HC Deb 18 March 1811 vol 19 cc387-415

The order of the day being moved for going into a Committee of Supply, the House accordingly resolved itself into a Committee; the Prince Regent's Message having been previously referred thereto.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

then rose and said, that in rising to call the attention of the Committee to that part of his royal highness the Prince Regent's message, which referred to the subject of granting still further assistance to Portugal, he could not forbear to express a confident expectation that there would not be much opposition made to the motion with which he should have the honour to conclude. Although the proposition which he had last year brought forward on the same subject had met with some opposition, and though the grant which it was in this instance his intention to submit to the Committee amounted to a considerable increase beyond the sum voted last year, he yet conceived, that, in the circumstances under which he made the present application, and considering the alteration that had taken place in the state of affairs, it was not likely that even those who opposed the former grant would be disposed to object to his motion in this instance. The grounds and the motives upon which he had recommended the measure in the last session had been fully and satisfactorily confirmed by experience; and the events which had since taken place had so changed the views and bearings of the question, that if it were now to be decided even by the voices of those who had thought right to object to the measure last year, no opposition, he was persuaded, would be made to its adoption. When last year he had in the discharge of his public duty submitted to Parliament a proposition for granting to his Majesty a certain sum, to enable his Majesty to take into his pay a portion of Portuguese troops, the idea of employing Portuguese troops under British officers, in British pay, and trained to British discipline, was entirely new. There were not wanting those, on that occasion, who were disposed, as the Committee would recollect, to give way to contemptuous anticipations of what might be likely to be the exertions of such troops. There were persons, too, who threw ridicule on the idea of employing at a great expence such a body of men, whose services were represented of little value to the cause in support of which they were to be employed. It had even been then objected, that, in taking such a number of Portuguese troops into British pay, we would be bringing upon ourselves the whole burthen of the Portuguese war and leaving nothing to be effected by Portugal in the shape of exertion for her own defence, and for her own preservation.

In proposing the measure, the fore he had to encounter the discouraging representations of those who considered it nugatory, or worse than nugatory, mischievous; whilst all he had himself to urge in its support would at best not go beyond conjectures as to its result: but as the conjectures he then entertained and explained to the House had since been fully realised, and every expectation which he had held forth fulfilled, he trusted it would not now be considered too much for him to claim credit for the grounds upon which he then acted. Though some hon. gentlemen took rather a gloomy view of the case, he must say, that the hopes on the other hand were as sanguine as the despair was deep; but at that time the event was uncertain; they had nothing palpable to fortify their opinions—no fact to urge in support of their arguments. Now however the case was altered; the change which had taken place enabled them to refer to the event in order to shew that all the arguments in support of the former grant had been completely confirmed. The expectations held forth, however sanguine, had been exceeded, rather than disappointed, by the result. Under these circumstances therefore, when experience had proved the propriety of the former grant, and when even the assertion, that to take so large a portion of the Portuguese force into British pay would be to leave nothing to the Portuguese nation to do in the maintenance of their own cause, had turned out to be equally unfounded with the suspicions as to the efficiency of the Portuguese troops, he trusted that the Committee would readily and cheerfully concur in the motion he had to make. With respect to the exertions of the Portuguese government, he could assure the Committee, and upon the most unquestionable authority, that instead of 30,000 men, the number taken into British pay, the regular Portuguese force was not less than 44 or 45,000 men. In addition to this regular force, the Portuguese militia amounted to 40,000 men. When they looked then to the aggregate of this force, the Committee would perceive that the whole of the burthen was not borne by this country. By the measure adopted last session this country had undoubtedly taken a share of the burthen upon itself, but then the statement he had just made must satisfy them, that so far from leaving nothing to Portugal to do, so far from her doing nothing, her exertions had been strenuous, and the assistance she received had not induced her to relax any portion of her own efforts. The Committee must be fully aware of the manner in which the war was waged in Portugal. They must be sensible how much the means of exertion must be crippled by the occupation of a considerable portion of the country by the French army, which, by marching from place to place, must necessarily have intercepted its resources and revenues; and that it was not to be expected that Portugal, so circumstanced, could be able to make the same efforts in the common cause as if no part of her territory was in the possession of an enemy, nor any portion of her means diverted from her disposal to the support of that enemy. If the Committee should be of opinion, that the exertions already made had proved beneficial to the cause, and were desirable to be continued, it would naturally follow, that they must feel the propriety of assisting Portugal largely. This was the view of the case which induced him to think, that those who had differed from him as to the former grant, would concur in the present proposition; and that they would agree, not only to a vote of a sum to the same extent as that granted last session, but that the sum to be voted in the present session should, instead of one, be two millions.

After the short view which he had thus taken of the manner in which the campaign in its progress had realised all the expectations and hopes entertained: last session, he was convinced that no doubt could be felt as to one point at least, the propriety of still keeping alive in Portugal that feeling and that exertion, which alone could afford any fair and rational prospect of final success to her cause. Different views, he would admit, had been, and might still be entertained as to the manner in in which the efforts of this country, in support of the Portuguese, should have been directed: yet, however different the opinions might be as to the propriety of the course that ought to have been originally adopted, as we were at present so far advanced in a particular plan of operations, it must be allowed, that nothing could be so weak, so unwise, or impolitic, as to abandon that plan at present for the adoption of any other, which, though it might have been originally better, could now be resorted to but under circumstances of great danger and disadvantage. He was sure, therefore, that, whatever may be thought of the merits of the plan of opera- tions now in progress, no hon. member would recommend to them to retread their steps, and make any alteration in the system hitherto acted upon. He was sure, on the contrary, that it would be felt, that they hid been right in their selection of the spot on which to raise the standard against the enemy: a spot upon which we could be best enabled to carry our own operations to the greatest extent with every advantage; and which was at the same time in a peculiar degree inconvenient to the enemy. With all their opinions therefore confirmed by the event, and every expectation derived from the measure realised, he could not bring himself to suppose, that the Committee would not think it right to follow up the plan of operations hitherto so successfully acted upon.

