§ Lord Althorp
rose to make his promised motion, for the repeal of the Foreign Enlistment bill. He observed, that though the present question was one of considerable importance, yet the arguments for and against it, lay in so small a compass that, were he merely to confine himself to a statement of their nature, he should occupy a very short portion of their time indeed. He was afraid, however, that if he confined himself to such a statement, he should be liable to much misconstruction with one class of persons who were anxious that this country should take part in the present war, because he should declare himself a decided advocate for peace; and with another class, who, if he were silent with regard to the cause of Spain, might think him indifferent to its success, and regardless of the violent and unjustifiable attack which was making, through it, upon the independence of every nation. He therefore solicited the pardon of the House, if, in speaking upon this question, he should appear to touch upon subjects that were not altogether connected with it. In doing so, he should first apply himself to the question of peace and war. And here he must say, that no man could think war at the present moment, and in the present state of the country, a greater calamity than he did. Neither was he of opinion, that if war were now declared, it would be of service to Spain; since it might tend to produce greater union among its enemies. His decided feeling therefore was, that war ought not to be commenced: and, in making this motion, unless he should be able to prove, that the repeal of the act in question might be resolved upon, in strict conformity to the principles of neutrality, he would allow that he had made out no sufficient case. The question assumed a different appearance when it was said, that a declaration should have been made at an earlier period of the transactions—when we went to the congress of Verona—that if the allied powers should be guilty of the aggression against Spain which they had since entered upon, we he should be called upon to declare war. He fully agreed with the right hon. secretary of state, that no menaces should be uttered without the means of carrying 1020 them fully into effect. But, if Spain could have been preserved from invasion, as probably she might have been, by such a declaration, it would have been worth while to have done so, at the expense of the hazard of war. This was a subject, however, on which doubts could reasonably by entertained; but he had no doubt whatever in saying, that his majesty's ministers had not, in the late negotiations, sufficiently consulted the honour and character of the country. Of course, ministers knew better than himself the characters of the sovereigns composing the holy alliance; but he should have thought that even they would not have been so dead to the feelings of honour, or cared so little for reputation, as not to have listened to the remonstrances and representations of the British cabinet, had it attempted to make any. It appeared, however, that no such attempt had been made. The duke Wellington had not uttered a syllable at the congress to impress upon the sovereigns the infamy that would for ever attach to their names, if they preserved in the aggression they then contemplated. But, if the sovereigns were wholly indifferent to such considerations—if the statement of them would be of no avail—still the honour of this country, and the noblest principles of justice, required that they should have been urged. What would be said of a man who attempted to deter another from the commission of a flagrant crime, by merely representing to him, that it was decidedly against his interest to be guilty of it? But such had been the conduct of the British government. It had only endeavoured to prove that it would be injurious to France to make war upon Spain: principle, justice, and morality, had been left quite out of the question—Without further preface, he would observe, that the duty of a neutral nation was, to act impartially between the belligerent parties. If, therefore, Great Britain said that neither party should enlist troops in her territory, she was strictly neutral; and if she said, on the other hand, that both parties might enlist troops in her territory, she was strictly neutral also. The right hon. secretary (Mr. Canning) seemed to intimate his dissent from this proposition. He (lord A.) did not pretend to be well read in the jurists; but he knew that Grotius, in his chapter on the duties of neutrals, had distinctly laid it down as he had stated it; and he had illustrated his position, as the generally 1021 did by an appeal to antient history, observing that the Lacedemonians complained to the Athenians, that the Corinthians were allowed to recruit their armies in their territory: the Lacedemonians, therefore, claimed to be allowed to do the same; and this being granted, it was held that the Athenians had observed a strict neutrality. If France declared war because Great Britain pursued the same line of conduct as the Athenians, such a war could have no just and sufficient a ground; and he hoped that this country was not yet quite so degraded as not to be able to defend herself against such an aggression. It was to be remarked, that until 1819, when this foreign enlistment bill was passed (excepting as far as related to the statutes of George 2nd), it had been considered that England might be strictly neutral without such a law; and those who now supported it must contend that from the Norman conquest downwards, she had, in fact, maintained no real neutrality between contending parties. If, then, the abrogation of this law was no infringement of neutrality, was there any domestic inconvenience which it remedied, and the revival of which might be apprehended from its repeal? He remembered when the act was passed, it was asked, whether troops enlisted to assist foreign powers should be allowed to be trained, drilled, and paraded in the streets? This evil was, however, sufficiently provided against by one of the six acts, imposing a severe penalty upon training without the king's license. Having shown, then, that there was no solid objection to the removal of this restriction, he had gone a good way to prove that it ought to be repealed. The definition of freedom was this—that a man should have a right to do every thing not inconvenient or injurious to the rest of the community. If, therefore, he had proved that this restriction was needless on this account, he had proved also that, according to the principles of our free constitution, it ought to be removed. It was besides very desirable, that the government should not have a nominal power of prohibiting those acts affecting foreign states, which it was not possible to prevent. Of the inconvenience of such powers we had an instance in the law of censorships which, made the government of the countries where it existed responsible for whatever of whether appeared in the public, papers. To prevent future bicker- 1022 ings, if for nothing else, we should repeal the bill. It was necessary to state, that before the bill passed in 1819, there had been two acts nominally in force, of the 9th and 29th George 2nd, which made it felony to serve in the military force of any foreign state; but as there were no means of prevention, the statutes were a dead letter. In 1819, these statutes were repealed, and the provisions re-enacted with a milder penalty, making the offence a misdemeanor instead of felony, and superadding many measures of prevention. His purpose was, not to reenact those statutes, and he should therefore move, "That leave be given to bring in a bill to repeal all the clauses of an act, passed in the 59th Geo. 3, c. 69, intituled, 'an act to prevent the enlisting or engagement of his majesty's subjects to serve in foreign service, and the fitting out or equipping, in his majesty's dominions, vessels for warlike purposes, without his majesty' slicence, except the first clause."
