to the expedients of the day. In this policy, for more than 30 years, always, I fear, too successful, unfortunate as they have been in losing the objects of all their wars, and all their negotiations. Sir, I have followed the ministers through their defences; and though I cannot praise their discretion, or compliment them on their success, I see something to approve in their taste and dexterity. One likes to see gentlemen profit by their reading. It is an established rule in criticism,. that the stile of a composition should be suited to the subject, that when the latter is great, and a high import, the former should be elevated 1199 and dignified, but When the matter is mean and poor, The manner of treating it should be humble and low. Sir, they have well suited their-justification to their case, for the case is not more atrocious than the justification is shabby, prevaricating, and inconsistent. It varies like a hill of sand in. the wind; but, sir, it is needless to stay to enquire whether these inconsistent, contradictory, belligerent pleas are five, or six, or more or less; enough is clear, that they rely on none who venture on so many; that thinking many defences better than one, they set up such as are contradictory. Like the well known story, they attempt to prove two alibis lest one should fail. They seem to think that many sophisms are equal to one good argument, or that arguments should be suited like patterns of dress to different tastes and different purposes. One reason to critical, inquiring, uninfluenced Europe, another to a credulous, confiding, docile majority.—Indeed, their justifications (like Quixote's balsam, that would only cure the wounds of him that had been dubbed a knight,) are of no value but in the estimation of their own right and lawful adherents, and will not go down unless taken in a mixture sweetened by a little gratitude for past favours, or a little expectation of future ones. It has been said by an ancient writer that the augurs in Rome could not meet to inspect the entrails, or feed the sacred chickens, without smiling at each other, and I am much surprized that his majesty's ministers, with such a defence as theirs, can turn round and look their Majority in the face without laughing. Indeed they should use their friends with more respect, and should at least appear to believe their own justification before they ask of others to do so. 'Si vis me flere dolendum est primum ipsi tibi' is a rule as good for eloquence in parliament as for poetry in the theatre. In thus examining the trivial, discordant, contradictory, and unsatisfactory pleas of Ministers, can see but little, except their variety, to recommend them. They are so unsound that being exposed to the air they crumble into dust.—This, sir, is the wretched figure which their case makes when stript to the naked truth; and now I may ask the three questions Which I stated early. But if, sir, there doubts, and many doubts of the affirmative of these questions, what then is the situation to which ministers have reduced this great and generous na- 1200 tion? What then arc the characteristics of this measure? Sir, it is most painful, however necessary, to be compelled to find that there is so unanswerable a case against ministers, because they have had the power to sully, with their own, the character of their country. It would be useless however, to hope that Europe would be deceived, if we Would not enquire, that we could escape from the consequences, because we desired not to understand the nature of the proceedings. Since our conduct at Copenhagen will be understood by Europe for our humiliation and injury, let us be Acquainted with its nature for our reproof and reformation:—let us endeavour to understand its injustice and its impolicy, that we may repair the former, and avoid the latter.—I know, sir, that topics of this kind are not popular in this house; that a sort of contempt is entertained for all discussions of right and wrong; that we like to hear of our power, and not of our duties; 'and that many, even the youngest men among us, treat these considerations with ridicule: but, sir, this is not only far from honourable, it is also far from safe. Convinced as I am, that injustice is only another name for impolicy. Viewing any transaction rather in its general consequences, than in -its immediate mischiefs to the perpetrators, I cannot but hear with great apprehension, such invitations, as we have heard of late, to despise the rules and maxims of good faith, sanctioned as they have been hitherto by our own professions, and by our own practices, lest such a scepticism should lead, not only to ignominy, but to ruin.—There seems to have grown up of late a disposition to consider all political morality as an incumbrance in real affairs, and We have recently heard them ridiculed in this house, as fit only for the schools, but unfit for the guidance of parliaments, and of ministers.—And here; sir, I cannot but regret that in this new school the sages and doctors are our youngest men.—Young men, in whom we expect, and rather Wish to find some generous mistake, some graceful enthusiasm, sortie attachment to the principles, which, if well taught, they must have learnt both froth their friends, and their tutors.—I am ready to acknowledge, and. 'to praise the prematurity of their talents; and to own-that their understandings have none of the imperfections of their years, but, sir, in their feelings, and in their principle, there seems to be 1201 an equal prematurity.—Sir, they have lived long in a little time, there is no youth in their minds: no spring in their years.—They have had the ill fortune, even if their present opinions were correct, to have lost too soon the cheering illusions of life, and I should wish them to believe that if such opinions as they have rejected, were only prejudices, that removing such prejudices is like tearing off one's skin that we may feel the better.— But, sir, these ancient rules are not absurd prejudices, nor is our practice of late right to try how nearly we can go to the edge of right and wrong without passing over the awful boundary. It is better, sir, to keep at a safe distance: for my part, I own, sir, that I cannot consent to go so nearly to the verge of the precipice. My head is not strong enough to stand there, and to survey, without giddiness and terror the abyss of disgrace and destruction below. One cannot help feeling an unwillingness to discuss truths so self-evident, and so important, to which our obedience should be habitual, and implicit. There is a want of respect for them, even in defending them: the controversy necessarily throws an air of doubtfulness over truths however certain and venerable. It is saying nothing, to say that there are exceptions to such generalities, for there are very few, and when they occur they bring the evidence of their necessity along with them. Necessity, if it comes at all, comes like an armed man, and resistance is foolish and impracticable.—There may be doubts, as to nice and difficult cases, but we know, we certainly know, where the truth lies, as we know where about the sun is in the heavens, although clouds prevent his appearance. It is not true that there exists the supposed war between theory and practice, between reasoning and life. Theory may be foolish, may be inapplicable, and theorists may be silly or wicked, but philosophy is no more to be accountable for the errors of philosophers, than religion is answerable for the errors of priests. In the latter case, luckily, we have learnt to make the distinction, but we have still to learn to make it in the former.—But, sir, the authority of this new sect, of this prevalent heresy, needs not shake us in our convictions. It is an old and worn-out sophistry, patched up and vamped, and glossed over for the present occasion. The laws of nations are as true as if they had never been disputed, and all we can say is, that we must 1202 pity those who dispute them. The attempt cannot injure even the surface of such solid truths, and the impression will pass away like the effect of breathing on polished silver.—A slight mist that vanishes in a moment.—Ignorance alone can call such opinions in question, and ignorance, we know, is given to despise whatever she does not understand. An untaught man can see in a book only inky unmeaning scrawls, where an instructed mind reads the sublimest truths, or the most affecting eloquence.—I should, sir, however have rejoiced to say, that no authority greater than that of violent party, or ministerial speeches, had lent it's countenance to these dreadful doctrines. No man of humanity, nor of honour, can read, I should think, without shuddering, two passages put by ministers into the Declaration against Denmark. 'That his majesty has long carried on a most unequal contest of scrupulous forbearance against unrelenting violence and oppression. That it was time that the effects of that dread which France has inspired into the nations of the world, should be counteracted by an exertion of the power of Great Britain.' Combining, sir, these passages in the Declaration with the principles avowed by ministers, and their advocates, it seems that, serious as the facts are which we are. now considering, that the principles of British policy are to be lowered down to our practice, or rather degraded below it's level.—Men in general are said to become attached to their principles as they do to their children, by the sacrifices they make to them, but we, sir, seem to look back on our past scrupulosity with regret, and to consider all the years of our adherence to good faith, as so much time thrown away and lost.—We are more unwilling that others should be knaves, than that we should be such ourselves.—So, then, it seems, that after contending with violence and injustice, for fifteen anxious years, we are grown weary of the honourable conflict, the noble task, with which ail Europe rings from side to side.—We are fatigued by an adherence to the principles and practices of our ancestors, and have begun a race of iniquity with our antagonist, now that lie has so long got the start of us. As we are making such good speed, it is fit that we inquire whether we are in the right road, or whether we have forsaken the beaten path and are wandering, God knows whither! into trackless deserts, and dangerous quagmires. 1203 It is fitting that we should pause before we learn this hew alphabet of meanness and mistake, fur if we say A, we must say B also, and must go through to the last letter. An admission of such principles as are now avowed, is unbounded in its consequences. It is not a sudden gust, but the steady trade wind, that will carry us out of our course into unknown seas and unforeseen perils. Bad precedents are the most dreadful legacy we can leave to those that follow us. They are 'hæreditas damnosa,' like the bequest of Mirabeau to his friend when he left to him the payment of his debts; we cannot get rid of the liabilities, we cannot cut off the entail—for nations, sir, in this world have that future existence, the belief of which is so necessary to prevent individuals from preferring the present tempting violence to the future and permanent reward. The nation of next year and next century must reap the harvest sown by the nation of this year and this century. The criminality of the fact is limited in its extent and duration, and perhaps in it's consequences.