§ The order of the day for taking into consideration the Prince Regent's Message of yesterday being read,
rose and spoke to the following effect:—In rising to call the attention of the House to the gracious Message of the Prince Regent, now read from the Chair, I assure the House, that, at no period of my political life, and under no circumstances which I can recollect, have I ever felt more deeply or more sincerely, the importance of those considerations which arise from passing events, or which may be produced by the counsels growing out of those events, than I do on the present occasion. It has been my lot, during almost all the discussions which have taken place in this House, in the last and present session, to endeavour to direct the attention of Parliament to those events which were rapidly taking place, and which we might flatter ourselves, without appearing too sanguine, were likely, not only to deliver the world from those dangers which it had ultimately passed through, but to conduct it to a state of permanent pacification; and, although so desirable a state of things might not take place with all the precipitancy which ardent minds might hope for, yet that we should finally be led to that ancient social system, which had long predominated in Europe, and of the enjoyment of which we had been too long deprived. Whatever difference of opinion may have prevailed, between the gentlemen who sit on the other side of the House, and those who are seated on this, with respect to certain details connected with the arrangements made for the security of the peace of Europe—yet this I may say, that a complete coincidence of opinion has existed as to the principle which was acted upon. The details might have been more skilfully managed; but, I am sure, every individual, however he might disapprove of minor parts of the arrangement, must have been gratified at seeing a state 418 of things likely to arise in Europe, which would again present to the world such a mass of independent Powers, endued with all the qualities calculated to render them, secure, with reference to each other, and, at the same time, possessing that degree of control, which would produce an effectual resistance against any attempt made to destroy the system, as must have tended to give permanent peace to the earth. I am sure every reflecting mind must have derived pleasure from the thought, that the world was likely again to be governed by a well-balanced system of political authority: instead of being, as was unfortunately the case for the last 20 years, plundered, and persecuted, and oppressed by one overweening Power, which endeavoured to engulph and swallow up every other state in Europe. This favourable prospect has been overshadowed by the events that have recently happened in France—and which, if they do not menace with destruction the result of the efforts and labours of the last twenty years,—the result of the mighty exertions of this nation—(an epithet which I may well apply to them, without meaning to degrade or disparage the exertions of other countries)—united with the labours of the different States, which assisted in restoring Europe to its present situation—certainly cannot be contemplated without considerable apprehension. That the stability of the present situation of Europe is endangered by the late events in France, no person who seriously reflects on them, can entertain a doubt. It is impossible for any individual to call the fact in question. For, if a military chief, whose only pretensions to the situation in which he now stands, are founded on the attachment of an army—and if a military system is to be again established in France—it is not difficult to conceive what the result will be. We know the effect which the late revolution in the politics of France has already had on the other Powers of Europe. If that military chief, and the French army, find the peace so contrary to their favourite views, as it evidently appears they do, can any doubt be reasonably entertained as to the course they will adopt? I am sure, Sir, the House will feel with me, that enough was done to show, that this was not a revolution growing out of the sentiments of the French people. It was a revolution effected by the army—effected by artifice—and by that sort of overweening influence, which a person 419 long at the head of a military system, and addressing himself to great military bodies, may be supposed to have possessed and exerted. If that system be again erected in France—whether at this immediate moment, or at a period more remote—it must, both politically and morally, either inflict on Europe all those calamities from which she had escaped, by exertions the most extraordinary that were to be found in the history of the world, or we must be compelled to depart from, and turn our backs on that ancient social system, which we were anxious again to enjoy; when the military character would not be predominant, but would be merged in the general mass of the community, and take its place and order among the other ranks of society. I feel the great considerations to which this immense and awful subject leads; for we must all feel, after the arduous struggle this country has gone through—after a war of three or four-and-twenty years continuance—that a fresh contest, commenced even under the most ordinary circumstances that could present themselves, would be an event involving the most weighty and serious points of reflection, that could be entertained by the reflecting mind of Parliament. But, when we look to a question, either of absolute war, or of a peace of precaution, which must be joined with the consideration of those social relations belonging to a natural or unnatural constitution of the world, I do feel, that the subject is the most serious, the most awful, that ever attracted the attention of Parliament—and that an imperative duty devolves on us to examine it in the most grave and deliberate manner. If I felt that I was calling on Parliament, at this time, or that I was in a condition to call on Parliament, to discuss all those views which belong to the question—and more particularly those which, in my conscience, I believe, ought to guide their decision on this subject—I should certainly proceed at greater length. But, at the present moment, I should be to blame, if I precipitated any counsels of state, respecting this question, without, at the same time, giving full information to the House. As the question is not, however, in that state, in which I can lay before the House the manner in which the prerogative, placed, for the benefit of the people, in the hands of the Crown, may have been used, I shall not, advert to the various points which bear on the subject, and which, at another period, 420 it will be proper to submit to Parliament. I am rather disposed to follow the course pursued, on a former evening, by a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Ponsonby), and to defer much that might be offered on the question, until we know whether the state of precaution in which the country is now placed, shall ultimately terminate in peace or war. With this feeling, I wish to narrow the question to those points on which I think the House, in its present situation, may fairly be called to decide, rather than, by anticipation, to enter into those views, which, though they bear strongly on the subject, are more proper for future consideration.
The Prince Regent's most gracious Message states, that events have taken place in a neighbouring kingdom, in direct contravention of the engagements made in the treaty of Fontainbleau, not only with reference to that Treaty, but as far as it formed the basis of the Treaty of Paris; necessarily and naturally implying, as the contravention of all treaties must, a justifiable cause of war. If this Government and its allies think, under all the circumstances, that such a state of things has arisen, as calls for every effort of precaution, I apprehend there are few persons in this House disposed to doubt the propriety of the decision. Nor do I believe that any person, either within those walls or without them, can doubt, that the Executive is equally called upon to complete those measures, in conjunction with the allies of the country by whose exertions the world was saved, which Parliament, being impelled by a series of extraordinary circumstances, demanding vigorous efforts, may be disposed to sanction. The nature of those measures, and the object to be attained, must remain subjects of ulterior consideration. I am sure the House would not wish, prematurely to draw from ministers, the nature of the event contemplated—its probable operation—or the mode in which Europe is to be protected, in future, against the dangers with which it is now threatened. In the present posture of public affairs, I am convinced no gentleman would call for such a disclosure. In order to preserve entire the control of Parliament over the executive servants of the Crown, who know that they cannot prosecute any design, not only without the sanction, but without the assistance of the strong arm of the Legislature, I conceive that a certain extent of confidence is necessary. It is not more 421 contrary to the prerogative of the Crown, than it is hostile to the controlling power of Parliament, for gentlemen, without due information, on narrow, abstract views of important questions, to assume to themselves the premature exercise of that power which ultimately belongs to them, as possessing a final control over the acts of the Crown. It is, Sir, manifestly wrong to give a hasty and improvident opinion on transactions of the most complicated nature at a moment when the House is necessarily ignorant of the details. The power of censuring or of approving, can only be exercised with a sound discretion, and honourably to the character of Parliament, when transactions have arrived at a stage where all the circumstances of the case are constitutionally laid before them.
Sir, with this feeling of the course that ought to be adopted, I shall narrow my view of the question to the expression of those opinions, which, I think, the Message of the Prince Regent demands; namely, that the events which have taken place in France, in avowed contravention of the engagements entered into with the Allies, have created a state of things so alarming, that the British empire cannot remain in any other than an armed posture—that Parliament cannot but express their gratification at the steps which have been taken, by the Government of this country, to form a union with those Powers who have been fellow-labourers with us in restoring the peace of Europe—and, that in such a juncture of affairs, the House are ready to give the Executive Government every assistance towards the promotion of this important object; at the same time reserving their opinion on ulterior measures, until they are in possession of the necessary information. I should hope, Sir, that the discussion, on the present occasion, would not be carried beyond these limits; but I certainly feel that I should not discharge what I owe to the subject and to the House, if I did not take this occasion to submit to it, some considerations which must, ultimately, have great weight on both sides of this arduous question—wheiher the final result be peace or war? I should also feel, that I had not discharged my duty, if I did not endeavour to relieve the House and the public from many misrepresentations and delusions which have prevailed with respect to the conduct of the British Government and our allies. An impression has undoubtedly gone abroad—which, 422 when the House examines the fact, will be found exceedingly erroneous—that the arrangements made, prior to the peace of Paris, were improvident and ill-advised—that no considerations of general policy could justify such arrangements—and that, if the result had been, unfortunately for the world, again to place at risk and hazard, the continuance of tranquillity, the blame is alone imputable to the Allies. These untoward events, it is said, have arisen solely from their counsels, and cannot be attributed to any other cause. Almost every person with whom I have conversed, has indulged in this feeling. It is, naturally enough, the custom of mankind, and I mention it not as a reproach to the general wisdom of human nature, where serious dangers threaten, on political occasions, to throw the blame on those who were furnished with responsible powers, and to accuse them with having acted improvidently and unwisely. I have heard it said, that when the Treaty of Fontainbleau was concluded, the Allies acted with a foolish generosity, without any reference to true policy—that they had granted to Buonaparté an asylum which he was liable to abuse—and that his power had, in consequence, been reestablished. But Buonaparté has not made use of any of the apologies which have been offered for his conduct. He has unblushingly avowed the principles which have guided his conduct. Instead of complaining of any breach of the engagements entered into with him (and, if he had made such a charge, I could shew the House that he had imputed to the Allies that which never had been committed,) he has, in the very first instance, shown a complete contempt for all treaties and arrangements whatever. He has not concealed from the world, that no control or limit shall confine his power, except what the failure of his means might impose. He has shown himself no longer to be controlled by treaties. He has shown himself, in the pursuit of his views, to be bounded only by his inability to proceed. He has set at nought every ordinary tie—and he has, if I may use the word, in describing a series of conduct, which does not present one particle of morality, honestly placed himself on the pedestal of power, and boldly avowed his acts. He calls himself Emperor of France, impiously, "by the Grace of God;" and he is, in no degree, fettered in the exercise of his authority, by any of 423 those acts, which he, for the moment, and to deceive the world, agreed to. Sooner than shed one drop of French blood, he declared that he would abandon France and his family—and, in violation of this statement, he now returns to that country—not in consequence of any new request—not in consequence of a defeasance of any engagement that had been entered into with him—but in absolute defiance of the most explicit stipulations that human foresight could devise. Such is the situation under which that individual returned to power.
