§ The Attorney General having moved the second reading of this bill,
§ Sir Robert Wilson
said, that when the learned gentleman asked for leave to bring in the present bill, he desired that he should alone be considered responsible for the measure, no doubt foreseeing the extent of the public disapprobation which it was calculated to produce. The noble lord opposite, however, in the debate which attended even its introduction, did not consider it in that abstract and isolated view, but as a measure connected with our foreign policy. That avowal was at least candid, as it brought the question before the House on its proper merits, and allowed those who disapproved of the bill, to grapple with the character of that external policy. It was proposed to rescind two acts of parliament which made the enlistment of British subjects by foreign sovereigns in these dominions death, and to substitute an act with an extension of the principle, but mitigating the character of the first offence to a misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment, but making a repetition of the offence, a felony, and punishable by transportation. That latter clause had been since withdrawn, in deference no doubt, to the expression of public opinion. The original intention of considering it as a felony was, however, a demonstrative proof of the animus of the projectors, from whence that bill proceeded. The House would remember that the noble lord, on its introduction, asserted, that he did not confine his support of the bill to the particular reasons, specified by the hon. and learned attorney general, but considered it as a measure founded on the spirit of our general policy. Before he proceeded to consider the question in that relation, he should first show that it was not entitled to any respect from any analogy with those other enactments to which a reference had been made. To show this, he had only to take an historical view of the circumstances under which the acts of the 9th and 29th of George 2nd were passed. In the year 1736, when the act of the 9th was introduced, the whole continent of Europe bad been en- 868 gaged in war; Austrla and France had entered into a preliminary negotiation, and had requested the king of England to interpose with his good offices. That request was accepted, and this country had taken up the conduct of the negotiation. It was natural, therefore, that under such circumstances a bill should pass tending to prevent the subjects of this kingdom from supplying any of the belligerents with the materials of prosecuting the war. The difference was most marked from the circumstances of the present measure. The House had heard from the noble lord himself, that during the progress of the mediation of this country between Spain and South America, the British government had not interfered, and that these armaments were permitted to sail from British ports. But when the negotiation had failed and all hope of conciliation was at an end, then it was that his majesty's ministers determined on taking the present measure. Where, then, he would ask, was the analogy between the reasons for the present bill and that passed in the 9th of Geo. 2nd? He would next advert to the circumstances under which the legislature enacted the 29th of the king. It was in the war of 1756, after France had seized a number of British shipping, when government were in possession of information, that an invasion was intended either here or in Ireland; when, be it recollected, there was a pretender to the Throne, residing near Paris, with some thousand adherents to his person, or employed in the French service. These constituted the reasons for that law. Was it not evident, therefore, that these two acts on which the present bill was said to be bottomed, had both arisen from particular exigencies, and were intended to meet special and extraordinary necessities? Indeed, such was the character of every previous law, which might be considered to have an analogy with the acts of the 9th and 29th of George 2nd. So far back as the reign of James 1st, an act was passed, not to prevent the enlistment of British subjects, but to secure by oaths their attachment to their religion and loyalty. In the time of James 2nd, a law was passed to recall the persons engaged in the service of the States general, from an apprehension of their being employed in the intended descent on the kingdom by the prince of Orange. King William also passed a law, to prevent seamen being engaged in the service of foreign 869 governments; but at what time? When James 2nd was in Ireland, and the French king was his ally. Never, indeed, did this country adopt such a system of policy unless where we were principals in the quarrel, or had accepted the conduct of a general negotiation. But these acts of the 9th and 29th of George 2nd having passed, what was their operation? If they were not still-born—if they received the vital spark by the assent of the legislature—they were speedily consigned to the tomb. They had remained during all times a dead letter on the Statute Book. He called upon the learned and hon. attorney general to state an instance where they were carried into operation, or where a punishment was inflicted. He was not contending against the right of the king to punish the offence of engaging in the service of foreign powers. There were instances very lately, in the case of persons who had engaged in the service of France at the Mauritius; but they were prosecuted on the old and constitutional law against treason, and suffered death. From general history, it was clear, that such a principle as the present bill disclosed was never acted upon, even where Great Britain was her self one of the belligerents. In the war which led to the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, at the battles of Dettingen and Fontenoy, the troops of this country were engaged with the Irish brigades in the service of France. There were instances where some of that gallant corps were taken prisoners. In what manner were they treated?—They were treated with the consideration due to their gallantry, and received as prisoners of war! And all this, too, in contravention of those acts of the 9th and 29th of George 2nd. In those times, the armies of many foreign sovereigns were filled with Irish, Scotch and English officers. At one period, out of 120 companies of Austrian grenadiers, seventy were commanded by Irish officers. In the war of 1756, when again at the battle of Minden, the Irish brigade was opposed to the British troops, the very same course was followed, and these laws were disregarded. At the battle of Culloden, in 1716, there were some Irish officers in the French army, which was then made prisoners; and the very production of their commissions was considered sufficient to entitle them to the treatment of prisoners of war. So late as the year 1794, the proceeding of that period was made the ground of a‡870 direct Interference with the French government. When general O'Hara was taken prisoner in a sortie from Toulon, he was sentenced to death by a decree of the National Convention. His royal highness the duke of York, who then commanded the British army, immediately dispatched a British officer, now a noble lord, to whose name, when mentioned, it was needless to add any eulogium, he meant lord Hutchinson, to the French advanced posts, for the purpose of urging in the strongest manner the precedent of the treatment of the Irish officers in the French army, which surrendered at Culloden. The appeal had its effect, as the decree of the Convention was rescinded. But he would ask, in what manner did we treat these officers of the Irish brigade, who, refusing to remain in the service of the French republic, withdrew to this country at the period of the Revolution? Did we enforce against them the acts of the 9th and 29th of George 2nd? On the contrary, we received them into the British service, embodied five or six regiments under the command of Fitz James, Walsh, Conway, and O'Connell, and their gallant and distinguished exertions were the grateful return which Great Britain received for so wise a determination. But it was not in France and Austria that these Irish corps were then to be found. There were three Irish battalions also in the service of Spain. It was never contended that such engagements on the part of any portion of the subjects of the king compromised the character of the government. We saw general La Fayette engaged in the service of North America, sir Sidney Smith at one time holding a command in the Swedish navy. There were Swedish sailors in the fleets of Rodney and De Grasse at the moment of contest. The Russian navy was at one time full of Scotch officers, yet it was never considered that such occurrences affected the character of the respective governments, whose subjects they were, or that they disturbed any existing relations of neutrality. He did not see any of the lords of the Admiralty in their places; but had they been present, he would have appealed to them to state the number of the Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians that manned our navy during the last war, and contributed so essentially to the glory and security of the country. Was that House prepared to give a new interpretation to the law of nations, which would have the 871 effect of inducing foreign governments to exercise the restriction, and in the end deprive this country of the assistance the value of which it had previously experienced? Was that the recompence they would return to those brave men of whose services they had availed themselves? The House he trusted would pause before it adopted a measure so cruel to such a number of foreigners, and so prejudicial to our own interests. He would not be guilty of the affectation of entering into a statement of the opinions of Puffendorf and Grotius, but he believed he might say, that it was the decision of the most enlightened jurists, that the law of nations imposed no obligations of neutrality, which went to prevent the subjects of any government from enlisting in the service of any power at amity with their own government, provided such enlistments were permitted without favour or preference to either belligerent. In the war of 1756 we subsidized corps of Russians and Hessians, without considering that we engaged their governments in our quarrel. It had been the practice of the Swiss to hire themselves out to adverse armies. But then it was said America had adopted an opposite principle, and therefore we were bound to follow the example. For America he felt sincere attachment; he cherished her with affection, as the impregnable fortress of human freedom—with her gates ever open to afford a refuge and a resting-place to the persecuted and oppressed. But he was not blinded by his attachment, when he saw an attempt made to separate freedom from justice. But could the House forget, that from the United States the people of South America had received heretofore, the most active assistance? There was built the first vessel on which the flag of independence was hoisted. From thence the South Americans had obtained the two finest frigates in their service. North America had sent commissioners, not to negociate South American independence, but to give a character to their governments; seeing all that had been done, Spain interfered, and purchased the forbearance of America by the cession of Florida. It was dangerous to be a prophet on political events at all times, but more particularly of late, when reason and facts were so opposed. But he would hazard the assertion, that after Florida had been occupied by her population, and her new position was secured to menace in the event of 872 war, the trade through the Gulph, America would next demand Cuba, and that she would obtain. By intrigue and intimidation, she would ultimately extend her views of aggrandizement to Mexico, push her frontier from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and in the end laugh at Great Britain as the dupe of her artifice. But what right had Spain to make this demand upon us? She was preparing an expedition against her colonies at the port of Cadiz, the same port from which an expedition had sailed against this country, of which specimens might be seen in the Tower of London. Did this constitute a claim upon our co-operation? Yet we were called upon to pass a law which, at the same time that it would retard our commerce, would place thousands of our fellow subjects, whenever they touched their native land, at the mercy of any mercenary and wicked informer, who could arrest them as criminals, and send them to gaol as malefactors. It surely would be enough to refer those who might be disposed to enlist in the service of the South Americans to the ordinance made by Ferdinand, in Madrid, a few months ago, devoting all who should engage in this service to the most ignominious death. But must it further be enacted by a British parliament, that our fellow subjects who might reach their native shores, should spend their lives in British gaols? He must describe this bill a bill not called for, a bill which policy rejected and humanity condemned, a bill in favour of Ferdinand and inauspicious to liberty [Hear]. If they were to rake up the ashes of the acts of the 9th and 29th of George 2nd, it ought to be in order to consign them for ever to the grave. He would trouble the House with no further observations, but would move, as an amendment, "That the bill be read a second time on this day six months."