rose to second the motion. He said he was anxious to take the very first opportunity of expressing his feelings regarding the speech of the right hon. secretary (Mr. Canning), a few nights ago, and the papers which he had then laid upon the table. He never rose to speak, without being sensible that he was not a sufficient master of language, adequately to convey his sentiments; but upon no occasion had he felt this deficiency so strongly as at the present moment: indeed, he knew no terms that could express the disgust, shame, and indignation he had experienced on the perusal of the documents at the utter degradation they reflected upon this country. If he differed from his noble friend on the question of war, yet rose to second the motion he had submitted, he hoped he should not be thought guilty of any want of courtesy. It arose from his great anxiety to embrace the earliest occasion of adverting to the speech of the right hon. gentleman on a preceding night. To some parts of that speech be gave his cordial assent; and—since it was clear that we could not now go to war—especially to that part of it where he enforced the fitness of maintaining a strict neutrality. He too, hoped that it would be strict and impartial; that it would apply to both the belligerents; though he much feared that there was but too obvious a leaning to the stronger side. For instance, the right hon. gentleman had stated the Great Britain was bound 1023 to Portugal by an offensive, but not by a defensive alliance; and that if she rashly embarked in a contest, we were not bound to support her. Why had this declaration been made? It was called for by no necessity; unless, indeed, the right hon. gentleman thought it necessary to give France a hint, that if she provoked the animosity of Portugal, this country was not bound to assist her. The same leaning obviously pervaded the whole of the negotiations. While we pretended to be neutral we were in fact biased by one party, and aiding and abetting the foulest aggression that history would ever have to record. If one portion of the documents more than another disgraced Great Britain, it was that which the right hon. gent. had thought fit to read as his justification—the answer to the duke of Wellington, when it was first intimated that Spain was to be invaded. Why had this been the first intimation, and why had not ministers been better informed? We knew that the French had always kept what was called an Army of Observation on the Pyrenean frontiers. Why were ministers so misinformed? Why were thousands a year spent upon an ambassador in Paris, if we were to know nothing, nor to tell nothing. However the duke of Wellington was the first to open the eyes of the British ministry on the projected invasion of Spain, and he answer of the secretary of state was merely "If you invade Spain, we will have nothing to do with it." Good God! if we saw a man about to murder an unoffending fellow creature in cold blood, did it free us from crime, to say "we will have nothing to do with it?" The cases were precisely paralleled; yet we had made no remonstrance—no appeal to justice, honour, or national virtue. We stood tamely by, and saw the most detestable plot concocted against life and freedom, without a single word to deter the guilty, or to warn the innocent. The right hon. gentleman had promised a plain, unvarnished statement, but he had nevertheless, taken care to make out a case as favourable as possible; and the very quotation on which he had relied proved that ministers had degraded their country in the estimation of mankind, and sullied its character to the remotest posterity. The other extract, from the last document in the volume, was of the same kind. It was the fluent composition of the right hon. secretary, and it declared in substance, that the king's ministers 1024 confided in the assurances of France, that she made war upon and occupied Spain, for no purpose of ambition or aggrandizement. The right hon. gentleman had avowed that he had been made the dupe of French diplomatists; but, was there ever dupery so egregious as that which had been practised upon him in this instance? True, the documents might not admit that the purpose was aggrandizement; but what did M. Chateaubriand say in his speech in the French senate? Had he not openly asserted, that the House of Bourbon would pursue the noble great policy of Louis 14th, and exercise such a control over the government Spain as would give France a commanding influence in Europe? Whit said the duke of Fitzjames? "The English minister," said he, "objects to our aggrandizement, and well he may; but I as a Frenchman, heartily applaud it as calculated to raise the honour and greatness of France." Surely after this declaration, the right hon. gentleman must not only have been duped, but have been willing to be duped. He had said also, that he presumed the French did not mean to compel the king of Spain to do any thing derogatory to Spain. Did not the papers on the table flatly contradict him? Did he not know that they intended to model the constitution of Spain exactly according to their own views and interests? The right hon. gentleman knew that this was the case; for his own despatches admitted it. They admitted that the French armies had crossed the Pyrenees to destroy the constitution of Spain and Portugal. Passages without end might be quoted from the papers, which made an Englishman's blood boil. Twenty times in reading them had he dropped them, to vent some expression of abhorrence and indignation. It was lamentable to read the despatch of the Spanish minister, in which he gave the British ministry credit for feelings which it was clear they did not possess. The expression of those feelings in her favour was all that had been sought for by Spain; and yet even that had been denied with the most cold-blooded apathy. Every mode of stating their confidence in, and admiration of the Bourbons, the British ministry had at command. They were ready to flatter to fawn upon, to crouch, to cringe, to bow down before, the exalted house of Bourbon: but for liberty, for that which Englishmen, in former times, had gloried to 1025 bleed for, they had not a single word of encouragement or of approbation to be stow. The Spaniards asked only for an admission of the abstract justice of the principle; yet, so help him God, that had been refused! Was it not enough to make an Englishman ashamed of his country—of that country, which, till now, had ever been ready to stretch forth a helping hand to those who struggled against despotism and oppression? Was a man who, at a moment like this, could display such odious indifference, fit tube the minister of a nation whose universal sentiment he refused to utter? The duke of Wellington had been sent to Verona merely to say—"Gentlemen, we have told you, every thing that has passed between us and the court of Madrid. We have been told nothing of the nature of your communications with Spain." Was it not shameful that, calling ourselves an independent nation, we had condescended to disclose all the particulars of our negotiations; while we were kept in ignorance of all that had been passing between France and Spain? Why had we not asked what was going on? For this reason—we were afraid of doing it. England was afraid? No: England knew no fear; but her dastardly, crouching, truckling cabinet had not dared to call for the state of the negotiations between France and Spain. What he wanted to know was, why we were not at war at this moment? He was not for bullying, or threatening what we could not perform, any more than the right hon. gentleman. Time had been when lord Chatham had said, "I should be glad to see power in Europe that dares to fire a cannon without the concurrence of England." That time was gone. Enormous sums had been spent by us to free Europe from slavery. We called ourselves the conquerors of France, the saviours of the world, the champions of liberty. The prime minister bore on his breast the ensign of the garter, conferred upon him by a special law of a special chapter, as a reward for raising England to a pinnacle of unexampled greatness and power. Yet, eight years after, during the whole of which time, the same prime minister directed the councils of the country, and still bore on his breast the highest gift the Crown could bestow, this country was seen reduced to so pitiable a condition, that it had not dared even to express an opinion against a most flagrant act of injustice and tyranny. Fourteen years only 1026 had passed since we were fighting and conquering that very power, before which we were now crouching with the most abject humility.—Now, England was afraid to lift up her voice, much less her arm, that arm, before which tyrants had once trembled—in favour of suffering Spain. She was afraid to contend for what were called by Marlborough the outworks of Britain, for which king William had fought, and the independence of which all the great men of the last century declared it was most essential to our freedom to preserve. It was the enormous debt that weighed down the country, and compelled us to submit to the bidding of those whom we had not only sheltered but restored, Why were we not at that moment at war with France, on behalf of the liberties of the world. Let the right hon. gentleman look at the map of the world; let him look at the bearings of Spain upon the ports of Ireland; let him look at her connexion with the West Indies, and he would then see how necessary it was, to keep Spain out of the grasping clutches of France.