Sir, I was saying, that the general impression which prevailed was, that the Allies, in concluding the Treaty of Fontainbleau, had done a gratuitous act, which they might have avoided. Generosity certainly was the prevailing feature which marked the policy of the Allies towards France, and whatever calamities may arise to the world from the transaction in question, I, for one, shall never lament, that the Powers who inarched to the gates of Paris, did act on that generous principle, and thereby showed their deference to the rights and feelings of the people. That principle is one, of which, I am convinced, a British Parliament will always express its approbation. It is the only great, and strong, and true one; and Parliament has never omitted any occasion, where it could be recognised and supported, of so doing. I am sure, I shall not have to regret, on account of the display of any contrary feeling in this House, that it there was an error in the conduct of the Allies towards France, it was on the side of generosity. The exercise of that principle is due to all countries, until they do something which forbids it—until they prevent their opponents from being generous to them, without risking the imputation of being unjust and ruinous to themselves. If, therefore, Sir, any blame be imputable in this transaction, I feel confident that it is to be found on the right side; for whatever may hereafter be the relative situation of France and the rest of Europe, the former can never assert, that the Allies harboured an intention of acting ungenerously by her. A peace was concluded with France, which not only secured her former extent of territory, but which granted an increase of it; nor was she visited with any of those grievous contributions which were levied by the. French armies wherever they went. All the repositories of art which adorned 424 her capital were left untouched; and the whole of that forbearance was exercised from a wish to conciliate the social feelings of the people, by leaving no badge of their humiliation, no mark that might recall their disasters and defeats.
Now, Sir, the fact is, that when the treaty of Fontainbleau was signed, Buonaparté could not be considered, in any degree, practically speaking, within the power of the Allies. I do not mean to say, that a protracted war might not have led to his capture, or driven him from the country. But when that treaty was signed, as will be seen from the papers on the table—and here I can speak with the more confidence, because I am not called on to say any thing in my own behalf, because it was agreed to when I was not in a situation to alter it—it was sanctioned by the Emperor of Russia, under such imperious circumstances as would justify the House in considering it not merely a treaty of generosity, but of policy. The fact was, that, after the capital was taken by the Allies, and Napoleon had proceeded to Fontainbleau, he was at the head of a very considerable body of troops, ready to act in his support; and there was no reason to presume, but rather the contrary, that the corps outstanding in the other parts of France, would not also, as they had previously done, continue to espouse his cause. There was not even a certainty, that the troops whom marshal Marmont had paralysed, on the other side, would remain faithful to the Provisional Government. In short, the question then was, whether the treaty of Fontainbleau, should be agreed to, or whether the war should be pushed to the utmost extremity? The decision which took place, in favour of the former proceeding, was not that of the Emperor of Russia alone; it was also supported by the Provisional Government of France, acting for the interests of the Bourbon family, and with a view to their restoration. It was, therefore, a matter of policy and not of generosity, to agree to an arrangement which brought the contest to an end, instead of carrying on a protracted war in the heart of France.
When I arrived in Paris, as will be seen by the papers, this question was, in fact, decided; an assurance having been given to Buonaparté, with respect to the general engagement, and also with reference to the specific arrangements made at Elba. Seeing the obvious danger of placing a person who had so recently wielded the 425 power of France so immediately in the neighbourhood of his former empire, and also in the neighbourhood of another part of Europe, which might be influenced by sentiments favourable to him, I thought it my duty to make every opposition in my power to the arrangement. But, on a further examination of the subject, the difficulty of finding a situation, at once free from the dangers I apprehended, and, at the same time, answering the character which Buonaparté stipulated for in his negociation, induced me to withdraw my opposition; making, however, some alteration in the details. Looking to the policy of settling the business amicably, instead of proceeding farther with the war, I ceased to oppose the place of retreat which had been provided; and I think the House will feel with me, that when the utmost result which could have been anticipated from a prolongation of the contest would be either the capture or the escape of Buonaparté, it would have been impolitic to continue that contest for such a purpose, and to make it determinable upon such an event. It was quite impossible for the parties to Buonaparté's abdication to have speculated on the recent conduct which he adopted, even if it were in their power effectually to have guarded against it; besides, the House must see that it was unlikely the contest would be prosecuted with the same spirit, if such a determination was avowed. The plain fact was, that the question among the Allied Powers, relative to this point, was not decided under the circumstance of Buonaparté being within their grasp; for such was not the case; he was not so situated, but was placed in a situation, and with a force immediately about his person, which was entitled to serious consideration; and when combined with other troops, then scattered about the country, and his opportunities of uniting them with those of marshal Soult, and other generals in the south of France, it became a matter of plain expediency to calculate his means of prolonging the warfare, and to consider the alternative which might prevent such an event. This was the plain fact which led to his term of security.
With respect to the residence and situation of this personage at Elba, whatever may be my own individual opinion upon the subject of the arrangement which gave to him that jurisdiction—whatever objections I may have had from the beginning to this settlement, and the opportunities 426 its locality afforded for the realization of what has unhappily since occurred, there can, I trust, exist but one feeling among liberal minds, and that is, that when this island was given to Buonaparté for his residence, that residence should comprise the portion of fair and free liberty, which was then due to a person in his situation. When the island was secured to him by treaty, it was of course done with as much exercise of personal liberty as became the compact: it was never in the contemplation of the parties that he should be a prisoner within that settlement; that he should be the compulsory inmate of any tower, or fortress, or citadel—they never meant that he should be so placed, or that he should be deprived of sea excursions in the vicinity of the island, for fair purposes of recreation. In fact, if such a jealous stipulation had been made, it would have afforded him the opportunity of making that the veil of his own suspicions, and the extenuation of his own infraction. Under this cloak he would have sought the justification of his own non-fulfilment of the treaty, and would have charged it upon the menacing treatment which had been adopted towards him; he would have then stood differently in the eyes of the world from his present position, which left him without a shadow of defence, and exposed him to all Europe, as an open violator of his faith. A report has gone abroad, that if those who placed him at Elba, had omitted any precautionary security, which rationally suggested itself, to protect the world from the calamities consequent upon the return of this man to his former station in France, that in such a case they incurred a dreadful responsibility. Now, Sir, I have no hesitation to answer this argument. The Allied Powers who concurred in the treaty of Fontainbleau never intended to exercise a police, or any system of espionage either within or without the residence which they had ceded to him; it was never in their contemplation to establish a naval police to hem him in, or prevent this man's committing himself, as he has done, to his fortunes; in fact, if they were so inclined, they were without the means of enforcing such a system, for the best authorities were of opinion that it was absolutely and physically impossible to draw a line of circumvallation around Elba; and for this very conclusive reason, that, considering the variation of weather, and a variety of other circumstances, 427 which could not be controlled, the whole British navy would be inadequate for such a purpose. If this force had been actually there, they could not have circumscribed Buonaparté in the manner in which some persons expected he should have been, without a violation of the treaty which had been granted him. It was open to argument that this treaty was wrong, that it should not have been conceded. Points of this description were certainly fair for discussion; but having once been made, it was clear from the face of the document, that any restrictions could not have been imposed without a breach of the treaty itself; by this he was invested with the entire sovereignty of the island; he was also assigned a sort of naval equipment, certainly upon a small scale, but one which allotted him a flag, and which it was not extraordinary to meet on the neighbouring sea; one of his vessels was constantly seen for ordinary purposes in several of the ports of the Mediterranean. The British officer commanding on that station had not the power of visiting these vessels whenever they were occasionally met. Had he known that Buonaparté was on board with an armed equipment, he would have exercised that right, there can be no doubt, and would hare been justified in doing so; but he was not authorized, nor would it have been consistent with the treaty, to have empowered him on all occasions to use a right of visitation with a flag of this description. Elba, it is true, is an insulated position, but it has considerable commercial intercouse among other places with the different ports in the Mediterranean; and unless this search and examination could have been exercised in every instance throughout the whole range of the Elbese trade, no protection would have been insured by it; he would therefore have had means and opportunities enough of effecting his object: for it cannot be disguised, that the danger did not arise from the immediate force of his equipment; this was in itself quite insignificant: the danger would have been precisely the same, had he proceeded in any disguise which he might have assumed, and personally landed in any of the ports of the Continent. I have not the least doubt, Sir, the effect would have been exactly similar. But I repeat, that our Government never undertook to establish a police at Elba. Colonel Campbell was certainly there for the purpose of occasionally communicating with 428 our Government upon such matters as might pass under his observation, both there and in Italy, where at that time we had no accredited agent; he was there at first merely as one of the conductors according to the Treaty, and I afterwards suffered him to remain between that island and Leghorn, for the purpose I have mentioned; but nothing more was ever contemplated. It would have been out of colonel Campbell's power to have attempted any thing further: he could not have done it; for the fact was, that although at first treated with familiarity by Buonaparté, his visits were subsequently disapproved of, and it was even hinted that if they were repeated, he should withdraw from the island; latterly he found the greatest difficulty in obtaining an interview with Buonaparté, so completely did the latter surround himself with imperial etiquette. Of the inefficacy of any thing which colonel Campbell could have done, were he on the spot to have attempted the experiment, I need only mention the following fact: a number of vessels from all nations were in the habit of arriving for trading purposes in the three principal ports of this island; on the part of the English ships, a Mr. Ritchie resided there as a sort of vice-consul, to see that our ships wanted nothing that was necessary for them: the moment when Buonaparté prepared, to carry his plan into execution, he placed this Mr. Ritchie under the surveillance of two gens d'armes. Mr. Grattan, jun. who happened to be on the island, and who conveyed the earliest intelligence of the event to the nearest public agent of this country, was also taken into custody, and there can be no doubt, that colonel Campbell would have encountered a similar restraint; his presence, therefore, would have had no effect in preventing the escape of Buonaparté, or in transmitting any intelligence of that event sooner than it reached us in the ordinary course. It is also a remarkable and almost incredible circumstance, and one of the truth of which I have every reason to be satisfied, that so completely within his own bosom did Buonaparté carry the plan he meditated, that his confidential companion, Bertrand, was wholly unapprised of his intentions, until the very hour in which he received the order for his embarkation: from information which I possess, and on which I rely, Bertrand was ignorant of the plan until four o'clock in the evening, 429 when the embarkation took place, and this was effected in the course of three or four hours after, and the flotilla was clear at sea that night. It is also a fact, that no previous preparations were observable for this expedition, except the ordinary repairs of his principal vessel, which was not a matter of any particular consideration, and the other vessels containing the troops were in the harbour for private commercial purposes, and had been then seized immediately before the embarkation, when the gates of the port were ordered to be suddenly shut. I have already said, Sir, that the troops thus conveyed did not form any essential feature in the success of this enterprise, and that the individual escape of this person would have been attended with the same result; and this, under the terms of the Treaty, could hardly have been prevented, consistently with that personal liberty which was manifestly secured to him—to have attempted it by blockade, would have been morally impossible. France had two frigates and some smaller vessels cruising in the vicinity of Elba, Corsica, and Leghorn, for the purpose of vigilantly watching his manœuvres; our naval force was also not inattentive to this consideration, for lord Exmouth and admiral Hallowell had had an understanding with the Admiralty, that if they suspected Buonaparté was contemplating a descent upon the opposite shores, they should immediately adopt such measures as would frustrate the attempt, and secure him in his passage to carry it into execution. Oar sloop, the Partridge, which was crossing with col. Campbell at the time, did, in point of fact, give chase to this flotilla; and if it had reached Buonaparté would have seized him as a prisoner, for what they would have justly termed a breach of the Treaty, and an act of hostility on his part, in contravention of his express stipulation.