—But, sir, to preach violence and rapine, to affirm that there is no rule for human action but the interested judgment Of those who happen to have power, this, Sir, this is striking a blow at the heart of Society. Such a doctrine must be felt in every age, and in every country. It is absolving and proclaiming a general pardon to all?the tyrants of the world; for which will nit plead state? necessity? It is unspeakably important to be correct in our Opinion on such subjects, for the happiness and tranquillity of millions are concerned.—To make a mistake, here, in the law that keeps the earth from being a desert, and man front being a wild beast, is most momentous. The law of nations is an extraordinary code, and has most peculiar properties. It is extremely penal,—it in-forces it's sentence by fire and sword, in letters of blood, and generally in the blood of the innocent.—In this happy Country we require of a penal law that the delinquency should be incontestible, and that the interpretation should be favourable. But in national law there is no public that we now seem to fear, and it is left without tribunal or sanction. We seem to have forgotten not only our sense of honour, but our reasonable fear of retaliation and revenge: our insular situation renders us peculiarly liable to the temptation of departing from this law, for we can scarcely need the protection that 1204 it affords. If loss accrues, the only effects are pecuniary. How far this security has operated, it is dreadful to think and how long we may be permitted to. be secure, it is as dreadful to doubt.—Indeed, sir, some symptoms of compuncation or uneasiness have been expressed by one right hon. gent. of whom I am glad to entertain the same opinion, that is entertained by his friends; however frequently the tides and currents of public affairs may accidentally carry him away from the straight course: and he described, sir, this business with a very appropriate epithet, in calling it a hart-breaking one. Supposing the feeling that dictated this expression to be serious, he must be aware that so small a grain of perfume cannot sweeten such a mass of offence. I take it for granted that his colleagues, too, will claim their share in these tender feelings for the sufferings of the Danes, and fur the wounds given to British honour, and it must have been a most amusing, as well as a most edifying sight, to have seen the cabinet assembled on the final decision of this business. What a mixture of policy and morals, of fortitude and tenderness! what a display of white handkerchiefs when they signed the fatal counsel. Yet alas, sir, all this reluctance proves but little for their characters, and only classes them with that destructive, inexorable animal, which devours his prey with his eyes full of tears. Different as their characters are, they ultimately concurred in the shameful advice; and the pharisee and the publican surrendered their doubts to the same temptations.—Now, sir, as to the impolicy of the measure. In the first place, we who were at the head of the hopes of Europe, and perhaps of its affections, as France unfortunately was at the head of its power; we have squandered all the accumulated character of centuries, in one act of prodigal and mistaking violence, and if we are incapable of lamenting the injury done to our own feelings, and to the principles of justice, we still must regret our loss of character, as the loss of power and influence. Even Chartres agreed that he would readily give a fortune for a good character, because he could get much larger fortune by means of it—But, sir, there are better reasons; for in politics as in mathematics, the straightest line is the, shortest, and in political questions you may in truth judge of the character of transaction by its consequences. Our injustice 1205 and violence are a fresh proof of an old remark; that the vices defeat their own purpose: a man addicted to sensual pleasure, fills his body with pains; and a vain man becomes ridiculous: so does our violence tend to weaken our influence and power, and not to increase them. In this case, sir, we may infer the real characteristics, the atrocity of the measure by its innumerable evils, as you judge of the fury of a storm by the wrecks it has thrown on shore.—I shall not mention the trade of the Baltic and of Denmark, great as it was, both in imports and exports, but, I shall just advert to the three purposes of the imputed confederacy, enumerated in his majesty's Declaration: 1. To shut the Sound against us. 2. To exclude us from our commercial, and indeed all other connection, with the continent. 3. To seize the Danish navy.—The last, so far as regards the ships, and some of the stores, alone we have prevented, but we have effectually surrendered the former two: for the carcasses of the ships, and a few stores, most dearly bought, even in a pecuniary view, by the expences of the expedition, of which the wretched, the scandalous inventory is on your table, we have surrendered both the first objects, in shutting ourselves out of the Sound, and from the continent, We have given up the sailors, docks, and harbours; we have lost an ancient, useful, and neighbouring ally, of the same religion, and governed by the near relation of the illustrious family on our throne. We have laid the certain foundations of a deep, incurable, imperishable hatred in the Danes, to be taught them in the nursery, to be confirmed and revived every time they pass through the marks of our violence on their capital, on their palaces, and their altars.—We have exposed Sweden, for how can we hope to defend her, exposed as she is on the east in Finland, and on the south in Sweden itself. We have alienated Russia, for after lord Hutchinson's statements, and even after lord G. L. Gower, we can have no doubt that the emperor's hostility previous to our bombardment of Copenhagen, was reluctant, and would have been languid, but since that unfortunate and unprincipled affair it has become hearty, and will be vigorous. In the first cases we might have expected tardy and ineffectual force in the field, and on the sea, and ill-executed prohibitions of our trade.—They have alienated Russia, for if, there was a probability that the English party 1206 in Russia was strong and discontented, and that the force of public suffering from the rending asunder of our ancient ties of connection might have spoken out so forcibly, as to influence even the emperor himself, powerful as he is. flow easy have we now rendered it, for his ministers to excite popular indignation, against us how easy now for the French party to suppress and silence the friends of, the English?—But, say the dispatches of the ministers at the Russian court, and say the ministers here, the symptoms of returning confidence appeared after the intelligence had arrived at the court of St. Petersburgh. If this be so, if the court of St. Petersburgh is of so peculiar a character as to be pleased when its influence is braved, its allies conquered, and its purposes defeated, what a pity that the connection between that court, and our ministers, was broken, since the latter, judging from the remarkable passage in the Declaration, are so willing, so determined in future, to conciliate all our allies, by acts of violence, fraud, and rapine.—Why, sir, did we not further conciliate her by, seizing the squadron that passed us? But, sir, to be serious, since such is the determination of the present administration, instead of regretting, we should rejoice that we are at last left without an ally to betray, and without a neutral nation on the earth to pillage and destroy. The value of our connection with Russia is inestimable, and here we have an unexceptionable proof, for in one dispatch of the secretary of state it is urged that the 'only chance of safety for, what remains of Europe, depends on the renewal of a good understanding between England and Russia.'—And, sir, from the interesting conversation lately published, between a noble lord, then on an important mission, and the emperor, it is easy to perceive the profound and mischievous impression, produced on the emperor's mind, by this unexpected and outrageous transaction. As I have already intimated, the emperor's reproaches, express at least as much sorrow and regret as they do indignation, and a determination to obtain satisfaction.—What, indeed, cat be more just than his imperial majesty's', observation, that now we have gone beyond the outrages of the government of the French, that we had now justified all their proceedings, and that if Such, proceedings were admissible, there is an end to all relations between state and state, that anarchy had begun, 1207 and that all were at liberty to do as they pleases.—Sir, the ruler of the French is an able player at the terrible game of hostility, he not only plays his own game skilfully, but he plays well to the blunders and faults of his antagonists. In one fatal transaction we have furnished him With an answer to all our manifestoes, declarations, and invocations of the Supreme Being to aid our cause.—If we speak of the capture of our ministers, the violation of neutral territory at Anspach, of the murder of the last hope of the Condé family;—his reply will be, 'but you besieged Copenhagen.' If we call for vengeance on his head, and reproach him for the blood that he spilt in Switzerland, for the subversion-in of their peaceful governments, and the destruction of the freedom, the independence and the lives of its virtuous inhabitants, he again can answer, 'look at home, you justified me at Copenhagen.'