The Attorney General
said, that the first part of the gallant general's argument went to establish the right of the subjects of one state to enlist in the service of another state, and even if that state should be at war with their state. [General cries of No, no.] The instances to which the gallant general had referred went to establish that principle. [Sir R. Wilson rose to explain; but the cries of "No. no, it is unnecessary," were so general, that he immediately sat down.] He was not disposed to quarrel with the mercy and humanity extended to the Irish brigade who 873 were engaged in a service directly hostile to this country. Their faults were pardoned, and they were treated as a foreign enemy. With this clemency he did not quarrel; but when instances of this kind were stated as arguments affecting the present question, he must contend that they went to establish the principle, that subjects should be suffered to enlist in hostile armies. The other part of the gallant general's argument went to the principle, that by national and municipal law every individual had a right to enlist in the service of another power against the policy of the state itself. He was ready to show, on the contrary, that an individual had not a right to enlist so as to break that neutrality which the state wished to preserve. Where a state was in amity with another state, it had a right to prohibit its subjects from engaging in war against it, without the consent of the sovereign. That was the principle for which he contended. The sovereign power of a state was entitled to compel the obedience of all its subjects in this point. On that account it was, that the sovereign in this country was invested with the power of recalling all subjects who were abroad; and by the earliest laws, the sovereign had the right to prevent subjects from going abroad, because the individual was identified with the state on all the principles of policy and safety, and on all the principles of social intercourse and national intercourse. The state would become a mere cipher if large bodies of its subjects could act independent of its policy; if an individual or bodies could say, "I, or any number of us, can erect ourselves into a body of individuals, and we shall contravene your wishes and your views. When you profess yourselves neutral, we have a right to beat up for volunteers in every town of the kingdom, and you have no right to pass a law against it." He would ask, whether any intercourse could be maintained between nation and nation on such principles? When he said so, he was looking at the bill how before them, which said, "Without a misdemeanour you shall not enlist yourselves, or suffer yourselves to be enlisted, without a license, that is, without the consent of the king." This was the principle of the bill. It was founded on the principles of the common law. He was aware that it might be replied, If it was so, why not leave it to the operation of the common law? why introduce 874 a new statute? [vehement and continued cheers from the opposition.] If it was so founded, the principle of the gallant general, that every individual had a right to enlist in the service of a foreign power must be given up. But although the right was founded on the common law, there was no absolute power—he did not mean absolute in an obnoxious sense—there was no specific power to prevent individuals from enlisting, or to take any steps till they were gone, and the act was committed. Without the acts which made foreign enlistment a felony, or an act like the one now proposed, for making it a misdemeanour, there was no specific power of preventing foreign enlistment. Those gentlemen who had done him the honour of cheering him seemed to admit that the right was founded on common law. He wished, then, to ask one question: if foreign enlistment, at one's own pleasure, was contrary to law, why not prevent it? Why not, by the medium of an act of parliament, prevent what was contrary to law? That question he wished to ask. Why should the insurgents—he was anxious to avoid any offence to them, and to make use of no harsh terms—why should the insurgents, as they were called, why should the revolted provinces of South America, be in a better state than recognized states? Did the gallant general contend that they had a right which no recognized state had till this period? Surely they ought to be in the same state with recognized states in this respect. It was contrary to every principle of municipal or national law to make a distinction in their favour.—With respect to the ships fitted out in this country for the assistance of the Spanish insurgents, and the argument which had been adduced in defence of such equipments, he thought it fit to say only a few words. It was his opinion that such equipments ought by no means to be tolerated, let what would be the side with which they were intended to co-operate; and, therefore, he had no hesitation in saying, that when the gallant general had alluded to the possibility of ships being hired by Spain in this country to oppose the insurgents, he had alluded to a case which never would happen, and which it was the express object of this bill to prevent from happening; for the bill applied, not to ships employed in the service of this or that particular power, but to ships employed in the service of any power whatsoever without a license from 875 the British government. Such an enactment was required by every principle of justice; for when the state says, "We will have nothing to do with the war waged between two separate powers," and the subjects in opposition to it say, "We will, however, interfere in it," surely the House would see the necessity of enacting some penal statutes to prevent them from doing so; unless indeed it was to be contended, that the state and the subjects who composed that state might take distinct and opposite sides in the quarrel. He should now allude to the petitions which had that evening been presented to the House against the bill: and here he could not but observe, that they had either totally misunderstood or else totally misrepresented its intended object. They had stated, that it was calculated to check the commercial transactions and to injure the commercial interests of this country. If by the words "commercial interests and commercial transactions" were meant "warlike adventures," he allowed that it would; but if it were intended to argue that it would diminish a fair and legal and pacific commerce, he must enter his protest against any such doctrines. Now, he maintained, that as war was actually carried on against Spain by what the petitioners called commercial transactions, it was the duty of the House to check and injure them as speedily as was possible. He did not expect that any member would contend, that individuals were not bound by the acts of the state under whose protection they lived; or that any member would argue, that the country which allowed soldiers to be enlisted by beat of drum and sound of trumpet to serve in the ranks of one out of two contending parties, was preserving a strict neutrality towards them both; and yet, unless such arguments were to be used, the present bill must appear to every impartial man to be founded upon principles of true state policy, and upon maxims of the most undeniable municipal law. The gallant general had also alluded to the particular situation of the Spanish government: he did not see how that subject could be made to bear upon the present, because if the British government thought that the Spanish provinces ought to be abetted in their present efforts, the nature of the question was entirely changed; but if it professed neutrality, then it ought to adopt a policy consistent with that neutrality, which would be most effectually 876 done by reviving the old law of the country, and by mitigating the severity of the penalties which it enacted. The statute of Geo. 2nd prohibited the entrance of a British subject into the service of any "foreign state, power, or potentate:" now it was evident that these words could only allude to states, powers, or potentates, that had been acknowledged by the other governments of Europe; and he would therefore ask, whether it was fair that subjects who were rebels, states which had revolted and were not acknowledged, men whose existence as a distinct nation was totally unknown, should be placed beyond the operations of those civil and municipal laws which affected nations and princes, whose claims to being treated as such had long existed, and had long been acknowledged? He would also ask, whether it was fair to allow men to enlist into the service of the unacknowledged state, and to debar them from the right of enlisting into the service of the acknowledged one? For his own part, he thought that nobody could contend for the fairness or impartiality of such policy; and therefore, as this bill was founded on the common law, and was absolutely necessary for declaring what was the law on the subject to those who were inclined to embark their fortunes in this struggle, he should give it his most willing and decided support. It was to apply not merely to those who enlisted in the service of the Spanish insurgents, but to those who enlisted without a license from the Crown in the service of any power whatsoever. There was a provision in it to prevent its affecting those who were already in the service of the insurgents, which he considered to be no less than what was required by justice and policy: those who entered into it hereafter, would enter into it with a full knowledge of the pains and penalties which they incurred by doing so; and if they sinned against the law at all, would be sinning against it with their eyes open. Thinking, then, as he did, that the bill was not only absolutely just, but positively necessary, he must repeat, that the House in enacting it would do nothing more than what justice, and its own high character, demanded that it should perform.
§ Mr. Denman
expressed his astonishment at some of the arguments that had been used by the hon. and learned gentleman, and more particularly those of which the hon. and learned gentleman had availed 877 himself, in reply to the doctrines which had been so ably maintained by his hon. and gallant friend. He (Mr. Denman), as a lawyer, would say, that no lawyer, in or out of that House, could show, that his hon. and gallant friend's doctrines were at variance with the law of the land. His hon. and gallant friend had never argued against the right of the legislature to prohibit the subject from entering into the service of a foreign state. What his hon. and gallant friend had justly and convincingly argued was, that those very acts of 1736 and 1756, which it was now intended, for a certain purpose, to revive, had never been carried into execution; but that the object for which those acts had been passed, had been accomplished in another way. The object of his hon. and gallant friend was, to show, not that the sovereign or the legislature had no right to prevent the subject from enlisting in a foreign service, but that acts of this description were so hostile and revolting to the best feelings of the country, that when passed, as the acts of 1736 and 1756 had been passed, under circumstances of a very different nature from those at present existing, it had not been thought advisable to carry them into effect; but that their object had been obtained by courts martial and other means; and thence his hon. and gallant friend had argued, that such acts were nugatory, and consequently unnecessary.