From a reference to the true state of the case, I trust, Sir, that the supposition which has prevailed, that the Allies were too generous, in the first instance, or too remiss in the second, will, in no degree be admitted; it is entirely wrong to harbour such a notion. I think I have shown that they could not have maintained that species of police which would have been operative upon the occasion; for unless this man was actually destroyed or shut up, it was impossible by a maritime or internal precaution to stop his purpose, if he determined upon its execution. Every 430 legitimate means of examining what was passing at Elba, had been resorted to; and among the variety of persons from different nations who had visited that island and conversed with Buonaparté, none had ever discovered any preparations for the event which has caused such a sensation throughout Europe. If any measure approaching to personal restraint was resorted to, is it at all probable he would have submitted to such an ordeal, against the provisions of a Treaty, behind which he would, doubtless, have fenced himself. From these statements it is evident, that neither our Government, nor that of our Allies, are fairly responsible for any mischief that may grow out of the fortuitous event which has so unfortunately taken place; it is essential that this should be known and felt, in order to prevent those imputations and prejudices which a contrary feeling is calculated to engender, and than which there can be nothing more injurious and unfounded.
I will now, Sir, quit this branch of the subject, and call upon the House to accede to an Address to the Prince Regent, declaratory of their determination to enable his Royal Highness to adopt such measures, in conjunction with his Allies, as the present crisis may render imperative for the general tranquillity of Europe. I will not detain the House by any precise specification of measures which cannot at once be developed, or of plans which it may not be necessary hereafter to mature: the House must be aware, that such a disclosure would at present be highly premature. There is one point, however, which I must not overlook—I allude to the rumour which has been mentioned, as, in a certain degree, extenuating the infraction of the treaty by Buonaparté, namely, that his pension had not been faithfully remitted to him. The fact was not so—it was an annual stipend, which, of course, did not become due until the expiration of the time specified; but having heard, whilst at Vienna, that some complaints upon this head had been made, I felt it my duty to inquire of the French minister into this circumstance, and took that occasion to observe upon the unfavourable impression, which, if true, it was calculated to excite. In this opinion prince Talleyrand fully concurred, and immediately addressed his government on the subject. They were of opinion that Buonaparté had manifested, upon several occasions, a spirit of infringement with 431 respect to the Treaty; that this was apparent, in his recruiting for his guards at Corsica, and other places; and that some satisfactory explanation was due from him relative to those points, before their part of the Treaty ought to be fulfilled. I subsequently heard, that he was, to a certain extent, in pecuniary want for the necessary exigencies of his establishment, and that he was actually selling his provisions, and some of his cannon, for the maintenance of his military household. Not approving of this state of things, when last in Paris I had an interview with Louis 18, and held a conference with his majesty, with a view to inquire into this matter. The French Government persevered in the opinion, that the suspicious nature of some of Buonaparté's acts at Elba, disentitled him from a conditional obligation, unless he previously tendered an explanation of certain acts which bore a dubious interpretation; but at my suggestion of the impolicy arising out of any complaint which personal want might create on his part, a person was dispatched by the French Government to Elba, to give him that quantum of aid which would prevent the possibility of his incurring that species of privation, but not to give the entire stipend until a satisfactory explanation was given relative to certain points of his conduct, which lay open to suspicion. So that it is evident there can be no ground for any argument in defence of his conduct, from the non-payment of a stipend which, as yet, has not become due: besides, he has never alleged any such complaint, nor was France responsible for that Treaty, at least in a personal sense with him. If a complaint of infraction was to be alleged by Buonaparté, it should not have been made in the first instance to France; the Allies were the parties to the Treaty, and to them alone, if it was violated, the complaint should have been carried: he never remonstrated with those with whom the compact had been formed; and it is therefore evident that he never had any notion of standing on that ground, that he never meant to urge any such plea; in grasping at all, he did not stop to arraign or discuss any particular allegation, but absorbed the whole in his arrogant and unprincipled declaration, that he was "the sole and legitimate monarch of France."
The noble lord said, that the question now before the House was not as to peace or war, but merely as to the 432 necessity of precautionary measures at the present crisis. He believed that the House would see, that the line of conduct which this country had to pursue lay between two alternatives. It must either embark in a war, in conjunction with the other continental Powers, or it must, in conjunction with them, adopt measures of military precaution, sufficient for its protection under the present circumstances. He was sure that it would not be contended in that House, that while the powers of government in France were exercised by such a man, it would be possible, consistent with our safety, to reduce the establishments of the country to that scale which might be considered sufficient under other circumstances. However sanguine he might have been in the hope of bringing the nation back to its ancient principles and policy, yet he never did or could have supposed, like the gentlemen on the other side of the House, that there was to be no intermediate state between such a war as we had for so many years waged with France, and that peace establishment which would be sufficient for the sound health of the country, in settled times, and when the former social relations of Europe were completely reestablished. The danger was now more deeply rooted, which had arisen from a state of things that had unfortunately had too long a continuance. From this state of things, France had now become a military nation, and all other classes of the community had become, in that country, subordinate to the military class. It was then easy to see that France could not break loose from that unnatural state to which it had been reduced, without a great danger of what had now actually taken place, from a re-action of the army. Although, in her political situation, France might now be prostrate at the foot of her armies, yet, who would venture to say, that the return of Buonaparté was the act of the French nation? Who could hesitate to allow, that the late revolution was purely the act of the military? If the authority of their own paternal monarch, to which the military, as well as the nation, had not only submitted, but had sworn to support, was now of no validity—if they had now broke loose from ties so binding in duty and in honour, to what could it be attributed, but to that overweening principle, that their interests, as military men, suffered from a state of peace? The military class, that had been 433 accustomed to seek their fortunes by rapine and plunder, and who looked to promotion, advancement, and rewards from the blood and plunder of other nations, naturally opposed an order of things that promised peace. But after having betrayed their king, and violated their oath, he believed, if they had any of the honourable feelings of military men remaining, they must feel themselves ill at case, and degraded in their own estimation. He did not believe that an army so degraded in their own estimation could perform those services to their new master that, under other circumstances, they might have done. He conceived that it had been proved most unequivocally, that although France might now, as a nation, be prostrate before her own army, yet that the public feeling, throughout the greater part of that country was in favour of their amiable King, whose conduct had been as unimpeachable as his character. Whatever difference of opinion there might be upon that most grave and important question—whether, in point of prudence and calculation, it was better to allow the power now in France to exist; or whether it was better to deal with that power in the very outset, and before its authority was established in full vigour, by the resources of all France,—still, in either case it would be allowed that some measures of precaution would be absolutely necessary. If Europe should not determine upon active war, still there was no alternative left, but to remain in a state of military organization, sufficient to protect them from future dangers. If he could not now bring the whole case before the judgment of the House, he should, on a future occasion, if it should be necessary, leave the whole question to be decided on its own merits. It was the business of this country now, to watch the temper and spirit of the continental nations. He did not mean to say, that any ardour of the continental nations should precipitate this country into any war that was not just and necessary. As we had, however, already saved the world, in concurrence with the Allied Powers, it was in concurrence with them that we must preserve it from future dangers. Notwithstanding our feelings of security from our local and insular situation, yet we should not, on that account, be forward to goad the Powers of the Continent into a war that they were not convinced was necessary for their interests. He considered that 434 the proper source of our political influence on the Continent was from the full conviction that our influence was exerted for the preservation of the interests of the Continental Powers, and for the general good of Europe, and not for any private or separate interest of this country. If this was admitted to be the case, he hoped the converse of the proposition would be allowed, that there was no rational security either for this country or for Europe, but in keeping together that mass of continental force to which Europe had already owed her deliverance. He looked at the present circumstances, not as destructive of all that had been hitherto done for the peace of Europe, but as containing the seeds of future danger. He thought that the line of conduct which this country had to pursue was to find out what was the true spirit of the Continent upon the present occasion. We should see whether the continental nations thought their security would be better provided for by war, or by precautionary preparations. We should not give them a fictitious wish, for war, nor overstrain the arguments in favour of it: but if, in their deliberate consideration and conscientious judgment, they should conceive war to be the only means of permanent security to Europe, it could not be expected that this country should separate itself from the interests of the rest of Europe. It was a gratifying and proud consideration for this country, that we had already accomplished every thing of territorial arrangement that appeared to be necessary to secure the balance of Europe. Those arrangements had been so fully assented to by all the great Powers of Europe, that they might now be considered as secure. The relation in which we now stood to the Continent, was not that of desiring any private objects of our own, but as ready to give what assistance we could to support the general interests. The noble lord concluded by moving,
"That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, to return to his Royal Highness the thanks of this House for his most gracious Message:
"To assure his Royal Highness, that it is impossible for his Majesty's faithful Commons not to be fully sensible of the dangers to which the tranquillity and independence of Europe are exposed in consequence of the events which have recently occurred in France, in direct con- 435 travention of the engagements concluded with the Allied Powers at Paris in the course of the last year:
"That, in a cause of such general concern, it must afford us the greatest satisfaction to learn that his Royal Highness has lost no time in entering into communications with his Majesty's Allies, for the purpose of forming such a concert as may most effectually provide for the general and permanent security of Europe.