—If we call for indignation to descend on his head, because of his revolutionary frauds and violences in Italy and Egypt, he will again reply, 'and you, you besieged and fired Copenhagen, and stole its navy.' Alas, sir, what with the conduct of France and England, the ancient tranquillity of Europe is disturbed, never to be restored, and all nations must hereafter, whatever be the distressing expense, whatever be the horrible inconveniences, stand as it were in arms, and perhaps in Europe, as in the turbulent and disorderly governments of Asia, the husbandman must sow and reap with arms in his hands. Now, sir, though this answer is not effectual for his Vindication; it is effectual to silence, disgrace, and humiliate us. He will do more: he will feel relieved from those embarrassments, which some regard to the opinion of Europe threw in his way, when he permitted Austria to retain possessions which he wants, Prussia to keep, an Italy to be divided into something like kingdoms. Why not add Spain and Portugal to his kingdom? The greatest mischief that the vain and unprincipled Louis xiv.th brought upon Europe was the necessity, of preserving peace by the cumberous and. burthensome aid of immense standing armies. This necessity is now most grievously increased by France and by us, and no place accessible by land-deems itself secure from her: so in future can none accessible, by sea, repose as heretofore in unarmed security. But, sir,its effect in discouraging this nation, is perhaps, more prejudicial than its encou- 1208 ragement of France, Pins and Denmark, in their hostile attempts. Many eloquent exhortations have been published in every form, inciting the people to bear all burthens and brave all dangers cheerfully, in defence of their wives, their children their sovereign, and their religion. Will the people of this country hereafter forget that the Danes, too, at Copenhagen, had wives and children, their sovereign and their altars, to defend against us, the invaders? Will no recollection of our violences in Denmark lie heavy on our spirits, when called upon to resist the violence of the enemy, retaliating upon us. Is there no change now in the spirit that animates both the parties in this terrible contest? Will not the hostile myriads on the opposite shores feel an increase of ardour and confidence, now that they are called upon to revisit on us the aggressions of our own fleets and armies? Will not this gallant people feel some little abatement of that confidence in their own just cause, and in the protection of Heaven, which in all our papers, our pulpits, our tribunals, and our parliaments, have been held forth as the most rational and steady principles of reliance and security? Alas, sir! the scene is now changed, and if any man now hearing me thinks that this is a light matter, or that these moral causes are Mere pretexts, and have no influence on mankind, I pity from my soul his ignorance of human nature, and his mean mistaken conceptions of the motives that actuate it. it was, therefore, no rash, romantic, inconsiderate declaration that was made by a right hon. gent. whose talents and wisdom. are far above my praise, (Mr. Windaham) on a former occasion, that he would rather that Buonaparte should have the ships manned as they would be by disaffected crews, and equipped by a reluctant government, and that we should have preserved our character, and our influence over the mind of Europe. When I think of the little we get, and of the much we lose, I cannot help despising the folly much as detesting the injustice of our calculations. To rob a little, as we have done, is to be weak, as well as unprincipled; take all or take nothing, and leave not the injured man a weapon to revenge himself. We have taken up the trade of fraud and violence, too late; for the robber in possession has the advantage of us: our's are the miserable gleanings, but his the full harvest of spoil and iniquity.—Sir, we 1209 have heard praises bestowed on what is called the vigour ministers: with such a want of regard for the interests of human nature, and with such a short sighted policy, inactivity would almost be a virtue. But, sir, a vain desire to be doing something, a restless passion for celebrity, a desire to eke out their want of reputation by some shewy noisy act, has misled them; and, sir, it is unfortunately as hard to obtain a fair fame and an honest popularity, by wisdom and by talents, as it is easy to gain notoriety by extravagance, and excessive atrocity. They seemed determined to engraft their names on some striking action, and they have had recourse to injustice, that they might attract observation.—And, sir, though it require; great patience, perseverance, and wisdom, to raise the fabric of a fair character and of great influence in Europe, yet the madness or incapacity of a few vain men in power can lay it in the dust in a few moments. Though one begins this subject with indignation, one ends it in grief. This, then, sir, is the situation in which we now stand, after this convulsive effort of insane exertion: Denmark has been invaded, despoiled, insulted, degraded, and exasperated beyond the remedy of restitution and repentance: Russia has been wounded -in her pride; alienated in her policy, and driven into determined hostility: Sweden is exposed to imminent ruin, which even now is bursting on her head: France is justified, encouraged and strengthened in her course: and the rest of the world is turning away from us in disgust, regret, contempt, and indignation. And all these calamities, this nakedness of condition, we owe to ourselves, to our own violences, and not to the enemy. Hereafter, all our misfortunes must be embittered by the consciousness of having deserved them. In this portrait I do not recognize the ancient features of my country, the accustomed characteristics of England. They are defaced and destroyed by the misconduct of those who guide her affairs, and we are hesitating, or doing worse, we are meditating to invoke parliament in their disgrace. Let us stop, to use the language of the Declaration, while it is yet time, and withhold our sanction, if we have not the fortitude to censure their misdeeds.—Sir, it is difficult, (I have found it impossible) to speak of these events without using, however unwillingly, the expressions of warmth and of resentment: but, sir, this is the fault of the case, and not the fault of the 1210 speaker, of those who have been guilty of the transaction, and not of the transaction, and not of those who describe it.—I know not what the felling of indignation was given us for, if it is not to be excited and justified by such a proceeding. It is not our fault, if the circumstances are such as to give to the plainest narration the colours of the severest invective, and if the unexaggerated facts cannot be stated without the use of words suggested by the feelings necessarily associated with such events. I am aware, sir, that to suit the temper of a majority of gentlemen here, it would have been prudent to subdue one's best emotions, and to dilute their natural expressions. It was once said by a man of rank and influence, which he had employed to the unspeakable mischief of his country, that he had derived considerable advantage from the nature of his actions being such, as to render an honest adversary averse even to the mention of them. There is some such sad and profligate advantage, arising to the perpetrators of the Violence at Copenhagen, that their conduct cannot be spoken of properly but in a tone and manner not approved in parliament, which has such an aversion to, what is called declamation and vehemence, that it will scarcely endure them, even when the language they use, is the only language suited to the occasion. Sir, I allow that gentleness, civility, and self-restraint are no small virtues, but on such an occasion as this, there is one thing fairly worth them all, and that is—truth. In the little transitory controversies of wrangling parties, let the former appear and please, but here, sir, on this occasion, let no man be blamed for the only terms that correspond with the subject. If the attack we speak of was not unavoidable, it is impossible to exaggerate either the guilt or the folly. What is meant by candour, and mildness, and moderation, is indeed sometimes of great use in public affairs, and never of more, than when they shelter the errors of ministers from ridicule, and their criminality front detection.—They are, sir, however, not the excellencies of all times and of all seasons; in some they are a want of courage, in others they are want of integrity. The recent violation of public law at Copenhagen, the sudden overthrow of all our commercial policy, the breach of some of our most important and most constitutional statutes, by the rash and ignorant Orders in Council, are all the ill-favoured Consequence of an alarm- 1211 ing change in our principles of public faith, and of public maxims.— We have heard enough, and perhaps more than was honestly meant of the dangers of innovation, hut no innovation can equal the late innovations of the men who are in power.—It is perhaps the. greatest evil of the French resolution, that it has let loose a mischievous spirit of scepticism, tempting us to distrust all the maxims of right and wrong that have hitherto kept the world from having more resemblance to a place of torment, than a state of probation.—England, not England—We are invaded—conquered—French principles have invaded us—we are conquered in our hearts.—From the choice of those whose principles and conduct ministers have lately told us that they study in order. to avoid them; from the selection of him whom they purpose to imitate; it is easy to infer what will be the future characteristics of their administration.—They have learned, sir, not only to admire the enemy, but to pay him the sincerest homage, the homage of imitation.—Would to heaven, sir, such being their choice, that they knew better what in him to select for their example; but imitators in general are blundering plagiarists, and copy rather the defects than the excellencies of their original.—With such a sensibility to the beauties of his crimes, I wish that they joined some respect for his prudence and sagacity.—Sir, this is a most frightful effect of the successes of the French, that they have subdued the minds as well as the bodies of their adversaries.—Is there something in his faults more congenial to their taste or more level to their talents? But, the translation they publish of Buonaparte's works, is a brown paper edition.—Sir, there are not wanting those, and they are no inconsiderable persons in this country, who see with pleasure both in India and in Europe, the recent appearances of Englishmen having adopted the principles and assimilated to the character of France.—To such, sir, who think that security for England is to be sought in destroying, the peace of other countries, that the nation ought to distrust its past experience; ought to be weary of its ancient character, and in short, sir, who think with the Declaration, 'That his majesty has too long carried on a most unequal contest with unrelenting violence and oppression; that it is right, that the effects of such a system should be anticipated. That it is time that the effects of that 1212 dread, which France has inspired, should be counteracted. by a similar exertion on the part of Great Britain.'—To such men, how fortunate, how providential it must appear, that the changes of last year in his majesty's council have taken place.—For, sir, if it be necessary that the laws of civil society should be broken, if it be necessary, 'that the commerce of the country should be annihilated, if it be necessary that the ancient, the enviable constitution of England should be suspended or foregone, how much are we to be congratulated, that ministers have so little understanding of the one, and so little respect for the other. Too much regard for the value of public character—too much knowledge of the value of our trade and manufactures—too much affection to our inestimable constitution—might disable them from carrying these needful violations into full and sufficient effect.