He was perfectly at a loss to conjecture, by what ingenuity the hon. and learned gentleman could torture this argument into a denial of the power of the sovereign and the legislature. Nor was he less at a loss to conceive, how the hon. and learned gentleman could contend, that the bill before the House was intended to preserve the neutrality of the country. Could that be termed a neutral measure, which prevented assistance from going to one of the belligerent parties, and allowed it to go, without hindrance or impediment, to the other? That such was the case in the present instance, no man in his senses could doubt—not indeed by the enactments proposed, but by the virtual effect they would have if carried into a law. Because the British government speculated that British subjects would be more disposed to fight under the banners of liberty than under those of oppression, they wished to pass a law which would prevent the former from receiving assistance, and which could have no effect on 878 the latter; because there was not a man in the country, with the heart of an Englishman, that did not ardently pray for the success of the Spanish independents. If, therefore, this bill was intended, as he had no doubt it was, to impede that success, it was taking up the mask of neutrality, in order to conceal the destructive designs which were harboured against the cause of liberty. His majesty's ministers contended, that the proposed act would press equally on both the belligerents. Supposing that to be the case, where was the necessity of it? The best and only mode of keeping the balance even between the parties, would be, to leave the law as it at present stood. If, by the existing law, any English subject had been precluded from enlisting in the service of the king of Spain, even such a circumstance would not have rendered a new law necessary; as our neutrality might have been equally maintained by simply repealing the existing law; but every body knew that no such event had occurred. If, however, it could be shown, that by the existing law a single British subject had been prevented from entering the service of the king of Spain, he would pledge himself to vote for the proposition before the House. If there was any difficulty in the business, let the existing law be repealed, and no other be substituted. By that means the punishment of death, which was at present the penalty for such enlistment, would be got rid of, and the balance would be held evenly between the contending parties. "But then," said the hon. and learned gentleman, "is the House prepared to say, that it shall be permitted to raise recruits for a foreign power in this metropolis, and to parade them up and down the Haymarket and St. James's-street, by sound of trumpet and beat of drum?" Before he answered such a question, he might be allowed to put another, namely, "Has any thing like that existed, or does it exist at the present moment?" If it did, it ought certainly to be put down. But, in order to do that, was it necessary to establish a new code of neutrality? Was it necessary that England should depart from the policy which she had invariably pursued, except in 1736, when there was a Pretender to the throne, who was in alliance with almost every foreign power, and when therefore no subject of this country could take up arms in the service of a foreign power, without the establishment of 879 a primâ facie case, that he was in hostility to his own government? If there was no similarity between the state of this country, when the acts of 1736 and 1756 were introduced, and its present state (and he thought that no person would say there was any), ought parliament, for a mere temporary expediency, to lay down a permanent rule of so extraordinary a nature, affecting as it did the rights of neutral belligerents. From the earliest periods of our history to the 9th of George 2nd (when peculiar circumstances called for such a measure), there was no law prohibiting the subjects of this country from enlisting in the service of foreign states. In the Spanish war in the Netherlands, in the war of the Huguenots, the gentry of England had freely and without hindrance entered into the contest; the sovereign feeling that he ought to permit his subjects to carry their talents and courage to any field in which they might be rendered most available to their possessor. He trusted, therefore, that the House would pause before it abrogated, for a temporary purpose, a system which had so long and so advantageously prevailed.
The hon. and learned gentleman opposite contended, that the bill was in furtherance of the principle of the common law. But the common law, if enforced, was already sufficient for the purpose. By the issue of the writ ne exeat regno the Crown might prevent its subjects from quitting the kingdom; and by the issue of another writ, it might recall those who had quitted it; and therefore, if the ministers of the Crown wished to recall to their homes those natives of Great Britain who had entered into the Independent service, and if they chose to take so great a responsibility on themselves, as such a step would inevitably draw upon them, they had it in their power to do so at any moment that they thought fit to issue the mandate. Indeed, if such a measure was right and expedient—if circumstances demanded that it should be adopted—why had not ministers previously taken it? Why did they hesitate to take it now? And why did they call upon parliament to do for them what, if that was the case, they ought to have done long ago? If, on the other hand, the measure was impolitic, why was parliament urged to enforce a plan which was any thing else than beneficial to the interests of the empire? It 880 would perhaps be said, that such a step as that to which he had adverted would be totally inefficient. That he denied. He maintained that it would be quite efficient. It was a step frequently resorted to by private individuals, and he could see no reason why it was not applicable to a public emergency. If the issue of a ne exeat regno was impolitic, why did ministers recommend to parliament the adoption of a measure, which, as it would be far more general, would be more extensively impolitic? Let it be also remembered, that if it were once to be established by law that no subject should enter into the service of a foreign state until he obtained a license from the king, to grant such a license would then become an act of hostility towards the power with which that foreign state was at war. As long as subjects might freely enter into the service of foreign states with the connivance of the Crown, that inconvenience could not occur; but when it was once established by law, that the specific consent of the Crown was necessary, the act of granting that consent would be considered as the act of a belligerent.
The hon. and learned gentleman had said that there was no clause in the bill which tended to injure the commercial interests of the country. The hon. member for London, however, in presenting the petition which he had that evening laid on the table of the House, and which, if he had been earlier in the House, the hon. and learned gentleman would have found was not the only one against the bill, had clearly pointed out some of the injuries which the country would experience from it in a commercial point of view, if it were passed into a law. He would beg leave to call the attention of the hon. and learned gentleman, and of the whole House to one provision of the bill which, in his opinion, was more pregnant with mischief to the country than any clause which he had ever read in any act of parliament. If the bill were allowed to pass with that provision, there would be an end to all hope of any commercial or social intercourse with South America. He alluded to the following clause:—"And be it further enacted that in case any ship or vessel, in any port or place within his majesty's dominions, shall have on board any person or persons" (the House would observe that they might be South Americans, and not British subjects) "who 881 shall have been enlisted or entered to serve, or shall have engaged, or agreed, or been procured to enlist or enter, or serve, or who shall be departing from his majesty's dominions for the purpose, and with the intent of enlisting or entering to serve, or to be employed, or of serving or being engaged or employed in the service of any foreign prince, state, or potentate, colony, province, or part of any province or people, or of any person or persons exercising or assuming to exercise the powers of government in or over any foreign colony, province, or part of any province or people, either as an officer, soldier, sailor, or marine, contrary to the provisions of this act, it shall be lawful for any of the principal officers of his majesty's customs, where any such officers of the customs shall be, and in any part of his majesty's dominions in which there are no officers of his majesty's customs, for any governor or persons having the chief civil command, to detain and prevent any such ship or vessel, or to cause such ship or vessel to be detained and prevented from proceeding to sea on her voyage with such persons as aforesaid on board." So that by that clause any ship was liable to be detained, if a common informer stated that he suspected she had any person on board who had enlisted, or even who intended to enlist in the cause of South American freedom—a suspicion which., indeed, it would be very difficult to disprove. And that, be it remembered, was to be the permanent law on the subject.
The next clause of the bill was also most extraordinary. It was as follows: "And be it further enacted, that if any master, or other person having, or taking the charge or command of any ship or vessel in any part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or in any part of his majesty's dominions beyond the seas, shall knowingly and willingly take on board, or if such master or other person having the command of any such ship or vessel, or any owner or owners of any such ship or vessel, shall knowingly engage to take on board any person or persons who shall have been enlisted or entered to serve, or shall have engaged or agreed, or been procured to enlist or enter or serve, or who shall be departing from his majesty's dominions for the purpose, and with the intent of enlisting or entering to serve, or to be employed, or of serving, or being engaged or employed, in any naval or military service, contrary 882 to the provisions of this act, such master or owner, or other person as aforesaid, shall pay the sum of——for each, and every person so taken, or engaged to be taken on board; and moreover, every such ship or vessel, so having on board, conveying, carrying, or transporting any such person or persons, shall and may be seized and detained by the collector; comptroller, surveyor, or other officer of the customs, until such penalty or penalties shall be satisfied and paid, or until such master or person, or the owner or owners of such ship or vessel, shall give good and sufficient bail for the payment of such penalty or penalties." By the last clause of the bill it was further enacted, "that if any action or suit shall be commenced, either in Great Britain or elsewhere, against any person or persons for any thing done in pursuance of this act, all rules and regulations, privileges and protections, as to maintaining or defending any suit or action, and pleading therein, or any costs thereon, in relation to any acts, matters, or things done, or that may be done by any officer of customs or excise, or by any officer of his majesty's navy, under any act of parliament in force, on or immediately before the——, for the protection of the revenues of customs and excise, or prevention of smuggling, shall apply and be in full force in any such action or suit as shall be brought for any thing done in pursuance of this act, in as full and ample a manner, to all intents and purposes, as if the same privileges and protections were repeated and re-enacted in this act." He did not perfectly understand what the latter part of this clause alluded to. When, however, the circumstance that half the penalty was to go to a common informer and the other half to the Crown (being in fact a premium offered for the detention of every vessel in his majesty's harbours), and the protection afforded to the Custom-house officers, by the last clause were considered, it appeared pretty certain, that very few ships indeed, would be permitted to sail for South America without molestation; and yet it was argued that no injury could accrue from the bill to the commerce of the country! It certainly was not to be conceived, even if the principle of the measure should be agreed to by the House, that all the extraordinary regulations, which it at present contained, would be passed; but, as his hon. 883 and gallant friend had well observed, they; showed the animus with which the bill was framed.
It had been contended in favour of the new measure, that it substituted the punishment of transportation for seven years, for the punishment of death, denounced by the existing law. But for his part, he would much rather that it should be declared that the existing law, with all its professed severity should be extended for the purpose in view, than that the present bill, with its provision for detaining vessels should be adopted. For, in the first instance, the impression would be that it was merely a measure to please Ferdinand, which would never be acted upon;—that it would remain a dead letter. But as the proposed law now stood, with the terrible power which it gave to Custom-house officers to detain ships having on board any person who was suspected of even entertaining an intention to enter into the service of the Spanish colonies, it would be put into active operation, and would be productive of most injurious consequences. The general complexion of the measure was such, that it was impossible for any one, who duly considered it, to deny that such would be the result of its adoption.