"That, with a view to this important object, we shall, with the utmost zeal and alacrity, afford the requisite assistance to enable his Royal Highness to make an augmentation of his Majesty's forces by sea and land, and to adopt all such measures as may be necessary for its accomplishment."
Sir Francis Burdett
felt it his duly to state to the House and to the country the reasons which rendered it impossible for him to concur in the Address just proposed by the noble lord. If he could understand that it went merely to assert the expediency of a preparation on the part of this country, in order that it might not be taken unawares—a preparation called for alone by the apprehensions which arose out of the supposed character, true or false, of the present emperor of France, he would not dissent from it. But if it was intended to plunge the country again into a war, for the purpose of replacing the Bourbons on the throne of France, he should not discharge his duty if he did not raise up his voice against our entering upon such an unjustifiable and ruinous enterprize. It was said that Buonaparté had entered France in contravention of the treaty concluded with him; but if in that treaty there was no mention of his not entering France, he could not see the contravention. He was old enough to remember when the former war for placing the Bourbons on the throne of France was undertaken, and the effect of that war was to give to that man, who was now the object of their apprehension, such power as made him too strong for all Europe, till he dissipated and lost it in the plains of Russia. But there was no ground for any hope that he would lose his power by such means again. The consideration now was, as Buonaparté was on the throne again, whether it was for this nation to wage another twenty years war to reinstate the Bourbons. He was far from wishing to criticise the conduct of the Bourbons, or to be too severe on any one in misfortune: 436 but he could not help saying, that the conduct of the Bourbons had not been such as to please the French. The noble lord had said, that this Government was not blameable for not keeping Buonaparté under greater restraint. He agreed with he noble lord, that this Government was not blameable on this point; but he thought his Government would be blameable, if hey attempted to impose a governor on in independent nation against its will. Was it not plain that Buonaparté was the Ruler of the French people's choice? The step he had taken had very absurdly been called the invasion of France. But who ever heard of a single man invading a nation of thirty millions of inhabitants, and gaining the sovereignty of that nation against its will? The fact was, that the nation wished for him, and had in a great degree wished for him from their dislike of the government which he superseded. There was not a man in France who did lot see a new order of things rising up under the Bourbons, and who did not fear that property was insecure. The government of Louis did not act up to the principles of that constitution which his brother had accepted for him before his return. He repeated, that he was desirous not to speak harshly of the Bourbons; but it was their own conduct alone which had deprived them of the throne. That conduct had been most hostile to liberty, as indeed had also been the conduct of the assembled Sovereigns at Vienna, who had themselves subverted the principles on which they originally took their stand; and who on that account did not possess the same power which they had formerly wielded against the emperor of France with so much success. With respect to the "dreadful note of preparation" now sounded, he repeated, that if he could consider it as only for defence—for resistance against aggression—he would concur in the Address before the House. But by what he could collect from the ambiguous expressions of the noble lord, there existed a strong desire in the British Government, if the elements of war could be found in Europe, to recur to that detestable principle—the re-establishment of what were called Legitimate Sovereigns; as if nations belonged irrevocably to certain families—a principle which it was still more reprehensible to maintain in a country, the sovereign of which held his throne alone by the will of the people; and who, if the principle thus asserted were correct, was 437 a greater usurper than Buonaparté. This country had done enough for the Bourbons; they had cost this country 800 millions of money, and oceans of blood. Even in 1793, the purpose of re-establishing the Bourbons on the throne of France was disavowed by the minister of that day, potent as he was. The war, at that period, was asserted to be for the opening of the Scheldt, for the defence of our allies the Dutch—for any thing, in short, but for the restoration of the Bourbons. It was against that object that he now protested. The noble lord had chosen to keep a great many things out of sight. While the noble lord was talking of the little faith and reliance that could be placed in the present Ruler of France, he (sir F. Burdett) could not divest his mind of the recollection of the long negociation of the noble lord with the late Ruler of France on a subject so deeply important, and so much felt in this country; he meant, the abolition of the Slave Trade. The noble lord, even with all his sacrifices, had not been able to persuade the Bourbons to comply with his wishes on that point. And why? Because while they declared their anxiety to adopt his proposition, they expressed the impossibility of their doing so from their fear of the French nation. Buonaparté, whether from motives of virtue or of policy, had done it at once. The one talked—the other acted. It had been said by Ferdinand of Arragon, that "words were the counters of wise men, and the money of fools." This step on the part of Buonaparté spoke plainly. There was no hypocrisy in it; at least if it was an act of hypocrisy, he wished with all his heart that this and all the other governments of Europe would show themselves equally hypocritical. He had seen enough of the sufferings of war, to make him wish that it should be avoided in almost every possible case. At this period particularly, and on this occasion, it appeared to him most desirable that the country should not be plunged into it. It had been said by a wise man of antiquity, "Iniquissimam pacem justissimo bello antefero;" he had no hesitation in declaring, that he should not say "antefero inquissimum bellum justissimæ paci." It was impossible to doubt that Napoleon Buonaparté was emperor of France by the wish of the French people. It was said that Buonaparté was supported only by the military; but what was the ground of thinking so? Could it be believed, that a single man landing in 438 a nation containing thirty millions of inhabitants, with a government in active organization, and armed with a great civil and military power against him, could proceed for 500 miles to the capital of the country, and assume the government, against the consent of the people? In all that length of way there was not a single individual to lift his hand against him. How could the approbation of the people be more unequivocally shown? But however it was with him and that people, this country had nothing to apprehend from them, and therefore ought not to interfere with them. Feeling this to be the fact, he contended, that it was a most abhorred and detestable principle to interfere in the internal concerns of another country. Let the French settle their own affairs. We had nothing, he repeated, to apprehend from them. But he would abstain from entering prematurely into the great question of peace or war, satisfied with having communicated the reasons which compelled him to vote against an Address, which seemed to him to be the first step towards involving us in a contest, of which no man could anticipate the termination, and which, he was persuaded, would be as unsuccessful in its event as it was unjust in its principle.
declared that he should support the Address. If he viewed it in the same light as the hon. baronet, he could by no means concur in it; but so far did it seem to him from being the first step to involve the country in the war, that it did not bind the House down by a single expression on the question of peace or war at all. Those words which spoke of the contravention of the Treaty of Paris were founded, not on the circumstance of Buonaparté having quilted Elba to go to France, but on the consideration that by the Treaty of Paris, terms more favourable were granted to France than had been offered to her when she was under the government of Buonaparté, on the specific ground that she was to return to what was called her legitimate monarchy. When, therefore, Louis the 18th withdrew from Paris, and was no longer governor of France, and when Buonaparté returned to Paris, and again became governor of France; then France, was no longer in the state in which she was when the Treaty of Paris was concluded. It was in that sense, and in no other, that he understood the Treaty to have been contravened. A condition of the Treaty was, that the 439 government of France should not revert to Buonapaté—having, however, so reverted, France and the Allied Powers stood in the same relative situation as that in which the were before the conclusion of the Treaty. He did not think that the hon. baronet had fairly and candidly interpreted the words of the noble lord, in imputing to them that they evinced a determination to deprive France of the government of Buonaparté, and impose on her the government of the Bourbons. For his own part, he positively and peremptorily denied that any such consideration weighed with him in support of the proposed Address. He had no right to consider, whether it was wise or unwise in France to prefer her present to her late Sovereign. It was for France herself to determine that point; and he would never vote in that House on the principle of imposing a specific government on any nation. It was true that this consideration was connected with that most material question—the question of peace or war; but that was not before the House—the Address did not pledge any opinion—the communication from the Prince Regent did not call for any advice on the subject; and he, for one, would not be rash enough prematurely to discuss it, and to give opinion and offer advice where neither was required. To him it appeared most wise that the country should be put in a state of sufficient preparation; and he was persuaded, that both then and at all times it was our sound policy to stand on such a footing with reference to the great Powers of Europe as might tend to the general security. There was one point in the noble lord's speech, in which, however, he perhaps misunderstood him—but in which, if he did not misunderstand him, he could not concur. He meant that part in which the noble lord appeared to intimate that Parliament should in no wise interfere with the responsible servants of the Crown, so as to offer to the Crown their opinion on any great public question, until ministers had taken their decision, and having communicated that decision to Parliament, required their opinion upon it. This statement of the noble lord did not quite satisfy him. For if he agreed to such a latitude of allowance, he should bind himself and the House to take no step, not even to require information, pending any undetermined situation of public affairs. But he had probably misunderstood the noble lord, and he should be very glad to find that it was so. As to what the result of 440 the existing circumstances might be, it was impossible at that moment to say any thing. He had formerly expressed a sincere hope that they might terminate in peace. He entertained the same sentiment that night. He was ready cheerfully to place power in the hands of the Executive Government, because he did not think they would use that power for the purpose of inducing the Continental States to do that which they were not disposed to do, or which they did not think it their natural interest to do; but that they would avail themselves of it to make ourselves strong for defensive operations, and for the preservation, in concert with our allies, of peace, if that were possible; and if that were not possible, to enable us to carry on war in the way best calculated to ensure a speedy and successful termination of it. He would, however, to the last moment cherish an ardent hope that peace might be continued. He was the more inclined to hope that his Majesty's ministers might be enabled to continue it, when he recollected that the noble lord himself had been engaged in the preparation of a treaty of peace with France, while France was under the government of Buonaparté. When the negociations at Chatillon took place, France was not under the government of the Bourbons; she was under the government of Buonaparté and the noble lord and the Allied Powers were then of opinion that it was practicable to conclude a treaty with Buonaparté for the peace of Europe. He flattered himself, that as this had been once their opinion, it might prove to be so again. For although he admitted that much depended on the personal character of the individual at the head of a powerful nation, he was nevertheless persuaded that his Majesty's ministers and the Allies, by adopting a wise, moderate, and firm course of proceeding, might find present means of concluding and maintaining peace with France under the government of Buonaparté. With respect to the mode in which Buonaparté had regained his power, he would not give any opinion. But he thought we should deceive ourselves, were we to imagine that he had no support in France but that of the army. Although it was evident that the military were principally instrumental in restoring him to the throne, yet he conceived that had the whole of the population been against him, it would have been o impossible for him to have made his way to Paris. He implored the House and his 441 Majesty's Government, therefore, not to deceive themselves on this point, and plunge the country into difficulties, extrication from which would perhaps be impossible. He must do the noble lord the justice to say, that he seemed to disclaim any attempt to induce the Powers of the Continent to act otherwise than as their natural interests appeared to dictate. What the steps were which would be taken by all parties in this momentous crisis, he knew not; but he should vote for the Address, because he thought the country ought to be put in a defensive state, and because that Address left the House quite unpledged as to its future conduct.