But, here he must beg leave to advert to certain uncandid allusions, which it was the practice of the gentlemen on the opposite side to make to the failure of the expectations supposed to have been entertained by himself and his colleagues on the probable issue of the campaign. It was not fair, he must contend, in hon. gentlemen to state, that either his Majesty's ministers, or those who concurred with them, had ever held out the prospect, that in a short period the French would be driven from the Peninsula; that a victory was considered as certain, or even an ultimate triumph confidently anticipated. Without presuming to throw out such confident views of the issue of the contest, all he had ever asserted on this head was, what he was still ready to repeat, that he entertained a confident expectation that we should be able successfully to defend Portugal against any probable amount of force which the French might be able to employ or bring to bear against that kingdom. It was upon this impression, that the actual scene of operations had been chosen; and it was in the full persuasion of the justice of this expectation, that it was deemed wise to continue the operations there. All that had happened too justified the course which had been adopted; and whilst that was the case, it was impossible for those who thought so with him to alter the opinions which thus had been formed upon the subject. He besought the Committee then to look to every part of the subject—to look to the progress of the campaign, and to the exertions which had been made in the course of it by Portugal; and he would then ask, whether the result had not completely justified all the opinions which in the last session he had advanced? Every public dispatch, as well as every private communication from the army, concurred in representing the Portuguese troops disciplined by British officers as worthy of the instructions they received, and of the example that was set to them. If it were necessary for him to resort to any authorities to establish this character of the Portuguese troops, he need only to remind the Committee, of the observations made by a French general officer, with respect to the conduct of the Portuguese troops at the battle of Busaço. That officer had stated, that he considered it an excellent ruse de guerre to disguise the veteran troops of England in Portuguese uniform, in order to entrap the French into an attack upon such troops with a confidence of success against a certainty of failure. That was the best testimony of the efficiency of the Portuguese troops, and of the policy of the measure by means of which they had been brought to that state of discipline.

With respect to the character of the campaign abstractedly, what, he would ask, could be a better proof of its superior merit and value than the language now employed by the enemy? What a higher tribute to its merits, than the alteration of tone so manifest in all the recent publications of France upon the subject of this campaign? We were not now told that the British army shall be driven in a short period of time into the sea. It was not now insolently asserted, that the allies were to be suddenly brushed away on the first appearance of the French armies in the field against them. The language now held, on the contrary, was, that the object of the enemy was to be accomplished, not by decisive action, but by protracted operations; not by sudden and vigorous efforts in the field, but by endeavours to draw down ruin upon our hopes, by the progress of time and the consequent accumulation of expences. This language designated the altered character of the campaign; and upon this ground they were justified in arguing, that the enemy entertained no hope of being able to subjugate the Peninsula, but by driving the British army out of Portugal. This was an operation which they had conceived easy of accomplishment at first; but now, finding their expectations frustrated, and that the thing was more difficult than they had at first imagined, they were obliged to alter their tone. Now, their object was to continue the contest, campaign after campaign, in the hope of being able ultimately to reduce the British Government, inconsequence of the expence, to withdraw the British army from Portugal. So, then, after all the treasure expended, and all the blood wasted, in the Peninsula, instead of brushing away the insurgents, who were never considered but as objects of their contempt, the French were now to look forward to protracted operations! France then, it appeared, no longer looked forward to victories similar to those by which she had previously subjugated so great a portion of Europe. Whilst the same spirit continued to animate the brave inhabitants of the Peninsula, even though the French should obtain victories, he trusted they would be followed by disasters as dire and destructive as those which had already attended every step of their antecedent progress.

The precise spot, therefore, which had been chosen, was, he would contend, that on which we could hope to carry on operations with most advantage to ourselves, and most inconvenience to the enemy. (Hear, hear!) He would repeat the assertion, (hear, hear!) and he would challenge the hon. gentlemen, who by their cheering in such a manner, seemed to intimate that they did not concur in the sentiment, to point out any spot in Europe where France could have been so successfully resisted; where more assistance could be expected to be derived from the allies with whom we might have to cooperate; or where the French army, operating at a distance from its resources, having a lung chain of communications to keep op n, and exposed at all limes to the danger of having its supplies intercepted, could encounter a greater amount of inconvenience or entertain so small a prospect of success? If that, then, was the fair, the correct and just stale of the case, he could not allow himself to harbour a doubt, that it could be considered as any other than a reasonable ground upon which he was justified in looking with confidence to the concurrence of the Committee in the proposition he had to submit. He was firmly persuaded that the Committee would agree with him, that, as the war must be allowed on all hands to be inevitably to be carried on; a war, not voluntary on our parts, but imposed upon us by the injustice and aggression of the enemy; this was the scene most advantageous for us, and most inconvenient for the enemy, in which to continue its operations. He was so deeply impressed with this conviction, that he trusted no objection would be made to his motion. He had already stated, that the sum to be proposed was two millions; and he had only to add, that he should recommend that the money should be granted generally to the Prince Regent, to be applied by him in such manner, and for such assistance, as may be deemed most advantageous according to the circumstances of the campaign. The grant he proposed to make in this general way, in order that in the disposal of it they might be able to look at the events of the campaign as they might occur; that, if any reverses or disasters (which he did not think likely) should unfortunately take place, whatever portion of it may be unapplied at the time, should not be wasted in a lost contest and a hopeless cause. (Hear, hear!) The right hon. gent. then concluded by moving, "That a sum, not exceeding two millions, be granted to Ins Majesty, to enable him to continue to maintain in his pay a body of Portuguese Troops, and to give such further aid and assistance to the government of Portugal, as the nature of the contest in which his Majesty is engaged may appear to him to require"