He insisted, that if Great Britain did not go to war on behalf of Spain, she must abandon for ever the rank she occupied among nations, and resign the glories for which she had so successfully fought and bled. He contended, that if the festival not long since given in the city, to evince the sympathy of this country in the cause of Spain, were not followed up, that celebration could be considered only as an insult to the people of Spain. What good could that sort of sympathy effect for Spain? How would it assist her cause? In what way would mere words avail? "If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food," said an inspired author, "and one of you say unto them 'Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled;' notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?" If empty words would answer the purpose, no man had a more plentiful supply of them than the right hon. gentleman. He had been most egregiously duped; and, as if it were in revenge, he had employed himself, from the very opening of the session, in endeavouring to dupe the house. He certainly had never stated that there was a probability of the country going to war; but he had kept back alt information; he had craved abstinence from inquiry. [Mr. Canning dissented.] Well, the right hon. gentleman had expressly returned thanks 1027 to the House for its abstinence from inquiry. He had shaped his course in such a way, that the House had been kept under a delusion that there was a probability of England going to war for the defence of Spain. Under that delusion it was, that the house had consented to vote estimates which they would not have voted had they know that no war was to have taken place. And why had the House been kept ignorant of that fact? Why had not the truth at once been declared? The House might just as well have known the fact in the beginning; for it appeared, by the papers, that, from the first, the ministers of this country were determined not to go to war. He asked again, and again, why had they not declared their intentions at an earlier period? The House might then perhaps have lowered the estimates for the army, which had been kept at a height his opinions. He had now spoken as unprecedented in any former period of peace—the excuse over and over again urged by the right hon. gentleman's predecessor in office, the late lord Londonderry, being, that the other powers of Europe were keeping up their establishments, and that it behoved us to keep ourselves in a situation to take part, if necessary, in the politics of Europe. Where was our ability to take part in the political arrangements of Europe, now that our interference was wanted? Why, we were not ready to come forward at all. As far as his single voice could go, he once more warned the House of the degradation into which the country was about to sink. He believed that throughout the empire, the people, in their hearts, detested, abhorred, despised the base policy by which their hands were tied up from interfering on behalf of the rising liberties of Spain. An hon. and learned friend of his (Mr. Brougham) had, a few nights ago, in his very brilliant speech, given the house some foretaste of the blessings which England was likely to enjoy, under the strict neutrality which was about to be visited upon her. He trusted that the gentlemen connected with the commercial interests some of whom had signalized their zeal for the Spanish cause at the London Tavern, though they had objected to spew their sympathy in any other way—would awake to a sense of their own interest, and feel the necessity of she wing some sympathy with the people of England, though they had shewn none for the people of Spain. If the 1028 government refused to take up arms in behalf of Spain on the present occasion, he should be glad to know what degree of insult or injury would induce them to depart from their passive and dishonourable acquiescence in the dictates of France. It was our debt, our, accursed delft, which weighed us down, and had reduced us to our present state of degradation; it was the debt which had prevented the government from embarking in this contest; and, until that debt were got rid of, England would never resume her station among the nations of Europe.
§ Mr. W. Lamb
said, that the noble lord who had just sat down, had spoken with much eagerness and vehemence, but though he had delivered his sentiments with considerable energy, he could ha felicitate him upon the consistency of his opinions. He had now spoken as strongly in favour of a war against the house of Bourbon, as he had formerly spoken in favour of a war in their behalf. He remembered the time when the noble lord far outstripped the minister of the day in the zeal with which he maintained the necessity of supporting the house of Bourbon. If there was a man in the country above all others responsible for the public debt, and bound to discharge it, it was the noble lord himself, who, above all others, had actively promoted the measures, by which that debt had beets incurred. It was true, that the noble lord had afterwards differed from his majesty's ministers, but in voting originally for hostilities he had made himself responsible for all the consequences of those hostilities.—It was not his intention to go into the general question of our foreign relations: for he had not yet had time to consider the papers on the table, with all the attention which was due to them. With respect to the proposition before the House, however, he begged to say, that neither upon any general or particular grounds was he prepared to vote for the repeal of tide Foreign Enlistment bill. He was aware that, in former times, it had been the fashion for gentlemen of chivalrous character to make campaigns in the service of foreign princes, and that bodies of men had been raised in this country to assist the Palatine, or the Protestants of France and Holland; but the state of European politics was now wholly changed. He objected to the principle of the reposed measure, because in his opinion the prerogative of deciding for war or peace was 1029 vested in the Crown by the constitution of the country, and he wished to see that prerogative exclusively exercised by the Crown. He deprecated any attempt to take the exercise of that prerogative out of the hands of the Crown, or of his majesty's ministers, through whom the Crown acted and to whom, from their superior knowledge, it was most safely entrusted. It was necessary that the government should possess the power of controlling any strong demonstration of political feeling, in regard to our foreign relations, which might otherwise commit the country in those hostilities, which it was our best policy to avoid. Could it be supposed, that if any other country were to take an active part in behalf of a power with which we might be at war, that we should bear it tamely, and not call upon that country to choose between peace and war? The repeal of the Foreign Enlistment bill would be considered as an act of decisive hostility, and, if we affected at the same time to maintain neutrality, would be unworthy of the fair character and honest dealing of the country. He was ready to admit that the aggression of France on Spain was an act of injustice, but he denied that we were called upon to repress every act of injustice committed by a foreign power, and that we were bound on every such occasion to embark in the contest. The noble lord had dwelt much on the burthen of the national debt, the vast increase of which was attributed to the unreformed state of parliament. Now he was so far from admitting that the increase of the debt was to be ascribed to that cause, that he believed the debt had, in a great degree, grown up to its present amount, because the parliament had shown too much sympathy with the people; for it could not be denied, that the war which had produced the debt, was originally a popular war.—Before he sat down he could not help adverting to some very eloquent, severe, and bitter invectives which he had lately heard in that House. It ought not to be forgotten, that eloquent invective had precipitated, if it had not produced the two last wars. The American war had been mainly produced by the eloquent invective of a great lawyer, Mr. Wedderburne, whose speech before the privy council produced such an effect, that the very council were seen "casting up their caps," in exultation. The impression which that invective made on the individual against whom 1030 it was directed, Dr. Franklin, was indelible; and it was well known that when the doctor signed the treaty of peace at Paris, he appeared in the very dress which he were when he was attacked by Mr. Wedderburne in that celebrated invective. Eloquence was certainly a great power; but, like other great powers; it might be abused. He trusted the House would not be led away by declamation and invective, but would look to the real interests of the country with firmness, steadiness, and impartiality. If it should appear to be the policy of this country to embark in war, he doubted not that we had the spirit to undertake, and the means to carry it on. He did not think it the interest of this country to engage in the war, because if France failed, neutrality must be admitted to be our best policy, and if she succeeded, the matter would be over, and France would be exposed to all the obloquy and all the difficulties which success would entail upon her. He said all the difficulties," for he was so fin from thinking that the success of France in this contest would contribute to her aggrandisement, that he was satisfied it would cripple her resources, as well as expose her to all the obloquy, which her unjust aggression must call forth.