§ Mr. Whitbread
observed, that if he could take so narrow a view of the question as his right hon. friend who had just sat down, or if he thought with the hon. baronet who preceded him, that there was any thing like ambiguity of sentiment in the speech of the noble lord (ambiguity of expression was inseparable from the speeches of the noble lord), he might be content to vote for the Address. But, thinking that those who voted for the Address, unamended, would lose their only opportunity of protesting against that which, whatever might be the equivocal language of the noble lord, was his obvious policy—seeing through the flimsy veil with which his Majesty's ministers attempted to coyer their real objects—aware of the trap into which they were anxious to betray the country—he could not let the occasion pass without availing himself of it to contend in the strongest manner against its being the interest of the country, on any of the grounds hypothetically stated by the noble lord, to begin a fresh crusade for the purpose of determining who should fill the throne of France, after the experience which we had had of the last crusade of twenty years—terminated only by accident, and by the temporary madness of the man who then filled, and who now fills the throne of France. He should maintain that it was the clear and unequivocal interest of this country, and of the Allied Powers on the Continent to fulfil the treaty which they had given to France, when France was under the dominion of the Bourbons. The noble lord having refused to lay the Treaty of Chatillon on the table of the House, had nevertheless assumed in his speech, that the peace given to France under the Bourbons by the Treaty of Paris was on better terms than the peace which 442 would have been given to France under Buonaparté. Of this fact he had not the means of judging; but if rumour was to be at all believed, the noble lord, at the period to which he alluded, was prepared to affix his name and seal to a treaty by which much more favourable terms would have been granted to this Buonaparté, who, whether by unanimous re-election, or by trampling on the independence of his subjects, was again on the throne of France, than were subsequently granted o Louis the 18th. He would refer also o the Declaration made by the Allies at Frankfort on the 1st of December 1813, in which they offered to Buonaparté an extent of territory never possessed by the Bourbons. He would not, therefore, allow that the Treaty of Paris had been contravened, the Bourbons having had terms allowed them which would not have been allowed to Buonaparté, unless the noble lord would produce a distinct statement if what had been previously offered to Buonaparté. He begged his right hon. friend—he intreated the House—to consider the drift of the noble lord's observations. The noble lord had told them, that the alternative was only between immediate war, and a state of precaution which was to last only as long as might enable the Powers of Europe to pounce on France—[lord Castlereagh said "No, no!"] He was glad to hear the noble lord deny this. Such was the ambiguity of the noble lord's phraseology, that it was always difficult, and sometimes impossible to ascertain what he actually did mean to say: but he was happy to understand that he disavowed this most nefarious project. The noble lord had accounted, in a very detailed manner, for the departure of Buonaparté from Elba. He had added a volume to the statement we had already had on the subject. The fact was, there had been no control over the person of Buonaparté. It was true that the noble lord had objected to the situation of Elba as one of extreme inconvenience; but that objection had been over-ruled; and at Elba, Buonaparté was destined to remain. With respect to the Treaty by which he had been so placed, the noble lord had by no means satisfied him that faith had been kept with Buonaparté. In adverting to the stipulation for the payment of a sum of money by the French Crown to Buonaparté, the noble lord had said that the year had not expired, and that Buonaparté had no right 443 to the money until that period. This was a pettifogging objection for a great nation to make, when they knew that the individual to whom the money was to be paid was in great distress for want of it. But it had been also said by the noble lord, that France was no party to that Treaty. France no party to that Treaty! Were not the Bourbons on the throne of France in consequence of that Treaty? Did not the high contracting parties engage that they would obtain the concurrence and guarantee of the Bourbons to the Treaty? And yet now the noble lord said that France had been no party to it! [Lord Castlereagh—"No, no!"] He appealed to the judgment of the House whether that was not the impression made by what the noble lord had said. So dangerous had the noble lord thought the non-performance of the Treaty on the part of France, that he had spoken to prince Talleyrand about it. The French Court, it seemed, were jealous on the subject. They were afraid that Buonaparté was enlisting too many men, and that he thought of attacking France by main force from Elba. Blind as beetles they observed only his outward demonstrations, and never thought that he was working with the subtlety of intellect. They conceived that to deprive him of money, would be to thwart his designs. At length the noble lord obtained this—not that his money should be sent to Buonaparté, but that a gentleman should be sent to him to observe his motions!
In the opinion of the noble lord, (an opinion expressed with the utmost confidence) Buonaparté owed his restoration to the throne of France—an event much more miraculous than his original elevation to it—not to the population of France, but to the military. The fact was, that Buonaparté landed in France without a man to defend him, and that in his progress from the South to the North of France he was exposed daily and nightly, and every hour of every day and night, to the attacks of those who were inimical to his cause, if such existed; but that not a single hand of all that population which the noble lord stated he had good reason to know were friendly to the Bourbons, was raised against him as the invader of France, or as the destroyer of its lawful Sovereign. The noble lord, as a member of his Majesty's Government, was supposed to possess secret information of every kind—for which at least the public 444 certainly paid. He was at Vienna, associating with the cleverest princes in the world—old diplomatists—men who knew exactly where to place a spy, whether on this king or on that priest. Yet, in spite of this combined diplomatic wisdom, in spite of all the means and appliances possessed by the noble lord, Buonaparté landed in the Bay of St. Juan, and marched to Paris, to the great astonishment, no doubt, of the wise-acres of the Congress. And yet, the noble lord declared that he had authority for stating that the population of France were hostile to him! Away with such authority! It was equivalent to the noble lord's information. The noble lord knew every thing—after it had taken place! Had he but known what he did not know, he would have known all about it.
The question now came to this—Whether Buonaparté was emperor of France by the will of the people, or by the will of the soldiery, or by their combined will? If the last, which he verily believed, what was the chance of overturning a throne so established, and which, if not originally desired by the French people, Buonaparté would take care should exist so much for their benefit as to be assuredly continued by them? Let the House, in contrast, place that glorious decree fur the abolition of the Slave Trade, with the volume presented by the noble lord of that negotiation in which Louis le Désiré declared that he could not put an end to the Trade because the feelings of the French people were against it. Napoleon Buonaparté had done it by a stroke of his pen; and he had so done it, that if the Bourbons were restored, or if a Republic were to be established, or if any other change were to take place in the government of France, the resurrection of the Slave Trade would be impossible in that country. Adverting to the Declaration of the Allies, which the noble lord had that evening adopted as an act of the executive government, he maintained that lords Cathcart, Clancarty and Stewart, and the duke of Wellington, deserved impeachment for putting their names to such an instrument. A right hon. gentleman had on a recent occasion contended, that this Declaration contained nothing which was not loyal, wise and honourable. The noble lord, more wisely, had abstained from touching on its character. But, surely, if words meant any thing, that Declaration went to designate an indivi- 445 dual for assassination. Much might be said (and he trusted much would be said by some of his hon. and learned friends) of its inconsistency with the law of nations, as well as of its hostility to every principle of social order. It led directly to a war of extermination. He had heard that other Articles in the Treaty of Fontainbleau, besides what was alluded to by the noble lord, had been violated. And here he could not help expressing his regret, that one of the greatest names of which England could boast had been sullied, by setting his seal to such a deed as the Declaration of the Allies. All the brilliancy of his achievements, and all the splendour of his character, would not be sufficient to drag him out of the abyss of shame into which he had plunged himself, by setting his name to this Declaration. The duke of Wellington, and lords Cathcart, Clancarty, and Stewart, had thought proper to say, that the only title Buonaparté had to his existence was the Treaty of Fontainbleau. Did they mean to say, that Buonaparté's head was on the block? What could possibly be the meaning of the insane declaration, "that he was out of the pale of civil and social relations, and that as an enemy and disturber of the tranquillity of the world, he had rendered himself liable to public vengeance?" How would the casuistry of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with his Christian feeling, be able to explain this? He would defy him to say that such a declaration meant any thing more than this, that any man who met him might stab him [No, no! from the Ministerial side of the House]. He did not regard the exclamations of gentlemen opposite. He appealed to the words themselves. Without again recurring to the names of the other persons, he would say that he most sincerely lamented, that that distinguished individual, who was said to be appointed to the command of an army of 250,000 men for the purpose of driving Buonaparté from the throne of France, and who had already driven him from the Peninsula, should now think it proper to call in the hand of an assassin to do what he could not do at the head of the confederated troops. Why, war was declared against France in that Declaration. True, however, Napoleon seemed to be conducting himself with more wisdom than those precipitate diplomatists at Vienna, and with more consummate skill than his former confidential friend, prince Talleyrand. Knowing how 446 little regard that Declaration was entitled to, he had treated it in the way it deserved. By the information received within these few hours, it appeared that Buonaparté had published notes and a commentary on this Declaration, in which he declared that he would maintain the Treaty of Paris, although he thought that better terms than those in that Treaty ought to have been obtained for France—that he would not stir out of his boundaries, or resort to hostilities, except the territory of France was invaded. Whether his conduct was dictated by hypocrisy or wisdom, it was certain that he had conciliated the people of France to his authority. The noble lord had not told the House a single syllable of the endeavours on the part of Government to find out whether the state of the public mind, or the present Government of France, was pacific towards this country or not. He wished to ask the noble lord, whether, in point of fact, his Majesty's cruisers had not already committed an act of aggression against France? Whether, without any express orders, but upon an understanding of what was expected of them in certain circumstances, they had not committed such an act of aggression? And here he could not help saying, that he considered the Government dealt hardly and unfairly with the officers of the navy. They did not give any positive orders to them, but an ambiguous something which they were to do. They thus threw the performance or non-performance of the duty on the discretion of the officers, and consequently threw the responsibility on them, and took the merit of success to themselves, What could be more ambiguous, for instance, than the order said to be given in the Mediterranean? There was an understanding given to the master of one miserable vessel, to this effect—if you think Buonaparté is intending any mischief, you may stop him, but not otherwise. Why, the Elbese flag was more common in the Mediterranean than the flag of almost any other nation. What sort of an understanding was this? Good God! this officer had need to have had a better understanding than those who sent him such a communication [a laugh]. And all this was for want of a combined understanding in the Cabinet. If, as had been contended, the troops of Buonaparté were anxious for war, and that in order to gratify them he would be under the necessity of making it, here he was supplied 447 with a pretence at once—for bringing in merchant vessels, was nothing less than a declaration of war.