Before he concluded, he had another remark to make upon the bill. Never was any thing so unwise or so ungracious as the time chosen for proposing such a measure. A great part of the population of England had, by the policy and events of the last twenty years, been made military. They could not turn their attention to any other subject; they had been rendered unfit for any other occupation; and now they were to be cut off from the only service in which all their military enthusiasm might be freely indulged, and all their military talents be safely exercised. That was not the only evil which would ensue from the bill. It would prevent those social ties from being formed with an infant state which might eventually be productive of the greatest advantage to this country. The hon. and learned gentleman had remarked on the petition which had been presented against this bill. But it was not merely the direct operation of the measure in putting an end to the commercial connexion of this country with South America, that the petitioners complained of. Their complaint was, that if, under the mask of neutrality, parliament, ungenerously and unjustly threw a weight 884 into the scale of Spain in her contest with the colonies, they would not only destroy all commercial connexions between this country and South America, but would prevent the formation of those social ties, and the occurrence of that domestic intercourse between the inhabitants of the two countries which endeared man to man, and which, in their ultimate operation, might be most beneficial to England. And for what purpose was all this to take place? For the purpose of assisting in the defence of the most——But perhaps it was advisable not to speak of the government of Old Spain as it deserved; and he would therefore content himself with saying, that the measure was proposed for the purpose of assisting in the defence of the worst government in the world. He would not pay such a government the compliment of taking any step whatever in its support. If this bill, therefore, had originated from any communication on the part of the Spanish government, he thought the House called upon to regard it with the greatest suspicion; but if it proceeded from a higher than its ostensible quarter—if it came, recommended by that imperial combination which had arrogated to itself the right of disposing of the fates of kingdoms and empires, and which had undertaken to regulate Europe, and to maintain what it chose to term her tranquillity, it was, in his opinion, still more objectionable. But let its origin be what it might; considering it to be in opposition to the principles of reason and sound policy, it should meet with nothing from him but the most determined hostility; and he should therefore warmly support his hon. and gallant friend's amendment.
observed, that if the description which the hon. and learned gentleman who had just set down had given of the operation of the bill before the House, namely, that it would prevent any enlisting on one side of the question, without touching the other, had been applied to the existing law, he would have acknowledged its accuracy. According to the present law, if an agent of the king of Spain were to attempt to recruit a single man for the cause of his royal master, he would subject himself to indictment, and to the possible forfeiture of life; while an agent of the Spanish colonies might recruit (as indeed had been done), embark, and carry out to South America, as many men as he could prevail upon to go, with 885 perfect impunity. The hon. and learned gentleman had declared that he would abandon his opposition to the bill, if an instance could be shown him of a single individual having been prevented enlisting in the service of the king of Spain. But, if no such instance was to be found, to what might it be attributed? To the state of the law. No agent of the king of Spain would venture his life in such an attempt. If such an attempt were made, would it not be the obvious duty of any South American agent to his employers to prefer an indictment against the person making it? He denied that the acts of the 9th and 29th Geo. 2nd, had remained a dead letter. There were cases of persons who had been executed under those statutes, which he had met with in old magazines and other publications, which were the best channels of information relative to such transactions. He also denied, that in 1736, when the act of the ninth of George 2nd was passed, we were at war, as had been alleged, with the whole continent. No such general hostility existed at that period.—Whether the bill was considered with reference to its general principle or to its particular enactments, he equally considered it to be a measure not only warranted but demanded by circumstances. The hon. gentleman here entered into a variety of observations, in reply to that part of the speech of the hon. and gallant mover, in which he adverted to the Irish and Scotch who were employed in France, Spain, and Austria at former periods, in opposition to the British arms, and not treated in any other manner than as being entitled to be so employed, maintaining that they owed no allegiance to this country—for that they were the descendants of families domiciliated in the various nations of the continent.—The hon. and gallant member had alluded to the policy of the Swiss, in allowing their troops to enter the service of any powers with whom they were at peace. It was true that Swiss soldiers were at liberty to enter into the service of that power which paid them best; but he hoped he should never see such a principle introduced into this country. He hoped never to see recruiting parties going about enlisting British subjects to point their bayonets against each other for the sake of gain.—Another argument used against this bill was, that the common law being against such enlistments, there was therefore no need of any additional mea- 886 sure being introduced. But it would be inconvenient to resort to the common law, as in that case it would be necessary to prove that the party had actually entered the service, a contract to enter not being sufficient to procure a conviction. Then came an observation, that writs of ne exeat regno might be issued. The House, however, would perceive the inefficiency of such a measure to remedy the evil complained of. Separate writs must be issued to the parties, and before this could be done, the mischief would be effected. It was urged that hitherto only a few officers had entered the service of South America; but what was the fact? The enlistments were carried on in so open and public a manner, that it was disgraceful to ministers not to have interfered before. He had lately been informed by an officer, that in one instance, a battalion had been paid off at Chatham, and that 300 of the men were immediately enlisted in the service of South America. The same system was going on now, not only in this country, but in Ireland; and he thought that the Irish acts for preventing such enlistments, ought to be recited in the present bill. There were three Irish acts to this effect: the two first were similar to those in force in England; the third went further: it enacted that any person entering into the service of France or Spain, without the consent of government, should, in addition to the penalties of the previous acts, be deprived of taking an inheritance in that country. He thought the laws on this subject ought to be made uniform in both countries—But it was urged, that if this bill passed, any license on the part of government allowing persons to enter into the service of a neutral power, would be a breach of neutrality. There were instances, however, to the contrary. In the case of admiral Knowles, for instance, power was given to enter into the service of Turkey, yet it was not considered a breach of neutrality. All belligerent powers had a right to remonstrate with neutral powers against assisting their opponents. In the American war, when France assisted the Americans, this country remonstrated, and though there existed less good faith in the French cabinet at that period than in any other in Europe, a proclamation was issued, and they used means, ostensibly at least, to prevent French subjects from acting against us. We were called upon by all our foreign 887 relations, to preserve a strict neutrality, and it was no answer to say, that we had no laws to prevent the interference of British subjects between Spain and her colonies. We should be told that we ought to make such laws if none existed. There was one clause of the bill which he thought might be amended. It was that which empowered the detention of vessels found to have persons going to join foreign powers on board. He admitted, that the proof authorising such detention ought to be fixed. Any objections to this clause might be amended in a committee—it did not make against the principle of the bill. It was the duty of this country not to adopt a policy different from the other states of Europe. If we were to sanction the existing system, then British subjects might enter into the service of a foreign power on the eve of its entering into a war with their native country. He denied that because men had fought in defence of their country, they were therefore rendered unfit to apply themselves to the civil situations of life. If, indeed, British subjects were allowed to fight in the cause of South America, they must necessarily be rendered less fit to serve their own country than before. The manner in which the war was carried, on differed materially from the warfare of regular governments; it was carried on with a ferocity and a barbarity unknown in Europe; in fact, a soldier in South America must be a freebooter, and live, in a great measure, by committing depredations. The present measure was in accordance with the general law of nations, and. only called upon this country to preserve a strict neutrality—not only between Spain and her colonies, but with respect to the other powers on the continent. He did not mean to be the apologist of the Spanish government, but he should be sorry to hear it pleaded in excuse for the violation of our promised neutrality, that we were advocating the cause of freedom. As to the private soldiers who had entered the South American service, he was confident that not one of them had been actuated by a feeling superior to the gain they were likely to derive from their employment. Under all the circumstances of the case, he felt himself bound to vote in favour of the bill.
§ Mr. F. Douglas
said, he should not have offered himself to the attention of the House were it not for the extraordi- 888 nary arguments used in support of this bill. He had entertained some hopes that this measure would not have been persevered in—not from any feeling of ministers of its obnoxious and baneful effects, but from a conviction that the sense of the country, was against it—from a conviction that they knew it would be destructive to the trade and commerce of the country; and that they would sink themselves still lower in public estimation by carrying it into effect. In this hope, however, he was disappointed; he found, on the contrary, that notwithstanding all]the evils of which the measure was productive, ministers were still determined to carry it into effect; but he trusted the sense of the House would be, as the sense of the country was, decidedly against it. In the contest of the South Americans against the oppressions of Spain, there was more English feeling engaged, and more British interests involved, than in any other contest that had for a long time occurred. This was owing not only to the nature of the tyranny against which they struggled, the rights which they strove to establish, and the commercial advantages which their liberty would enable them to extend to us? but to a recollection of our former intercourse with them. We could not forget that we first invited them to throw off the yoke which our government was now trying to reimpose, and that the birth of their independence took place under the protection of England. We had been accused of encouraging a spirit of freedom when it suited our views, and of repressing it when the noble lord opposite commenced his negotiations, and found that his policy no longer required its assistance. The change had been realized in the conduct of this government towards South America, but he trusted the legislature would not permit it to be realized in the policy of the nation. We had formed an alliance with Spain without stipulating for a change in our laws. Let Spain have the fulfilment of her bond from the noble lord, and let English feeling and English heroism be allowed to exert themselves in favour of the liberty and independence of the states rising from under her oppression. The noble lord could only pledge himself to answer the demand of Spain in so far as the laws of his country allowed him—he could only agree to prevent the enlistment of soldiers, or the sailing of armaments, 889 by the powers which the laws and constitution put into his hands; he could not stipulate with a foreign state to alter those laws, or engage to do any thing that implied a legislative change. The hon. gentleman who had last spoken had said that the principle of the present bill was recognized in the policy of every other state but this, and that we should be singular in refusing to accede to it. Such a singularity was a thing not at all alarming: he should be more alarmed at a conformity with the policy of foreign states. A minister of this country, when pressed to do any thing inconsistent with the laws, in order to please foreign despots, should answer, "I cannot." Our policy had always been as peculiar as our character, our genius, and our constitution; and while to that peculiarity we owed our liberty, our glory, and our greatness, it ought not to be a matter of much concern with us how it was viewed in our foreign relations. So far from maintaining the principles of neutrality, this bill would do quite the reverse, while the noble lord himself would allow that its provisions were in direct opposition to our commercial policy. In our present commercial distress, while our trade was in a state of stagnation, and our manufacturers were suffering almost intolerable hardships from the want of sale for the produce of their industry, Providence seemed to have opened to us the markets of South America—a country of immense extent, and of unlimited wealth, whose resources would grow with the growth of its independence, and in a short time enable it to purchase and consume whatever we could export for its use. The disposition of the people of the new states ought therefore to be consulted, as the means of promoting an intercourse so beneficial. Fashion ruled in states as much as among individuals. The South Americans were habituated to consider us as friends and models; they wished to obtain the approbation of freemen, and to enter into political relations with freemen. Such a disposition we should foster, not only for the advantage it might bring, but for the evils which it might prevent; for, let the House consider what might be the consequences of rejecting a union with states, which from that rejection might be thrown into the arms of the North American republic, and thus compose along with it an alliance of incalculable strength, possessing a country of immense extent, full 890 of resources, disposed by its geographical position for the most extensive commerce and the closest intercourse, and combined to employ all its energies against the trade and power of this country from ancient jealousy or contemned friendship. We should therefore draw the bonds of affection closer between ourselves and the South Americans, by allowing those who had bled in the service of their own country, and who could not now find subsistence or employment at home, to go out to their assistance, to acquire additional experience in the new world, and to promote the progress of human happiness and freedom. They there would learn, not to support the dominion of continental despotism, but to co-operate with freemen in the recovery of their rights, and would return home not only better soldiers, but better citizens and better Englishmen. They would be taught in the same school with our Raleighs and Essexes, who had learned the art of war in combating the despotism of Spain in a similar cause. He should therefore oppose the bill, because he would not consent to alter our internal policy to suit our foreign relations, and because he was convinced that its principle was dictated by a set of sovereigns who were the enemies of freedom and independence [Hear, hear!].