said, in answer to the assertion of the hon. member, that he, more than any other man, was responsible for the debt which had been incurred in the last war, that he was utterly at a loss to understand what he alluded to.
§ Mr. W. Lamb
said, he alluded to a speech of the noble lord in the year 1803, when the army estimates were brought forward, in which he had made the restoration of the house of Bourbon a sine qua non.
said, he had certainly advised the government to take up the interest of the house of Bourbon in opposition to Bonaparte; but he did not see how that advice made him responsible, more than any other man, for all the debt incurred in the last war.
said, that the charge of inconsistency against his noble friend ill became the hon. member by whom it had been made; for if there was one member of that House to whom the charge of an abandonment of former principles could attach more deservedly than another, it was the hon. member for Hertfordshire. He did not accuse him of having abandoned his former principles from any undue motives; but the hon. member for all other men 1031 in that house, undoubtedly furnished a signal instance of a man of first rate talents, and known integrity, seceding from the line of political conduct which he had formerly selected, and becoming the strenuous advocate of those principles, of which he had once been the bitter opponent. But, if the charge of inconsistency came with an ill grace from the hon. member, there were other parts of his speech which deserved more pointed re probation. What must the House think, when they heard the hon. member assert, that a demonstration of public opinion on the state of foreign affairs called for the control of the government? When they beard this slavish doctrine openly preached in that House, that when all the atrocities of the French had been laid open to the public; when their bad faith, duplicity, and whole system of baseness had been made known, Englishmen were not to meet and declare their feelings of union and concert in the sentiments of the oppressed—their indignation and abhorrence of the conduct oldie oppressors?—Good God! to what a state was England reduced. Was it come to this, that we must tremble at the frown of the Bourbons? Had M. Chateaubriand reduced us to this, that we must not dare to give vent to those feelings which used at all times to be natural to us, as men and as Englishmen? And even this was not all—but we must restrain and subdue our eloquence, lest it should provoke a new war? Yes, the parliament of England must be careful to keep silence, lest it should give offence to the foreign courts. He hoped, however, that the fear of offending the despots of Europe would not be able to suppress the tone, either of the house or of the country.—But to come to the immediate subject of discussion. The question for them to determine was, whether or not the Foreign Enlistment bill should be now repealed? His noble friend had stated, and he entirely concurred with him, that the act might be repealed without any breach of neutrality. He would go farther: if he were asked, whether the repeal of the bill would not be received in France as a direct demonstration of our abhorrence of the invasion of Spain, he was ready to admit that it would be so considered. If he were further asked whether we should not be bound to attend to any remonstrance from the French government, in consequence of that repeal counteracting some particular 1032 object of the national policy of France his answer would be, that their policy could give them no right to interfere with the proceedings of the British parliament. If the right hon. gentleman opposite were to act in such a case with a becoming spirit, he would answer to such a remonstrance, "You have no right to utter a word; I will not allow you to express an opinion on the conduct of parliament? You must prove to me that we have committed some violation of the law of nations; that we have made some breach in the neutrality we hound ourselves to on serve." After that, he would like to know on what authority, in all the writings on the law of nations, we were at time allowed to furnish a country, with which we were not at war, with ships and men, and arms, and warlike stores, and were not at another, to allow them to purchase the service of our countrymen? If the right hon. gentlemen could not explain this, then the whole of their reasons for opposing the motion of his noble friend would fall to the ground. But, the bill in question had done more than this. It had not only prohibited every native of this country from going into the service of foreign states, but it had rendered every man, even though he had been twenty years in a foreign country, liable to the penalty of a misdemeanor when he returned to his own. Now, what was this but prohibiting other nations to do that, of which we had taken advantage ourselves; for it had been the practice of this country to enlist the subjects of other countries. Had we not in our navy natives of almost all the countries in the world? Nay, had we not by a special enactment ratified this practice? Now, if it was so contrary to the law of nations, why was it unrepealed? Why, when we had a law forbidding other nations from profiting by the services of the natives of this country, had we an unrepealed statute, giving to those of other nations, who might have been two years in our service the benefits and privileges of British subjects? He wished to know when we were allowed by statute to send ships and warlike stores to foreign nations, why we, should not be permitted to send men also. To show that this was not only the law but the practice, it was not necessary to go further back than the last war with France. During that war in 1814, besides furnishing ships, arms, and money, we had allowed them to enlist men in this 1033 country. But we were departing from that policy now; and abandoning, the rights and the liberties of a nation who was not at war with us. We had at one time admitted the principle contended for by the noble mover; and we now were departing from that principle. But the hon. member for Hertfordshire had stated that the permitting of our people to enlist into the armies of foreign states would wrest from the Crown the very flower of its prerogative. But, there was no reason why that which had not been wrested by the same means in 1814, should be so wrested now in the cause of Spain.