He should be glad to know the description of war in which we were likely to be engaged. There was one, which, if he could draw any conclusion from what fell from the noble lord, was a war of aggression against Buonaparté for the sake of replacing the Bourbons on the throne. He did not wish to say a single word at present against the Bourbons; they were under misfortune, and had a greater claim than ever on the protection of this country. His mouth would be sealed in silence on account of that misfortune, which was now, he believed, irretrievable; and if not irretrievable, would certainly be so by the steps which the noble lord was proposing to take for restoring them to the throne. He had no hesitation in saying, that a war of aggression against France ought to be resisted by this country. If Louis the 18th had been attacked, this would have been a signal for war. But things had so instantaneously changed. It was not five weeks ago, since he had in that House talked of Buonaparté's being wished for by some part of the people of this country; and he was convinced that some persons were actually clamorous for war, because they considered it would serve their interests. It was not long ago that the noble lord had told them that they ought to consider that France was always France, and that they ought to lay their account with the existence of ambition under the present as well as under former governments. One of the most witty and eloquent men that ever sat in that House (Mr. Sheridan) had said, that one half of our national debt had been contracted in endeavouring to suppress the power of the Bourbons, and the other half in endeavouring to restore them to power. We ought to recollect that the Bourbons had not always been the friends of this country, but on the contrary, almost always our most inveterate enemies. He did think that before the late great event, we might have done with an establishment considerably less than what had been announced—an establishment of 19 millions! The Netherlands were to be strengthened for the sake of protecting the flank on that side of France, according to the noble lord. The powers of Austria and Prussia were considered as every thing, and all the other States were to be hashed up, as it were, in one cauldron, and dealt out in 448 such a way as should be most conducive to the strengthening these two powers, and the strengthening the flanks on the different sides of France. For this purpose we were to keep a large army on the Continent. We were to reconstruct all the dilapidated fortresses of Belgium. If we put ourselves into an attitude of precaution, we ought to take into consideration what additional precautions we take now, to those we should have taken had the Bourbons continued on the throne of France. It would seem from the language of the noble lord, that he considered it a good reason for going to war at present, because Buonaparté was weak and we were strong. He appealed to the House if he did not tell them of his weakness, and of the salutary effect which timely aggression might have—that the question of war was a matter of expediency, and not of morality—that having violated the Treaty, they were justified in going to war, and if a timely blow could be struck, it might be proper to consider how far such a measure might be considered expedient. And all the difficulty that he (Mr. W.) felt on this occasion was, that they would receive no information from the noble lord, before that in which he condescended to tell them the blow was already struck. Such was the paralysis which the Congress of Vienna had given rise to, that they would find there never would be a time when the different Sovereigns were so little disengaged from the care of keeping their subjects in order as to be at liberty to go to war. The noble lord had said that the Allies were entitled to go the whole length in disposing of Saxony; but that the measure would have been so disgusting to the people of Germany, that that country was only partially divided. Did the noble lord think that Saxony on the present occasion would be any advantage to the public weal? Did he think that the Saxons would enter cordially into any war at present, and that they would not rather take the first moment of Prussia's weakness to emancipate themselves? Did he think that Venice would be a source of strength? He had talked of the vested rights of Austria in Venice, forgetting the rights of the people; and that Austria had no other right to that state, than the having received a transfer of it from the hands of a robber who had no right, and who could not make the rights of any other power better than his own. Such was the situation of Venice, and such was the morality 449 of the Congress. Did the noble lord think that Italy would concur with the Allies? The noble lord had lately told them that the French government was so popular in Italy, that when the French armies were all withdrawn from that country and in the peninsula, the Italians would not rise to throw off the French yoke, and made no effort for that purpose. Had the noble lord reconciled the Genoese? Had he not rather given to Austria and Prussia elements of discord within themselves? and would not all their troops be consequently wanted to quell the disturbances among their new subjects? What had their conduct been to the King of Naples, after pledging themselves as strongly to him as it was possible for men to do, and after, on the faith of such pledge, he had performed his part? What would the situation of the South of Italy be? These were the circumstances which ought to be taken into consideration, if they were to have a war of aggression against France. What would be the situation of things within France itself? The noble lord had said that, from what information he was possessed of, he believed the greatest part of the population of France was in favour of the Bourbons. Now, from what he (Mr. W.) had learned, he had no doubt this was not the case. He believed that there might be many thousands who were sorry the Bourbons were dethroned and Buonaparté restored; but the very first act of aggression on the part of the Allies would have the effect of consolidating all these parties; and if, therefore, we were to have a war carried on for the dethronement and extermination of one man, all the population of France would rally round him, and after all the horrors and massacres which would take place the matter would end in the army of aggression being expelled. Even in case of the death or defeat of Buonaparté, did the noble lord think that the Bourbons could ever be restored? Would not some other chief be elected, or some other government be appointed, either that of a collective body, or of one man? The French had had an experience of the Bourbons; and whatever their virtues in other respects might be, he was strongly of opinion that they were not persons who could maintain themselves on the throne of France. If the war was to be a war of aggression, it was his thorough conviction we should be foiled in our purpose. It would be impossible for the noble lord to keep the 450 coalition together unless it was cemented by English money; and in this case the fate of it would be the same as before, and England would be left in the lurch, and obliged to make a disgraceful peace either with Buonaparté, or some other person in his place. What reason was there for not making a peace with him now, which was not equally powerful when we were ready to conclude a Treaty at Chatillon? All his most insane and unprincipled acts were done before that period. And yet the noble lord then, with all the confederated Powers, were willing to negociate a peace with Napoleon Buonaparté. What the terms then offered were would never, however, be known by the House, unless they were published by some other Government. If at the end of a war the country had been told that Napoleon Buonaparté was confined within the limits of the Treaty of Paris, which he was now willing to keep, would not this communication have been received by the whole nation with acclamation? If in that case there was not one person who would not have subscribed to those terms, and if within those limits France was now placed, what motive could there now be for not being contented with what was then considered as sufficient? If France stepped beyond these limits, then France would be the aggressor, and that would give us a title to repel the aggression. He implored his right hon. friend (Mr. Ponsonby), and his other friends on his side of the House, to reflect, that if they agreed to the Address without any amendment, they would give an instrument to ministers which would enable them to commit the country in a war of aggression, without their having any opportunity of expressing themselves on the propriety or impropriety of such a war. He could not help thinking that the daily publications which were at present such strenuous advocates for a war for the extermination of Buonaparté, were carrying the matter a little too far for their own interest, which was so often very different from the true interests of the country. They ought to consider, that if Buonaparté should be exterminated, it would be as flat for them as when he was at Elba. He knew that the return of Buonaparté had thrown a number of persons in this country into the most serious state of alarm and apprehension. He implored those persons to beware lest by premature measures they increased the danger of which they were apprehensive. He wished 451 therefore to submit an amendment to the Address, limiting the means entrusted to ministers to means of defence, and taking from them the means of aggression. He was willing to see the country in a sufficient attitude of defence till the danger should be past; but beyond this he could not with propriety go. The hon. gentleman concluded with moving an amendment to the Address, in the following words:—"And that at the same time we earnestly implore his royal highness the Prince Regent, that he would be graciously pleased to exert his most strenuous endeavours to secure to this country the continuance of peace, so long as it can be maintained consistently with the honour of his Majesty's Crown, the security of his dominions, and the faith to be preserved with his Majesty's Allies."