—And indeed, sir, if, as I believe, the noble and honourable persons who were recently dismissed from their stations, understand their own interests as well as they do those of their country, and if they feel for their own honour as acutely as I think they do, they will be contented, they will rejoice, that they are not called upon to save the state by shedding innocent blood, and by violating time laws of nations and the laws of the land. They will be satisfied with the barren unprofitable duty of defending the great maxims of both, and leave to others the disreputable and mischievous task of establishing the exceptions.—Sir, I hope these honourable persons will continue their meritorious exertions, however small the numbers may be that support them in this house.—With such a case as theirs, they cannot fail of success, if they do but persist. Perseverance in a doubtful purpose .makes a doubtful purpose respectable, perseverance in a good purpose makes a good cause irresistible. For my part, sir, although for the sake Of the house and of the country, I could ardently wish that many may be found to reprobate the expedition to Copenhagen, yet I shall be little dejected, and not at all disappointed however small the number that is found to concur with me. Besides the duty which a public man owes to his country, he owes something to himself; and I own, sir, that if some attempt had not been made to restore the national character, and if, while I had the honour to sit in this house, either indolence or timidity had 1213 deterred me from exerting, to the utmost, my feeble powers in the support of such an attempt, the recollection of having had a seat here, would be a never-failing source of regret and Self-reproach—Liberavi animam meam.—I have discharged what I feel to be my duty, and I am sure of my reward in the satisfaction of having overcome my reluctance to present myself to the house on so important an occasion. I shall have entered my protest (and shall have given other gentlemen more able an opportunity to do the same) against a measure, which in my conscience, I think to be equally injurious to the character and to the interests of my country, and, in defence of which, I have heard no facts alledged but such as are untrue or unproved, and no arguments employed but such as are inapplicable or frivolous.—I shall conclude, sir with moving, "That an humble Address be presented to his majesty, submitting to his majesty, that we have attentively considered all the information before us, respecting the late attack on Copenhagen, and the war in which we have consequently been involved; and that we deeply lament to have found it imperfect, contradictory, and unsatisfactory in all its parts.—That respecting a transact on in which both the honour and the interests of our country are so deeply concerned, we had hoped for the fullest explanation.—That the principles of our constitution, and the uniform practice of his majesty and the sovereigns of his illustrious house, require that parliament should be distinctly apprized of the true grounds of entering into new wars, and especially in a situation of the country so extraordinary and unprecedented as the present.—That had Denmark been a party to any hostile confederacy, either for menacing his majesty's territories or invading his maritime rights, our resistance would have been necessary, and our warfare legitimate; and that under such circumstances, this house would only have had to regret that his majesty should have been advised So lightly to abandon the ports and arsenals of that country; for, that had the leged danger been real, the possession of those ports during the war would have afforded the best security against that danger; whereas the abandonment of them has now left us more than ever exposed to it.—But that we can entertain no doubt, that instead of engaging in hostile leagues. Denmark wished only to maintain her neutrality; that this fact is proved 1214 even by the imperfect documents which have been laid before us; acknowledged in the proclamation issued by his majesty's commanders immediately before the attack.—That note only was Denmark no party to such a league, but we see no ground to believe that she was privy to it; and the very fact of its existence is, to say the least, in the highest degree questionable.—That the conclusion of any secret articles at Tilsit, affecting the rights or interests of this country, appears to have been uniformly denied, both by Russia and France; and that the correspondence of his majesty's secretary of state, and the dates of the transactions prove, that if any such articles did exist, his majesty's ministers were not in possession of them, when the attack was ordered against Copenhagen.—That his majesty's ambassador at St. Petersburgh, in an Official note, rested the defence Of that measure, not on the hostile purposes either of Denmark or of Russia, hut solely on designs which it was said the French government had long been known to entertain.—And, that his majesty's ministers not only advised his majesty to abstain front those measures of hostility against Russia, which it was their duty to have recommended, had they really believed in the existence of such engagements; but they actually solicited that war, and her mediation to extinguish that war, and her guarantee to defeat those projects, in which it is now pretended she was known to have been a. principal and contracting party.—That allegations, thus inconsistent with themselves, and contrary to admitted facts rather weaken than support the case to which they are applied.— That, with respect to the pretended necessity of the case, we beg leave respectfully to assure his majesty, that we cannot think so meanly of the power and resources of his empire, of the spirit of his people, or of the valour and discipline of his fleets and armies, as to admit that such an act would have been required Mr any purpose of self-preservation.—And that, whatever temporary advantages the possession of the ships and stores taken at Copenhagen may afford, have been more than counter balanced by the increased dangers arising from the manner by which they have been obtained.—That this measure, so highly objectionable both in policy and in principle, has augmented the number of our enemies; has animated against us the passions of whole nations, who before 1215 were amicably disposed towards us, and has, above all, shaken our own reliance on the justice of our cause; the only sentiment which has hitherto upheld us in all our difficulties; commanding the respect of other nations, and inspiring our own people with a confident expectation, under the blessing of providence, of a successful termination of a long and arduous contest.—That we are ever unwilling to pronounce definitely on a measure, the whole grounds of which are not before us: but that, in a case which above all others required the dearest proof, we have the deep mortification of being compelled to acknowledge, that every presumption is against us; and that no evidence has yet been adduced on which we can safely rest the defence of our country, from accusations the most injurious to our national character."
§ Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, the whole of the criminality imputed by the hon. member who had just sat down, rested upon an erroneous supposition, that his majesty's Ministers charged Denmark with being in collision with France. The Copenhagen Expedition was undertaken, and justified, on the grounds of the unquestionable and declared intentions of the French government to turn the whole power of the continent against England; and the inability of Denmark to resist the coercion of France, and her unwillingness to irritate, by any appearance of a disposition to resist. The hon. gent. went through all the arguments advanced in the former discussions relative to this subject, to shew that France was determined and prepared to force Denmark into her system; and that Denmark was unprepared and undetermined to make any opposition. He stated, from high authority, that if the Expedition to Copenhagen had not taken place, France would have had under her controul, and at her disposal, a fleet of 70 sail of the line, from Antwerp, North, including Dutch, Danes, Russians, and Swedes; for when menaced by Russia on One side, and France and Denmark, with the whole of the Danish fleet on the other, Sweden could not long, hold out. He concluded, from a view of all the arguments, that the capture of the Danish fleet was not only necessary and justifiable, but highly commendable. In that view he thought the house bound to set a fixed mark of its approbation on a measure Which it had repeatedly sanctioned with its full assent in a variety of forms. He there- 1216 fore designed, after the present question was disposed of, in the manner in Which he was sure the house must, from every principle of reason and Consistency, deal with it, to propose a resolution, stating "That this house, considering the Declarations laid before them by his majesty's command; the state to which the continent was reduced in consequence of the negotiations and peace of Tilsit; the avowed declaration of the French government to exclude the British flag from every port in Europe; and to combine all the powers of the continent in a general confederacy against the maritime rights and political existence of Great Britain; most highly approve the prompt and vigorous measures which were adopted by his majesty's ministers, for the purpose of removing out of the reach of his Majesty's enemies the fleet and naval resources of Denmark."
§ Mr. Porcher
highly approved of the expedition to Copenhagen. He expected to have found some novelty in the arguments advanced to bring the house to decide against the merits of the measure, after it had so often sanctioned it with its unlimited approbation. But when he reviewed the whole speech of the hon. gent. on the other side, he found nothing in it but old friends with new faces.
§ Mr. Orde
thought that ministers had no ground, of justification for their attack on Copenhagen. If they really meant to counteract the projects of Buonaparte, they should have co-operated with Denmark in resisting his forces, instead of having committed a most violent act of aggression. Our conduct on that occasion, he considered to be the greatest triumph gained by the enemy during the present contest, because it was a proceeding which justified all his oppressions and other measures of rigour, violence, and plunder. How degraded must Great Britain have appeared after the perpetration of such atrocity! We who had shed our blood, and expended our treasure, in support of the laws of nations and of justice, had, after a struggle of many years, debased ourselves by a violation of every principle which had raised Our Character in the eyes of the world, and held us up as the guardians of the rights of nations. It was fortunate, however, that the people could still maintain their weight, and that we might be able to rescue the country from the dishonourable condition in which it had been placed by ministers. In the hope of accomplishing this desirable ob- 1217 ject, he felt himself called on to support the original motion.