—As to the measure of the repeal, he knew of no other effect which could be reasonably expected from it than relief and advantage to the country. But, further than that, of all the measures that had been effected by parliament, none had been more disagreeable to the people at large than the passing of this bill. It was felt to be most objectionable as a matter of interest. It deprived the country of the best market for commodities which most wanted a sale. It was not a little singular, that the bill had passed, on the remonstrance of the Spanish government, with a view to prevent any assistance from being given to her revolting colonies. Let the House mark what had fallen out in the course of events. That very measure had proved the only obstacle to prevent the Spaniards from receiving that aid for which they so earnestly prayed. —He felt little disposed to enter into the consideration of the papers on the table. In abstaining, however, from any comments, the House must permit him to say, that, so far as his humble judgment enabled him to form an opinion, the safest line for the country to adopt was, the line of interference. No man could contemplate the aggressions of France in this instance, without feelings of indignation. The right hon. gentlemen had well observed that they were hound to consider the case with strict regard to their own honour and policy. Should the country, however, continue to act as ministers had begun, there was danger of establishing against their own interest a precedent of a most dangerous tendency. It was upon principle alone that he would urge the necessity of going to war. It would not be enough that they were able to say, "It is a good cause far which we fight;" they must be able to add; "not only is it a good cause, but the grounds we have are so strong, 1034 the expediency is so urgent, the necessity so great that we cannot avoid going to war, without abandoning our national honour and interests. As to the result of war, it was not in human foresight to determine it. Whether a triumph would prove ultimately beneficial to France, or the contrary, it was impossible to foresee. He saw, however, on ground for believing that this country could ultimately escape being engaged in the war. So that, as it appeared to him, it would be undertaken most happily now, while the public feeling was with the Spaniards, and the hopes which were entertained for their deliverance were unbroken by defeat. As to the situation of Portugal, he agreed that a defensive treaty could not bind this country to support Portugal in an offensive war against France. But, in real transactions, it was difficult to preserve these nice limitations and boundaries. Portugal might say "I do not wish to go to war; but if I lie by till France has completed her triumph over Spain, can I be sure that her aggressions will proceed no further?" After the papers which had been produced, Portugal could have little reason to believe that France would stay her career of conquest, from any regard to the peace and security of other states.
§ Dr. Phillimore
contended, that the principle of allegiance ought to give the king such a power over his subjects as to prevent them from entering the service of other states. In the reign of George 2nd a statute was passed preventing the people of this country from entering into foreign service; but, as the penalty of that law applied only to their entering the service of states, under which title the revolted colonies did not come, it became necessary to pass the bill in question; and the passing of it was no new matter, as we were bound to the substance, and almost the letter of it by a treaty concluded four years previous to the time that the bill was passed. The learned gentleman went on to quote authorities to prove that the bill was not at variance with the received law of nations. It was the policy of this country to preserve a bona fide neutrality. It would, therefore, be a most ill-advised proceeding to adopt the repeal of the existing law, as it would appear—though not a positive departure from our neutrality—an act of excessive partiality to one of the belligerents.
felt himself obliged to 1035 oppose the motion. The Foreign Enlistment bill had been avowedly passed, that an advantage might not be afforded, by the arms of this country, to one of two belligerent powers. It had now become the taw of the land; and to repeal it would be to afford to Spain, in her contest with France, that assistance which it had been deemed expedient to withhold from the South American colonies in their contest with Spain. Under any other circumstances, he would have given the motion his most cordial support; for he thought that its operation had the effect of restraining the liberty of the subject. That Martial spirit which induced some men to devote themselves to the profession of arms might be encouraged beneficially for the country. But now, the government having determined—and he thought wisely determined—to observe a strict neutrality, it would be unjust to alter the existing law. A noble lord had said, that he was ready to go to war upon principle; but if this feeling were to be acted upon, it would involve the country in every war which might break out in Europe; for one party was always in the wrong, and generally both, and the country would be ruined if it were to interfere in quarrels with which it had nothing to do. As far as his own individual feelings were concerned, he must confess that the ardour he had felt for Spain had considerably cooled, when he looked back upon her recent conduct towards this country. After she had engaged, by a solemn treaty to abolish the slave trade, she had pertinaciously continued to carry it on, and could not be prevailed upon to relinquish it until the most vigorous means had been put in force. She had so clogged the trade with this country by prohibitions, that she had ruined it even for her own purposes, and changed that commerce from which she had derived large profits into a hazardous contraband trade. He was surprised at seeing the present motion meet with such support from that quarter of the House where daily calls were made for the remission of taxes, when the inevitable consequence of a war, into which the proposed repeal would probably lead, would considerably increase those burthens which were now found to press heavily on the country. The public voice was in favour of neutrality, and he hoped the House would join in it.