said:—Sir; the hon. member who spoke last but one, observed, that we should best show our neutrality by passing the bill now under discussion; but I conceive, on the contrary, that we shall best show our neutrality by doing nothing, and that the moment we begin to legislate, we take a part. The hon. and learned gentleman who introduced the bill admits, that the common law, as it now stands, is inefficient for the purpose he has in view; and before we depart from that strict neutrality which we have pledged ourselves to observe, in the present contest between Spain and her colonies, by altering our laws in order to give an advantage to one party over the other, we surely ought most seriously to consider the justice of the cause in which we are about to engage. The government exercised by Spain in her South American dominions is, perhaps, the most despotic of which history can furnish an example. It has happened to me to be an eye-witness of it in the early part of my life; and my remarks upon it are therefore founded on actual observation and personal knowledge. Spain, not satisfied with that mo- 891 nopoly which mother countries in general claim of the commerce of their colonies, actually farmed it out to another set of monopolists, the merchants of Cadiz; that being the only port to which the colonies were permitted to trade; and what with the duties exacted, first in Spain, and afterwards in the colonies, and the profits made by the monopolists, every article was charged to the colonists at an advance of not less than 300 per cent upon its original cost. This, though a heavy tax upon their industry, was the least of their grievances; and as a feather in the scale, when compared with the weightier oppressions they suffered from the administration of their local government. All places of honour and emolument were shut against them, and filled by the natives of Old Spain; court favourites who were sent out to make their fortunes, and who accomplished the object of their mission with the utmost possible celerity, at the expense of the unhappy colonists; or men who purchased their situations, and indemnified themselves in like manner. Even the necessaries of life were made the subjects of exclusive privilege. At this moment, no man can sell a barrel of flour in the island of Cuba without first purchasing the permission of the marquis D'Arouca; and thus the princely revenue of a Spanish grandee, is wrung from the hard-earned contributions of the meanest wretches, who swallow the morsel of bread necessary for their daily subsistence. The very sources of justice were poisoned at the fountain; the judges notoriously received fees, or, to use a more proper word, bribes. If after the decision of a cause, the injured party thought proper to appeal to the king and the council of the Indies at Madrid, the appeal was founded on a statement drawn up by the corrupt judge who had tried it, so that redress was hopeless. Printed books were prohibited, unless examined by the priests, who rejected all they did not both approve and understand; so that the light of knowledge was withheld from these oppressed people, and they were kept in darkness, that they might be the more easily kept in subjection.
In 1808, when Buonaparté betrayed the royal family of Spain into his power, and set his brother Joseph upon their vacant throne, the Cortes who took up arms for the independence of their country, sent out accounts to the colonies, of the revolution that had taken place, and cautioned 892 them against the intrigues of the emissaries of the usurper. The Spanish provinces, in reply, not only professed their loyalty to Ferdinand the 7th, but sent home large remittances in aid of his cause. In 1810, the arms of France having been victorious, and all the fortified places in Spain having fallen into their hands, the junta of Seville having been dispersed by the irruption of the French into Andalusia, and the nation being left without a government, and almost without hope, the Spanish colonies, by a simultaneous movement, established juntas for the administration of their own affairs; and these, forming themselves into the American Confederation of Venezuela, issued a proclamation, dated April 19th, 1810, in which they acknowledged Ferdinand as their legitimate sovereign. The council of regency, in whom, after the dispersion of the junta of Seville, the new feeble government of Spain was vested, passed a decree about the same time, permitting the colonies to trade with foreign nations, for such articles of their produce as Spain could no longer furnish a market for. This decree, morally just and politically wise, gave great offence to the monopolising merchants at Cadiz, and through their interest was revoked on the 17th of June following. Under the same influence, and in the same spirit, instructions were sent out to the Caraccas, to proclaim and punish as traitors all those who had been concerned in the late elections of the provincial juntas: a passionate as well as impotent ebullition of pride and despotism, which justified resistance on the part of the colonies, on the principles of self-defence, and self-preservation. Some of the provinces submitted to this decree of the regency of Cadiz, and reestablished their ancient form of government; others did not. Thus, two parties were formed, called the royalists and the independents, and their dissentions soon ripened into civil war, which was carried on with various success, till Ferdinand 7th was restored to the throne of Spain in 1814. One of the first acts of his reign was, to issue a proclamation dissolving the Cortes of Old Spain, and forbidding them to exercise their functions on pain of high treason. Soon afterwards, he rejected the proffered mediation of Great Britain, which had been solicited by the junta of the Caraccas in 1810, and fitted out an armament to enforce the unconditional obedience of the South American colo- 893 nies. In this short retrospect, we find the government of Old Spain and Ferdinand 7th uniformly maintaining the doctrine of unconditional submission and the divine right of kings; and the inhabitants of South America only claiming redress against the most odious and insupportable tyranny and oppression. The justice of the case, therefore, appears to be completely on their side.
Another consideration which ought also to engage our attention, is the probable success of the cause we are called upon to support. Whenever a country extends her colonies beyond a due proportion to her own territory and population, they as naturally become independent, as a young man when he grows up, shakes off the authority of his parents, and acts for himself. According to this law of Nature, the British colonies in North America became independent of their mother country. In like manner, Portugal would have lost the Brazils, but that by transferring the seat of empire there, she transformed the colony into the mother country, and the mother country into a dependency on the colony. Spain must submit to the same law. Her European territory consists of 25,000 square leagues, and her population is estimated at eleven millions. Her provinces in South America contain 500,000 square leagues of land, and the population is variously estimated at from 17 to 24 millions. If Great Britain could not reduce her colonies in North America, when their population was only two millions, what chance has Spain of succeeding against so much greater odds, and with such very inferior means? Where are the resources of Spain for carrying on this contest? Her treasures are in the mines of South America. The timber for building her ships is growing in the forests of South America. Her revenues depend upon the commerce of South America. All these are now lost to Spain, and gained to her colonies; and every year the war continues, will add to the weakness of the one, and to the strength of the other. America, too, has a powerful ally in her climate; to which her own sons are seasoned, but which is deadly to her European invaders—she has only to fly to conquer. By protracting the war, her climate will surely perform that work of extermination on the troops of Ferdinand 7th, which he vainly directs them to execute on his revolted subjects. Another ally she has in both the interest and feel- 894 ings of the people of the United States, whose territories, by the purchase of Louisiana, now come into contact with the borders of Mexico. The great and avowed object of their ambition is, that the whole of the vast continent which they inhabit should become independent like themselves, and the New World one day rival the Old. Although a sop has, for the present, been given to Cerberus, by the cession of the Floridas to the United States, the policy of the government will not long be able to restrain the wishes of the people, but be compelled to join this popular and patriotic cause; an event which will at once consummate the independence of South America.—If we look back to the conduct of Spain towards this country, we shall find nothing that can justify the claim she now sets up. In 1776, when the British colonies in North America declared themselves independent, she, as well as France and Holland, opened her ports, both in Europe and America, to their flag, and supplied them with naval and military stores. In consequence of the remonstrances of Great Britain, she afterwards prohibited the export of these articles; but the prohibition was never enforced; and, in 1779, she issued a manifesto, declaring war against us, because we had intercepted a trade, which she declared, she as a neutral, had a right to carry on. Her late cession of the Floridas to the United States, has certainly furnished that government with great additional means of annoyance to our West India colonies, in case of war. The want of regard she has shewn in both these cases, to the security of our colonial possessions, certainly releases us from all obligations to interest ourselves about her's; and leaves us at full liberty to follow the dictates either of interest or policy.
