§ Mr. Whitbread
rose, in pursuance of his notice to move, an Address to the Prince Regent upon the subject of the threatened war with France. He rejoiced at the concession made by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because not only the subject itself was of great importance, but it was of the utmost consequence that it should be discussed without a moment's delay. He did not imagine that it would; be necessary to detain the House at any considerable length on a question which lay in a compass so narrow, namely, whether the House would consent to embark the country in a new war, the termination, of which no human being could foresee. The principle was as narrow as the question; it was now, for the first time, avowed, and Parliament was called upon to decide, whether it would take advantage of that opportunity afforded by the disclosure of certain documents—much to the benefit of mankind, but little to the credit of the noble lord.—for a deliberation on this great subject—whether it would avail itself of the short interval that now remained in order to enter a protest against embarking this country in a war upon a principle so narrow, by voting an Address, praying the Prince Regent to avert a calamity so dreadful. He begged leave to recall the attention of the House to its own proceeding on this day three weeks, when an Address was proposed by the noble lord in the blue ribbon in consequence of a Message from the Throne. To that Address he (Mr. W.) had suggested an amendment, which was rejected by the House, on a distinct understanding from the noble lord, that the die was not yet cast, and that there still remained an alternative for this country, which alternative was, whether we should avail ourselves of the abstract right of commencing war, or whether it would, not be more consistent with sound policy to act merely upon a defensive system? It was not at all times easy to comprehend the meaning of the noble lord, if meaning were intended—but if any thing could be collected from the words he employed, it was that there still remained that alternative [Hear, hear!]. Mr. Whitbread put it to many of his right honourable and honourable friends round him, whether they would have voted against his amendment, unless they had expressly understood from the noble lord that it was unnecessary, because his Majesty's ministers had given their 961 plighted faith that an alternative was left, and that they were undetermined on the line of policy, which, for the safety of the country, they should deem it right to pursue? [Hear, hear!] If any thing could be wanting to prove that such was the language of the noble lord, and the understanding of the House, it was sufficient to quote the term applied by the noble lord to that amendment. The noble lord had called it a truism, because it called upon the Prince Regent to take such measures as would secure a peace consistent with the honour of his crown, his faith to his Allies, and the security of his dominions. He described it as a truism, because it prescribed a course which ministers had taken, and therefore that it was idle to give advice to do that which had been already determined.
Such being the universal persuasion in the House, what must have been its astonishment when it was found that the noble lord had been deluding the House and the country?—that he had been holding forth the possibility of an alternative, and the wish to adopt a pacific resolution, when in truth it had been already decided in council that hostilities should be commenced. Such was the delusion practised upon parliament and the country: and but for an accident we might have been plunged into all the horrors of a new war, without an opportunity of reflecting upon the consequences. Even now, Mr. Whitbread said, he feared that this discussion would be too late, if what had fallen from a noble earl (Liverpool) in another place, had been correctly stated. By an accident (certainly unforeseen by ministers, or the delusion would not have been attempted,) in the Vienna Gazette appeared an illicit publication, which must sink the fame of the noble lord from the proud height to which it had once been exalted. This publication was the Treaty signed on the 25th March at Vienna; and it seldom happened that so much was disclosed by mere dates as in the present case. It was received by Government on the 5th of April, the day before the Message was brought down to the House. Yet, though ministers knew the contents of that Treaty and to what extent it pledged this country, they had not thought fit to alter a single word of the Royal communication. Having been brought down on the 6th of April, on the 7th the Message was taken into consideration, and the Answer was returned on the 8th, on which day likewise 962 the ratification of the Treaty by the Prince Regent was dispatched to Vienna. In the discussion on the 7th of April, in which the gross delusion was practised upon the country which had put an end to all further debate, the proclamation of the 13th of March, signed by the Duke of Wellington, so unhappily for himself, had been referred to, and the noble lord had attempted to gloss it over, to show that the language might hate a double application—in short, to weaken and falsify the whole of its contents. He had contended that the alteration in circumstances had cancelled the obligation; and yet in the teeth of this statement was the Treaty of the 25th of March, which the noble lord had just before been reading, which, in his own judgment and that of his colleagues, revived that Declaration with all its horrors, called all its malignity into activity, provided for its execution, and avowed it to be the basis of the new engagement. It remained therefore for the noble lord to reconcile the words he had uttered with the facts that had appeared, and to show how an alternative could exist in the face of a Treaty to which he had acceded, and which declared immediate and interminable hostility [Hear, hear!] To complete which, the only remaining step was the amount of subsidy left in the hands of lord Clancarty, whose powers the noble lord had refused to produce.
Under these circumstances, Mr. Whitbread said, he had thought it his duty to propose an Address to induce the Prince Regent to pause before he involved his people in war, on the ground that the executive government of France, whether by the choice of the people, or the power of the army, was placed in the hands of an obnoxious individual. The restoration of the House of Bourbon had never before been made a ground of hostility. Mr. Pitt had disavowed it, and it had frequently been denied by some of his successors, and in the Declaration of the Regent annexed to the Treaty of Vienna, his Royal Highness had disclaimed any intention to interfere with any particular form of government. Why was such a declaration required? What more right had the Prince Regent to interfere with the Internal government of France, than the French had to interfere with the internal government of this country? Ministers concluded that it might enter into the design of the Allies to restore the family of Bourbon, and for this reason that Declaration was 963 inserted, and therefore we were now not to contend, whether the government of France should be imperial, royal, or republican; we allowed the nation to adopt for itself the government that should please itself, but it was not to be permitted that one particular man should be placed at the head of it. Was such a declaration—such a principle of war—just or politic? On the contrary, was it not the surest mode to rouse the spirit of a mighty people, and to confirm them in their resolution of supporting that man by their most strenuous efforts? A distinction was attempted to be made between the governor and the government; but where was the politician so subtle—or rather, so bewildered in the mazes of paradox—as to be able to convince a people of this nice distinction? Would not such a declaration by a foreign power, as applied to ourselves, animate all hearts to defeat a project so extraordinary and so foolish? The Declaration of the 13th of March, therefore, though nominally against one man, was, in truth, an anathema against millions of people. Mr. Whitbread said, that nothing could exceed his indignation at this unprecedented document, and he felt ashamed that the name of Wellington was affixed to it. Followed by the Treaty, it was plunging Great Britain into a war that, if not otherwise terminated, must, in the opinion of all thinking men, be soon abandoned, from a deficiency in our very physical resources. [Hear, hear!]
The hon. member then went on to reprobate in very warm and severe terms the Declaration of the Allies, which placed Buonaparté out of the pale of civil society, made him an object of public vengeance, and represented him as a man who had forfeited his last and only claim to existence. If there were any meaning in language, it was this, that for the first time in the history of the world, war was proclaimed against one man for the Demolition of his power? What was his power? His people: and the conclusion therefore was inevitable, that hostilities were to be renewed for the desperate and bloody enterprise of destroying a whole nation—[hear, hear!] Mr. Whitbread read the first paragraph of the Declaration of the 13th of March, and ridiculed those who, while reviving all the calamities of war, with egotistic vanity, called themselves the deliverers of Europe. He maintained, that while they proclaimed death to Buonaparté and vindicated assassination, by their own abandonment of 964 treaties, by their own tergiversation, they were the direct authors of this new war. He also read a part of the Treaty of the 25th of March, in order to show that it continued and recognized the spirit of the previous Declaration, declaring that neither truce nor peace could ever be made with Buonaparté. What, he inquired, would in all probability be the result of this system? Supposing the Allies were early to accomplish their avowed design, and Buonaparté were to fall in the first battle—was the system complete? Would the Allies retire, or could they withdraw with safety to themselves upon their own principles? Were there no other persons of experience and talents whom the French nation might place at their head? Having raised mankind in arms against one single individual (an object not very worthy of the means), how could the Allies be more secure than at present, if marshal Ney were placed at the head of the French people—a man whom Louis the XVIIIth had declared to be second only in wickedness to Buonaparté? He remembered a discussion in that House some sixteen years ago, of which Buonaparté was the subject, with whom we were now going to war, only because he continued in existence. It was then said, if he were taken off, others would rise in his place, and Berthier had been mentioned as a person likely to succeed him, and it was contended that new difficulties would arise in that case, quite as great as those of which Buonaparté was the cause under the then existing form of government. He would suppose the dynasty of Buonaparté to be quite extinct—was it certain that the Bourbons would be the choice of the French people? Perhaps, if it were possible to collect the sense of the most intelligent portion of them, more votes would be given against them, than against any other family.—[No, no! from Ministers.] He expected that cry from the other side: if they thought as they expressed, they would find themselves deceived, for although accustomed to majorities in the House of Commons, ministers would discover that their influence did not extend beyond its walls. Many gentlemen who cried "No, no!" in the House when ranged at the back of their friends in power, when they were out of hearing of those friends, would utter very different sentiments in the lobby—[hear, hear! and laughter]. There 965 were few things more entertaining, than to mark the sudden change in the opinions of ministerial adherents, as they entered the House. On walking with some of them up the steps, it was quite delightful to listen to the liberality and justice of their opinions; but no sooner had they passed the fatal doors than it appeared as if they had shut out their liberality and justice, as unfit companions, and no proper members of a ministerial House of Commons—[hear, hear! and continued laughter]. At all events it would not be argued, even by the other side, that the restoration of the Bourbons was an inevitable consequence, and it was not impossible that the Allies might fight France into a repetition of the bloody horrors of the Revolution, and put her into a situation in which we had formerly declared her incapable of maintaining any of the relations of peace and amity. He wished the House and the country, before it plunged into a new war, well to weigh the alternatives; to reflect that it was a war of mere speculation, on which politicians had a right to determine whether we should immediately engage or wait the issue of events. Admitting that by the return of Buonaparté, we possessed the abstract right of war, did it necessarily follow that we must exercise that right? Of what did that right consist? What gave the right to declare war? It was said, that by the Treaty of Paris better terms were given to France than would have been conceded to her if Buonaparté had remained her emperor—that the same severity had not been shown in consequence of the acceptance of Louis 18. What were the severer terms that would have been imposed, it was impossible for him (Mr. W.) to know or to argue upon. He had been told that at one period more liberal conditions had been offered to Buonaparté than to the Bourbons, which he had first rejected. In point of territory those conditions, he understood, were much more consistent with the honour of France than those which had been imposed upon Louis 18. Afterwards Buonaparté expressed his willingness to accept them, lord Castlereagh gave his consent, and then Buonaparté's affairs were in such a state as to induce him to hope for more favourable proposals. The propositions were therefore ultimately rejected, until the Allies were able to dictate almost what terms they pleased.