Lord G. L. Gower
hoped the house would indulge him while he stated a few facts, on the ground of which he felt himself bound to dissent from the Resolution and to support the Amendment which it was proposed to introduce upon it. He had listened to all the arguments advanced to support the resolution, and there was not one among them which gave him reason to doubt, that if the expedition to Copenhagen had never taken place, we should now have been equally at war with Denmark as we are. It was the known and avowed determination of the French government to force all the continental powers to take a part in the war, and Denmark, it was notoriously known, wanted strength and resolution to resist the appeal. He had no doubt that Denmark would have preferred neutrality, if left to her option: but when the alternative of chusing between Great Britain and France would have been put to her, he had as little doubt that her inclination and her fears would have led her to prefer France. The house would recollect, from the correspondence of lord Howick with Mr. Rist and Mr. Garlike that when the court of Denmark was most loud in complaint of the Order in Council of the 7th of January, which was in strict conformity with the law of nations, it was, at the same time, taking all possible pains to palliate the French Decrees, which went to violate the neutrality of every nation. He would also bring to the recollection of the house, that all English letters had been prevented from passing to and from the continent by means of the Danish post; and that Mr. Thornton had been, in consequence, obliged to make use of special messengers, when he wanted to send any dispatch of ever so little moment. It was also material to consider; that the new system of maritime law announced by Buonaparte was in perfect conformity with the known policy of the court of Denmark, with the principles which had employed the pens of the ablest Danish writers, and with the feelings and interests of the whole Danish people. From all these considerations, there was no doubt on his mind, that if Denmark was put to the alternative, as she certainly would have been, she would have preferred the alliance of France to that of Britain. It was said, that the emperor of Russia was, in the feelings of his mind, favourable to 1218 the cause of this country: this was a statement to which he could give no credit. He thought it very natural, that when a man conceived that he had been deserted by his friend on an arduous occasion, his feelings should recoil against that man who had before been his friend. He was, however, persuaded that the emperor of Russia had too great a regard for his subjects to involve them in a war with this country, merely for the purpose of gratifying his own private feelings or resentments, but that he was bound by sacred engagements to adopt the line he had taken. When he himself had felt it his duty to ask information from Russia as to the secret articles of the Treaty of Tilsit, the Russian ministers did not deny them, but simply advised him to use all the influence he had with his court to make peace with France. It was by making a peace with France that we could alone hope to escape the ill effects of those secret arrangements. Those arrangements were perhaps not altogether dictated by France, but might be agreeable to the policy and the views of the emperor of Russia. It might be recollected that in the year 1805, before the emperor of Russia was disgusted with the unfortunate issue of the battles of Austerlitz, Jena, and Friedland, he would not allow his ministers to sign the treaty of alliance with this country, without expressly declaring, that if it turned out, upon examination, that there was any thing in the maritime code of England contrary to the principles of justice, the emperor of Russia would use his good offices to have it remedied. As soon as the Russian army returned from Tilsit, the emperor ordered the fortifications of Cronstadt and his other ports to be repaired and enlarged; and he himself had heard; from a very high authority (whom it was not necessary to name) that it was proper to act cautiously with respect to England, or, to use the French term, 'il faur menager l'Angleterre.' He was convinced in his own mind, that there was no possible way of avoiding a Northern confederacy, except by making a peace with France. The Danish fleet was, however, the principal means which the Northern nations possessed, and the capture of it weakened most materially the Northern confederacy:, He could not, however, conceive, that the merit of the present ministers, in sending out the expedition, was any thing More than a negative merit. He thought no set of ministers that the country could 1219 have, After the information which he was sure had been received, could have avoided sending the expedition. At the same time, therefore, that he approved of the measure, he thought it so obvious and unavoidable, that there was no occasion for voting any particular resolution of approbation of ministers.
supported the Address. The expedition against Copenhagen was admitted on all hands to be a departure from the acknowledged rule and practice of nations; and in order to justify this deviation, ministers ought to have proved that they neglected no means which might be calculated to stimulate Denmark to active exertions in her own defence; that Denmark was incapable of defending herself with the assistance of this country, which could only be done satisfactorily by the report of military officers; that in consequence of the expedition they had procured for the country a substantial and permanent security. They ought also to have proved that the expedition was defensible, as well on the ground of policy as of justice. But as there was no evidence in the papers which had been laid before the house to prove any one of these positions, he should certainly vote fur the Address.
vindicated the conduct of government, and thought it not right to do so by a silent vote, but to state his reasons, that he might not seem to contradict his vote on a former night, relative to the subject of a treaty made in our India possessions. He said that France had issued her decree over the continent; "the house of Brunswick has ceased to reign." He defended the conduct of ministers in the attack upon Copenhagen from the hostile, sentiments which Denmark was known to entertain against this country on the late occasion, and which she had likewise manifested in 1780 and in 1801. A great deal had been said upon the morality of the measure, but he reminded the house that ministers had a moral duty to perform to their own, as well as to other countries; which was, to vindicate its rights, and to watch over its security and independence. Gentlemen also had talked much of the law of nations, forgetting the important circumstance, that now there were no nations on the continent of Europe but one. They had all been swallowed up in the vortex of France. Russia was France, Germany, was France, Prussia was France, Denmark was France; 1220 the law of France was the law of nations, and what that law was, how equal, how moderate, how forbearing, gentlemen might judge. Let us not obey a name and a shadow, or call that a neutrality which, in fact, depended upon the dictates of France. Denmark had pursued a system of hostility against his nation in the year 1780, had renewed it in 1801, and had shewn a hostile mind in the last year. At each of these periods her cry-was the same, "the liberty of the seas, and the pacification of Europe." He adverted to her wanton aggression against Hamburgh, when the prince of Hesse marched a body of troops into that place, and ordered it to surrender. He stated, that his connections at St. Petersburgh gave hire an opportunity to know that the public mind was set against us, from the date of the Treaty of Tilsit, and before the Danish expedition. That expedition was called at St. Petersburgh a spirited undertaking, but afterwards there was some vibration in the public sentiments, and the influence of France prevailed to keep up hostility against this country.
The Secretary at War
considered the proceedings at Copenhagen as no breach of the law of nations. There was an engine of war which an enemy meant to turn against us, and we anticipated him by getting possession of it first. He shewed that the Danes were totally incapable of making any resistance in Holstein, and their having taken no step to remove their army to Zealand, or to put that and other islands into a state of defence, even when a large French army had entered Hamburgh, was a proof that no resistance was intended. No other object could be assigned for this assemblage of French troops at Hamburgh, but to compel Denmark to coincide in the views of France Even the naval force of Denmark, which was essential to the defence, of Zealand, was in such a condition, that it required six weeks preparation to lit it to encounter the sea. From there circumstances, it was evident, that there was in the court, of Denmark, a want of power and exertion to defend itself, and a disposition to yield, which it became our duty to anticipate, so far as the effects of it might be detrimental to us.