Mr. Ponsonby

rose and said:—Sir; had the right hon. gent. confined himself to the mere grant of a subsidy—and it there were no new circumstances attending the proposition at this period compared with last year—I should not, most probably, have said any thing upon the subject. His proposition however is not a naked proposition for a large subsidy to the Portuguese government, but it is accompanied by a formal stipulation of a treaty entered into between the two countries, by which Great-Britain is bound never to acknowledge any sovereign of Portugal except the legitimate heir of the unfortunate house of Braganza! Taking all these things then together, I, for my part, cannot see any limit to the carrying on this war, while this country is able to give a single shilling towards supporting one of the most extravagant plans that could possibly be proposed or adopted.—Where, I must ask, was the utility of binding the government never to acknowledge any sovereign of Portugal but the legitimate heir of the unfortunate house of Braganza? The right hon. gent. has stated that the Portuguese government are deprived of many resources they were formerly possessed of, owing to the possession of their country by the enemy; but this is so contrary to all we have heard of before, that I hardly know what story is most worthy of belief. We have had the highest authority, that of the Gazette itself, stating that the part possessed in that country by the French army was confined to the spot they occupied, and that they could not even procure provision for their maintenance. This is not merely my statement, but it is the official information published in the Gazette; and now we are told, that one great reason for this subsidy is, that so great a portion of that country is under the power and in the possession of the enemy, that the Portuguese government cannot draw their supplies as formerly. The right hon. gent. also says we ought to afford this supply, because we are fighting now upon the theatre most fortunate for us, and most unfortunate for the enemy; a chosen theatre, one that we have selected by preference for the purpose of continuing the war. Does he mean that the space comprehended between Lisbon and Cartaxo is the most chosen theatre to continue the war? Does he mean to say that we chose that part when we first sent our armies to defend the whole of Portugal? I thought that then the whole of the Peninsula was our object; and afterwards, that we limited it to the defence of all Portugal from the dominion of France; but now I am told that our object is still further limited, and that we only look to the defence of that spot which lies between Lisbon and Cartaxo. The right hon. gent. too, says we must be greatly encouraged to comply with this demand, from the vast success of our efforts last year. Now I have no disposition to under-rate our success, nor cast any imputation upon the Portuguese or upon the Spaniards, and much less upon our own troops—but what is the success to which he alludes? Did we not begin the campaign out of Portugal? Did we not commence it at Ciudad Rodrigo—and after losing that town and Almeida, did we not retreat? The fact is, that our success consists in having lost almost the whole of Portugal, and that our army is now confined or hemmed in between Lisbon and Cartaxo. Can any man say that that is not a fact? and can the right hon. gent. call this encouraging our expectations, and say that on such a ground we should now give a subsidy of two millions instead of one million? Does he re- flect upon the nature of this contest? How long can this country support this expence? Does he know the expence of sending troops to Portugal? Does he know that there is a loss of 30l. upon every 100l. sent to that country? I say that there actually is such a loss, and I defy any man to contradict me. How is the remaining seventy pounds paid when it gets to Portugal? It is paid, the one-half in coin and the other half in Portuguese paper. Does he know how much that paper is depreciated? Does he know that there is a regular money price and a regular paper price? Has he considered these circumstances, and does he think it is possible for England to continue long to do as we are doing?—Does he reflect upon the Report of the Committee lately appointed to investigate the commercial embarrassments of our country; and does he recollect that we are passing a bill just now to relieve, by a grant of six millions, those who have suffered by such embarrassments? Does the right hon gent think that this is a proper time to submit a vote of two millions to Portugal, under such circumstances.' He says that the tone of the enemy is much altered—that instead of boasting they will drive us into the sea, they have now come to this, that they are making the war a contest of time and money, and that nothing can be more ruinous to France. The right hon. gent. indeed must know many facts, which I can only judge of by conjecture, and therefore my assertions may prove erroneous; but I believe that nobody knows what policy the emperor of France has in view. Does the right hon. gent. know for certain that it is not the intention of the French to send a greater force to finish the campaign? If it be the intention of the French emperor to send a greater force to terminate the campaign, he may accomplish it easily, for I am sure there is in his dominions no deficiency of force. France alone can furnish 400,000 troops, besides those already in Spain and Portugal. I speak within bounds, and I have particular means of knowing it. For what purpose is the emperor of the French collecting an army in the North of Europe, a greater army than what he had formerly occasion to collect to subdue Austria and Prussia? While we are shut up in one corner of Portugal, are we sure that he may not avail himself of that particular circumstance to carry into execution his schemes against the Northern part of Europer? I know not whether I be correct in these conjectures, but the right hon. gent. has perhaps a better source of information. He says, we are to carry on this contest, as it has been forced upon as. We abandoned Spain after sir John Moore's object was defeated; and since the defeat of the French at Corunna we have not sent any material force to that country, except to Gibraltar and Cadiz, when we conveyed troops in our ships from the one of those places to the other. You have therefore made Portugal the theatre of war; and why should you have done so? Do you think you can prevent France from overrunning Spain by continuing the war in Portugal? Was there no other mode by which we could think of attaining success? I say, that neither in Spain nor in Portugal has any thing happened that can give us reason to believe that the war there will terminate to our advantage, although I wish it sincerely. Now Spain we have abandoned, except in regard to Gibraltar and Cadiz; and we have' abandoned all Portugal except the space between Lisbon and Cartaxo. These are matters which we ought to consider before we vote such a large sum of money upon the principle which the right hon. gent. has stated this night. Does he suppose that if we can maintain a single town in Portugal, such as Lisbon, no expense will be too great for such an object? If we do maintain some of those towns, the effort must in time disable this country. Without meaning to take the sense of the House upon the right hon. gent's proposition, I only thought it my duty merely to suggest those considerations, in order that the matter may be well weighed before we come to such a vote upon this occasion. Our army estimates this year amount to between 15 and 16 millions, the transport estimates to between 3 and 4 millions, and I may reckon the whole amount of the estimates, including extraordinaries, at a sum between 23 and 24 millions, and all this without making any serious impression upon the enemy. Without making any calculation of the force of France, I only wish you to reflect how long we can go on thus. If we were likely to reduce the resources of France, then we might make a great exertion; but we are now throwing away our money in search of conquests that will be of no real value to us when acquired. It will be a monstrous waste of money to put garrisons into any towns in Spain or Portugal.—Upon the whole I do think these possessions appear actually valueless in comparison with the expense attending them. Without any desire to thwart the measures of government, I must say that the sum the right hon. gent. has asked, appears not likely to secure those advantages he seems to have sanguine expectations of realising.