There was another essential consider- 966 ation of the subject, which was the Treaty of the Congress; which, whether it had been signed or not, was not before the House either in form or substance. The only ground on which war would be declared, was, that the terms which had been granted to France under the government of the Bourbons were more favourable than would have been granted to it while Buonaparté was at its head. This being the course put forth, we had only to say, that as Napoleon had returned to France, and had received the executive power, France could submit to those restricted limits which we had formerly wished to impose on her, and we could continue at peace. No such thing had been attempted. Overtures had been received directly from Buonaparté, the answer to which was, that they should be communicated to his Majesty's Allies; Whether these propositions had been taken into consideration, or whether they had been laughed at and thrown aside as an idle communication, no answer whatever had been given to that overture; for had there been, it would in some manner have made its appearance. The nature of this overture, as a great secret, the noble lord had concealed from the House. He was tempted to ask whether, if the war was continued for fifteen months, and at the end of that time Napoleon was in greater personal power than he was in possession of at the present instant, the Government of this country would reject all overtures from him? No one could deny that at this moment his personal power at least was much inferior to that which he possessed previously to the treaty of Paris; neither were there any ostensible grounds on which the Prince Regent could be advised to declare war. Had it been stated that the Allies felt themselves insecure, unless the French consented to adopt more; restricted limits? Had there been any aggression on the part of Napoleon? Had there been any thing which could give occasion to a Message like the juggling Message which was sent to the House in 1803, to induce them to plunge into war? Had there been any armament on the coast? Had there been any act similar to that of the revolutionary government of November, 1792, indicative of a disposition to war? Were we afraid of invasion? Were our fleets and armies in such a slate, that we had need to fear such an attack, when it was to be recollected, that it was taken as the greatest insult that 967 Buonaparté, in the heat of conversation, had formerly said, that England could not contend with him single-handed? His power at that time was infinitely larger than it was now. In former periods, when we had thought it safe to treat with Napoleon, France had suffered none of those restrictions to which she had since been subjected, nor had he himself undergone those trials, which, whether the effect they produced on him would be ultimately beneficial or no, had produced the most beneficial effects on his acts. What were the motives which led to those acts, it would be impossible to ascertain, nor perhaps would be material; if we were satisfied with our own motives, what were the motives of others—the acts themselves were humane and beneficial to mankind.
The grounds being such as were now stated, the House were to consider whether the blessings of peace could be maintained, or whether they should be passive until the fatal message came, and the blow was struck. He believed there had unhappily existed an idea in the country, that war was necessary; but at present the fervour in that cause had much abated. The general idea was, when Buonaparté first landed, that he would be speedily suppressed; it was imagined that the "monster, ruffian, villain, and traitor," would soon be put an end to, and that peace would return to the world. But it was to be remembered, that in the revolution which had taken place, in a country in which revolutions had been bloody beyond all parallel, Napoleon had been restored to the throne without one drop of blood being shed, and that the Government of this country and its Allies had first opened the flood-gates of blood to human kind, by declaring war for the professed purpose of putting an end to the political and physical existence of Napoleon. There were those who did not calculate on the means of carrying on the war in which we were about to engage, and which must be gigantic beyond the exertion which led to his own overthrow. Were the finances of this country, or of the Powers of the continent in such a state, that we could carry on the war for any length of time, at the rate at which we intended to commence it? Were the finances of Russia in a slate to enable that power to carry on the war? Were the finances of Austria or of Prussia in such a flourishing state? Was it not, on the contrary, known that the finances of all these 968 powers were in a state of complete exhaustion, and that without our assistance they would not long be able to carry on the war? As to our finances, by which all the other Powers were to be enabled to prosecute the contest, he had not spoken to any man who was not of opinion that a long war would exhaust us—[Hear, hear!]. The Treaty of Vienna adopted the principles enumerated by the Treaty of Chaumont, and the 16th article of that Treaty was referred to. That article was a convention between the contracting Powers, to adhere, if necessary, to the defensive compact for twenty years, with power to revise the provisions three years before the conclusion of that term. It might be very politic to enter into engagements for those extended terms; but with their experience of former coalitions, could the House calculate on such durability? Were they not aware of the peculiar circumstances by which Austria had been led to join the coalition against France, and that not long ago she was executing the designs of Buonaparté for the destruction of this country? With all our experience of continental alliances, by what magic spell did we hope to bind together a coalition for twenty years, in spite of jarring interests and particular objects? If all the Allied Powers could be brought to attack France, and if their attack was to a certain degree successful, they might for a time hang together.
What, then, would be the result, supposing the Allies again before the walls of Paris—supposing them again in that city? The people of France, then no longer at liberty to choose a government; would be subjected to one imposed by the Confederated Armies. Was it to be supposed that the same tranquillity would exist which now reigned; in France? The Allied Armies could not be withdrawn, but must be maintained in France, and live on the soil of that kingdom, which would be subjected not indeed to the bayonets, as it was now alleged to be of its own troops, but to the bayonets of the Allied Powers. Such a state of things would, as far as we could now foresee, be fatal to the liberties of mankind. But before the contest could be brought to this termination, disastrous as it might be—mighty indeed were the efforts which must be made—far other was the war with Napoleon from what it had been imagined by many, who idly asked, why were not the allied bayonets already in 969 France? The plain reason was this, because it had been impossible to bring such an efficient force to bear in a-short time: it was impossible, in short, to take France by a coup de main. Long preparation was absolutely necessary, and the time could not fail to be as serviceable to Napoleon as it had been to the Allies. He had called forth his strength, he had dissipated his internal foes, the white flag waved not within the limits of his land; while the Allied Powers, spite of their most earnest preparation, were not yet in a condition to act against him. Their chance of success became weaker every day, while the chance of Napoleon every day grew stronger. The hon. gentleman then observed, that the first lord of the Treasury (the earl of Liverpool) bad stated in another place, that the determination of the Allies on the subject of the Treaty was known before the communication had been made to Parliament, and called on the noble lord opposite to reconcile this with his declaration at the time of the discussion of the Message. He concluded by moving,
"That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, to entreat his Royal Highness that be will be graciously pleased to take such measures as may be necessary to prevent this country being involved in war, on the ground of the executive power in France being vested in any particular person."