The inhabitants of South America, on the contrary, have given themselves some claim to our favourable consideration. They offered to submit to the mediation of our government, which Ferdinand 7th, (probably not feeling very good reason to confide in the justice of his cause), refused to accept. We also stand pledged to them and the world, to observe a strict neutrality in the present contest, which we shall not do, if we alter our laws to favour the interests of either party. The future conduct of South America to us will be regulated by ours to her at the present moment. The commercial inter- 895 course with that great continent, is the object to which all Europe, and America too, are looking forward. If we incur her resentment, by assisting Spain in attempting her subjugation, we can expect no share of it; but if we act fairly and impartially towards her, then we shall conciliate her future friendship, and be placed by her hereafter, on the footing of the most favoured nations. Spain has no right to injure the peace and prosperity of the whole commercial world, by continuing her fruitless attempt to subjugate South America. All the maritime states of Europe, and Great Britain in particular, suffer severely from this war, in various ways. Out of it a race of freebooters and pirates has sprung up, who plunder all legitimate commerce without distinction, and who never can be subdued, till peace and good order are restored. Besides, Spain was only the conduit through which the treasures of South America were poured all over Europe. The produce of her mines, and the other valuable productions of her soil, were exchanged for our manufactures, and gave life and animation to our domestic industry. Thus we are connected with America by a chain of gold, like that by which the poets fabled that Earth was suspended to the vault of Heaven; and Spain has no right to break this chain, by carrying on a war of devastation and extermination, injurious to all her neighbours, and ruinous both to herself and colonies.
Our laws, as they now stand, give no advantages to the Independents, that are not counterbalanced by other advantages given to Spain. If British officers and troops embark in the cause of the Independents, arms and ammunition, the supply of which to them is prohibited, are not only permitted to Spain, but British ships of war convoy vessels so laden to their ports of destination. As an underwriter, I myself ensured a vessel, laden with arms and ammunition, from Jamaica to Vera Cruz, and made a return of premium for her being convoyed by the La Pique frigate. The Independent governments of South America not being recognized, their subjects are not permitted to claim in our court of Admiralty. The Hercules, commanded by commodore Brown, in their service, was carried into Antigua by one of our men of war, and condemned in the court of Vice Admiralty there. Commodore Brown appealed; but the learned judge who presides in the high 896 court of Admiralty here, would not consider him as before the court, for the reason above mentioned, which in his opinion rendered him incapable of claiming his property. I mention this case, not with a view to impeach the decision of the learned judge, for whose profound legal knowledge, in common with all the world, I entertain the greatest respect; but merely to show the hardship with which our laws, as they at present stand, bear upon the inhabitants of Spanish South America. At this very moment, the harbour of Cadiz is full of British vessels, hired as transports to carry out the troops destined to act against them; whilst all assistance to their cause is prohibited by proclamations of the governors of our different free ports in the West Indies. So strongly has the spirit of hostility to the Independents been acted upon in Trinidad, that while emigrants of the royal party have been promoted to situations of honour and emolument, an asylum has been refused to persons of the opposite party; and even when a number of the inhabitants of Guiria, on the approach of the royalist army, embarked on board boats and canoes, or any craft they could find, and sought refuge in Trinidad, they were not permitted to land, but obliged to return to the place from whence they came, where they were massacred, men, women, and children, without distinction. A British sloop of war went down to Guiria some weeks afterwards, and on their return the officers reported, that the carcasses of these unhappy wretches had been left a prey to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, and that for near two leagues together their bones whitened the shore. Surely, then, Spain can have no cause to complain, of the partiality shown to the cause of the Independents!
It appears to me inconsistent with sound policy, to prevent men of ardent minds, who have embraced the profession of arms, from enlisting in the cause of any foreign power, while Great Britain is at peace. It keeps alive that military spirit which it is of the highest importance for every country to maintain among her subjects; and which, in case of need, she may recall to her own service. We have now many meritorious officers on half pay, who find their income very inadequate to the maintenance of their families. We have also a number of disbanded non-commissioned officers and privates, many of whom can find no occupation, or whose long military 897 habits have unfitted them for any other occupation. If these men imagine (whether right or wrong is not the question), that the road to glory and fortune is open to them elsewhere, it seems both impolitic and unjust to detain them here. It is converting this boasted land of freedom into a great prison; and engendering much discontent and dissatisfaction at home, which had better be allowed to effervesce abroad. Natural justice seems to require, that every individual should be allowed to employ his talents, or pursue his interests, in any way that is consistent with the allegiance he owes to his own country. I wish, therefore, the acts of the 9th and 29th of George 2nd, which were passed for a particular and temporary purpose to be repealed. By this means we should give that full liberty of action to individuals for which I contend, and place both the belligerent parties on a footing of perfect equality.—Much has been said about the treaty between this country and Spain, made in 1814; but this binds us to nothing more, than to prevent the supply of arms, ammunition, and warlike stores, to the revolted provinces. I noticed, indeed, in the preamble to this treaty, the expression of a wish "to draw closer the bonds of amity, that at present so happily subsist between their Catholic and Britannic majesties;" but I considered these words merely as expressions of diplomatic courtesy, and never meant to be seriously acted upon, or I should have thought they called for the reprehension of parliament, whenever this treaty was submitted to their consideration. My sentiments are very far from according with the wish in this preamble, whether I consider the nature of the Spanish government itself, or the character of the individual by whom that government is at present exercised. The principles of the Spanish government are tyranny and bigotry; and both these principles appear to be acted upon to their fullest extent by Ferdinand the 7th. He has re-established the Inquisition; he has re-established the use of torture; he has behaved with the most unparalleled ingratitude to those brave men, whose valour and patriotism, with British aid, rescued his dominions from the yoke of an usurper, and placed upon his head the crown that he now wears. In return, he has loaded them with chains, and immured them in dungeons, or transported them to perish in pestilential climates. One of his first acts of gratitude towards us, was 898 to offer a national thanksgiving to God, that his land was no longer polluted by the presence of heretics. He has waged a war of extermination against his subjects in South America, instead of conciliating them by just and politic concessions. In short, he has attempted to extirpate every liberal and independent sentiment throughout the whole of his dominions, and establish the reign of terror. With such a government as this, and the government of a free country, there can be no common bond of union; and to pledge ourselves to any thing farther than strict neutrality enjoins, would be as repugnant to the public feelings as to the best interests of this country.
§ Sir C. Robinson
said, that it was the duty of the House, upon the present occasion, to act without reference to the merits of either party concerned, but upon the ground of a strict neutrality. On that principle he conceived the present measure to be necessary. After the struggle in which this country had been so long engaged, and now that peace was restored, they should show to the world, that they respected the law of nations, and, in that, the rights of a strict neutrality. In a paper lately circulated, and which he believed was put into the hands of most of the members of that House, allusion was made to the practice in the time of James 1st, with respect to Spain. The situation of the two countries was then different to what it was now. At present they were at peace with Spain, but at the period alluded to were in strict alliance with the United Provinces, and had cautionary towns there, which it was their interest to defend. In all the treaties with Spain since 1630, the same principle as that upon which this bill proceeded was recognised. The treaty of 1630 was renewed in 1667, and lately again in 1814. The only object of the present measure was, to remove all doubt upon the subject. The courts of admiralty here frequently acted upon the principle recognised in the bill. There was a case in the 28th of Charles 2nd, of an indictment brought against an English subject for cruising against Spain in a French ship. Though the principle was thus admitted, and acted upon in the courts, it did not follow, that a measure for recognising it was unnecessary at present. The same principle was acknowledged in the treaty of 1794 with America. It commenced with a stipulation, that the subjects and citizens of both nations 899 should observe a strict neutrality, and not accept of commissions from foreign powers at war with either; that in such a case, those who armed or equipped letters of marque, should be considered and treated as pirates. This was certainly too severe, and the courts could never decide, that persons so transgressing were guilty of piracy, and should be treated as such. It was better, however, that all doubts upon this subject should be removed, and the exact nature of the offence and mode of punishment defined. Such was the object of this bill. The treaty of 1814 with Spain would be quite nugatory, if English subjects might freely embark in support of the Spanish colonies against the mother country. The statutes of George 2nd, so often alluded to upon this occasion, did not arise merely from a temporary necessity; they were founded upon a previous statute of queen Anne, but they were not founded on the limited policy ascribed to them; they proceeded on a general principle. Would it be fair or just, then, that the people of South America should be put on a better footing, with respect to the rights of neutrality, than legal and recognised governments? The bill, he would contend, was founded on the most correct principles of neutrality, and the provisions of it were agreeable to the best practice of our ancestors. On these grounds, he would give it his cordial support.