§ Mr. Frederick Douglas
alluded to the decree of Buonaparté for the abolition of the Slave Trade. From all he had been able to learn, it was a mistaken idea amongst the people of France, that the abolition would be injurious to them if suddenly effected. Thus Louis 18, attending to the feelings of the people, gained time for the termination of a traffick which his rival, on coming to power, had, without any regard for their feelings, abolished at once. Respecting the prospect before us, there was an essential principle in the government of France, which must necessarily be repugnant to the tranquillity of the Continent. The change that had taken place had been effected by the army, and not by the sense of the people. The real voice of the people was to be found in the towns where they were not overawed by the military. It was the natural consequence of any invasion, that in the first moments the people would lie by and not declare their sentiments. He would not contend that the voice of the people had been declared against Buonaparté but, when it was asserted that their voice was in favour of him, he must say that such an assertion was totally fallacious. Buonaparté was stimulated by revenge against all the nations of Europe. His landing, therefore, was not so much an invasion of France, as an invasion of all Europe. It must be obvious to all who had any knowledge of human nature, and who reflected on the extraordinary character of this man, that he could have no intention of remaining at peace; but even if he had, it was perfectly out of his power; for the soldiers under him were anxious to be called back 452 again to their employments of plunder and peculation; and this would impel him to go to war. But it was said that we had no legitimate grounds for going to war. The hon. gentleman who spoke last, however, had viewed the Treaty of Fontainbleau on very fallacious grounds. The hon. gentleman here entered into a view of the conditions of the Treaty with Buonaparté, which gave him the sovereignty of Elba, and contended that by his return he had broken his faith with the Allied Powers, which justified them in joining to expel him. If he went to war at the present moment, he must proceed by the common means of taxation, loans, and credit; but these were things which were quite unknown in France. He therefore was not able to put his forces immediately into activity, which was the true reason for all his professions of moderation. The noble lord had spoken of the unanimity which prevailed on the subject of opposing Buonaparté on the part of the Allies. Recollecting as he did the events of the last twenty years, he felt anxious to take advantage of this unanimity, before Buonaparté should be able to destroy it. He had no hesitation in saying, that the French army being the active power which supported Buonaparté, it was absolutely necessary for the restoration of tranquillity, that this army should be extirpated! [Cries of Hear, hear!] He did not mean the extirpation of the individuals, but the extirpation of their existence in the shape of an army. Their restless agitation, their unparalleled fearlessness of death, and their unconquerable passion for glory, formed their very excellence; and this would ever render them the enemies of the tranquillity of the world. The hon. gentleman, after a few more remarks on the peculiar crisis at which we had arrived, concluded with giving his assent to the Address.
§ Sir John Newport
declared, that in giving his vote he should look at the question divested of all the commentaries he had heard upon it. He should not vote for it under the same view as the hon. gentleman had taken of it, who had advised the extermination of the whole French army; because such an idea was absurd, and if the project was attempted, it would certainly be the most unwise crusade that had ever been heard of. He would go as far as the noble lord had gone, but no farther. Instead of entertaining any abstruse question of peace or war, he should wait till 453 the point was decided, and should then deliver his opinion, however painful it might be to his feelings. At present the question did not bind any member to support any proceedings that would involve this country in a war so wild and unjust as to attempt to dictate to any nation what form of government it should adopt. It was advisable that this country should be put in a state of preparation for the worst, and to take such measures as should best enable us to act in concert with our Allies, for the security of all Europe. He trusted, however, that nothing but circumstances of absolute compulsion would induce us to enter into a new war; and believing that this would be our line of conduct, he should support the Address. He dissented, nevertheless, with reluctance, from the amendment of his hon. friend, not because he thought that those words did not convey a proper feeling, but because he did not think that this was a fit opportunity for the House to pronounce their judgment, when no information was before them. He would give his vote for the Address, because he saw no reason for withholding his confidence from ministers in the present instance.
§ Mr. Croker
said, he rose merely to speak to a matter of fact. The hon. gentleman opposite had been pleased to say that a French vessel had been brought in by his Majesty's cruisers under an ambiguous understanding. This statement was totally unfounded. He had not officially heard that any such capture had been made. He had heard a report that a French ship had been sent in; but whether she was navigated under the Imperial flag of France be could not say. If he, were to judge from the statements of some merchants of London, he should believe that the detention had been made under the Hovering Act, and that the ship bore the white flag. But neither directly nor indirectly had any orders been given which would justify any officer to interfere even with the tri-coloured flag of France. The ship by which the French vessel was said to to have been captured, had sailed three weeks ago for a specific purpose; and it was scarcely possible that her commander, in obedience to his orders, could have deemed himself authorized to interfere with the flag of France, of whatever colour it might be. He had been thus explicit, in order that it might not he supposed that this country had shown any bad faith.
§ Mr. Bankes
gave his full concurrence to 454 the motion. He took a view of what had been said by the different speakers, and added, as his own opinion, that so far from thinking the Message and Address to be too pacific, his only fear was that they were too warlike. He nevertheless saw nothing objectionable in the wording of either, as they were applicable either to peace or war. But it was impossible not to be a little alarmed at the Declaration which bore besides the signatures of the ministers of the Allied Powers, those of four British ministers. If this document were authentic, all doubts must be at an end; for war remained not to be deliberated about, but was actually resolved on. Yet from the tone of the noble lord that day, so far from this being the case, it would appear that the subject was still open for discussion. He would agree, that under the present circumstances of France, the contravention of the Treaty by Buonaparté was a sufficient cause for war, and the revolution ought not wholly to prevent the interference of foreign nations; but it became a prudential consideration what steps ought to be taken; and before it was resolved upon, it might be hoped there would be full time for discussion. He would defer his opinion till he heard what line of conduct was decided upon. The Declaration of the Allies certainly confined the war to a much more simple object than that of his hon. friend who had contended for the extinction of the whole French army; as the object of the Allies could only be the deposing of that particular man, who, by his conduct, they declared had put himself out of the pale of civil society. He should be happy if he could entertain the sanguine belief of his noble friend, that a large proportion of the people of France were adverse to the dominion of Buonaparté bat it looked rather suspicious, that with only a handful of armed men, he should be able to make his way, unmolested, almost from one extremity of the kingdom to the other. He feared, lest the appearance of a foreign force on the frontiers of France, coming with professions of revenge and ruin, might have the effect of uniting the people even though a great proportion of them were hostile to Buonaparté, and thus might throw much greater obstacles in the way of peace. Whatever might be the real intentions of Buonaparté, it was much safer for him to hold out professions of moderation than to adopt any other course. On the whole, he must admit that he could 455 see no safety for this country but in a great and extensive establishment. He could not, however, but deprecate hostilities, if Buonaparté made no signs for committing actual aggression, because he did not think that a lengthened war could possibly be carried on, if attended, as it must be, with the peculiar expenses of that which had just ended. But if it was necessary, he had no doubt that every effort would be made at once, as the only way by which success could be expected. The hon. gentleman concluded by cautioning the House to beware of entering into any arrangement with the Allies which might lead to dispute hereafter.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the main question to be decided was, whether, if war was to take place, it was to be a war of defence or of aggression? In 1793 the experiment of forcing a government on France had been tried and had failed, and he thought such an attempt now would be attended with a much less probable degree of success than then. Under all the circumstances, therefore, he was favourable to the amendment.
took a view of the nature of the Address, and declared that he should have liked to have heard the question more fully discussed than it had been. He would reserve his opinion as to whether this country was justified in going to war; bat with respect to the necessity of precautionary measures, he trusted there could not be a dissentient voice. He could have wished that no amendment had beer proposed; as the tone of ministers was certainly less high than that of the Declaration of the Allied Powers. As the House was not in a situation of offering any advice to the Crown, there was no resource but in leaving the whole subject to the responsibility of ministers. It was impossible for him, however, to vole against the words of his hon. friend's amendment because the noble lord might derive great advantage from the amendment being negatived, and the opinions of all those who did negative it might be subject to a degree of misconstruction.
§ Mr. Elliot
said the Address seemed to meet with the general approbation of the House, and should have his support. The Amendment of the hon. gentleman seemed framed with a wish that no measures should be taken but with a view to peace with the person now at the head of the French Government. This was a proposition which at present he was not pre- 456 pared to approve, nor on the other hand was he prepared to say that a contrary course ought to be taken. The decision on this point must depend on circumstances with which he was not acquainted—circumstances which perhaps were not at present known even to ministers. Placed in this situation, till further information could be given, they ought not to take upon themselves to decide on a subject of such importance. The Address, he was of opinion, went to bind the House to nothing to which they could hesitate to give their sanction.
§ Mr. Tierney
stated it to be his intention to vole in favour of the Amendment. His object was to arm ministers with the powers for which they called; but at the same time he wished to have some guard on their conduct, as from the speech of the noble lord he could not but consider them disposed to consult the security of this country, not in a state of peace, but of war. He wished the House to remember how often the British Parliament had been accused in foreign countries of stirring up wars; and he thought this idea would be strengthened, if, on the present occasion, they came to a vote which would almost amount to a direct declaration in favour of a renewal of war. He had heard that treaties of subsidy had already been negociated. He shuddered at the expenses which a new war must throw on the country; but if the state of the world should seem to make this necessary, he should consider he did his duty to his country in consenting to such an increase of the public expenditure. If it was thought that peace could not be attained but by dethroning Buonaparté, the prospect now before the country appalled him to the heart. Great exertions had been made by England within the last two years; but no man, at all acquainted with the slate of our finances, could say, that at the end of the next two years the country would be in a situation to support a new contest, if the people were not united in their sentiments, and had not their affairs conducted by an administration which possessed their confidence. His object was to make the war a just and necessary one. The Amendment proposed, tended to the accomplishment of this object; and he was of opinion it did not go too far. He trusted he should not be considered as the defender of Buonaparté, or as one who wished to throw impediments in the way of his own govern- 457 ment, when he stated these to be his sentiments. If such motives were imputed to him, he should treat them with the contempt with which he had heretofore been accustomed to regard such imputations. He was convinced, that in order to support another war, it would be necessary that the Government should carry the people with them; and this could not be done, if the contest were not made to appear to them just and necessary. If a war were undertaken with any heated views of dethroning Buonaparté, or punishing France for putting away one government and setting up another, he could not but shudder for the result. He wished the Address of that House to go forth to the world, expressing their readiness to support the Government in a just and necessary war, but also expressing an anxious wish that no means should be left untried to secure the continuance of peace.
Mr. Charles Grant
, jun. agreed with the right hon. gentleman who had just sat down, that ministers could not support a new war unless they carried the people along with them; but he contended that the Amendment which had been proposed was not necessary to effect this. The speech of his noble friend had been as much distinguished by moderation, as the Message which was the subject of it, and which had met with general approbation. The arguments of those who supported the Amendment on the ground that the speech of the noble lord was in a more warlike tone than the Message of the Prince Regent, were therefore, in his opinion, without foundation. Some members in the course of the debate had fallen on the assumption, that the present revolution in France was a revolution of the people. This, he contended, was a subject for future inquiry. At present there was a struggle in France on the question of peace or war, and the war party seemed to be triumphant. It was for that House to act on a knowledge of the existing danger. Knowing the character of the man now at the head of affairs in France, knowing the description of the persons by whom he was surrounded, knowing what his conduct had been for twenty years, up to the last flagitious act (for so he would call it), which had again brought him before the world, it was absolutely necessary that their measures should be framed accordingly.