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
seconded the motion. He thought it was not the part of this country to inquire into the particular government of France, nor into her power to settle who should be at its head. If the principle of not interfering with the concerns of other nations had not been recognised before, we should not have the constitution which we now possessed. The Declaration of the 13th of March bound the Allies to join against the designs of Napoleon Buonaparté but the circumstances in which he was placed were now widely changed. By the third article of the Treaty it was stipulated, that his attempts to regain the supreme authority in France should be prevented; but he was now in full possession of that sovereign power, and we had no right to trample on the affections of the French people, nor on the laws which they were pleased to make for themselves. The explanatory Declaration of the Prince Regent pledged us not to seek to impose any particular government upon France; 970 if such was the determination, how could another Declaration be issued against the existence of Buonaparté, or against his being placed at the head of the French nation? How was it possible to divide him from the government? When the Allies approached the gates of Paris last year, they proclaimed their intentions not to interfere with the government, but to support the wishes of the people, which were said to have manifested themselves in favour of the Bourbons. This was acting on a right principle; but it could not be denied, when it was seen how Buonaparté had marched through nearly the whole country to the capital, and resumed the supreme authority without meeting with the least opposition, that the feelings of the people were evidently with him. Therefore any attempt to make war for the purpose of dethroning him, would be a violation of those principles which the Allies had expressed. He thought that a personal feeling of animosity against Buonaparté had got the better of judgment in deciding in favour of war. But personal resentments should be laid aside, and the question considered on the ground of national policy and honour. If it was proper to attempt to conclude peace with Buonaparté twelve months ago when he was in the fulness of despotic power, why should it not be done now when his authority had been so much curtailed? If the House looked at the present constitution of France, it would see that there was none more likely to maintain the rights and liberties of a country, and to prevent it from threatening those of others. The Emperor was now placed in a situation in which he could less than ever interfere with us, or any other nation, even supposing that he should not have been taught by the lessons of adversity. If the noble lord wished to prove the truth of his assertion, that there still remained an alternative of peace or war, why not do it by acceding to the present motion? It would be said, that this was the time for war, as Buonaparté was unprepared. But the same language had been held twenty years ago. It was then argued in favour of the contest, that the councils of France were distracted, her finances ruined, and her army disorganised. War was thus begun; but every day, every month, every year strengthened the power of France. The members of the Coalition, it was now stipulated, were not to lay down their 971 arms except by common consent; but; had not experience shown us what was the nature of coalitions? How often had we not been disappointed, and seen our Allies leaving us, and from friends becoming our enemies? He thought the success of the present war extremely doubtful. He did not place much confidence Either in the coalition, or the Declaration of the Allied Sovereigns. The House were told not to trust Buonaparté, and he did not put much trust in him; but let them look at the papers laid for the last six months on the table, and ask; themselves what confidence they can place on the Allied Powers? Would they; find any ground for it in their conduct towards Poland? in their rapacious partition of Saxony? in their broken faith to Genoa and to Naples? If such a want of faith was found in the Allied Powers, he saw no reason why we should have more confidence in their declaration, than in those of Napoleon. He should give his decided vote on all occasions against plunging this country into a state of war, for the purpose of changing the government of France. The statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland, in which he lamented the necessity of laying on additional taxes, showed the impropriety of entering into a new contest. How could we maintain an army of 150,000 men, when we found it so difficult to go on as we were? No person was more ready than he was to support the Government in a just cause; but he now had a more imperative duty to perform—to protect the people of this country from being drawn into a most unnecessary and unjust contest.
said, he was not surprised that the hon. member, whose opinions on the subject of peace were so well known, should have brought forward the present motion; but he should be indeed astonished, if the House, after the opinions it had expressed, and with a knowledge of the sentiments entertained by the country, should agree to such an Address. The nature and effect of the proposition before them could not be disguised, if they concurred with the hon. gentleman. It was impossible for any one to concur with the hon. gentleman, who did not so completely see his way through all the arduous circumstances of the present state of things, as to have made up his mind, not merely that armed preparation was better than open war, but that it would be wise and 972 proper to adopt that course of policy at variance with the other Allied Powers. He did not think that the safety of the world was to be sought (whatever was the policy we adopted) in an alienation from those Powers of the Continent, by whose assistance we brought the former contest to a happy issue; though the honourable gentleman who made the present motion, on this as on other occasions, might be disposed rather to look to peace than to exertion for security, and might draw discouraging pictures of future results, which were only to be found in his prophecies. Parliament had a long experience of the consequences which would have resulted, if they had attended to the counsels which the hon. gentleman had, from year to year, impressed on the House. Napoleon would not only have been left in possession of the most fertile parts of Europe, of which the possession was so pregnant with danger to us; but independent Powers, now in a state of the most vigorous exertion against him, would have remained completely subservient to his will. It would have been unfortunate indeed if those counsels had biassed the House.
The noble lord said, he should first consider whether his Majesty's Govern had acted correctly in a constitutional point of view, or whether it was subject to the animadversions which the hon. member had cast upon it in the course of his speech. He distinctly admitted that Parliament had not given any pledge lo the Executive Government on war or peace, but that under the circumstances of the case they approved of the measures which had been taken for augmenting his Majesty's forces by sea and land; but how this force was to be used they had not decided. The hon. gentleman had found out a principle unknown to the Constitution, namely, that when the House was called upon to approve of a precautionary principle, it was the duty of the Government to acquaint them with all existing circumstances. It had been also said by the hon. member, that the Treaty of the 25th of March being known on the 7th of April, when the Message was discussed, he (lord C.) was not justified in saying that there was an alternative. Now on this subject he differed from the hon. gentleman, because, as he had said, on the discussion of the Prince Regent's Message, that the change of circumstances might have changed the determination of the 973 Allies, so he Said as to the Treaty of the 25th of March; and he was with reason unwilling, by a premature disclosure of a Treaty, of which the ratifications had not been exchanged, to prevent a reconsideration of the policy to be pursued towards France under the circumstances which had recently occurred. He begged leave to remind the House of the chronology of the transaction. The Declaration of the 13th of March had been drawn up at a time when it was only known at Vienna that Buonaparté had landed in France as an individual opposing the established government. It was not known that he had been successful; but though it was directed against an individual, he protested against any such meaning being annexed to it as that which had been ascribed to it by the hon. gentleman. An hon. and learned gentleman (sir James Mackintosh) had given notice of a specific motion on that paper, and he should be ready to argue it in detail. It had not been the wish, nor was it now the wish, of the British Government, to lead the Allied Powers into war against their opinion, but rather to invite them to consider all the difficulties of the case—to be deliberate as well as determined; because the Government was persuaded, that it was only to a common feeling of interest in the whole Continent, that they could look for success. The course to be pursued, therefore, was, if any thing occurred which had been, at the time when the Allies agreed to any treaty, unknown, that we, though we should go hand in hand with them, if they continued firmly resolved to persist in a warlike policy, should not cut off the retreat if they were appalled by the difficulties and hesitated. A material circumstance in the late events had occurred since the Treaty had been signed. At that time the revolt of Ney was known, and the disaffection of the troops at Melun was suspected; but it was not known nor supposed that Louis 18th would be obliged to quit his capital, much less that he would be obliged to quit his dominions. There were peculiar important stages in the whole transaction, each of which it was wise to make so many touch-stones of the feeling of the Allied Powers. Their opinion had been taken, and so far from hesitating on account of the extensive success of Napoleon, it had but added to their sober conviction that it was not possible to avail themselves of the blessings of tranquillity, and that Buonaparté was a person with 974 whom it was impossible to live in relations of peace and amity.
But the noble lord contended, that the principle was not new in this country, as the hon. member appeared to argue, that the British Government should decline to treat with persons or powers deemed incapable of preserving the relations of peace and amity. For it would be recollected that when Mr. Sheridan submitted a motion to that House, that a particular government of France was capable of maintaining the relations of peace and amity, the motion was decidedly negatived, and the ministers of the country declined to treat with the government alluded to. But what was the character of that government compared to that of the present Ruler of France, who had violated every treaty he had concluded, and who in his return to France had manifested an utter contempt for the most sacred obligation. Never, indeed, was good faith and probity set so completely at defiance. Never did any individual in the records of history so ostentatiously glory in the breach of all those bonds which are held sacred in moral and social life. But still the hon. member would maintain, that notwithstanding the crimes which marked his career, his character was not such as should preclude us from relying upon the engagements of this man—that his personal character was truly no objection to our treating with him. The only rational question, however, was, whether we should place any reliance upon this man, and by that reliance afford that time which he required in order to recover and organize his means? Whether we should delay until he was enabled to act with more effect in prosecution of those schemes, against which it was the peculiar interest of this country and its allies to guard?