§ Lord John Russell
said, he had formed an opinion in favour of the motion which 1036 he had not yet changed, and was little inclined to do so, on the grounds mentioned by the hon. member who had spoken last. The hon. member, it seemed, did not oppose the repeal, because he thought it inconsistent with the law of nations or the policy of good government; he had even said, he thought the Enlistment bill an infringement on the liberty of the subject, and would at any other time, vote for its repeal; but he had declined to do so now, because it might render some assistance to a gallant people engaged in a struggle for their liberties. Because, therefore, it would do good now, the hon. member preferred waiting until it could do no good at all. The hon. and learned civilian who had spoken immediately before him had stated this restrictive law to be in conformity with the laws of England. He had said, that the king ought, agreeably to the spirit of those laws, to have the power of preventing his subjects from lending their aid to foreign states who were engaged in warfare. He had waited in expectation of hearing from what English law book the learned civilian had derived his authority for his assertion, and found that it was from Bynkenshoek that he had adopted that notion. The noble lord denied that authority to be binding, and should wait for authority better and more conclusive before he could oppose it to what had been the practice in England for ages. He now came to the argument of his hon. friend (Mr. W. Lamb), and which appeared to have had some weight with the House. He did not propose now to enter into the question of parliamentary reform, nor would he follow his hon. friend through all the common-places which he had so laboriously brought forward, and which every book upon rhetoric abundantly furnished. But his hon. friend had added to them a caution against the danger of listening to eloquence on this subject, and had strengthened his caution by holding up the instance of the dangerous credulity with which the House had listened to the eloquence of Mr. Wedderburne, on the subject of the American war. The cases, however, were so different, that they ought not to have been named together, but for the sake of contrast. That was a war in which this country had engaged for the suppression of liberty—that eloquence was the eloquence of the paid advocate of the Crown, not the noble eloquence of those who were the friends of the liberties of mankind. His hon. friend 1037 was willing he said, to give the weight of his opinion in favour of ministers, because he thought they must be peculiarly acquainted with the affairs of the country. This was no new feeling on the part of his hon. friend. In the year 1816, he had voted for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, because he thought the ministers were best informed of the existing state of the country. He (the noble lord) was obliged to say that he did not entirely trust in their superior information; because, if they really possessed it, he must think even worse of them than be now did. The papers on the table showed that they had been completely duped in the recent negotiations with France. The noble lord proceeded to make some allusions to the late transactions with regard to Spain, but in so low a tone that he was very imperfectly heard in the gallery. We understood him to say, that it had been at one period proposed by the French mission, that the Spanish government should modify or give up the constitution, when France would join them and risk a war with Great Britain for the recovery of the South American colonies. He now came to what was more properly the question before the House, and would endeavour to meet fairly the argument of his hon. friend. As he had understood it his hon. friend had said, that although it had been the practice of the kings of Great Britain to allow their subjects to enter into the service of foreign states engaged in war, yet that, as this was during a period when the conflicts between the Catholic and Protestant powers extended over the whole of Europe, it was not at all applicable to the present times. The noble lord said, he would refer to the practice of a sovereign, who, perhaps, understood the art of ruling better than any other—he meant queen Elizabeth. She permitted officers and soldiers to be raised in England for the assistance of the people of the Netherlands who were engaged in a contest with Spain; and this too at a time when she was in amity with the latter power. She had, upon that occasion, made a declaration, in which she stated the grounds upon which she assisted the Netherlanders, and which he thought would sufficiently show, that those times and the present were, in all the main features, precisely the same. The declaration stated, that the people of the Netherlands pretended that they were absolved from their allegiance to Spain, and were 1038 free to choose any other princes. This, it would be perceived, was even a stronger case than that now existing; the object of the people of Spain was; not to throw off their allegiance, but to purify their constitution. The queen went on to say, that the object of the Spaniards was, to plant themselves in the Netherlands, as they had done in Naples and other countries; and that danger might ensue to England, if measures were not taken to prevent their progress. Let the House now see in what respects the present state of the world resembled that described the declaration to which he had referred. In 1820 the emperor of Russia had issued his first manifesto respecting the Spanish affairs, in which he laid down that principle which the right hon. gentleman opposite had very justly said was calculated to strike at the root of the British constitution. It was, that "institutions emanating from thrones were conservative, while those which sprung up from popular effort, were calculated to engender a new chaos." The noble lord said, he should like to know how the history of Europe would bear him out in that assertion. It had, however, been repeated in every state paper since issued by the allies—in the Berlin Gazette, in the last document from the congress of Laybach, and in the declaration made by the king of France, who wished that "Ferdinand 7th should be free to give to his people institutions which they could not hold but from him." If, then, in the days of Elizabeth, the Protestant and Catholic causes had been arrayed against each other; now, the cause of despotism was on the one side, and the cause of the liberties of Europe on the other. Let not the House suppose that the encroachment would stop with the termination of the contest in Spain: it was the liberties of England that were aimed at. It might be doubted by, the subjects of despotic power, whether they would do well in imitating the revolutions of Naples, Spain, and Portugal, from which advantages so slow or so doubtful had resulted; but the revolution of England was so eminent, and its consequences so glorious, that it could not fail to strike the people of every nation. For this reason, therefore, it was, that this country had now the same interest which had influenced queen Elizabeth; and if the preservation of its liberties were dear, it ought to follow her example. They had the same reason now for wishing Spain to prosper, as she had 1039 to favour the Netherlands. But it was said we must preserve a strict neutrality. He denied that the repealing this act would infringe that neutrality. It was impossible that any power could call us to account for restoring the law to that state in which it was previous to 1819. Let that House do what it might, and legislate as it pleased—the heart of the country was completely with the gallant people of Spain. The best course, therefore, that could be taken, was, to give way to the generous sympathies of the people, in favour of the Spanish cause.
§ Mr. Thomas Courtenay
said, the question was not what had been done in centuries past, but what ought to be done now. The assistance given by queen Elizabeth to the people of the Netherlands had been immediately followed by a war with Spain: she knew well that must be the consequence of that assistance, and she had no objection to that consequence. This was, therefore, no precedent for us, whose object and determination, as stated by the noble lord who made the motion, was, to preserve neutrality. We could scarcely disguise from ourselves that the repeal of this act would prove beneficial to Spain. Upon what pretence then, could it be said to be a neutral proceeding? Several quotations had been made from the law of nations in favour of the view which gentlemen supporting the motion had taken, but others would be found no less applicable to an opposite construction. The hon. gentleman proceeded to read an extract from Grotius, b. iii, c. 20, sect. 31, to show that assistance given by the subjects of a neutral state, to one belligerent, is to the other belligerent a justifiable cause of war, if there be "apparent reason for believing that there is, in the government, an intention to permit it." Vattel, b. iii, c. 7, sect. 104, says, "neutrals ought to give no assistance where there is no objection to give it, nor voluntarily to furnish troops, arms, ammunition, or any thing of direct use in war. I do not say to give assistance equally, but to give no assistance." And even as to loans, aryl things not directly relating to war, he says, "if it was evidently given for the purpose of enabling an enemy to attack me, this would be concurring in the war against me." From all that had been written on this subject, it was clear, that they must look, both to the animus with which any measure was adopted, and to the effect it was likely to have with re 1040 spect to the belligerent parties. There was no part of the speech of his right hon. friend (Mr. Canning) on a former night, in which he more entirely concurred, than that in which he referred to the conduct of this country, with respect to neutrals, when we were a belligerent power, and pointed it out as the measure, by which, as a neutral power, we ought now to be guided. As a belligerent power, this country had always held, that, if assistance were given by a neutral to the state with which we were at war, such interference authorized us to resort to hostilities against the neutral. Great Britain had even gone so far as to say, "we will not permit a neutral state to avail itself, during war, of any measure adopted by a belligerent power, from which the neutral would derive commercial gain; because the intercourse so permitted must also be beneficial to the belligerent, and must enable him more readily to resist our attacks." This doctrine had been fully laid down by sir Joseph Yorke, in his memorial to the States-general in" 1758, He there said, that England, being at war with France, could not allow a profitable and advantageous trade, not open in time of peace, to be carried on with her great enemy. Lord Howick, in 1807, told the Danish minister, that it was the duty of a neutral "non bello se interponere; non hoste imminente hostem eripere." Upon the whole, without offering any opinion whatever on the general question, he never entertained a stronger conviction than he did on this point; namely, that if we were now to repeal this act, looking to the conduct which this country had pursued during the last war, and above all considering is hat had been said on both sides of the House, and the statements contained in the despatches of his right hon. friend, it would be saying that we were prepared to take a decisive part in the war.