was anxious to impress upon the House this great and important fact—that the present measure, however supported by the learning and logic of Doctors Commons, whatever abstract reasoning might be employed by gentlemen on the other side in support of it, did mainly and effectually go to the destruction of the cause of the independent patriots of South America. Much had been said also by the gentlemen on the opposite benches, respecting the right of this government to interfere. The right could not for a moment be contradicted; but he entertained considerable doubt, whether the House would have the heart to pass such a bill as was now attempted to be thrust upon the nation. Although the arguments of his hon. friends, who had spoken that night against the measure, had not been overcome, yet they had, in some degree, been distorted and disfigured by what had been said by the other side; and he thought he could not do better than bring back to the recollection of the 900 House, some of the most striking arguments which had been urged against the bill. With respect to what had been said as to the common law on this subject, they might be assured, if the common law were sufficient, the attorney general would not have had recourse to this bill. Gentlemen opposite had succeeded, to a certain degree, in disfiguring and distorting the arguments of the members for Ban-bury and Sandwich (Mr. F. Douglas and Mr. Marryat). They had never pretended that we had a right to employ the military resources of this country in the cause of the South Americans, or that what could not be openly justified might be done covertly; for the first would be foolish, and the second would be base; but they had contended, that we should observe a substantial and bonâ fide system of non-interference in the dispute, and that this principle could only be satisfied by leaving the laws as they were, without reference to the manner in which they might affect any of the parties. His hon. friends had therefore deprecated a departure from a system of real passive neutrality, to one of apparent neutrality, and real interference in behalf of one of the parties; and they had shown, that the time and circumstances when the attorney general had brought forward this bill, wholly altered the character of the measure—that while it sounded equitable to the ear, it would be, in its operation, most unjust and oppressive. He agreed with his hon. friend below him in what he had said with respect to the suspicious origin of the measure, because it bore, in his opinion, most unequivocal marks of foreign suggestion, and of coming from a quarter too, of all others (for no power ought ever to interfere with our internal laws) the least entitled to expect any grace or favour at the hands of an English parliament [loud cheering]. He had spoken of the time and circumstances when this bill was proposed as betraying its origin. Why was no such measure proposed at the commencement of the contest? Perhaps the noble lord's feelings did not suggest to him, that his countrymen would take such deep interest in a cause so illegitimate, as to transport themselves to such distant shores to afford aid to that cause! Notwithstanding the length of time this contest had lasted, no such measure was proposed till now. The noble lord had told them, that they did not propose it so long as any hope of reconciliation remained. 901 But the noble lord knew, that so long ago as the time of the mission of lord Wellesley to Cadiz, all hope of reconciliation was chimerical—that the war from thenceforward assumed the character of bellum ad internecionem. Never, during the progress of this war, which had lasted so many years, and many of the events of which no man could think of without his blood running cold, had the noble lord come forward. But now, when a crisis had arrived—when these men, fighting for all that was dear to them with so much perseverance and constancy, had all but won the prize of their glorious deliverance—now when they came forward to strike the deadly blow, the noble lord stretched forth a saving hand to the last efforts of expiring tyranny [loud cheering]. He objected to the time when the measure was brought forward, but he objected still more strongly to the principle of regulating our laws under the declaration of a foreign power. The 9th and 29th of George 2nd, were not acts framed on a principle of general policy, or as part of our jurisprudential system, but under a temporary pressure, and to avert dangers which threatened the country. But it was said, a case had now arisen which had not been foreseen. No, it was not foreseen that haughty Spain would so soon have been at war—not with powers and states, her former adversaries or rivals, but with her own colonies—the victims on whose necks she had set her feet. It was not foreseen, that the most besotted bigotry, and the most odious tyranny which had ever disgraced an European nation, would so soon have produced their ultimately necessary consequences, would so soon have corrupted to the core the proud Castilian monarchy, stripped it of its rank and consideration in Europe, and threatened it with the loss of those extensive territories beyond the Atlantic, the conquest of which had been marked with cruelty and blood [Hear, hear!]. This had not been foreseen; but he venerated too highly the statesmen who directed the councils of this country in the early reigns of the Hanover family, to think, that if they had foreseen it, they would have attempted to stifle the sympathies of the English people in the cause of rising independence. This was reserved for the present times, and for the present ministry. Whence came it that England was thus always misrepresented in the eyes of the world?—that while its people were always‡902 anxious that the blessings which they enjoyed should be widely diffused among others, those who managed their diplomacy contrived uniformly to put them forward as the confederates or the instruments of those who were at war with human happiness? The noble lord had so contrived his treaties and his alliances, that, notwithstanding the brilliant successes of our arms, there was scarcely a corner of Europe, in which the people did not view with disgust the manner in which we had used the power which those successes had put into our hands; yet this was not enough, but he must go in search of materials for a farther exercise of his ingenuity in the contests of another hemisphere. What the result of the present struggle between Spain and South America might be, was doubtful; but the feelings of the great South American continent could not be a matter of indifference to the first maritime and commercial country of the world. It was easy to cultivate the good-will of the South Americans; but national antipathies, once rooted, were not so easily removed. The South Americans had standards by which to measure our conduct. The bureaus of our secretaries of state, the proclamations of our West India governors, cry out in their favour. We first point out to them the oppression under which they suffered, as odious and intolerable to reasoning men. Would they, with this evidence of their declarations in 1797 staring them in the face, put on the statute book in 1819, the record of their falsehood? As to Ferdinand, in whose behalf we were now called on to interfere, this monarch, who was leagued to us in the strictest amity, had the other day made over a most important colony to our great western rival, without consulting our interests or our wishes. The cession of Florida to the United States could never have taken place, if the spirit of the Treaty of Utrecht had prevailed in the negotiations of those statesmen to whom the settlement of Bavaria, Baden, or any other German province, had seemed of so much consequence. But, independently of positive treaties, there could be no question that we should have been justified in interfering in such a case, as self-preservation, which formed a part of the law of nature, was necessarily a part of the law of nations. The conduct of Ferdinand in this case had been defended by a noble lord in another place, on the ground that he had not 903 power enough to defend his own possessions. If so, he might cede his territories when and to whom he pleased, and we were to sit by with folded arms. But when it was found that though he had lost the power to protect, he had not lost the power to oppress his subjects. When the question was, not the ceding a colony to our rivals, but the erecting a great empire, not to our advantage alone, but to that of the whole civilized world; at such a moment, were we to bestir ourselves, to ransack our statute books, to make that law in his favour which never was law before, and to exert our legislative power to assist this impotent, though legitimate and oppressive monarch [Hear, hear!]? He should, therefore, add his opposition to that which had been more ably offered against the bill. The nation revolted at it. The nation had been content to act on the system of non-interference, but farther than this it would not go, in opposition to its best feelings. The feelings of the English people were not to be trifled with. The government, solid as its institutions were, mainly rested, after all, on public opinion. Popular prejudice it might dissipate; popular error it might encounter; but the public opinion, founded on the good and generous feelings of the universal British nation, would be found to be stronger than even power itself! [Hear, hear!].
said, that the bill as it was now proposed, was open to no objections, on account of any retrospective operation; it was purely a prospective measure. In looking at the principles in which his hon. and learned friend had proposed this bill, it would be an error to suppose that it had been directed against individuals who had chosen to separate themselves from their native country. The character of the offence, without which, he might venture to assert, parliament would not have interfered, was that of a combination to make this country the spot where levies were to be raised and organized, to take part in the unfortunate quarrel between Spain and her provinces. Not regiments merely, but what might almost be called armies, had not only been raised, but had received all their military organization in this country, and sailed perfectly prepared to proceed to warfare on their landing. The gallant mover of the amendment had said, that in the United States, two frigates had been fitted out. But he had yet to learn, that 904 this had been done with the connivance of their government; indeed, the whole course of its policy was opposed to this idea. But vessels had been sent out armed from this country (and government, under the present law, had found itself unable to prevent their departure) carrying out regiments in an organized military shape, ready to take part in their quarrel. As to the law of nations on the subject, he was ready to acknowledge, that when a state was in the habit of allowing its subjects to enter into the service of belligerents as mercenary troops, if this were done without partiality, no cause of complaint could be given. But as it had not been the practice of this country to allow its subjects to enter as mercenaries in the service of foreign powers, so it was also manifestly against the law of nations to allow, that troops should be raised for one belligerent party, and not for another. As to what had been said, by the hon. gentleman who spoke last, and who, with much eloquence, certainly, had more declamation than argument, he would ask, how that gentleman would feel, if our colonies should be in a state of revolt, and armaments should be fitted out to assist them in the ports of Spain; or if the merchants of Boston or New York, should fit out expeditions to assist them. Yet, if they refused to pass this law, with what justice could they interfere? He should be ashamed, as an English minister, to call, in that case, on a foreign state, merely because we might be the stronger nation, to take that course which we had refused to follow. It had been shown by the learned advocate-general (sir C. Robinson) that the measure was in strict conformity to precedents, and that when there had been any well-founded complaint on the part of a foreign state of undue interference of our subjects in its quarrels, parliament had always been ready to afford a remedy. The act passed in 1736 