But it seemed that the hon. member's disposition to rely upon Buonaparté was strengthened by the Constitution which he had recently promulgated, as if that constitution were likely to subject the temper and character of that person to any degree of control. If, however, constitutions were to afford any pledge for the good faith of this person, how many such pledges had he offered!—all of which, by-the-bye, he had violated and set aside just as it suited his purpose. Then, how could the hon. member imagine that the last constitution would be observed more than any of those previously framed under the auspices of this man? But if it even were 975 possible for this constitution to be more respected by Buonaparté than any of the preceding ones, or that the party with which he was at present connected had more control over him than any with whom he had heretofore co-operated, how could it be imagined that this constitution or party would be allowed for a moment to stand in his way, or dispose him to a pacific and honest policy, where he had the means of gratifying his own views, and especially when seconded by the desire of an army notoriously panting for war and plunder? Did the hon. mover, did any rational being suppose, that Buonaparté would find any difficulty in setting aside Fouche or Carnot, or even Lucien Buonaparté, as he had heretofore done other men, whenever their counsels opposed his views? If any one thought so, let him look to the conduct of this person towards M. Laisné, when he addressed hint as the president of an assembly, quite as respectable as any likely to be formed under the new constitution; and what said Buonaparté in reply to that address? Why, he desired M. Laisné and his colleagues to go about their business, telling them that they were presumptuous, in directing him how to conduct public affairs—that he, truly, was born to govern and that he knew the duties of his situation. But, according to the hon. mover's motion, this person's character had undergone a material change from his residence at Elba; and in support of this idea of a change, the order for abolishing the Slave-trade was much dwelt upon. He (lord C), however, could state from his own experience, that in the last year this person was most tenacious upon that subject; insisting that the abolition of the Slave-trade would be utterly inconsistent with the honour and interest of Fiance. Upon that ground, indeed, Buonaparté most strongly resisted this abolition. But the policy which dictated his recent conduct was easily intelligible. His object was to conciliate, with a view to impose upon those whom he knew to be friendly to that abolition. But was it possible that any one could be imposed upon by such a man, or indulge a speculation that he would long continue to act in the spirit of justice or peace, or attend to any constitution that limited his military authority, and thus decline to consult the wishes or conciliate the favour of that army, upon whose support he mainly depended for the sustainance of his power? No; the idea was 976 preposterous, for Buonaparté must attend to the will of the army, which repined at inactivity; and particularly to the will of those numerous officers, who, being placed on half-pay, loudly murmured at that peace which excluded them from the opportunities of promotion which a state of war was calculated to afford. To those men, Buonaparté must and would attend, and tile more so because their wishes were most congenial to his own character. The notoriety of that character was, indeed, the principal cause which served to render Buonaparté popular with the French army, and to indispose that army towards the Bourbons, in consequence of their known aversion to war and pillage, and their attachment to peace and justice. Thus the character which was calculated to attach all other classes of the community to the Bourbons, inclined the army towards him who promised to restore to them the profits arising out of universal calamity.
But the honourable mover asked, why we should decline to treat with Buonaparté now, as we had treated with him before? Was there, however, to be no end to this policy? Was there no degree of guilt which should restrain us from, treating with or placing any confidence in such a man? Were there no existing circumstances which should rather dispose us at once to enter into open hostility with this man than to negociate any treaty with him, upon the observance of which it would be quite impossible to rely? It was one of the fortunate circumstances of the present occasion, that Buonaparté had been forced to make an effort to recover the throne of France at a time when, instead of meeting the Allied Powers reduced to a peace establishment, he found them in full strength. The French nation, too, he must observe, was bound to the Treaty which Buonaparté had violated; and so the Allies justly felt. For that nation was a party to this treaty, and never had any nation obtained such terms; never had a nation been so mildly treated, especially after the crimes it had committed, after the evils it had inflicted upon the world. The Powers, in fact, who had taken possession of the capital of France as conquerors, had acted towards the French people as friends. These Powers were, therefore, justified in calling upon the French people to fulfil their contract by expelling Buonaparté and his dynasty from the throne of France. Nay, he would say further, that if the French nation would 977 consent to become a party to the gross fraud practised by Buonaparté in violating this contract, that nation must be prepared for the consequences of such conduct; and Europe would have to contend, not merely with Buonaparté, but with France, for the security of its freedom and independence. [Hear! Hear!] France, then, must expect the visitation of war with all its calamities, if it rejected the means of preserving its own tranquillity and that of the world, by declining to discharge its duties; and that country must not be allowed to choose its field of action. No; instead of offering the French to carry on war in Austria and Prussia, as heretofore, if they would not ally themselves with those troops which sought the deliverance of Europe and of France also, they must expect to experience in France itself the fruits of their own duplicity and imbecility. [Hear! Hear! on the Opposition benches]. If the French would gratify those who benefit by war—if Europe should find that people so fond of war, they should have it, and on their own soil—they should enjoy the object of their preference, but they must be made to feel the consequences. [Hear! Hear!] Europe had listened too long to such counsels as those of the hon. mover, which had too often paralyzed its. efforts at various stages, but especially at the early part of the Revolution, when different Powers had been persuaded to believe that by quietly standing out of the way of the evil, they inight enjoy separate peace and individual security. But the infatuated policy of the hon. mover, and of others who dictated such counsels, had happily ceased to have any influence; and Europe combined, upon a system of truly statesman-like policy, sought its common safety. Thus, whatever faults might have belonged to former policy, none could fairly be attributed to the policy which produced the Treaty of Paris, and which had since governed the Conduct of the Allies, as he was prepared to maintain, notwithstanding the spirit of defamation in which the hon. mover had indulged with respect to the proceedings of Congress. But that hon. member, who had always manifested a disposition to lower the character of his own country, and who usually attacked with most bitterness those among our Allies who were most intimately connected with it, had as he (lord C.) should on a proper occasion fully prove, rested his statements upon the most imperfect information, and promul- 978 gated the most groundless abuse. [Hear! hear!]
As to the Declaration of Frankfort, and the negociations which followed, the Allies were obviously governed in these proceedings by the wisest policy; for it was desirable to show to France, as well as to the world, that if peace were refused, and war persisted in, the evil was not attributable to the Allies. This, indeed, was rendered evident. As to the statement of the hon. mover, that a proposition was made by the Allies at Chatillon to grant much better terms to Buonaparté than were afterwards granted to the Bourbons at Paris, he could not conceive where the hon. member had obtained his information; but he could assure the House that no such, proposition was ever made. Buonaparté, however, had made a proposition on the occasion alluded to, which proposition was withdrawn within three days afterwards, when he had obtained a victory that appeared to promise some improvement in his fortune. So much as to the information of the hon. mover, and the faith of the man with whom he would recommend this country to treat! For his part he (lord C.) always preferred a treaty with the Bourbons to one with Buonaparté, because, among other considerations, the latter could not be consistently suffered to join in any consideration of the general arrangement of the affairs of Europe, to which the former was perfectly admissible. It was impossible, indeed, to admit a man to share in the councils of those whose object was to settle those territories which it had been the effort of his life to un settle. But although we had treated with this man previous to the Treaty of Paris, it did not follow that we should treat with him now. For a feature in his character had since transpired which proved that he was totally unworthy of confidence, presenting as it did an instance of treachery and bad faith certainly not to be paralleled in the annals of civilized nations. This man when he made his movement upon Bar-sur-Aube on the rear of the Allies, the success of which was problematical, sent instructions to his minister at Chatillon, which instructions happened to come into his (lord C.'s) possession, directing him to accede to the terms proposed by the Allies, but to contrive, by keeping certain points suspended and delayed, to afford him (Buonaparté) an opportunity, if circumstances should enable him, to prevent the fulfilment of the 979 Treaty. These instructions, which were signed by the duke of Bassano, Caulain-court was directed to burn and destroy. Such a proceeding was, he believed, wholly without precedent in the history of diplomacy. Some instances were to be found of a breach of treaty upon various considerations, perhaps satisfactory to the mind of those with whom the breach originated, although quite unsatisfactory to others; but to direct that a treaty should be concluded with a premeditated design to break it, was, he apprehended, never before heard of. The House, however, would be still better enabled to judge of the character of Buonaparté, when informed of the points which he expressed his anxiety to retain, in this meditated violation of Treaty. This man wished to retain, as these instructions declared, what he, forsooth, called the three great keys of France; and what were these keys?—Why, Antwerp, which was not the key of France, but of Great Britain; Mayence, which was the key of Germany; and Alexandria, which was the key of Italy. Could any rational man doubt the views of Buonaparté after this communication? He was anxious to retain possession of these points, which might enable him, when circumstances favoured his design, again to deluge the world, by facilitating his attacks upon those nations whom he most dreaded and detested. Could the hon. mover, after this disclosure, again disgust the House with the repetition of his opinion, that it would be safe to treat with Buonaparteé—that any confidence could be reposed in the faith of such a man—or that the peace of the world could be secure while power remained in the hands of a man so thoroughly indifferent to every consideration of moral principle or political rectitude? To put an end to the power of that man, was the declared object of the war; and it was no doubt desirable for the happiness of the world; and especially of France, to restore the Bourbons; but that restoration was not to be understood as the sine quâ non of peace. While, however, the Allies persevered in their endeavours to attain the real object of the war, namely, to take power out of the hands of Buonaparté, he could entertain no doubt that the British nation would steadily adhere to them. For such a system of spoliation as that man was notoriously anxious to pursue, it was the common interest of mankind to resist. He, therefore, deprecated the adoption of an Ad- 980 dress, which was calculated to damp the spirit of this Country and its Allies, and to give satisfaction only to the worst men in France. As to the expression of an anxiety for peace, he could not conceive the House disposed to think such an expression necessary; for he could assure the House that no set of men in the country could be more anxious for peace than his Majesty's ministers, if peace could be preserved with honour. But, he trusted that Parliament and the country would be ready to cooperate with the Government in pursuing those measures, which were necessary to the attainment of honourable and solid peace—of that peace which, should secure ourselves and Europe from disturbance and desolation. With a view to those measures, he should, at no distant day, propose an arrangement to the House, which it might rest assured should in no degree pledge the country to afford more aid of a pecuniary nature to the Allies than would be necessary to enable them, to move to the contest with energy, but that the great burthen of the expense should be borne by themselves. The noble lord concluded with expressing his confident hope of a glorious result, and that the exertions of the confederacy, actuated, as all its members were, by a strong sense of the necessity of the case, would succeed in producing the complete establishment of solid peace, and the security of general freedom and independence.
