HC Deb 07 June 1809 vol 14 cc918-20

—On the order for the third reading of the Vote of Credit Bill,

Sir T. Turton

took the opportunity of taking a view of our relations with the powers on the continent, and doubted the propriety of assisting Austria with money; he objected, at all events, to our binding ourselves to discharge the bills already drawn by that power upon us, without any authority. With respect to Spain he thought ministers should take care we had good security for any loan we might advance her; and adopt the most effectual steps for guarding her fleets at Cadiz, and elsewhere, from falling into the hands of Buonaparté. He hoped at all events, that ministers would be able to give an account to the country of so large a vote of credit, as was now about to be trusted to their disposal.

General Tarleton

said, his duty impelled him to come forward on the present occasion to offer that advice to ministers, in public, which he had suggested to them in private, but which had not been attended to. He had intended to advert more particularly to the affairs of Austria, but the recent news from that quarter had struck him with so unexpected a degree of satisfaction, that he should in some measure abstain from his intention. Certainly that power either knew, or ought to have known, the strength and situation of Buonaparté, previous to her entering into the present contest; and yet we saw him collecting an army on the Rhine, with as much facility as if he were not engaged, either personally, or with his force, in Spain; but when he found the French penetrate to Vienna, almost without resistance, he began to despair, and felt inclined to be parsimonious in the pecuniary assistance to be afforded to the Austrians. Since, however, his coming into the house, he had seen the French bulletin, and he found reason to hope a reverse had taken place in the hitherto unchecked career of victory. Whether the bridges on the Danube had been broken down by design or accident, signified nothing; for when the French were compelled to retreat, his hopes began to revive. Under these circumstances, he did think that some money, though that sum should not be very large, should be risked in the support of the Austrian cause. The hon. general next adverted to the state of Spain and Portugal, and pointed out the unfortunate consequences of the Convention. He also dwelt upon the conduct of Mr. Frere, whose advice had brought about the unfortunate retreat to Corunna, instead of a retreat to Lisbon, which was so much preferable, and which had been intended by the lamented sir John Moore. But ministers had sent another army to the Peninsula, and what was the prospect? The enthusiasm of the Spaniards was not so great as at first, and since they were unable before to drive the enemy, consisting of 80,000 men, from behind the Ebro, what hope was there that they would now he able to expel from their territories an army of nearly 100,000 men? It seemed the most hopeless plan that could be imagined, to send men to the Peninsula at present. He severely condemned the great noise made about the three skirmishes of sir Arthur Wellesley, which would give occasion to the people of the continent to say, that we were the animal in the lion's skin—and that the noble lord was the daw in borrowed leathers—(Lord Castlereagh was in the full uniform of his militia regiment.) He blamed the mode of operations adopted at present in the Peninsula, and contended that the only chance of our doing any thing effectual was, to adopt a defensive plan till circumstances should arise to enable us to act offensively with a better prospect of success. He blamed the appointment of marquis Wellesley to Spain, and said that it would have been better to send lord W. Bentinck to the Junta, and send the marquis to Prince Charles, where he could do no harm. He concluded by recommending the greatest economy in the expenditure of the public money.

Mr. Curwen

observed, that if the news of the check received by the French armies in Austria were well-founded, ministers ought not to be niggardly in their assistance in money to Austria; and if the case should require it he would recommend it to ministers, instead of three millions to take six millions. This was the first reverse that Buonaparté had met with; and if it was of the extent reported, it would be incumbent on ministers to adopt a bolder policy, and make common cause with Austria, where the battle for Spain and Portugal must in fact be fought.

Lord Castlereagh

observed, that if was the duty of ministers neither to be elevated by temporary success, nor depressed by the casual disasters to which war was sub- ject, but to administer the resources committed to their charge in the best manner for the country and the world. The hon. general had taken an unfair view of the transactions in Portugal, which he affirmed, under all the circumstances, to have been very brilliant, though he had never described them as general battles. Since the army was under the command of sir A. Wellesley, he thought the advice of the hon. general might-have been spared, as every thing that zeal and knowledge could effect would be done. As to the success mentioned in the news of the day, he was always unwilling to raise too sanguine expectations in the country, as well as to prevent its being depressed in adversity.

Mr. Herbert

(of Kerry) approved of the declaration of government, that they would not abandon Spain as long as it would be true to itself.

The bill was then passed.

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