was manifestly enacted, not solely with a view to internal security, but to prevent the interference in foreign quarrels. It was of course acknowledged that the Crown might, as it did at that time, exercise any degree of mercy towards persons taken in the service of its enemies, who might be members of families whose removal from this country it might wish to facilitate. The manner of its dealing with these offences was at its own discretion, and did not invalidate the principle of preserving a neutrality towards two 905 other parties. But it was said, we should leave the law as it was. But, if by the law in its present state, from an obvious oversight of the legislators, the supporters of one of two belligerent parties were exposed to the penalties of felony for any exertions, while the friends of the other might raise levies and fit out armaments, could it be said that neutrality was observed? He felt it difficult to argue so plain a point, especially when watching the countenances of the gentlemen who had spoken on the other side; he fancied he had observed that they could scarcely keep a grave face, while offering the arguments which they seemed to think due as an effort in the cause. If the evil he complained of was ever to be repressed, the parliament was specially bound to do it at a time when the character of the country had never before been so flagrantly and indecorously abused by the fitting out of armaments in our ports and cities. Here pelled the idea that because we had encouraged the South Americans in 1797, we were now bound to act in their favour. What had been done then was inconsiderable, and had produced no effect. We were then at war with Spain. He therefore protested against the doctrine, that because an attempt at one time had been made to take advantage of the feeling in an enemy's country, and had been ineffectual, that we were to be incapacitated for stipulating for neutrality with that state for ever after. Hitherto we had acted on the most perfect system of neutrality, except when the law obstructed the system. Notwithstanding a statement of an hon. gentleman who had said that arms were allowed to be exported to the provinces which were in possession of the royalists, he could assert that this was not the fact, and that permission had been refused to take arms even to Havannah, lest they might by circuitous means be introduced into those provinces. The noble lord then read extracts from the correspondence with the governor of Trinidad, to show that the assertion of Mr. Marryat, that the inhabitants of the Main, flying from the Spanish troops, had been refused a refuge in Trinidad, was not true. The governor asserted in a letter that at the time referred to 690 individuals had been admitted to an asylum without expense; and that vessels had been sent to the islands near the Main to fetch those who, flying in crowded boats, might be unable to reach Fort Spain; he 906 stated that a vessel was also furnished to take the chief of the Insurgents, Vido, to St. Bartholomew's, and that a royalist flechero, in the harbour, was kept under the guns of the batteries till he was out of reach. From November 1814 to January 1817, 3,823 individuals had found refuge in Trinidad. He was afraid that the hon. member had obtained his information, which was altogether unfounded, from other merchants, who had forgotten the British mercantile character in their occupation as agents for those colonies. In their uniting commerce and war, the merchants were not acting in a manner worthy an honest and high minded people, and the trade of the nation itself was compromised. He had seen a communication from the commander in chief in Jamaica, that the trade was materially suffering on the coast of the Main, by the indisposition of the natives towards our trade. The House of course must be aware, that the resources of Spain would be insufficient to have supported the war thus long, had she not been aided by a great body of local interests. Both the parties would have more readily received our traders, bad they not mixed war with their other occupations. There was nothing in the bill to impede commerce: the government had always done their utmost to encourage and to protect it, as well against the Insurgents as against the Spaniards. As to the claims of Spain on us, he should state how the treaties with her stood. In 1808, we had entered into a treaty of alliance with her, which ended with the war. At the close of the war, a new treaty of alliance was made, which! had lain on the table five years without a; word having been said against it, and had: been implicitly sanctioned by the general vote in favour of the arrangement at Vienna. As to the anecdote of the hon. gentleman, that the first act of the king of Spain was, to offer up thanksgivings for the purification of his kingdom from the Heretics, he had never heard, and did not believe it to be true. His first act, in reality, was, to express a desire to renew the English alliance, and to give an assurance that the family compact with France, which had been once disagreeable to us, should not be renewed. In the treaty of alliance was the article respecting the slave trade, which had since led to a happy arrangement. If the House would only consider the proclamation set forth by this country, they would immediately 907 perceive that it was impossible for the government to permit armaments to go out without interfering to prevent it. Even those who opposed the motion went upon the ground that the common law was sufficient in itself; but he would be glad to hear from them what step could be taken under the common law to prevent such proceedings? He could state that the best legal advisers had been consulted, and their opinion was, that no proceeding could be taken under the common law. With respect to the policy pursued by other nations, it certainly was not binding upon this country. England had a right, and would at all times exercise that right, of judging for herself; but he must say that the House were greatly misinformed, if they thought that the law passed by the American government in 1818, was such as had been described, The House would find that the law alluded to made provision against the recruiting of their armies, and supply of their navies, and when other governments took such pains to support their own neutrality, they would surely admit that this country should be the last to abandon that principle, and particularly when we were bound by positive treaties to adopt that course. If the government now called for any sanguinary enactment—if they proposed to abandon the moderation by which this country was distinguished, he would admit that a ground was made out to justify the rejection of the measure; but when they only asked of parliament to put into execution the common law of the land, for which execution no adequate provision existed at present—when it was seen from the whole construction of the bill, that its operation was to be merely prospective—he thought that the House would concur in a proposition so necessary, and so well guarded against abuse. We were bound not to suffer the assembling of armed bodies for the purpose of acting upon either side, and the bill, founded in such a principle, was not only just in itself, but was, in fact, essential to the honour of the British nation.
, in explanation, observed, that the statement of the noble lord with reference to the transaction at Trinidad, proved only that great numbers were admitted into that colony, but did not go to contradict the particular fact to which he alluded, of certain persons having been refused.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, he remembered that, 908 in 1816, a complaint was made to government by the hon. gentleman and other merchants, of the refusal to admit persons into Trinidad who had arrived there; but the result of the inquiry adopted by government in consequence of the complaint was, that no person whatever had been refused admittance.
, of Galway, rose, amidst loud cries of question! He expressed a wish that the hon. member who was particularly loud in his call, would identify himself to his view.
§ The Speaker
observed, that the hon. member must be aware that the manner in which he had thought proper to notice the interruption was not consistent with the usual practice of the House on such occasions.
begged pardon if he was wrong, but assured the House, that his intention was merely to call upon the hon. member to show himself, as he was satisfied that in doing so, the Speaker would be prepared to enforce order by his authority. He then proceeded to remark, that the present bill went only to enforce a principle of law which was already recognized. If government had forborne any longer, he was persuaded the country would have rung with charges of violated neutrality. If Mr. Fox were now alive, he was certain his vote would be in favour of ministers on the present occasion.
§ The question being put, That the bill be now read a second time, the House divided: Ayes, 155; Noes, 142. The bill was then read a second time.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, hon. J.||Carter, John|
|Allen, J. H.||Cavendish, lord G.|
|Althorp, viscount||Cavendish, hon. H.|
|Aubrey, sir J.||Clifford, Aug.|
|Anson, hon. G.||Clifton, visct.|
|Blandford, marq. of||Colborne, N. R.|
|Barham, J. F.||Coke, T. W.|
|Bernard, visct.||Coke, T. W. jun.|
|Burrell, W.||Crompton, S.|
|Barnett, J.||Carhampton, earl of|
|Becher, W. W.||Davies, T. H.|
|Belgrave, visct.||De Crespigny, sir W.|
|Bernal, R.||Denman, T.|
|Benyon, B.||Denison, W.|
|Birch, J.||Duncannon, visct.|
|Brand, hon. Thos.||Dundas, hon. L.|
|Byng, G.||Dundas, hon. G.|
|Burrell, hon. P. D.||Dundas, Thos.|
|Bent, John||Evans, Wm.|
|Buxton, T. F.||Ebrington, visct.|
|Calcraft, John||Ellice, Ed.|
|Euston, earl of||Nugent, lord|
|Forbes, C.||O'Callaghan, J.|
|Fazakerley, Nic.||Ord, W.|
|Fergusson, sir R. C.||Osborne, lord F.|
|Fitzgerald, lord F.||Palmer, C.|
|Fitzroy, lord C.||Palmer, C. F.|
|Fleming, John||Pares, Thos.|
|Foley, Thos.||Parnell, sir H.|
|Folkestone, visct.||Pelham, hon. C. A.|
|Gaskell, Benj.||Pelham, hon. G. A.|
|Gurney, R. H.||Philips, G.|
|Grant, J. P.||Philips, G. jun.|
|Gordon, Robt.||Phillips, C. M.|
|Graham, Sandford||Primrose, hon. F.|
|Graham, J. R. G.||Powlett, hon. W.|
|Grenfell, Pascoe||Price, R.|
|Guise, sir W.||Pryse, Pryse|
|Gurney, Hudson||Rickford, Wm.|
|Horrocks, Saml.||Ricardo, D.|
|Heygate, ald.||Ramsden, J. C.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Rancliffe, lord|
|Harvey, D. W.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Hill, lord A.||Robarts, W. T.|
|Honywood, W. P.||Robarts, A.|
|Howard, hon. W.||Russell, lord G. W.|
|Howorth, H.||Russell, lord J.|
|Hughes, W. L.||Rumbold, C.|
|Hume, Jos.||Sneyd, N.|
|Hutchinson, hon. C. H.||Sebright, sir J.|
|Lamb, hon. G.||Scarlett, J.|
|Lamb, hon. W.||Sefton, earl of|
|Lambton, J.G.||Smith, W.|
|Langton, W. G.||Smith, hon. R.|
|Latouche, John||Smyth, J. H.|
|Latouche, Robert||Spencer, lord R.|
|Lefevre, C. S.||Tavistock, marq.|
|Lemon, sir W.||Thorp, alderman|
|Lloyd, sir E.||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Lyttelton, hon. W.||Vernon, Granville|
|Macleod, R.||Wilson, Thos.|
|Macdonald, J.||Williams, sir Robt.|
|Mackintosh, sir J.||Walpole, hon. G.|
|Milton, visct.||Waithman, Robt.|
|Maxwell, John||Webbe, Ed.|
|Monck, sir C.||Western, C. C.|
|Moore, Peter||Whitbread, W. H.|
|Morpeth, visct.||Wilkins, W.|
|Marryat, Jos.||Wood, ald.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||TELLERS.|
|Newman, R. W.||Wilson, sir R.|
|Newport, rt. hon. sir J.||Bennet, hon. H. G.|
said, that, connected with the present subject, he had a petition to present from the merchants and inhabitants of the town of Liverpool, praying that the bill should not be permitted to pass. The ground on which the petitioners rested their application was, that the beneficial trade at present carried on with South America was likely to suffer from such an enactment; but, in the present case, as in others of equal importance, he took the liberty of differing from his worthy constituents, and he did not hesi- 910 tate to express his decided opinion, that their fears were chimercial, and that the trade of this country with South America would not prosper less from the circumstance of this country taking a decided part for the preservation of her neutrality.
§ Ordered to lie on the table