argued in support of the motion. He doubted much whether it was practicable to destroy the power of Buonaparté for he thought Buonaparté might very easily convince the French people, that the treaty which had been entered into against him, had for its object not only to force him from the throne, but to restore the Bourbons. The mere ascendancy of Buonaparté was not, in his opinion, so great a mischief as the military system in France, which seemed to be so much dreaded; and what, he would ask, was so likely to encourage and strengthen that military system, as keeping France in a state of war?
said, that he was one of those who had voted for the Address, and he therefore had great reason to complain of the conduct of the noble lord that night. The noble lord had acknowledged that he was in possession of the Treaty now in substance communicated to the House, two days before that Address was moved; 981 and yet, at the time the noble lord told him and others, that the question of peace and war was still open. The alternative of peace or war still open, after signing that Treaty! He had no hesitation in saying that the noble lord's conduct was not a fair parliamentary proceeding. And he had the more reason to complain, because on that night he explicitly stated that he never would support a war for the single purpose of displacing Buonaparté, or replacing the Bourbons. What the noble lord's motive could be for so concealing and perverting the fact, unless to obtain a large majority on the division, he could not comprehend. On the present occasion, however, the noble lord had concealed nothing; he was now open and direct; and it appeared that a war must be carried on for the purpose of destroying Buonaparté, without any effort being made to preserve the relations of peace, or any endeavour, in conjunction with our Allies, to place Europe in a state of safety. It was surely one of the most rash enterprises that could be undertaken, and most unwisely conducted. The most effectual instrument by which they could have accomplished their purpose, would have been to have tried to make peace, which attempt, if unsuccessful, would have justified a war in the eyes, not only of the rest of the world, but of France herself. As to the character of Buonaparté, he had as little confidence in it as the noble lord; but still there might he circumstances which would render it prudent and safer to repose a confidence in him, to which his personal character would not entitle him; and he thought him precisely in those circumstances at present. Had he not given a proof of the necessity in which he was placed by existing circumstances? If the noble lord were correct in this case, there must be a very strong part of the population of France in favour of peace, and the noble lord himself had thought, that a very great portion of the nation was so disposed. If this were really the case, why not try the experiment? It had been argued that the character of Buonaparté was not changed, and that he was not inclined to bead to circumstances. Was the release of the duke of Angouleme from his captivity no proof of his bending to circumstances? [No! No! from the Ministerial side].—No? (said Mr. P.) Did he ever act so on any former occasion? In no former instance was he known to proceed in this manner. Surely he did 982 not so demean himself towards the duke D'Enghien, or to any other person, who had opposed his interest, and whom he had got within his power. This, he conceived, was a proof that they ought to consider Buonaparté as a man whose conduct, like that of other men, was altered by circumstances. But, was Buonaparté the only man in the world on whom the lessons of experience were lost? How did he formerly lose that power which he had now regained? He lost it by the immeasurable extravagance, by the blind insanity of his ambition. Because, if it were not that the intoxication of success—the vanity of having arrived at a height of power, which, in his early years, he never could have hoped to obtain—led him to make the Russiam campaign—to advance to the walls of Moscow—no reasonable hope of his overthrow could have been entertained. Then, if he lost every thing by indulging in a wild and lawless ambition, were they not now to suppose, since he had again ascended the throne, that he would endeavour to preserve his authority, by pursuing a contrary course? There could be no good reason for thinking, that he was not so fond of power, as not to be anxious to exert those means which seemed best calculated for securing it.
But there was another circumstance, to which he must, of necessity, bend—to which he was compelled to bend—that was the power of nature herself. Buonaparté was not now at a period of life, when time enough remained to him to realise those wild and mad schemes of conquest with which he set out. He was now forty-five or forty-six years of age—a period of life which—though one in itself that had not perhaps much impaired his actual powers at this moment—must inevitably, in the course of a few years, render it impossible for him to make those exertions which he had heretofore done. Therefore, if he were not now more insane than he was ever before supposed to be, he must limit his ambition, and his views of extended power, to that boundary which nature herself imposed. Mr. Ponsonby said, he would not rely on the good faith, or moderation, or magnanimity of Buonaparté and the noble lord could not accuse him with ever having spoken in favour of that state of things which it was the object of Buonaparté's ambition to produce. But suppose none of the circumstances which affected ordinary men had any weight with him—suppose he 983 was determined to follow the line of conduct which the noble lord had descrihed—then it appeared to him (Mr. Ponsonby) that the most effectual means to enable him to carry his projects into effect, would be afforded by adopting the course pursued by the noble lord. Did the noble lord mean to say, that Buonaparté had no support but that of the military? Was not great portion of the people of France devoted to him? The noble lord observed, that he was kept in check by a large party in France, who were desirous of peace, and who wished to see a better state of things established in that country. He asserted (and it was the most extraordinary assertion ever made), that Napoleon at present complied with the views of that party, in order to extract from France such an army as was necessary to carry on his projects. The noble lord said this, after telling the House, that all Buonaparté's hopes depended oh the present military force. After that declaration, he informed them, that Buonaparté was obliged to throw himself into the arms of those lovers of peace and constitutional liberty, in order what they might enable him to get a sufficient army about him! Let the noble lord, if he could, reconcile this contradiction.
The noble lord next stated, that our Allies considered their safety to consist rather in a state of war with France, under existing circumstances, than of peace. Mr. Ponsonby said he was one of those who conceived that this country ought to bind up its interests, as much as possible, with those of the great Continental Powers; and this feeling would induce him to go very far with them, if the course they were now about to adopt was not one which, in his soul and conscience, he thought most likely to defeat the object which they had now in view, namely, that of giving permanent tranquillity to Europe. The noble lord said, "If the French people support Buonaparté, the war must be waged against them—hostilities must be carried into France." But perhaps the war would not be carried into France. Was it so very clear that the Allied army could penetrate into France? He conceived that their progress in that quarter was extremely doubtful. But suppose the experiment was made, and that it failed—what would then be the situation of Europe? He had heard persons in private conversation, observe, that peace could be made after the experiment was tried. But 984 let no man flatter himself with such a hope—let no man think, that a short experiment could be made on this subject. If the effort failed, let no man suppose that Europe would return to the same state in which it was before the exertion was made. Then, indeed, the power of France would be most formidable—then, indeed, surrounding nations would have just cause to dread it! For, if the Allied Powers avowedly made war against the French, to compel them to abandon the existing government, what would prevent them, in the event of a failure, from retaliating? What would prevent them from visiting, on other nations, as far as their means would permit, the same system that had been acted on towards them? The picture of Europe, under such circumstances as these, would be the most melancholy that could possibly be imagined.