Mr. Sullivan

said, he was prepared to defend both the grant and the treaty entered into between this country and Portugal. Upon what ground, he would ask, could we assist Portugal at all unless for the purpose of reinstating upon its throne the legitimate sovereign of the country? He would request of the right hon. gent. who had just sat down, to look to the state of the allied army in 1809, and at the present moment. The French were then in possession of all the Northern provinces of Portugal; but by the military aid sent from this country in the spring, and by the exertions which were made to reform the military establishments, a change so great had taken place, that in six weeks after the French were expelled from Portugal by lord Wellington. Another distinguished general (marshal Beresford) had also succeeded so, well in his department, by the efficient reorganization of the Portuguese army, that the tyrant of Europe was obliged to send Massena himself to retrieve what had been lost; and in September 1810, Massena found a force formed in Portugal able to repulse him: he found, besides the regular army, a militia, which, by its discipline and valour, had already taken 5,000 French prisoners. What might not this country hope from such an effort? Might it not encourage the nations of the North? Might it not encourage—might it not animate—the most insignificant to some bold attempt, and rouse Europe in general to choose the happy moment, and avail itself of the noble lesson? Portugal, as he had collected from undoubted quarters, had put on foot in the last campaign, in military array, a greater number than was ever brought into action by any of the old military governments. The proof of this fact might have the most powerful influence upon the tyrant of Europe; and other countries might be stimulated to a similar enterprize, when they found that Portugal succeeded even beyond the most sanguine expectations that could have been formed of her.

Mr. Fremantle

rose and said: Sir, It, is quite impossible I can allow this question to be put without offering a few observa- tions to the House, not with a view of taking its sense upon the propriety of this grant of money; not with a view of resisting its issue, but in order to discharge my mind of those feelings with which it is impressed by the perseverance, on the part of those in whose hands the government of this country is placed, in a system towards Spain and Portugal, which I conceive to be not only of no avail to their cause, but highly injurious and detrimental to the best interests of this country.—At the dawn of this animated contest in Spain, in 1808, no man could more strongly, more warmly participate in the general and universal feeling towards that country than I did; it was a feeling congenial to the heart and mind of every Englishman; it was a burst of indignation against the most outrageous and unexampled oppression on the part of the French emperor; it was a natural sympathy; it was aiding the weak against the strong; it was a free country, and a free people animated in the support of the freedom, the independence, the integrity of the Spanish empire: what Englishman could resist such a call as this? what Englishman could withhold his whole, his warmest support in such a cause? it was under such universal and general feelings, that the ministers of that day, in whom the present Chancellor of the Exchequer is included, undertook the support of the Spanish patriots. Now, Sir, let us review the principles upon which that support was to be given on their part; let us look back to the declaration of his Majesty's ministers at the time, and we shall find that it was to be an alliance formed on the principles of general and zealous support to the Spanish nation, in a manner most conducive to their welfare and advantage, but at the same time least injurious to British interests.—These were the principles upon which this alliance was to be formed; principles which coincided with the sentiments of the public at large, and in which the government was universally supported.—Let us now see upon what system these principles have been maintained; let us see how far the ministers have effected the two objects of giving every support to the Spanish patriots, in a manner most conducive to their interests, and in what manner they have kept sight of the interests and security of England. It is upon this head that I condemn their conduct; it is upon this system which I have to argue, and upon which I trust I shall shew, before I sit down, that they have betrayed not only their allies, but that unexampled confidence which was reposed in them.