§ Mr. William Smith
said, he had decided 458 on the course he should pursue from hearing the speech of the noble lord who moved the Address. But for that he should have concurred in the Address as first moved; but he now felt it his duty to vote for the Amendment of his hon. friend. The right hon. gentleman who had just sat down, had said, that the speech of the noble lord was not more warlike than the Message of the Prince Regent. He was glad to hear this asserted; and if the noble lord would rise up and concur in that interpretation of his speech, even now he, for one, would support the Address. Unless this were done, he should feel it to be his duty to support the Amendment. The noble lord had said, that nine-tenths of the population of France were in favour of the Bourbons. If he were of the noble lord's opinion, he should at once be satisfied that no moral objections could be urged in opposition to hostilities being commenced against Buonaparté but when he saw how that man had marched, or rather walked in France, from South to North, without opposition, he could not but think the probability was, that nine-tenths of the people were for him. He was glad the Slave Trade had been abolished, and wished the Bourbons (whom he should rejoice to see established on the throne) had been strong enough to venture on such a measure. He did justice to the exertions of the noble lord (Castlereagh) on the subject of the Slave Trade; but when he saw that done at once by Buonaparté, which the Bourbons could not venture upon in less than five years, he could not help thinking that the former government were less powerful than the present, or that they were not altogether sincere in the wish they expressed. He had as little respect for the motive which had actuated Buonaparté in abolishing the Slave Trade, as for those which guided his conduct in other transactions. He had no doubt it was dictated by interest; but whatever his conduct had been, he hoped the nation would not hastily be plunged into a new war.
, from the opportunities he had had last year of ascertaining the sentiments of the people of France, with respect to Buonaparté, thought he could take upon himself to say that the general feeling was against him. He was looked upon by almost all classes as the author of the misfortunes which had befallen them, and his system seemed to be universally execrated. He did not say that this feel- 459 ing would have disposed them to rise against Buonaparté but he thought it was pretty strongly shewn in their not rising for him. Every artifice had been resorted to by Buonaparté to excite a strong feeling against the Allies, in order to make the war national, and had totally failed. Such being the feeling last year, there must be strong circumstances that would convince him, that it was wholly extinguished in the present, and that a state of things favourable to their wishes, should have disposed them to turn from the Government to whom they owed the advantageous change which had been effected, to him who had been the object of their hate. This to him would be miraculous. That which had struck him most in the course of the last year, was the want of energy which appeared in the French character. To him their spirits seemed to have been quite worn out. They seemed to wish for peace; and hoping this would be the result of the invasion of their country, they did not care to oppose it. From what he had observed of the French character at that time, he was not surprised, when Buonaparté appeared among them on a sudden like an apparition, that he should have been able to advance without opposition from the people. The soldiers had certainly always been for him; but that no opposition had been given to him, did not prove to his mind that the great body of the people were indifferent to the change which had taken place, and still less that they were favourably disposed to him.
said, he should have thought, that on the subject of the proposed Address, there would have been but one opinion in the country—that at a crisis so important the hands of Government ought to be strengthened, and enabled to take such measures, in concert with their Allies, as circumstances should require. To be lulled into security by any good acts which Buonaparté might, perform at such a time, would be to be greatly wanting to ourselves. The Amendment contained no assertion which was not in itself perfectly true and just; but, unseasonably introduced, it would by implication throw a censure on ministers which was not true, and unjust. The Amendment, if adopted, would, by implication accuse the Government of wishing to involve the nation in an unjust and unnecessary war. If the House were to assent to the proposition of the hon. gentleman, they would indirectly 460 be understood to decide, that, under all the circumstances of the case, peace would be preferable to war. He was not prepared to come to such a decision. He was not for entering into an unnecessary war, nor was he willing to repose on a hollow and insecure peace. In the events which had taken place he could see justifiable cause of war. This he thought beyond all doubt. The only question to be considered was one of very great importance—the expediency of acting upon that, cause of war. He had no difficulty whatever in voting for the Address.
said, that what had fallen from the right hon. gentleman who had just sat down, had relieved him from the necessity of stating much of what he had it in contemplation to offer on the subject of the Amendment which had been moved to the Address. From what that right hon. gentleman had said, the House would feel that nothing could be more cruel than to bring forward as an amendment certain truisms, which went by implication to impute to ministers a design to commence a war which was not warranted by justice, necessity, and good faith to his Majesty's Allies. He looked upon this, question, as the right hon. gentleman did, as one entitled to the gravest consideration, and as being one of the most important and momentous on which any government had ever been called upon to decide. It was for the Government of this country to consider whether the interests of Europe called upon them, in concert with their Allies, to prefer a state of war or of armed defence. In moving the Address, and stating the two alternatives, he had said nothing with a view to bind the House to one of them more than to the other. If the hon. gentleman who had moved the Amendment, or those gentlemen who had supported it, meant to declare that ministers ought to be bound to one of them, they owed it to the country and themselves not to endeavour to effect their object, by moving a string of truisms to bind down the Government by implication, but to embody their sentiments in a specific resolution. The Government ought not to be crippled in its negociations with friendly Powers, and prejudiced in its transactions with that country most concerned in the result of the present state of things, by restrictions introduced by a side wind; the necessity for which those who brought them forward were not prepared openly to declare. 461 With respect to what had been said by the hon. gentleman on the subject of the negociations at Chatillon, he had to answer, that because terms had then been offered to Buonaparté, accepted, and departed from by him before they could be carried into execution, it did not follow, that if, on a future occasion, he, in his weakness, should be disposed to accept of those terms, that they were to be conceded to him. Nor ought the Allies to be influenced at such a time by his publishing decrees, conformable to the line of policy which they had adopted, and in favour of that to which he had been the greatest enemy before. On the subject of the Slave Trade, the noble lord took occasion to observe, that the favour which Buonaparté had done the cause of humanity, was not quite so great as the hon. member seemed to imagine, as he had always been the most declared enemy to the abolition, nor was he now to be confided in. He repeated that it by no means followed, that the terms formerly offered to Buonaparté in concert with the Allies, ought now to be submitted to him. He did not assert that this would not be done, but he contended it did not necessarily follow that it should. This the Allies had formerly felt, before they had reached Paris. When Buonaparté perceived they were advancing in that direction, he had offered to accept of those terms from which he had previously withdrawn himself, and was answered, that the time for treating with him on those conditions was then gone by; and his having departed from them once, was considered a sufficient reason for not acceding to his wishes at a subsequent period. Would it be maintained, that under any circumstances an individual who had foiled them so often, was still entitled to the terms they formerly offered him? and while he came unblushingly forward, having deceived them once more, was he still to be considered in the same point of view as formerly? It might be thought that an armed peace would be preferable to a state of war, but the danger ought fairly to be looked at: and, knowing that good faith was opposite to the system of the party to be treated with, knowing that the rule of his conduct was self-interest, regardless of every other consideration, whatever decision they came to, must rest on the principle of power, and not on that of reliance on the man. To the Declaration which had been published, the Government of this country 462 could not have been a party at the time it appeared; but he did not hesitate to uphold and justify it, though, from the circumstances under which it was issued, and the changes that had since taken place, which at that period were not known, that Declaration was not to be considered as a declaration of war. Had it been received in that light, it would have become the duty of ministers to issue letters of marque and reprisal immediately. He agreed with his right hon. friend, that the great names affixed to the Declaration of the Allies, furnished the best refutation of the tortured meanings which had been attached to it. They were justified, however, in holding Buonaparté out as an object of terror, and in endeavouring, by ail legitimate means, to destroy and extinguish his power. Statements had been made within those walls, respecting persons in friendship with this country, which were more likely to expose the parties to assassin nation, than any thing contained in the paper which had been so much animadverted upon. When a hope was expressed that this country and its Allies would not engage in a war of aggression, he wished to guard the councils of the Allies from such an imputation, if they should proceed to repel an aggression which had been already committed. We had a full, sufficient, and moral justification in commencing war against Napoleon, if we considered it wise and right to do so. The Government would act in concert with the Allies; and his Majesty's ministers, he contended, were entitled to claim that their responsibility should not be broken in upon by the truisms of the honourable gentleman.
shortly gave his reasons for not voting for the Amendment. The speech of the noble lord he thought had been much over-stated. He had been represented to have spoken as if he was resolved on immediate war, if he could but persuade the Allies to take part in it. He understood no such statement to have been made. He wished to ask the noble lord if he had said this? [A cry from the Opposition of "the question is not answered."]
said, he was right, then, in what he had said. The speech of the noble lord had not been fairly described. If it should hereafter appear that Government unnecessarily engaged in war, none of his friends would surpass him in zeal to heap censures on their conduct. The 463 Amendment to him appeared perfectly unnecessary. His hon. friend seemed to have intended it to assist him (Mr. P.) in deciding on the Address before him; but he wished to inform his hon. friend (in perfect good nature) that he was not quite such a fool, but he could understand what had been submitted to them without his assistance.
§ The House then divided:
|For Mr. Whitbread's Amendment||37|
§ The Address was then agreed to.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercrombie, J.||Lemon, sir W.|
|Brand, T.||Moore, Peter|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Martin, H.|
|Burrell, hon. P. D.||Martin, J.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Molyneux, H.|
|Butterworth, J.||North, D.|
|Barnard, Lord||Osborne, lord F.|
|Bewicke, C.||Pigott, sir A.|
|Campbell, J.||Pierse, H.|
|Calvert, Chas.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Coke, T. W.||Romilly, sir S.|
|Duncannon, lord||Ramsden, J.|
|Dundas, hon. L.||Smith, J.|
|Fergusson, sir R.||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Gordon, Robert||Whitbread, S.|
|Horner, F.||Wilkins, W.|
|Heathcote, sir G.||Walpole, hon. G.|
|Hamilton, Ed. A.||TELLERS.|
|Kemp, T.||Althorp, lord|
|Lambton, F. G.||Smith, W.|