§ Sir R. Wilson
said, that nothing had occurred since the debate, on passing the Foreign Enlistment bill in that House, which tended to alter the opinion he then held; namely, that it was an unjust, impolitic, and most degrading measure Unjust, because it was opposed to the generous feelings of the people of this country, and could not be carried into effect without revolting those feelings, and operating against the oppressed; impolitic and degrading, because it retarded the progress of freedom in other nations which was so important to this. The learned civilian op- 1041 posite had asserted, that the doctrine of those who were adverse, to the bill now under discussion, was contrary to the common law; that it was a breach of the common law for the subjects of a state in amity with another to assist a belligerent power which was at war with the state so at amity. This, however, was not the case. Those who supported the present motion only called on the House to suspend that obnoxious statute law, which operated against the common law of the land. His learned friend (Dr. Lushington) had expressed some doubt, whether this bill had originally been, passed in consequence of a request from the Spanish government. He, however, could now assert, on good authority, that such was the fact. The despotic government of Spain had called for the measure; but that government had been altered, and the free and independent Spanish government now desired the repeal of the bill. He knew not why the people of this country should be prevented from assisting the Spaniards, when they saw the armies of France composed of Swiss troops and other mercenaries, and when they knew that the French government might call to their aid the forces of Austria, Russia, and Prussia—states against which Spain had committed no offence. This, however, appeared to be considered no breach of neutrality. They had seen the states of Germany openly recruiting for the Greeks; but they had heard of no remonstrance against that proceeding as a breach of neutrality. The hon. member for Hertford seemed to think, that even raising subscriptions to assist an invaded nation was a breach of neutrality. But, it had not been so considered when a subscription was entered into for the Greeks. Even the despot of Russia, who certainly was not very much attached to their cause, made no representation on the subject; but the hon. member for Hertford appeared to view it as an offence that, ought to be punished, not as an act which ought to be rewarded. He further objected to this bill, because, while it was in itself nugatory, it created very great inconvenience and injury. It was nugatory as to preventing soldiers and sailors from entering foreign service, but it was detrimental to their interests, because it subjected them to punishment on their return and placed in the hands of the commander in chief the power of depriving them of their pensions. But, in spite of this law, they had seen the independence 1042 of South America achieved; by the patriotic efforts of British soldiers and sailors, acting under the auspices of British merchants. Now, could any man say that it was fitting, when these soldiers and sailors returned to their native country, that they should be subjected to punishment, instead of being hailed as the liberators of a great country? Those brave men might suffer inconvenience, they might suffer imprisonment, but they could not suffer disgrace on account of their conduct; because they knew that all they had done, though it might be against a particular law, was free from any moral crime. Many persons had asked him to give them advice as to the course they should pursue with reference to the war in Spain. His uniform answer was, that he could give no advice on the subject, but he would state what, under the same circumstances, he would do himself. This he would say, that if, by his advice or service, he could give any assistance to the Spanish people, he would do so, in spite of any inconvenience or punishment he might be exposed to under this law. No man ought to go to Spain as the partisan of any faction, or as the friend of any political zealot. He ought to proceed there for the honest purpose of furthering the success of a great cause—a cause, which was most dear to the honour of every Englishman, and most important to the interests of his country. He ought to prove, by the sacrifices which he made, the sincerity of his professions. He would have the satisfaction of knowing, that the day could not be far off, if the war were protracted, when the standard of Spain would be united with the standard of England; because it was impossible that the people of England could submit to the continuance of this timid and inglorious neutrality. By whom would an active interference in the affairs of Spain be opposed? It would be opposed by men who would plunge this country into a new war for the support of despotic principles—who had rejoiced at the subjugation of Italy—who were the, enemies of reform on every occasion—who had never, by any chance, given a vote for the people. There was another class who came under the denomination of economists, by whom, perhaps, it would also be opposed. But such men, with all their ingenuity had but a dim vision, indeed, if they did not see that we should be obliged at length to engage in war, with increased difficulties and increased 1043 expence on acount of our present neutrality. Such men flattered the people, when they told them, at a time when a dreadful policy was about to agitate Europe, that they could eat the bread of peace; but he trusted the people of this country would never submit to eat the bread of humiliation and shame, by remaining the passive and inglorious spectators of the violation of the rights of nations.
§ Sir J. Yorke
said, be would not give way to his gallant friend, with respect to the warm feelings which he entertained towards the Spanish people; but, as this measure was not now to be enacted, but was merely to be continued, and as it was intended to preserve a strict neutrality, he was one of those that would not part with the Foreign Enlistment bill, by the repeal of which that neutrality might be endangered. In the seventh clause of the bill the greatest possible precaution was taken against the equipment of private ships of war. On a due observance of that provision depended the complete neutrality of this country. If it were repealed, a desperate war would probably be the consequence. He would confidently assert, that if private ships of war were allowed to be equipped, there would be such a flight of seamen from this country, so many of them would enter foreign service, that when we wanted to man our own navy, to protect our insular situation, there would be a great paucity of that materiel. From a paragraph in a newspaper, it appeared that at Liverpool alone, in the last week, 300 British seamen were engaged to man the fleet of a monarch fur whom, in former days, they would have looked to some story in the "Arabian Nights' Entertainments"—the emperor of the Brazils. This was one of those awful warnings which ought to induce the House to take care how they proceeded in affairs of this sort. Nothing was so important to us as the keeping up a supply of seamen. So certain was he of this fact, that if it were proposed to cut off the salary of the Speaker in his chair—of the king on his throne—or of his good friends, the ministers, in their places, for the purpose of employing an adequate number of sailors, he would be one of the foremost to agree to the motion. Gentlemen more eloquent than he could pretend to be, had given their opinions on this subject—gentlemen who were stuffed up to the chin with the doc- 1044 trines of Grotius and Puffendorff, and who were enabled, by their acuteness of mind, to split and twist every hair of a cause to their own purpose. He was not so clever; but he would that night give a conscientious vote for the preservation of this bill, and in so doing he should be acting on the principle which his right hon. friend had, on a former evening, quoted from sacred writ—"Do unto others, as you would that they should do unto you."