It will be impossible for me to bring before the House my view of this subject, without entering at large into the history of this contest; but in doing so, I beg the House not to be alarmed at the prospect of the length to which such a history might lead me. I shall not feel it necessary to enter into all the details of the several transactions which have occurred in the different periods of this contest; I might undoubtedly do so, with feelings of the highest gratification, because I should only have to record events most pleasing to the House, most grateful to the ears of every Englishman; events most glorious to the arms of England, most honourable to the individuals, and to the armies by whom they were achieved. But, Sir, these are events that have been repeatedly expatiated upon in this House, and have been as repeatedly admired and applauded; therefore in passing them now by, do not let me be supposed to wish to lessen their value, and to detract from their national importance. God forbid that I should be actpated by such motives: no, Sir, no man living is more alive to these gratifying and proud exploits on the part of my countrymen, but they are unnecessary to my view of this history.—That which I wish to place before the House and the country, is the result of a system, so weak, so radically injurious to the interest of England; a system which has been pursued, and is now pursuing, so subversive of those patriotic principles upon which the alliance of Spain was formed—I shall briefly trace the result of the campaigns which have taken place since the commencement of this contest.—In the first place, so soon as a military force could be prepared, it was dispatched under my gallant and excellent friend sir A. Wellesley, in 1808, to Portugal. I shall not now stop to discuss the policy of relieving the Spanish patriots in Spain, by sending our troops to Portugal. This is a question which has often been agitated, and as often been approved by this House; but I must remind the House, that at the time this force was dispatched, the French had been driven from Madrid, and were not advanced beyond the Ebro. This expedition under sir A. Wellesley I consider as the commencement of the first campaign; and let it always be remembered the it began upon the system of attempting to contend with Buonaparté by the power of a British military force in the Peninsula—the object was to try your military strength with his. You made yourselves principals where you should have been contented to remain as auxiliaries. This is the system which I condemn—let us now see how it has succeeded.—The campaign commenced with all the advantage, with all the glory, with all the triumph which in the most sanguine mind could have been predicted.—We beat the French at Roleia, we beat them at Vimiera, we relieved the whole of the north of Portugal, and we finished by the convention of Cintra, which placed at our disposal their whole army; but what was the result of that campaign, did we relieve the Spaniards? did we promote the interests of England?—The result was, that England, at her own expence, England, the ally of Spain, placed at the-disposal of France 20,000 of her best troops, commanded by her ablest generals, conversant and inured to the climate of Spain, in a port nearest to the scene of contest, and capable of being again brought into action in the course of three months, and which in fact was the case; England, in order to assist her allies and contribute to her own interest, which would have led her to a rapid termination of the war, supplied the means of reinforcing, in the most efficient and expeditious manner, the French in the Peninsula, and thereby secured the permanency of the contest in that country; such was the fruit of the first campaign, such was the advantageous proof of our first attempt to contend with our armies against the armies of Buonaparté.—The second campaign commenced under that gallant and most excellent officer sir John Moore, who contrary, and in direct opposition to his own military judgment, and in the teeth of all the remonstrances which he had made to this country upon the danger and folly of pursuing a system founded on such erroneous and dangerous principles, was directed to inarch into Spain, and to undertake once more a contest with Buonaparté's armies in the Peninsula.—Let it be remembered that this order from the government in England took place when they knew that Buonaparte himself had advanced into Spain, and had reinforced his armies with upwards of 100,000 men: but the system was a favourite one, it was to be pursued under all circumstances, and no example, no reasoning could convince the infatuated minds of those who govern- ed the councils of this country, of the futility and danger of attempting, by a British force, to overwhelm Buonaparté.—The character of England was committed, we were the principals, Spain and Portugal were only auxiliaries in the contest. This gallant man, at the head of his gallant British force, advanced accordingly, aided by the co-operation of sir David Baird, who had landed at Corunna. Here again I shall not stop to enter into the details, it is sufficient to say, that nothing but the extraordinary abilities, the prudence; judgment, temper, and indefatigable and unwearied exertions of the commander, rescued from utter annihilation, the whole of the army entrusted to his command. What was the result? after a display of courage and discipline and forbearance under difficulties the most unexampled in the military history of this or any other country, this army effected its retreat to the shores of Corunna, at which point it maintained itself against the desperate attack of the whole French force; and when, after acquiring a most important and brilliant victory, which was dearly purchased at the expence of the life of the most invaluable and able officer that ever graced the annals of any country, we were enabled to bring back the remnant of the British force in a state so disorganized, so totally annihilated, as to render it necessary to exert the utmost energies of the country to repair its loss—such was the issue of the second attempt to contend with Buonaparté in a military campaign, by the efforts of your armies in the Peninsula.—The next undertakings the next campaign was commenced by the appointment of my gallant and noble friend lord Wellington once more to the command of the forces in Portugal: nothing could be more unpromising, nothing could be more disastrous than the state of Portugal at the time he undertook this hazardous command; his genius, his promptitude, his zeal, and his extraordinary military talents were necessary in the instant to extricate and relieve his small army from its embarrassments, threatened as it was on the north, on the south, and in the centre.—Here again I should have to detail the gallant exploits of a gallant British army; but it is in the recollection of every man in the country who has a breast to feel, of a mind to glory, in the valour of his countrymen; the manner in which he destroyed the army of Soult, in which he arrested the progress of Victor and in which he formed the junction, and infused into the armies of Spain a spirit of emulation and zeal; no sooner had these events taken place, than the same system was directed to be parsued by the government of England; acting under the same misguided judgment, they once more called upon their commanders and their armies to try the experiment of an advance into the Spanish territories, to try how far we still were capable of undertaking a continental system of warfare.—We had not yet abandoned the vain idea of contending as principals in this contest.—The experiment was tried again, lord Wellington advanced, he met the enemy, he fought him, and he achieved (what I shall always consider one of the most brilliant victories this country ever witnessed) the victory of Talavera; a victory gained under greater difficulties and with more desperate and infuriate fighting, than is recorded, I believe, in modern warfare. What was gained by this battle? nothing but a loss. What was the result of this campaign which terminated with this battler The loss of all your sick and hospitals; the loss of territory; the loss of reputation (not in your armies) but in your political character; the loss of that confidence which your allies had reposed in you, and which had been created, fostered, and encouraged, by your gallant commander; and (though last not least) the loss by sickness, fatigue, and, I might almost add, famine, of nearly half your army.—Such was the consequence, such the lamentable, disastrous issue of your third campaign.—We now come to the last, which, although not terminated, is hanging, in some degree, suspended, and has changed from a system of attack to one of defence. It commenced by the position of your army on the frontiers of Portugal, re-established, and reinforced and re-organized by the zeal, the activity, the influence and exertions of my-gallant and noble friend lord Wellington. I consider this campaign as commencing from the moment Massena took the command of the French army; at that moment we had collected one of the proudest British forces that had ever been assembled together; a body of men amounting to not less than 35,000 effective troops, commanded by the ablest and most experienced generals that this country ever produced.—Let us see what has resulted from this campaign, which no sooner commenced than we found ourselves under the necessity of retreating, incapable of contending against the superiority of numbers which were opposed to us.—Day after day beheld the loss of positions, of fortresses, of territories, which in one instance only was most gallantly and nobly checked by the army under lord Wellington at Buzaco, but which check only served as a respite for a few hours to the further advance of the enemy: and this campaign now leaves us, I will not say within our entrenchments, but incapable of quitting those entrenchments, and only waiting the result of such movements as the enemy may be disposed to make—It rests with him to chuse his day, to make his own disposition, to wait for his reinforcements; it rests with him to say whether he will continue to blockade you, or whether he will give you a fair opportunity of contending with him in the field. If we are to judge by the publications in France, he will decide upon the former, and in this he will judge wisely.—Thus, Sir, have I terminated the history of the Spanish contest, bringing before your view as the result of all your victories, of all your expenditure in men and money, of all your exertions, and of all your waste of the military resources of this country, the position of your army at Lisbon, insulated and incapable of acting, but at the discretion of the enemy.—Your allies in every other part of the Peninsula overwhelmed, and only manifesting partial and unavailable hostility.—Your own resources exhausted, and your hopes of ultimate success, to every mind which is not blinded by enthusiasm, completely annihilated. Such is the result of a system founded upon the principle, of attempting to subdue Buonaparté by the force of your armies on the continent; such is the result which you have brought upon yourselves, by acting throughout as principals in a contest, which you undertook as auxiliaries only.

Will any man say that this has been a wise system? will any man who is not determined, under any circumstances, to support the measures of a weak and misguided government, contend that it has been successful; that it has answered either the promises to your allies, or the hopes to your countries; that it has either contributed to their security or to your own benefit?—I shall be condemned for endeavouring to throw discredit on the conduct of our troops. Sir, if I am so condemned, it will be unjust towards me. I condemn not the troops or the commander; I applaud them, I admire their valour, I venerate their deeds, I am proud as an Englishman to bear my testimony to them, but I do deprecate, and I shall never cease to deprecate, the cruel manner in which their valour has been lost to this country and to Europe.