The noble lord had stated one thing, for the purpose of consoling them, which he could not pass over in silence. He had stated, that the assistance which this country would be called on to give to the Allied Powers was of such a nature as would prove, that no attempt had been made to goad them into the contest—which they had agreed to undertake, with their own free will as the best way of securing their interests. He was very glad to hear this—but let the House mark the possible consequence. Those Powers were to make their utmost efforts. Now, undoubtedly, to a certain degree, they were sustained and put in motion by the application of the resources of this country; and, if their efforts failed in the first instance, how would those Powers be able to continue the contest afterwards? They would, in that event, be utterly incompetent to maintain their armies on foot, without great financial exertions on the part of this country. The noble lord stated, that this was not an effort to replace the House of Bourbon on the throne of France. No man regretted more than he did the change that had taken place in the situation of that family—no man would be more happy to see them at the head of the French government. He said this, not from any motive of personal affection, for he was not acquainted with any of them—but because he thought all Europe had an interest in their establishment. This Treaty did, however, contrary to the statement of the noble lord, bind the contracting parties, in effect, to place the House of Bourbon on the throne of France. To destroy the 985 power of Buonaparté, and to restore the Bourbons, was declared to be a most desirable and eligible object—one to which all the efforts of the Allies were to be directed—although, it was said, that it would not be made the sine qua non of peace with France. No—but the French nation would come to this conclusion—"If we are obliged to abandon the power of Buonaparté, we shall be compelled to accept the House of Bourbon in his place." Whatever the noble lord might say on this point, there was not a man in France who would not consider the placing of the Bourbons on the French throne, as the inevitable consequence of banishing Buonaparté from it. Now, was it prudent to undertake a war in Europe, for that which the people of France must consider a double cause—to place, the government under the Bourbons, and to withdraw it from Buonaparté? He was by no means a friend to the character of Napoleon. His talents and his abilities, very man must admit, were of a very extraordinary, of a very formidable description.—Certainly he never had displayed those moral qualities, without which no man could be considered truly great, or could conciliate the esteem of mankind. But was Buonaparté the only individual who had ever violated the faith of treaties? Was he the only person who had ever broken public promises? By the stipulations of the Treaty now before the House, this country was bound to maintain all that the Congress had done, and all that they might hereafter do, with respect to Europe. This was the contract, this was the express stipulation of the Treaty. We must maintain the cession of Genoa—we must maintain the alterations made in Germany—we must maintain the new division of Italy. [Hear, hear!] We must be ready to support many other novel arrangements, of which, as yet, we knew nothing. Did the noble lord believe that there were no persons in those countries, thus partitioned, who had as great reason to complain of breach of faith, as those individuals who were wronged by Buonaparté? But, in point of fact, the Treaty entered into with him was broken by the Allies. No man could deny it. In the discussion on the Treaty of Fontainbleau, it was stated by many, it was admitted by all, it was denied by none, that several of its stipulations were not fulfilled. It was observed, as a matter of praise to the British Government—and he 986 joined in considering it a praise-worthy act—that the English minister remonstrated with the Government of France on one breach of the stipulations. Therefore, let the character of Buonaparté be ever so perfidious, he could not consider that a legitimate reason for making war against him.
The noble lord observed, that the French people were a party to the contract entered into by the Treaty of Paris, and, if they did not perform what they had stipulated, they deserved to be punished. If they loved war, they should have it—but not as they pleased and when they pleased. They should not carry hostilities into the neighbouring countries, but war should be brought to their own doors. This, however, would depend on the success of the war. But let the House look to the situation in which they were about to place the country. They were undertaking to dictate to the French people what conduct they should pursue—what government they should obey. This was clearly what was meant. For they could not avoid seeing, that the Declaration, which said they would not interfere with the internal concerns of France (and he did not mean to speak it offensively) was mere nonsense. How could it be contended, that no interference was meant, when war was declared against that person whom the French people desired to be their ruler? This was a most untenable principle on which to found hostilities. It was one, in resistance to which, if it were exercised against this country, every man who heard him would sacrifice his fortune and his life. But it would be said, England is a virtuous nation, and sacredly regards every promise—but France is a vicious nation, and does not keep faith with any power. He knew of no instance in the history of mankind, where a war was carried on to make a nation more moral and less vicious, than it was—and, he was sure, if a contest were undertaken for that purpose, it would be unsuccessful. He was not competent to say, what the power of the Allies was, nor what force Buonaparté could oppose to them. But if the people of France were as much attached to him as they seemed to be, it was infinitely more probable that we should fail than succeed in the attempt—and if we should fail, then would Europe be placed in a more desperate situation than ever. He would not pretend to say that any peace made with Buonaparté would be of long duration; but even if it was a short peace, it would be of ad- 987 vantage to this country, and also of advantage to France, provided, it only lasted for four or five years. Were we sure, if we went to war, that our finances would enable us to carry it on? Were we sure that we were on such an amicable footing with America, that a new rupture might not lake place between us? Or were we certain that the people of this country were in so much good humour as to bear the immense pressure of taxation that would be the inevitable consequence of a new struggle? In his mind it appeared that if we rushed into this contest without making any effort to prevent it, we should expose ourselves to more serious disasters than it was possible for the human mind to contemplate. For this reason, which was the same that had induced him to vote for the Address, and not against the amendment on a preceding evening, he should vote for the present motion.
§ Mr. William Elliot
said he wished studiously to guard himself, in any thing he might say, from being understood as recommending war, though at the same time that he could not recommend war, it was impossible for him, and he trusted the House would feel it impossible, to advise a negociation with Buonaparté, or that this country should withdraw from the great continental confederacy. The question before them resolved itself into two obvious branches, first, as to right, and secondly, as to expediency. In his view of the first branch, the Allies not only had a right to go to war, but they had a sort of selection of the grounds of war. They had a ground of war against Buonaparté for breaking the Treaty of Fontainbleau; and they had a ground of war against the French people for suffering a violation of the Treaty of Paris, the security of which was founded upon the abdication of Buonaparté. He must decidedly maintain the principle, that a nation had a right to interfere with the government of another country, the construction and practice of which were hostile, or likely to be hostile, to the general peace and welfare of other nations. This was according to the law of nations. What was the grand alliance, but to prevent the union of the crowns of France and Spain in the same family, and so far interfering with the internal affairs of Spain? What was the Triple Alliance, the Quadruple Alliance, and the Pragmatic Sanction? They were, all of them, founded upon, the recognition of that principle. 988 The next point to consider, was the ground of expediency; this might authorize our going to war, but not to pursue a war of extermination. We ought undoubtedly to look to the character of the power with whom we were to negociate; and that of Buonaparté in all his transactions, proved that he was not to be relied on; for even when in the extremity of distress, he had been mad enough to disdain the terms which were offered to him, and which, if accepted, might have kept him on the throne. Here the right hon. gentleman took a comprehensive survey of the whole conduct and character of Buonaparté, since his accession to power in France, to show the danger and uncertainty of any engagements that might be entered into with him. With respect to his return to Paris from Elba, he considered it as a solemn lesson to all military governments, for a more tremendous example of a sovereign raised to a throne by the power of the soldiery, had not been presented to the world since the time of the Romans. He was brought back by the soldiery, who looked to be fed and employed by him: and if he would not lead them to their usual employment, they would lead him. As to the constitution which had newly arrived in this country, the people of France neither had, nor would be permitted to have, any thing to do with it; it would be administered at the point of the sword; and he owned it was no additional consolation to him to see among the framers of that constitution and the present ministers of Buonaparté, Carnot, who had been the war minister under Robespierre. He did not think any great change had been, or was likely to be effected in the character of Buonaparté. On the whole, he thought that no man could say that we could have an unarmed peace; that we could dismantle our navy, disband our army, and remain in security. But an armed peace would be a most formidable experiment; contrary to the very nature and spirit of our constitution, we should have an army and navy in idleness, and subject to a great expense; and then, when Buonaparté should have recruited his armies, and provided the means of assault from without, and when we should awake, as we should do, from a haunted and disturbed repose, our Allies would say to us, "We were in the heart of Europe ready to strike a blow, but you remained indecisive, and said it was not a proper time to go to war. Now we 989 have withdrawn our armies, and we say, this is not the time to re-produce them." The question therefore was, whether we should go to war now when we had the means of doing so with effect, or postpone it to a distant time, when we should be deprived of the power to do so? It ought not to be concealed from the people, that the war could not be engaged in, unless every man was inclined 10 make the greatest possible sacrifices, and to forego every indulgence; and on this account he hoped the House would pause before they engaged in war, if it could by any possibility be avoided. Still he must say, that he-would not recommend any negociation with Buonaparté but, for the reasons he had given, he felt it his duty to oppose the Address.