§ Dr. Laurence
observed, in answer to what had been said by the hon. member, that there were still some nations existing, such as Sweden, Sicily, Sardinia, and America. And though all nations had been ingulph- 1221 ed in France, yet the principles of the law of nations would still remain in their full force. Necessity had been urged for this expedition. Certainly, if that necessity was fully proved, that would bring the Case within the law of nations; for self preservation was the first law of nature, among nations as well as individuals. But this must be a real, clear, and incontestible necessity, and not what the caprice of a minister might call necessity. That real necessity had not been proved. The previous hostile mind of Denmark was totally out of the question; and he was sorry that any one had adverted to the particulars of the conduct of Denmark in 1780 and 1801. Upon this principle, Sweden, too, ought to have been attacked in the same manner, for she had proclaimed the doctrine that free bottoms made free goods, as well as Denmark. If former conduct was to be taken into account, there was no violation of law and justice that might not be defended.—The next point was, the engagements which Russia had entered into with France. But, it was impossible that ministers themselves could have believed that Russia had engaged to compel Denmark and Sweden to join with her in hostilities against this country. The impossibility of any such belief was evident from the conduct which they themselves had adopted with regard to Russia. He allowed that Russia night possibly have been at war with us, whether the Danish ships had been seized or not. But there might be a war into which a nation might be driven by an external force, in which, however, she would not put forth half her strength. This would have been the hostility of Russia; but now that was turned into an inveterate enmity. Could France have seized the Danish fleet against the will of the Danish government? Sicily had as yet been defended—Sardinia was still safe—and there was a little comfortable ditch between us and France, and that ditch the French had not been able to pass. Why, then, could not Zealand be defended? That the Danes would have adhered to England when the moment of extremity came, he argued, from the evident interest of Denmark. It would have been insanity in Denmark, as some of the Danes themselves affirmed, to have chosen join France against England. The disposition of the prince evidently was not to give way to France, as clearly appeared from the papers on the table; and his character was stated:by Mr. Garlike as a 1222 safeguard against all the efforts of the French party. Mr. Garlike said, that the, Danes would not enter into a dishonourable compromise. His apprehensions arose from the consequences of inadequate preparation. But we might have supplied the defect. We might have protected them; but this we never offered—[Coughing.]. He wished, indeed, that the history of the conduct of ministers could be drowned for ever, and blotted out of the memory of mankind, by such noise as this. Assistance, indeed, we offered them—but we first insisted upon plundering them, and leaving them in a state perfectly defenceless. Ministers had talked of employing the System pursued by France, and of inspiring dread. But if justice and generosity were at an end—[Coughing] He begged pardon for using unparliamentary language, for justice and generosity did not seem to be well understood by the majority—but if justice and generosity were at an end, we began our system of injustice and dread, too late, as very little could then be made of it. He mentioned several minute circumstances to prove the sincerity of Denmark towards this country, but what put it beyond dispute, was the number of Danish vessels in our ports, the greater part of which might have got away if the Danish consul had not assured the masters that there was no reason to apprehend any hostility with this country. The Danes had, then, every disposition to defend themselves; we could have assisted them if their means had been deficient, and there was not; therefore, even a pretence of necessity for this expedition.
Mr. Fitzgerald (knight of Kerry,)
said that he had been anxious to obtain the attention of the Speaker at an earlier period of the debate, because he was conscious that, having no claim on the attention of the house from ability to do justice to the question, he was little able to encounter that impatience which naturally prevailed at so late an hour.—He was, however, glad that the hon. and learned gentleman, (Dr. Laurence) had preceded him, for by laying down the laws of nations with his superior authority and talent, he had spared the house from hearing those principles more feebly urged by him, and left him only the duty of deducing, from what had been so ably stated, some principles which should guide the house in their decision on that night.—He .could now venture with more safety to argue, that other nation 1223 had some distinct rights, interests, and independence—That it we were swayed by a preference of British interests, so might Spain, Russia, or Denmark assert a preference for Spanish, Russian, or Danish interests, without offence or injustice to us; and on such a fair and liberal view of the case alone could the house form a just decision. In the opinion he had formed, he trusted no party sentiment mixed itself; for base, indeed, must that mind be which, when ministers had involved the country in war with the last nation which could be added to the formidable combination armed against us, and we fought for our existence, could suffer party motives to influence it on such a question.—Anxious, as he originally was, to express his opinion, that had been increased by the attempt made, on that night, to identify the house with the executive power, and to silence their right of examination and controul, because a majority had, on some former occasion, given some indirect sanction to the conduct of ministers:—first, such a doctrine Was wholly unconstitutional; and secondly, additional information had been laid before the house since such expression of opinion. But it was not merely by a decision of the majority in that house, nor by any partial view of English passions or English interests, that we should be enabled to act with dignity or justice in a case between this country and a foreign nation, but by taking such a line as should satisfy the judgments of the majority of the country, and command the respect of the: states of Europe; we should otherwise justify the imputations but too successfully propagated against England by the French, that, in her conduct to foreign states, she was alone actuated by a narrow and selfish policy. The conclusions he should endeavour to establish were drawn from a diligent and repeated examination of the papers before the house, and after which he was sorry to be obliged to express his solemn conviction that, in the attack on Denmark, ministers had commited an unprovoked and unjustifiable outrage. Denmark had adopted a line of policy which, whether most agreeable to our wishes or interests, it must be admitted she had a right to adopt, namely, one of strict neutrality. It might not, however, be immaterial to consider that that system suggested by wisdom, had also been justified by experience, and that the great minister of that nation had conducted his country during the perils and shocks of 1224 the revolutionary war, not only with safety, not only to the preservation of the happiness of his fellow-subjects, but greatly to the extension of national prosperity and power.—No slight inducement to a perseverance in the same salutary system. Having adopted that system, it appeared, from a fair and strict analysis of the papers, that Denmark adhered to it with undeviating strictness, and with equal fidelity towards the belligerent parties.— When France approached her frontiers, she required and received explanations which satisfied her, and which, in reason, ought for the positions taken up by the French troops, were naturally such as were suitable to the war in which France was engaged against G. Britain and Sweden. As to the particular act of trifling violation of ground, ample reparation seems to have been made, and there certainly does not appear any intended infraction of the Danish neutrality; that such a case was possible, if not probable, in the course of the war, is not doubted, and the Danes themselves foresaw it; but how could that be brought to justify our attack on Denmark; should Denmark be ultimately forced from her neutrality, it was evident not only that, it was best the outrage should come from France—it was not only compatible with Danish interest, but had been actually pointed out by the Danish ministers, to Mr. Garlike, as more compatible with the eventual interests of Great Britain, Russia, and Sweden; the latter a strong concession, by which count Bernstorff, not only evinced ere policy, but the zeal with which, under such circumstances, he would be enabled to support the common cause, when he could promise from it an extinction of those nearly insurmountable antipathies which separated Sweden and Denmark.—In the view of such a case, arrangements had actually been made in Denmark; the troops were gradually withdrawn from the frontier to the centre of Holstein, and to the islands; and it was emphatically announced, by count Bernstorff, that such eventual invasion of Holstein, by the French, would establish, de facto, an alliance, offensive and defensive, between Denmark, Russia, Sweden, and England. But not only was that proved by the papers, but by a fair consideration of Danish interest, we could not doubt that such would be the policy of the Danish court; on the one hand, to retain a nominal authority in Holstein and Jutland, dependent on French moderation, she 1225 would hazard her navy, her islands, and her trade. On the other, by the sacrifice of the continental duchies, valuable certainly, but not the most valuable of her possessions, she would retain her colonies, her trade, by which she had grown rich and powerful, her fleets, and her national independence. It was impossible that, if forced to such an alternative, she could hesitate in the choice; with Sweden and Great Britain she might effectually defend Zealand; but by taking a part with France, she would lose all.—Conformably to such principles, a plan of military defence was actually arranged, and notwithstanding the extreme and wise caution of their court, made known to our ministers, that such plan was preferable to that urged by us; no man, with a military idea, could hesitate for a moment, with all the aid we could afford, they were incompetent to the defence of Holstein, and as to the co-operation of 25,000 Swedes, if they could be produced, it seems, after their conduct in Pomerania, that the Danish minister was not very unwise in doubting their efficiency. But, in discussing the question, a strong illustration of the inconsistency, charged in the resolutions moved, had been given by the right hon. the secretary at war, when it suited him to consider the Danes incompetent to the defence of Holstein. His argument was, the extreme difficulties of their retiring from thence to the islands, where the French were, supposed to find every possible facility for their transport across the same channel; that is, that to those who actually possessed the vessels, who manned them, to whose cause the crews were devoted, who commanded the land on each side, every thing was difficult, which, the next moment, to an enemy, whose approach must be notorious, who had no craft, no seamen, the passage of a disputed sea was easy, safe, and certain! The Danes seemed to have understood that point full as well as the secretary at war. But it had been argued that, after the peace of Tilsit, Denmark could not have resisted the co-operation of France and Russia. This assumed that Russia would have taken a hostile line towards this country, even if we had not attacked Copenhagen, and would have forced Denmark into a similar subserviency to French interests. Where the grounds for such an assumption were found he could not conceive; certainly not in the papers before parliament, from these and from all that had transpired of our inter- 1226 course with Russia the very reverse was, to him, palpable. No man could doubt that ministers had produced every paper tending to their justification, and to those they withheld there was more than suspicion for attributing ground of condemnation. But if any one were capable of giving evidence to such a point, it must be the noble lord (G. L. Gower,) who, from his personal character, was entitled to attention. What had the noble lord, with all his means of local information, been able to produce in defence of ministers? Some declaration of the emperor Alexander, accompanying his treaty of 1805, which, as the noble lord insinuates, proved a disposition hostile to our interests.