Sir, we have been reproached on this side of the House, with hazarding false predictions; we have been taunted with having held out to the country the ultimate failure of our objects in Spain. Sir, I am prepared to defend at this moment such predictions; I still maintain that you will not and cannot by such a system either relieve your allies or benefit yourselves; that in pursuing it, the former must surrender, and you will (if you are not already) be placed in a situation of the most imminent peril.—It is not enough for gentlemen to reproach us for such predictions, by saying they have not yet come to pass; it is incumbent upon those who maintain that success has attended their system, to prove it to the satisfaction of the House and of the country; to prove how far the cause of our allies has been supported, or the interests of Great Britain preserved.—Sir, I shall take the liberty now of adverting to those arguments which have been advanced by the chancellor of the exchequer, and others, upon this and former occasions, in defence of this system, and in proof of the advantageous situation in which we are placed at this moment by our contest in Portugal. I shall most particularly refer to a speech made a few nights ago, by a right hon. gent. (Mr. Canning) at too late a period in the night to enable me to make such reply to it as I thought it required, but with his permission I shall now state the points which he so emphatically and so eloquently described, and I shall be able to shew, that so far from our situation or our prospects, being improved, they have gradually diminished, and are now become, in my judgment, hopeless towards Spain.—The first argument was maintained on the ground that the contest in Spain checked the ambitious views of Buonaparté on the Continent.—Is it meant by such an argument, to say that it has checked these views, or that it is now arrived at such a state as to impede his further objects? if the former, let me bring before the House, the views he has disclosed, and the objects he has accomplished during the course of this contest.—Has he not completely subjugated the empire of Germany? Has he not created kings, deposed kings, parcelled out kingdoms, destroyed kingdoms, added dominions to his own? What is his situation at this moment, is he checked in his continental views? Is he not directing from his closet in the Thuilleries every cabinet in Europe? What state, what power dare contend against or dispute his mandate? Do we see him employing his troops in any part of Europe? Has he moved a single military man? Is it necessary for him to do more than issue his order to be obeyed? His will is the law throughout Europe, and are such the proofs that his continental views are checked by the employment he finds in the Peninsula of Spain.—Again, it has been said that this is the most expensive war in which he has ever been engaged, and one in which he has suffered more in loss of men.—Let us examine as to the expence which he is supposed to have been led into. In all his former conquests it is urged that he has made the conquered country pay for its subjugation; that he has raised from the conquered a contribution sufficient to defray the whole expences of his conquest. It does not appear to me, Sir, that this system has been abandoned in the instance of Spain; we are yet to learn that Spain has not herself contributed by payments to her subjugator; we are yet to learn that Buonaparté has not extracted from that devoted country the last shilling she had to subscribe; that she has not furnished to his armies supplies of every denomination; but if we wanted confirmation of the little difficulty which France has sustained in this contest, in her military expences, let me bring to the recollection of the House the statement which was made by the government of that country in the last exposé, presented to the senate, of the state of her finance, and there it will be found that so far from the war in Spain having added to the difficulties of France, Buonaparté assures his people that he has been enabled to carry on the contest in Spain, and shall be enabled to accomplish the delivery of that country without calling for one shilling of additional burthen of his people. It does not appear by anyone act, or by any one document, that the expences of his army have exceeded the ordinary expence of his great and powerful military establishment. Are these proofs of the expence of this war? are these proofs that his resources are exhausted?—With respect to the loss of men, I remember it to have been said on the first day of this session, by an honourable and eloquent member of this House (Mr. Milner) that nearly 600,000 men had pawed the Pyrenees, and not more than 200,000 were now remaining in the Peninsula. Sir, I think this calculation fallacious; first it should be remembered, that when Buonaparté found himself obliged to quit the Peninsula, to undertake the subjugation of Austria, he took with him a very large body of troops from Spain, and therefore their numbers should be subtracted from the 600,000; but supposing he had consumed to the amount stated, we must never forget that Buonaparté reigns over a population of not less than 40 millions of people; that he commands the military service of his subjects; that those subjects do not enjoy, as we, thank God, are capable of doing, the free exercise of our judgment as to military service; with him every man is a soldier, must do the duty of a soldier, and his conscriptions enable him to fill his ranks at all limes with out difficulty or expence. Therefore do not let us flatter ourselves that he will be exhausted by his loss of men in the Peninsula, and that he will relax in his contest, or sink under it from the failure-in the number of his armies. We have seen him contending in Spain, employing the whole of our force in that country, and yet with an army on foot at the same lime in Germany of upwards of 100,000 men. Should not such experience prove to us the fallacy of such calculations? let us not persist in them.

The next argument which has been mentioned in support of this system, is one which I should have thought, the circumstances which have occurred in the course of the last 12 months would have completely answered; namely, that it diverts his attention from England, and paralizes his efforts against this country.—Can any man reflect upon what has lately passed, and say to himself, or believe for one moment, that Buonaparté is idle or has been inactive in his exertions against this country? Does it not appear that while he is employing our troops, and exhausting our utmost resources in the Peninsula, he is moving every engine, exercising all his authority, to annihilate and extinguish our commerce? Has he not greatly succeeded in this attempt? Has he not excluded from every country in Europe, our manufactures? Has he not reduced our merchants to that state, as to make it necessary for the country to aid them with a loan of six millions of money? Are these proofs that his exertions are paralized, that his attention is diverted from this country? Let us look to another symptom of such inactivity; have we not witnessed within these few days the first minister of marine in this country, justify to parliament the necessity of an increase in the annual expenditure of the navy, on the ground that Buonaparté had of late so increased his shipping, so improved his ports, so strengthened and established his harbours, as to lender more exertions and more vigilance, and greater numbers necessary for this country? were we not told that he had now in a state of equipment 114 sail of the line, when we have only 100? I mention not this, Sir, as a subject of alarm; no, I am confident that were his numbers double, let our brave and gallant tars but meet his flags, and he will again experience that his ships only sail to be subdued. But can it be said, that he is idle under such proof of his vigour and activity, or that his resentment, animosity, and hatred to his country sleeps? There is but one more argument which occurs to me as having been brought forward, and it is one which, in my mind, is more extravagant than any of those which I have already touched upon. The argument was supported on the ground that any check, any overthrow at this time to the army of the French in the Peninsula, would go further to shake the foundation of his empire, and place Buonaparté in greater difficulty than could, have been hoped for, at any other period of his extraordinary career.—Here again I must refer to experience from the past, as the best test for our judgment on the future.—Here I must bring to the recollection of the House, and of the country, the situations of difficulty and danger in which he has at times been placed, and beg that a comparison may be formed between those, and such as might be supposed to arise from the overthrow of Massena. Have we not seen him beated on the banks of the Danaube, in the heart of an enemy's country? Can we forget the defeat he sustained at Asperne? Can we fail to look back to the danger with which he appeared at that moment surrounded, opposed by an army of 150,000 of the best disciplined troops in the world, commanded by the ablest commanders? Can we forget how he rose from these difficulties, how he strengthened his means, and demonstrated those great and powerful resources which enabled him to terminate the tremendous warfare in which he was engaged by the complete and entire accomplishment of his objects, namely, the overthrow of the Austrian armies, and the subjugation of its empire?—Again let me bring back to the recollection of the House the fearful danger with which he was threatened in his campaign in Poland; can we forget that there again he was at one time exhausted in men, in money, in supplies, and had even lost the confidence of those who served under him? Did he sink under these accumulated difficulties? did he relax in his exertions, or lower his tone of menace and command? No, he recruited his armies from the most distant extremity of his empire; he brought troops from Italy, from the Pyrenees, from every quarter of the globe, and terminated this contest with the same success, the same accomplishment of his objects, which he has ever attained. After the experience we have had of these events, is it possible for any man, however sanguine, however wedded to the war in Portugal, to deceive himself into the belief that any check winch his army sustained, or even the total overthrow and destruction of marshal Massena, would loosen one nail in the iron crown of this modern Charlemaigne. Away then with such idle, such impotent reasoning.