§ Sir John Newport
said, he differed from his right hon. friend (Mr. Ponsonby), and also from the right hon. gentleman who had just sat down, in various points. He was not convinced that the dangers which threatened this country were such as had been described. The dangers that might grow out of an armed peace could not but be infinitely augmented by a state of war; for no man could for see when the war, if once begun, would terminate. If the hope of restoring the Bourbons could be realised, what security was there that they could again keep their situations? They had been restored, and they could not keep their situations. It was the pressure from without from the earliest period of the war, when the duke of Brunswick issued his proclamation, that had made France a military country: and however great might have been our former difficulties, they would bear no comparison with those we should have to encounter, as they would now be insuperable from the exhausted state of our finances. The last coalition against Buonaparté had only prevailed in consequence of the insane projects of that man, who had reduced France to such a situation that her resources were paralysed; and yet the Allies were obliged to make terms with him, for fear, as was now admitted, that he should turn round and overcome them. For his part, ho. could see no hopes but in an immediate and successful effort against France; and if this should not succeed, in two or three years, we should find the foreign Powers detaching themselves from the cause one after another, till at last we should be left alone to maintain the tremendous and desperate 990 contest, with dilapidated and exhausted resources; the middle classes of society being ground down to the dust, and the country having nothing in view but horrors of the most calamitous kind. He therefore trusted that ministers would not plunge the country unadvisedly into war, but that negociations would be entered into, if they could be adopted consistently with the security and honour of the country.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
said, he saw difficulties and dangers surrounding both sides of the present question, and that he never found himself in a greater dilemma as to the course he should pursue. His embarrassment, however, did not arise in any degree from the motion of his hon. friend, because he saw strong and conclusive arguments against it. He felt all the peril and imminent evils attendant upon a military leader in France, who must necessarily infuse into the military character of that nation, new energies, and direct them to extensive plans of warfare; but yet he could not say that he felt that peril so strongly as to think himself justified in lending his support to carrying on the war upon that ground alone. He knew how easy it was to begin wars, and with what flattering delusions their successes were anticipated; but he knew also how, in the progress of those wars, clouds arose to darken and obscure them, which did not at first appear in the horizon. With respect to Buonaparté and the power he possessed, he feared, from the facts disclosed of his progress through France, that too large a proportion of the population was favourable to him. Of his character, he had but one opinion. He placed no confidence in the predictions of his improvement; for though there had been a large expenditure of bad passions in him, yet there still remained a fund of evil which was inexhaustible, he feared. He should not think he honestly discharged his duty if he did not say that he thought a peace with Buonaparté would be only a peace in name. He nevertheless felt serious apprehensions, when he considered the uncertainty of all wars. As to the particular question, he supposed that his hon. friend would not be anxious to press it. He had probably brought the motion forward, merely to give the House an opportunity of delivering their sentiments on the general question of peace or war.
§ Mr. Tierney
said, that if it might be 991 considered as a proof of wisdom to balance both sides of a question, and determine upon neither, he would say that his hon. Friend who had just sat down abounded in wisdom. Such speeches were certainly of some use, especially to members who happened to come late into the House, as they had the advantage of hearing all that could be said upon all sides of a subject. He had had a pretty long experience of the practice of his hon. friend; and he must say, that on all great and trying questions which came before that House, his hon. friend generally gave them the leanings of his mind, and to Government the substance of his vole—[a laugh]. With regard to the present motion, it had his decided support. For his own part, though much stress had been laid upon Buonaparté's escape from Elba, he thought this was the least of his offences. As he had been thrust from the throne by the point of the bayonet, it was not at all surprising that he should have tried to get back again. Gentlemen in that House, when turned out of office, were very apt to try to get in again!—[a laugh]. He denied that Buonaparté had been brought back entirely by the military. Instead of the invasion of France, as it had been called, it was one of the most extraordinary feats of this extraordinary man. He could not discover any effort that he had made since his return, to conciliate the military: but quite the reverse. Mr. Tierney said he would prefer the chance of peace to the various chances of war. If we should go to war, and afterwards, when our means of paying were exhausted, the Allies should go to their homes, in what a situation should we be placed! This country would then be inevitably lost. The noble lord was evidently wrong when he had expressed his opinion that the people of France would not have endured Buonaparté one moment, if they could have helped themselves. Every thing showed that the people, were attached to him. If we were to go to war, subsidies would be hereafter required by our magnanimous Allies, far beyond what we should set out with; and next year ministers would tell us, as they did in the early periods of the last war, that these Allies had expanded their last farthing, and could not move without farther payments. On the whole, he was convinced that if we did engage in the war, it would prove one of the most expensive and calamitous with which this nation had ever beta afflicted. The suc- 992 cess of the last campaign was entirely owing to a mistake of Buonaparté. Should we enter on another war for the chance of another mistake on his part? The assistance of Austria could not be relied on as she had enough to do in Italy. Indeed, the Allies, it was said, had taken, not Buonaparté himself, but Buonaparté's mother and sisters, and sent them to two of the strongest fortresses of Germany—he supposed to be exchanged at some future period, for some general officer. He did not think Sweden could be relied on to be a party to the confederacy. If we had not as great a force as we had in the last war, we could not expect success. But what did we want to gain by the war? To preserve the Treaty of Paris. The Treaty of Paris was offered to us, and why did we not preserve it Because the Allies wished to make an experiment. We must put Buonaparté out of the world, and restore the Bourbons. This was clearly the purpose of the war. We had now an accredited ambassador from Louis 18; and this, coupled with the Declaration of the Allies, decidedly proved that the restoration of the Bourbons was our object. Was it not most likely that this would indispose all France against us? The French were already soured against us by our manner of sending Louis to them, by his acknowledging that it was to the Prince Regent of England he owed the throne, and by our sending lord Wellington as the British, ambassador to Paris. But what will be the event, should we fail in this war? When we should have spent all our resources and France was goaded by our efforts, and had Buonaparté at her head, what would then be our condition? Let the noble lord show him, that we should not be in a worse situation by the war than we were now, and he might then be brought to concur in the war. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer must know that we could not possibly go on for more than two years with the expenses of a war. But the truth was, it must be the overthrow of Buonaparté or of the ministers. The noble lord with his blue ribbon which he had obtained by the defeat of Buonaparté, could not possibly make peace with him. If it were otherwise, why was not the best security which France could give, tried? Why was it not tried to bring her to disarm? This would be the very bust security; and this security, he was convinced, so strong was the disposition to peace in France, we could have. If al 993 the Allies would enter into a union to make Buonaparté give this, they assuredly would get it. Peace, therefore, we could have, if we wished it. He thanked his hon. friend for making his motion, and thought him entitled to the country's thanks. The noble lord had dealt very unfairly by the House, by drawing it in to give the unconscious pledge it had given; and in the event of war, he was not sure that disturbances would not arise in the country. He entreated the House to consider that this might, perhaps, be their very last opportunity of expressing their opinions on this great question, and of averting the calamities with which this country was threatened.
thought that Buonaparté, by his breach of the Treaty of Fontainbleau, had given a clear unqualified right to this country to go to war with him. Much had been said about the change that the reverses had wrought in Buonaparté's disposition. But how did he prove this change on his first entrance into France? On the 12th of March he issued a decree from Lyons, proscribing a certain number of individuals over whom he had no right whatever. This showed no great change from his wonted ferocity—no great spirit of mildness, of mercy, of forgiveness. He had abdicated the throne, and before he had even reseated himself on it, he proscribed persons not at all subject to him. It was said he was surrounded by persons favourable to liberty. But he believed that those who had once been the strongest advocates for liberty, had been amongst his basest and most fawning sycophants. He did not attach much value to the support they now gave, as he was satisfied they would be again ready to change, if circumstances changed. It had been asked, why we should not now be content with the Peace of Paris? This Peace of Paris had only been concluded on the understanding that Buonaparté had for ever abdicated his pretensions to the throne of France. He admitted that in our present situation we had only a choice of evils; but he maintained, that by far the less evil was to avail ourselves of the existing confederation, of the concentrated force of united Europe, in order to endeavour to destroy that power which threatened the tranquillity of the world. Our means for doing this were ample, and our situation much better than that in which we were even at the successful termination of the late war. It was true, 994 as stated by the hon. gentleman, we could not calculate with certainty on a fortunate result. But if it were once admitted, that when pressed by a tremendous danger we ought to remain inactive, lest our exertions should be fruitless, there was an end to every virtuous and vigorous effort. If we had been terrified by the uncertainty of the result, we should not have defended Portugal, supported the cause of the Spaniards, or assisted in the successful campaign of last year. It was true that many coalitions had failed: but all had not failed, as was proved in the last year. The present coalition had at least as much chance of success now as it had then. Between forty and fifty fortresses, then garrisoned by French troops, were now in the possession of the Allies. This circumstance would give the Allies a very considerable advantage now, which then they did not possess. Upon the whole, he saw no reason whatever for despairing of success.