—But to admit that, we are called upon to overlook the treaty itself, the strong and powerful exertions of two campaigns, made by Russia against France, her strenuous and almost desperate perseverance, to the last, until the battle was fought almost on her frontiers and for the security of her territory. These are not admitted to be any proofs of sincerity in a cause, but we are all on a sudden to attribute to the emperor Alexander an insincerity, as inconsistent with his uniform character, as the subserviency to France imputed would be contrary to the fundamental policy of Russia, which is known to consist in resistance to the aggrandizement of France; the only state that can affect the security of Russia. But, if contrary to reason and evidence, we believed Russia capable of acting such, a part, there remained still the important question of her power, even in conjunction with France, effecting the supposed object, the forcing Denmark into a war with this country. He was sincerely convinced that, if Denmark wished it, (and of her wishing it, from all the evidence, he could not doubt,) she was perfectly competent, with the aid of Great Britain and Sweden, to defend her islands, on which her national independence and trade depended. To aid her in such a case the military resources of this country were peculiarly applicable, and would have been most honourably and wisely employed; in such a defence of her rights and independence, we should have commanded the heart of every Dane. By such a line of conduct we should have called out the whole Physical strength of those northern nations against France, we might fortunately have added to the enthusiasm of the Swedish king, the enthusiasm of his people; and perhaps broken that ancient link which 1227 connects the affections of that nation with the French.—Amongst these brave and hardy nations alone, in conjunction with the true policy of Russia, which we were bound to encourage and cherish, could we look for any solid barrier to French encroachment and usurpation. But all that, together with our national character, we had sacrificed for 16 ships of the line.—Although ministers had totally failed to prove the necessity which alone could palliate their conduct, yet the amount of that necessity had been stated by our minister to Russia (a statement formally recognized and authenticated by our minister for foreign affairs) in such a manner, that he could not avoid calling the attention of the house to the very words.—Our minister, in the name of his sovereign, makes these solemn declarations, That the Danish fleet was "essential for the accomplishment of the views of France:" That its seizure was "indispensable for the security of his empire;" and that it warded off a "danger which threatened, not only the welfare of his people, but the existence of his crown." If that were true, which God forbid! in what state had ministers how involved us? to balance the 16 sail of the line, France had acquired the zealous aid of Russia as a principal in the war, the probable subjugation of Sweden, and the direction of her physical strength and maritime means against this country, the great resources for all naval purposes, which the coast of the Baltic peculiarly possessed, the enthusiastic animosity of the whole Danish nation against us, the probable shutting of the Sound against us, the loss of our influence and character in the north of Europe, where our friendship to Sweden would prove more destructive than our hostility to Denmark; we had placed, at the disposal of France, the population of the north, to which she would well know how to inspire activity and energy, and which she would wield against our empire. It could be no pleasant investigation to calculate how far the "security of his majesty's crown and empire," was established by the policy Which led to that state of things. He was sorry, on the first important occasion on which he addressed the house, .that he must condemn the conduct of his country. But he felt it his duty to state that, as in the first instance, he Was shocked at what appeared a treacherous and cruel outrage, so ministers had totally failed in the papers they produced, or the arguments they em- 1228 ployed, in any degree to palliate its enormity.
§ Mr. Croker
supposed it was to enable himself to make the singular boast of perfect impartiality in so vital and national a question, that the right hon. gent. who had just sat down had neither attended to the former debates on this subject, or read the papers which lay upon the table; he had (Mr. Croker supposed) taken great precaution that his first impressions should not be effaced, for surely no man who had heard the everlasting debates, or perused the voluminous papers which this business had produced, could now have ventured to repeat the obsolete and defeated sophisms of former nights, and persuade himself that he was saying any thing that at all related to the question—but Mr. Croker could not attribute this to the mere wish to preserve the right hon. gent.'s mind undisturbed by party conviction, the fact rather seemed to be, that, driven as gentlemen on the other side had been from every inch of firm argument, they had fled to find what footing they might in those shifting sands of declamation into which no body would think it worth while to follow them. There, at least, he, for one, would leave them. It was absurd, in debating this matter, in this particular view, to talk of Danish-good will, and the Danish desire to preserve neutrality. He dirt not doubt that selfish desire; but he was convinced, if it at all bore on the question, that there bad been long since a tendency in Denmark to favour France at the expence of this country—but on that he would not rest; but on the undeniable assertion, that there had long been in France a resolution to unite Denmark with the rest of Europe against England, and that her fleet was looked to as the chief weapon of the confederacy. No acts of ours increased the desires of France or accelerated the submission of the North. Whether we had been vigorous as we had been, or listless as gentlemen would have had us be, it was evident that Denmark must have yielded to the requisitions of France. A right hon. gent. had said it was not enough to persuade the majority of the house of this, we should persuade the majority of the nation and of Europe. The majority of Europe he should hardly hope to be able to do that—to.satisfy this majority of Europe, over which France has spread herself, that We have clone right in striking a blow, one of the most decisive and irrecoverable that that power ever 1229 sustained in her career of usurpation. No, he did not hope or wish to persuade Europe, that is to say France. But he trusted that it was not more unconstitutional than unfounded to seek to make a distinction between the majority of the house and of the country. He was well satisfied that the triumphant majority of the nation was with him and his hon. friends, and that the house in its various approvals of this expedition had spoken not only legally, and constitutionally, but really and effectually the sentiments of the country. The ministry could not have acted but as they did;— their predecessors had marked out their course for them. They had not only planned as it were the active measures for them, but they had even taught them in what language to defend them. He thought the late ministry would have done the same, not so well perhaps, but they would have done it. He had so much respect for human nature as to believe that every party while in office act honestly, and to the best of their judgment, (a laugh from the opposition.) He might have expected a laugh, but not from those honourable gentlemen; those who had long known their political life, might have laughed at his credulity, he did not venture to hope that they themselves would; let it however be so taken, and told to the country, that in the confidence and enthusiasm of youthful feeling he had trusted that the honourable gentlemen could, when in power, have been honest, and that they themselves had said that he was deceived;—let it be said or him, that he was willing to believe it possible that they were not base; and let it be added, that with a full knowledge of their own hearts, they laughed at his simplicity. He was at a loss to find on what grounds the opposition of this night rested; the victorious speeches of his right hon. friend (Mr. Canning) on former occasions, the able and decisive speech of the noble lord (lord Gower) on this, the evidence of the papers on the table, the testimony of, France and Denmark themselves, all seemed to over-whelm the opposite, side with a weight of argument which he knew not how they could evade. Against the hon. gentlemen was a train of facts and reasoning such as human affairs seldom admitted of, for them, there were, what?—their own assertions and the Moniteur. They disbelieved our ambassadors, they disbelieved our ministers, they disbelieved the speech of their sovereign—but they, forsooth, put their 1230 trust in the Moniteur; and why are they so credulous abroad and so incredulous at home; to throw a scandal, on their country, to stain its honour, ruin its character, and debase the ancient glory and integrity of Britain; and this is their political morality.—They themselves had pursued similar measures, they themselves had in some degree deserved well of their country, but now they despise their own fame, they throw away their own reputation, they abjure their own merit, for the petty advantage of saying to their successors, "You imitated us, and deserve to be cashiered fur so doing." He would retort on himself a right hon. gent.'s (Mr. G. Ponsonby) own phrase, and say, "For shame! for shame! why are you so shabby in your iniquity?" And this reminded him of the charge that had been made against his side of the house, of having first broached the detestable doctrines of the new morality. He denied it! he abhorred them! He appealed to the house whether it was not the right hon. gent. (Mr. Ponsonby) who would have had us break faith to keep Zealand,—and who first used the expression alluded to. Who was it that represented ill faith and treachery as less odious if attended with benefit? who first asserted the abominable doctrine that vice, by becoming bold, might become honourable? who were the aristocrats in iniquity, that supposed it became pardonable as soon as it was splendid? Surely neither he nor his friends had ever received these position from the other side of the house without the abhorrence they deserved.—For his part his political morality was of a different school—he loved this country—respected this house, and revered his king above France, its tribunates, or emperors. He believed the evidence of English ministers, and the English sovereign, in preference to the Moniteur. He despised the practice of railing at the emperor of France; but he must say that, his morality taught him to receive with suspicion the evidence of that person, and of those here who repeated his testimony; and Particularly in a case in which the honour of his country was assailed. The honourable member concluded by recapitulating; the fullest evidence, he said, had been adduced in support of the necessity of our proceedings at Copenhagen; the Only, evidence which had been adduced against it was that of the Moniteur, whence the hon. gentlemen opposite had derived not only their evidence, but the very arguments by 1231 which they endeavoured to contradict their sovereign, to vilify his ministers, and to insult their country. The papers on the table proved that France had been endeavouring with all her art to cajole the Danes, and that the Danes were very willing to be cajoled.—But the chief question was, whether France had it in view to seize-the Danish navy, and whether Franc had the power to do so. It was conceded on all hands that France had that desire, and it was allowed by lord Howick in all his dispatches. It was avowed by France herself—it-was manifest to all Europe that she had the power.—What proof could be superadded?