I am conscious that I have trespassed long on the patience of the House, but it was impossible for me to allow this proposition to be granted, without stating, as strongly as I was enabled, my objections to the system which has been pursued by our government, and which again I must maintain has placed us in the unfortunate dilemma, as to leave us no option upon the grant of this sum for the maintenance of the Portuguese troops. Before I sit down I must again guard myself against the possibility of being charged with censuring or condemning the conduct of our army On the contrary, no man in this country is more ready to bear testimony to its good conduct, no Englishman is more proud of its valor, discipline, patience, and unconquerable spirit. With respect to its officers. I can only say that their merits surpass all power of praise; and I should indeed be wanting to every feeling of my heart, to every conviction of my mind, if I was not forward to add my tribute of applause and admiration to the skill, the courage, the indefatigable exertions of my gallant and noble friend, the commander in chief. To his spirit, to his talents, the country and the army owe every thing that has been achieved; what man could do, he has done; but I must ever lament that what is done, can never, from the nature of its policy, be beneficial either to our allies or to this country. I deprecate the system which has led us to act as principals instead of auxiliaries in this war; a system which every day furnishes to my mind, stronger and more convincing proofs, that it must eventually lead to our destruction; you may protract the period, it is not perhaps the interest of Buonaparté to bring the contest to an immediate issue, but be it sooner or later, the result, in my judgment, is inevitable, if the system is pursued.

Mr. Peele

said, that he had listened to the speech of the hon. gent. who spoke last with great attention, but could not agree with him in the statements he had made, nor in the conclusions he had drawn. Several of the arguments he had used were such as might be applied with some propriety in the last session, but were totally inapplicable at present. Last year when the House could only proceed upon conjecture, there was naturally great variance of opinion. There was then plausible ground for the doubts and differences which agitated the minds of men. The scepticism and despondent feelings of the hon. gentlemen opposite were then in some measure authorised by the recollection that France had just concluded a peace with Austria, and was prepared to employ its whole force in the Peninsula. We had now had experience of these additional levies, and could frame our calculations upon a sure foundation. The Portuguese had shown themselves to be equal to the combat, and warranted us in entertaining a sanguine expectation of their future exertions. Under what circumstances then did his Majesty now call upon the House to renew the Grant of aid to Portugal? What last year was expectation, now was proof: what then was doubt, was now become certainty: what then was apprehension, was now confidence. The hon. gentleman had referred to speeches made on former occasions, and had, as usual, predicted evils, because he did not find them in existence. This, however, he thought, was a mode of treating the subject which came with rather a bad grace from that quarter, at the present moment, and was a species of defence very easily and very readily resorted to by those who had nothing better to set up. What had been the fate of those predictions which so boldly pronounced the unfitness of the Portuguese levies? We had been asked, what would become of the Portuguese armies in the event of our abandoning that country? Calumny, little, he conceived, in unison with genuine British feelings, had been lavished on their faithful and persevering allies. For his own part, he must deprecate and condemn the mode which bad been so industriously made use of to influence the public mind against Portugal, and to excite unfavourable impressions respecting the issue of the campaign in that country, by publications of several descriptions, which were issued daily, weekly, and monthly, aye, and he could add quarterly, from the press. They had been tauntingly told, too, that the British name was unpopular on the Continent—that while France improved the institutions and reformed the governments of Spain and Portugal, we made alliance with their weakness and corruption. France was represented as conciliating the affections of the people by her works of regeneration; if so, what was the return she had met with from the rugged and ungrateful people of Portugal? They had united heart and hand in resistance to the invader, and were now in arms against him in greater numbers than had ever before been witnessed in that country. They had not waited to stipulate reform, before they took up arms to resist the aggressor. Criticisms had once been passed on the impolicy of dispersing our force and wasting its strength in a multitude of unconnected operations; now the censure was, that that force was concentrated. The defence of the present measure, he conceived, might be rested, not only on its own merits, but on the concessions made by the hon. gentleman himself. It appeared extraordinary to him that it should seem to any hon. member necessary that the battles of Britain should be fought only on her own shores; for surely those who were anxious for her defence, and who saw the matter in an unprejudiced light, could not wish to see her armies unemployed, and would not suppose that they were idly to look on, while Buonaparte was drawing parallels and occupying heights, preparatory to his attack, and that no effort should be made to prevent his operations. It was something, in his estimation, that the fatal hour of that conflict had been at least deferred. Let the length of the war in Spain be but contrasted with the duration of those wars in which Buonaparte had strid- ed with such rapidity over the prostrate dynasties of Europe. If, indeed, it was to be held that his march was irresistible, and that the Empire of the West must be finally established; if it was determined to be right that Europe should crouch before the Usurper, the arguments which had been urged that night must be admitted to be incontrovertible. But if this doctrine was deserving only of contempt, then he could safely venture to say, that the Continent did not present an arena more fertile of advantage than the present, scene of military action. The hon. gentleman had argued that the enemy could easily repair a defeat, or retrieve any disaster that might befall him. He remembered when much had been said in that House, and out of it, of the moral effect of one victory in facilitating the attainment of another—and there was truth in the remark: but he would ask, whether this effect was incapable of operating but in one direction? We had heard of the fate of Spain being decided on the Danube; but were British victories alone to be barren and unproductive in their consequences? Was the victorious career of an army like a talisman, whose magic effect extended from East to West, but could not be felt in an opposite course? If he wanted a criterion by which to form a judgment of the conduct of the war in Spain, he would look to the columns of the Moniteur forks panegyric—he would see in its altered tone, in its transition from insult to respect, the extorted confession of our glory and their reproach—and he would ask the House whether they needed any other document on which to found their vote? If it did appear, that with one-sixth part of our own military force we employed in Spain and Portugal one-half of the enemy's disposable strength, surely he might assume that it was the interest of the country to persist in the struggle, and to court the trial for an honourable issue.