§ Mr. Philips
supported the motion. He deprecated the want of precaution on our part to prevent the return of Buonaparté to France, and censored the general policy of ministers.—[This speech was interrupted by loud cries of 'Question, question!']
§ Mr. Wellesley Pole
, having succeeded with difficulty in obtaining a hearing, said, that he had only one appeal to make to the hon. gentleman who made the motion, and one declaration to communicate to him, which he hoped, would give as much satisfaction to the hon. gentleman as to every man else. In the animadversions on the Declaration of the 13th of March, repeated that night, he had stated it as sanctioning the murder and assassination of Buonaparté, and he had lamented that the name of Wellington should have been disgraced by signing such a paper. He (Mr. P.) happened to be with the duke of Wellington when the report of the hon. gentleman's speech reached him; and never was a man so shocked as he then was, that one of his countrymen—one who had either known, seen, or heard of him—should have supposed that he signed a paper bearing such, a construction, or that he could possibly give it such a construction. His only understanding was, that Buonaparté had forfeited all his political rights. At the time, it was not known whether it was Buonaparté's intention to endeavour to regain the throne of France, or whether 995 he had put himself at the head of a banditti to disturb any other country and he never thought that any man, much less a British senator, could have suspected that he would have signed a paper with such a meaning. They conceived that he had forfeited his political right, and that he was a rebel and a traitor; but they never intended to sanction his assassination.
§ Mr. Quin
had yet heard nothing to persuade him that the people had any share in the return of Buonaparté he had found an active army and a passive people. If we did not go to war, we should have an armed peace, and France would then have all the advantage. Buonaparté could not be believed to be actuated by a sincere desire for peace. He was an enemy to this country from envy of our free constitution, and our commercial greatness. The struggle might be arduous, and the event hazardous, yet he deprecated the idea of our abandonment of the policy of our Allies.
§ Mr. J. Smyth
spoke in favour of the Address, and contended that the war would be a war of aggression against France, and could not be justified on any rational grounds.
§ Sir Frederick Flood
said, he wished for peace with France, but he did not wish for peace with an outlaw and a rebel; and in that character only could he regard the present Ruler of France. He considered that the most transcendent abilities had, in the late contest, been displayed, both in the cabinet and in the field, and was happy to recognize as his countrymen a Castlereagh and a Wellington. The present was a question of a delicate nature; yet he could not help thinking the whole country ought to go heart and band together in overturning the usurpation of Buonaparté.
§ Mr. Coke (of) Norfolk,
supported the motion. He could not help thinking, that those who were abettors of the war with France, on the present occasion, were the enemies, and not the friends of their country.
§ Mr. Whitbread
, in reply, said, that notwithstanding the explanation of the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Wellesley Pole), he confessed that he was still of opinion that it would have been far more to the credit of the duke of Wellington not to have signed the Declaration in question, even with the interpretation which had been 996 given to his relation, and by him communicated to the House. The character of the duke of Wellington was part of the property of this country. Who was not proud of the name? No person had ever shown himself more willing to pay the tribute of applause which was due to his great actions than himself; and when he had so expressed himself, he hardly thought that his sincerity could be called, in question. But was it because the duke of Wellington had signed a Declaration, that it bore a different construction from what it would have done if he had not put his name to it? And if in the hurry of business he did not consider the meaning of this Declaration with sufficient attention, was this not a subject of deep lamentation to this country? If, before this, any person had been asked, who would be the last, man to sanction such, doctrine—or if there was one man whom he would select from all mankind as the person who would be most inclined to give it his condemnation, be would have selected the duke of Wellington. He would have conceived the duke of Wellington to feel in this way—save Buonaparté for me, that he may command an army against me—[Hear, hear!] After having vanquished in succession all his captains—all his fame, all his glory, all his future renown, were centered in the life of Buonaparte—[Hear, hear!] But he had signed the Declaration, and it had gone forth to the world. What did 'existence' mean, but physical existence? He was glad of the explanation of the right hon. gentleman, because if his (Mr. Whitbread's) voice had reached the Duke, it might also go out to the world that the duke of Wellington declared that the principle of assassination was detested by him, and had never met with his approbation. With respect to the noble lord (Castlereagh), he had divided his speech into three pails: the first was a philippic against Buonaparté the second was a philippic against him (Mr. Whitbread); and the third was a panegyric upon himself. With respect to the speech of an hon. gentleman (Mr. Wilberforce), he was surprized to hear such language from a person of his grave and pious character, who opened a book, he believed, more often than any of those who heard him, in which it is said, that when a sinner repents he may save his soul alive. He begged the hon. gentleman, however, the next time he read that passsage, to put in an inter- 997 lineation—'excepting Buonaparté.' That hon. gentleman, who for twenty years had been unable to succeed in his great project for the Abolition of they Slave Trade, had never once given praise to that treat man, by whom it was accomplished. In the Report of the African Institution, though use was made of the decree of Buonaparté, by saying that it would force all Europe to follow the example, yet not the least praise was given to that decree. He would have been surprised at this, if he had not recollected that no praise was given to Mr. Fox, who abolished the traffic in this country. The noble lord who had his confidence, was one of the small minority of 16 who voted for the continuance of that odious traffic. It was asked, did he wish to depend on the regeneration of Buonaparté? He did not wish to depend on this, but he conceived that Buonaparté was in a situation to conciliate all the French in his favour, and that it would be necessary to exterminate the whole of them, before ministers could possibly succeed in their project. The honourable member proceeded, in a most able manner, to reply to the arguments of the noble lord, and other members who had spoken on that side of the question. He very eloquently vindicated the line of conduct he had pursued upon the question of peace from the earliest commencement of the war, and endeavoured to show in what way lord Castlereagh had been duped by prince Talleyrand, who had formerly been the minister of Buonaparté.—[Lord Castlereagh said, that he had not been the minister of Buonaparté for eight years.] Mr. Whitbread rejoined, that he supposed the noble lord meant to assert, that a penance of eight years atoned for all former offences; if so, what a lamentable misfortune it was for Buonaparté that he had not remained in Elba for that space—then he might have returned to France, have seated himself upon the throne, have shaken hands with the noble lord, negociated with the noble lord, and above all have duped the noble lord, as successfully as he had been imposed upon by prince Talleyrand. The hon. gentleman concluded with saying, that he had brought the conduct of ministers before the House, and it remained with the House to deal with them as they deserved.
§ The House then divided:
|For the motion||72|
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercrombie, hon. J.||Maddocks, W. A.|
|Althorp, lord||Martin, J.|
|Aubrey, sir John||Martin, H.|
|Astell, William||Monck, sir C.|
|Atherley, A.||Moore, Peter|
|Barnard, viscount||Mackintosh, sir J.|
|Bewick, C.||Montgomery, sir H.|
|Birch, Joseph||Newport, sir J.|
|Brand, hon. Thos.||Osborne, lord F.|
|Byng, George||Pierse, H.|
|Buller, James||Philips, G.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Piggott, sir A.|
|Calvert, Charles||Prittie, hon. F. A.|
|Cavendish, lord G.||Plumer, W.|
|Cavendish, Henry||Ponsonby, rt. hon. G.|
|Cavendish, Charles||Pym, Francis|
|Chaloner, R.||Paulet, hon. H. Vane|
|Coke, Thomas||Ramsden, S. C.|
|Campbell, hon. J.||Romilly, sir S.|
|Dundas, Charles||Rowley, sir Wm.|
|Dundas, hon. L.||Scudamore, R. P.|
|Duncannon, visc.||Smyth, J. H.|
|Fergusson, sir R.||Smith, W.|
|Foley, hon. A.||Smith, J.|
|Foley, col. T.||Sebright, sir J.|
|Gordon, R.||Tavistock, marquis|
|Grant, J. P.||Taylor, M. A.|
|Guise, sir William||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Hanbury, W.||Wellesley, R.|
|Horner, F.||Western, C. C.|
|Halsey, J.||Wharton, John|
|Hornby, Edward||Whitbread, S.|
|Howorth, H.||Wilkins, Walter|
|Latouche, R.||Winnington, sir E.|
|Lyttelton, hon. W.||Webster, sir G.|
|Lemon, sir W.||TELLERS.|
|Langton, W. G.||H. G. Bennet|
|Lubbock, J. W.||Sir M. W. Ridley.|