§ Mr. Whitbread
took a comprehensive view of the subject, and answered all the arguments that had been urged at different times in favour of the expedition. The term 'shabby iniquity,' he maintained, was completely suited to the conduct of ministers on that occasion; its application was supported by the manner in which such an expression Would be likely to be used in common life. If a person was to be guilty of a petty theft against a poor weak person, when at the same time it was seen that the thief had refrained from the commission of a robbery where more booty was to be gained, but with a greater risk, it might fairly be said, t hat such a man was a shabby thief; that he was detestable for his iniquity, and contemptible for his cowardice.—After slightly noticing some observations that fell from other members, he dwelt with much force upon what had been stated by a noble lord near him (lord G. L. Gower): that noble lord, with that degree of authority which attached to the situation which he lately held, came forward in that house, if he conceived his meaning rightly, to throw an imputation on the sovereign with whom he but a short time back held intimate communications, and to contradict those friends with whom he lately acted, without using a single argument in support of the-position he assumed—the presumption that we should certainly have had a war with Russia, if the expedition to Copenhagen had not taken place; this conjecture he supported by the confederacies of 1780 and 1801, in both of which cases Sweden took the lead of Denmark; and when it was universally acknowledged, that no great measure was adopted by the powers of the north of Europe, without the concurrence, the hearty and sincere approbation, or a positively agree- 1232 ment, to which Russia was a party. But then it was said, that Denmark was in a state of greater preparation. A noble lord, however, had stated, that he had seen them in as good a state forty years ago; and he (Mr. W.), at least, could vouch that he had seen them equally numerous and equally equipped twenty four years ago. Was the house to he informed by the first diplomatic character, perhaps, in that house, or was the weight of his authority to be lent to such an assertion, as that we were now possessed of all the naval power of Denmark? Was it to be supposed that the hulks of 16 ships, with a certain number of bolts of canvas, was the whole of the naval strength of Denmark? Had we got a single man of its naval population into our hands? and was it not more than probable, that Sweden would be shortly compelled to fit out her shipping against us, and that any deficiency as to seamen would be supplied from Denmark? We should then have the whole of their naval forces, in fact, against us, that is, we should have their men fighting against us, and that, too, when they must evidently be animated with a spirit of enthusiasm, which nothing but our aggression could have given birth to. But then, said the noble lord, there is no set of ministers that would not have done the same. Had we not the authority of the noble lord by his side (lord H. Petty), that he would do no such thing? Had the house not had the declaration of a right hon. friend of his (Mr. Windham), who was absent, of his detestation of the measure under all its circumstances? Had they not heard that the most complete disavowal of the principles that were here acted upon, was pronounced by a noble relation of his who was now in the other house of parliament? Did not every man who heard him know that such conduct was disclaimed by lord Grenville, lord Holland, and every other member of the late administration? And yet. the noble lord could gravely state to this assembly, that he believed such would have been the conduct of any administration!
Mr. Secretary canning
vindicated the conduct and consistency of his noble friend, and asserted, that though, from the communications received from him, he had not any sanguine expectation that hostility with Russia could he avoided, it had been his and his colleagues wish to avail themselves of every opportunity that might offer of restoring a perfect good understanding between the two countries. The 1233 eventual hostility with Russia was to have been apprehended; they yet had a hope, that, in the interval, some circumstance might occur, which, if improved, might preserve the relations between the two nations Undisturbed. This was precisely consonant to the views held out, and the communications made by his noble friend. But, whilst they felt a hope that war might be avoided, it was their duty not to have neglected any measure of security against the combination of Russia, which was the most probable alternative. The hon. gent. who had just sat down, had again insisted on an argument, which all who had preceded him appeared to have abandoned viz. that the expedition to Copenhagen had produced the war with Russia. If the, papers on the table did not prove that not to have been the case, if the Russian Declaration since published, if the conduct of Russia towards Sweden, did not disprove it, he could refer to the authority of a person of the first rank in Russia, to prove the contrary to have been the case. Count Romanzow, in his interview with the English merchants at St. Petersburgh stated as one of the instances of our barbarous conduct to Russia, that we had detained a frigate laden with specie, to which they replied, that it had happened after a declaration of war; Aye, said count Romanzow, but did we not suffer the Astræwa frigate laden with specie to depart after we had determined to go to war with G. Britain? The Astræ had sailed from Memel on the 27th of July, months before any declaration of war, and weeks before any intelligence could have been received of She expedition to Copenhagen. This circumstance shewed that that expedition was not the cause of the war. As to the indignation expressed by the hon., gent. because his noble friend had stated, that any administration would have acted in the same manner under the same circumstances, he had but to observe, that as his noble friend thought differently of the measure from the hon. gent. it was not surprising that he should have said that those ministers, who had undertaken the expedition Lisbon, would have acted in the same manner at Copenhagen. Bat he would have reason to be offended, if his noble friend had asserted the converse of this proposition; that those who had acted at Copenhagen would have conducted the Lisbon expedition, in the manner in which it had been conducted. Here he quoted several passages from the instructions to 1234 lords St. Vincent and Rosslyn, to shew that these instructions were a mass of accumulated frauds and delusion; and after guarding. himself against misconstruction, by stating that the name of the venerable character that appeared affixed to, it, was only there in form, as from the state of his health at the time, it was impossible that it could have been his production, declared, in the face of the house, that these instructions he would not himself have signed. When he had found them in the office, he did not believe that they were the production of that great man, and on inquiry had discovered that the instructions had been drawn up by a right hon colleague of that venerated person, who acted for him during the latter part of his illness. If this was the old system of morality, if these were the frauds, and delusions practised by the priests of the old school, he thanked God they had been departed from. Such delusions might often have been practised, but he had never seen them so set,down before. He knew not how these instructions could he defended. It might he upon the difference of the imminence of the peril. At the time of the Lisbon expedition, Buonaparte was distracted with a rising continental war; at the period of the Copenhagen expedition, he was combining conquered Europe against this country: in the former case, tire fleet of Portugal could not easily be brought to, act in conjunction with any other naval force; the Danish fleet, on the contrary, was the point where the junction most formidable to Britain, of the northern fleets, might have been effected: the peril was not more imminent for an army placed at a six weeks march distance at Bayonne, than to Holstein from au army at Hamburgh. The force sent out to-Copenhagen was such as to ensure the success of the expedition with the least possible loss; and the naked opinion of Mr. Garlike was not to be taken without the circumstances, under which he stated, that the Danish fleet should make no effort-to defend Holstein, that she should have a timely concert with Sweden, and that a good understanding should continue between Great Britain and Russia. Notice of these contingencies had taken place. The measure was to be defended without proceeding one step from the law of nature or nations, and whatever might be the vote of that night, he and his colleagues would have the satisfaction to reflect, that their measures had been successful, and promoted the security of the empire.
§ Lord H. Petty
replied to the observations of the secretary for foreign affairs. The Noble lord chewed, by referring to the dispatches of Mr. Garlike, that Denmark was taking no measures that could warrant the slightest suspicion of any design on her part to act against this country. As to the Russian war, the noble lord was willing to concede, that even if the Danish expedition had not taken place, that war would have arisen; but yet it would have been a war of a different character. We should not have had the opinion and people of Russia and of the civilized world against us, which the Danish expedition had produced. Upon the nature of the arguments adduced by the right hon. secretary and his advocates, the noble lord animadverted at some length. He conceived those gentlemen, as it were, to confess the inefficacy of a war of justice against injustice, and to proclaim this dangerous and degrading doctrine to the World, that England was warranted and resolved to employ the worst weapons used by France, for the purpose of overcoming what it called French iniquity.
§ After a short reply from Mr. Sharp, the house divided: For the motion 64; Against it 224; Majority 160.—Strangers were not readmitted, but we understood, that Mr. Stuart Wortley moved a resolution of thanks to ministers for their conduct, &c. on the Danish expedition, and Upon this a division took place: Ayes 216; Noes 61; Majority 155.—Adjourned at 6 o'clock on Tuesday morning