Having dwelt so far upon the general question of the policy of the campaign, he should now beg leave to make a few observations upon the campaign itself. It would be unnecessary for him to dwell on the consummate skill and transcendant ability of the general who conducted it. But he could not help troubling the House with one or two observations on what had fallen from a gallant general opposite (general Tarleton), on a former evening. They had been told by that gallant general that lord Wellington was guilty of a gross error in not attacking marshal Ney before the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo; but he had totally overlooked the circumstances which would hate rendered such a measure impracticable. The forces of lord Wellington were reduced by detachments being disposed of at different points; while the French general had concentrated a body of 60,000 men, and had a great superiority of cavalry, in a situation where that description of force was most capable of acting. The accusers of lord Wellington had throughout manifested the greatest inconsistency; for while they at one period condemned his rashness, they inveighed at another against his caution. And why this latter accusation? Because he did not attack the enemy with a force, half of which was composed of those reviled and calumniated Portuguese. But if lord Wellington had done so, and been defeated, what then would have been the language of the gallant general and of those who agreed with him in opinion? Why, they would then have had recourse to their predictions, and have reviled the measures which they now recommended.—The hon. member then defended the whole conduct of the campaign, and said, that the gallant general opposite had forgotten every thing relative to the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo but its fall. He had not recollected its gallant defence, nor bestowed one eulogium on its immortal defenders. On the whole, he was bold to say, that if our army was at this moment even on the point of embarkation, yet much had been gained. Nor was it a matter of small importance that the evil day was kept off, even for one year, which had given to France a check and to the Continent of Europe a respite. Another advantage had resulted from the campaigns in the Peninsula; for it was manifested to Europe, that the character of the French army was greatly declined from what it had been; and he felt assured, that the people of France did not look on it with the same confidence, since it had been proved that their career of victory was interrupted. He believed, too, that the prince of Essling would recollect with regret, the glories of general Massena; and the dukes of Elchingen and Dalmatia seek for the memorials of their fame under the names of Ney and of Soult.—A right hon. gent. had made observations, on a former night, upon the disposition of the Spanish forces, and the sort of warfare which they carried on; but it appeared to him rather hard to blame the Spaniards for adopting the very advice which had been given them by the gentlemen on the opposite side; not to commit the fate of their country by the rashness of resorting to general actions. The system on which they now acted was the most destructive to the enemy which could be pursued; and he believed that in the last ten months the French had by it lost 40,000 men. He had to apologize to the House for trespassing so long on their attention, and should say little more; but he could not help reminding them, that perhaps at this very hour, while they were deliberating on the vote which they should give, lord Wellington might be preparing for action to-morrow; and when he reflected on the venal abuse which had been disseminated against that illustrious character, he felt a hope that if a momentary irritation should ruffle, his temper on seeing those malicious effusions, he would console himself by the general feeling which existed in his favour—for his country would remember, that he had resigned every comfort in order to fight her battles and defend her liberties; nor would his glory be tarnished by the envy of rivals, or the voice of faction. He cherished the sanguine expectation that the day would soon arrive, when another transcendant victory would silence the tongue of envy, and the cavils of party animosity; when the British Commander would be hailed by the unanimous voice of his country, with the sentiment addressed on a memorable occasion to another illustrious character, "Invidiam gloriâ superasti."

General Tarleton

was disposed to give the hon. gent. who spoke last every degree of praise for the speech with which he had come down to the House, and which was worthy of him, or of the most eloquent member in it; but he denied that it contained any answer to the arguments which had been advanced. The hon. gent. had entered into a very diffuse eulogy on lord Wellington; but he thought it might be comprised in a very short sentence, as his situation was not different from that of any other officer who might be appointed to lead the armies of his country. He defended himself against the charge of having attributed gross neglect of duty to lord Wellington in not having attacked Ney; as he, at the time alluded to, distinctly stated that there were no documents before the House which could enable them to judge of the merit of his proceedings. He had referred to the sacrifices we had made in the Peninsula. We had sent thither 50,000 men, and we had lost the whole of the Peninsula, except that spot which lay between Cartaxo and Lisbon; in addition to which, we had also sent to Portugal two million sterling in bullion. We had, during the whole period we were engaged in the contest, been making retrograde movements, and ruin alone could be the result. He said he had never heard any charge whispered against general Moore. He had been sent to a campaign in which no man could be successful. He had acted like a brave, determined, and high-minded officer: and he had sealed his character with his blood. Every thing that surrounded him was covered by distress, and there was nothing at any time to be expected from the enterprize in which he was engaged. As to the question before the House, he was decidedly of opinion that the House should not, in the present state of commercial distress, send two millions more to Portugal. He could demonstrate that the Portuguese soldiers could have been had for one-third less than that which was now paid them. He proceeded to shew that the Portuguese troops had never been of any actual service. They had never been what they ought to have been—a manœuvering army, such as our local militia would have been with the same training. The present war, if it was to be carried on in the Peninsula, must be a warfare of finance; it could never be attended with any advantage; and the fatal truth must at length be told, that we could not maintain ourselves in that country. The question was not now, how our army was to get away out of Portugal; but, when that should come to be the case, he was afraid it would be found to be a difficult matter. Gentlemen opposite agreed that this country must go through the purgatory of invasion; but he was afraid if affairs went on in their present state they must also encounter the purgatory of a revolution. He looked to the matter in a more manly manner than those on the other side did. They viewed it in a dastardly point of view. He was for fighting with full numbers. Gentlemen opposite seemed to wish to wait till the country had encountered every disaster, and till their means were diminished, and the spirits of their troops broken by defeats in other quarters. On these grounds he was against the grant.

The Resolution was then put, and agreed to without a division.