§ Mr. H. Gurney
said, he was sure that he was speaking the sentiments of the very great majority in the country, when he expressed his gratitude to his majesty's government for having done all that in them lay, to preserve, at any rate to England, a continuance of the blessings of peace. He had voted against the Foreign Enlistment bill on its introduction, being dissatisfied with the enactments which followed Englishmen out of their own country, and more so, with the provision which made the government accessary to their taking foreign service, in requiring the king's license: but, common sense and common equity required, that open recruiting and fitting out armaments against powers in amity, should be prevented within the king's dominions; and, if this bill should now be repealed, it was obvious, that armed privateers would be issuing from our ports for what was neither more nor less than piracy, and would, in all probability, involve this country in war in less than a twelvemonth. For these reasons, entirely as he detested the principles on which the French were acting in their most iniquitous invasion of Spain, he should certainly vote against the motion of the noble lord.
said, if he did not hear better reasons against the repeal of the bill than those which had hitherto been offered, he should feel it his duty to support the motion; but, he would not give it even the humble aid of his voice, if he thought that the abandonment of this measure would plunge the country into a new war. But, when the country had safely and quietly existed for so many centuries under that state of things, to which, by the repeal of this bill, it would again return, he knew not on what principle it could be contended that they could not revert to it, without immediately hazarding a war. They must have to do with very touchy allies indeed, if they could not repeal this act without giving cause for war; and he thought the right hon. 1045 gentleman (Mr. Canning), when he gave his opinion on the motion, as of course he would do, ought to state, whether it involved any consideration of this sort. If there were any thing in that bill relative to the equipment of ships, which ought not to be repealed, lest it might produce effects injurious to the country, it was competent for any gentleman to introduce a provision to meet that point. The gallant admiral had said, that several hundred British seamen had lately gone from Liverpool, and engaged in the Brazilian service. It appeared, then, that this foreign enlistment took place in spite of the law. It therefore formed no argument against the repeal of this act. It was rather an argument in favour of the repeal; because it proved that the measure was repugnant to the feelings of the seamen, and could not, therefore, be carried into execution. This circumstance proved that the law was wholly inoperative. At former periods they had seen their seamen enter the service of foreign states, and good, not evil had resulted from it. In the war carried on by the empress Catherine against Sweden, the contest in the Baltic was chiefly directed by British seamen. Admiral Gregg and admiral Elphinstone were employed on different sides—and what was the consequence? Why, the moment this country was in danger of a war with Catherine, a proclamation brought all the British seamen home again. Thus, they had had the advantage of a body of seamen, who were trained to active exertion in the service of a foreign power, while this country was at peace. They could not have had this advantage if those men had been prevented from serving a foreign power. The knowledge they thus acquired was extremely useful to the country. The same might be observed with respect to soldiers. One of the greatest generals this country ever produced, the duke of Marlborough, had, he believed, acquired all his experience in the French wars, under marshal Turenne. He would contend, that if we had a well-founded hope that peace would continue for ten or twelve years, it was important to the interest of this country, that naval and military officers should not he compelled to remain unemployed, but should go abroad, to obtain, in active service, that experience, which never, until that night, was supposed to compromise the peace of the country. If he 1046 heard no stronger arguments than those which had been adduced, he certainly should vote for the repeal—not with reference to the situation of the Spanish people, but on the broad general principle which he had laid down. He admitted, that the late war, from which this country had not yet perfectly recovered, required some interval of peace; but, when those who conducted the foreign affairs of the empire told them that peace could not be preserved without our suffering disgrace, or refraining altogether from interference, then he concluded, either that the violence and iniquity of the powers of Europe had arrived at the highest pitch, or that there was a want of skill and dexterity, or of firmness, on the part of this government. It was said, that this country had no alternative but man, interference or war. He contended, that if ministers had done their duty there was another alternative. He defied any man of common understanding, who had read the papers which had been laid on the table, to point out any thing in them which showed that the case was so earnestly argued, and put with such force before the continental powers, as to justify ministers in declaring that there was no alternative but neutrality or war. Of this he was persuaded, that there never had been a question of such extreme importance to the country, so loosely thrown away by the government; one in which, from the beginning to the end, it was impossible to see either resolution or earnestness. He must say, that he never, in the whole course of his life, read any papers which gave him more real pain than those lately laid on the table, or which reflected such discredit on the government, and went so far in committing the character of the country. He should vote for this motion, from a conviction that it would neither lead to, nor accelerate war. If, however, they had allies of so touchy a temper, that their views alone must be primarily consulted, then he would say, that it was better for England to pursue the manly and becoming conduct, which ought to characterize her policy in the eyes of the world; not for the purpose, or with any wish of offending her allies, but certainly without fearing them.
contended, that by the old law of England the raising of troops its this country for belligerent powers, or the fitting out of privateers for them in our 1047 ports, was illegal. It had been said, that if our soldiers were engaged in foreign service, they might at any time be recalled by a proclamation from the king. But that course, however desirable, was not always practicable. And let the House consider what might be the effect of allowing belligerent powers to enlist in this country. For his part, he could not even in imagination contemplate two regiments of Englishmen engaged in different services, and directing their bayonets at each other's breasts, without horror. The return of such individuals to their native country was also a circumstance that might be attended with no small danger; as, on the one hand, they might be disposed to aid a popular insurrection; so on the other, they might be inclined to assist in the establishment of a despotic government. In speaking upon this, subject, he was forcibly reminded of a character introduced by "The great unknown," in one of his inimitable works, of the name of Dalgetty, a mercenary wholly devoid of all honour and principle, and making a trade of arms, having no object or care, but that of serving the party to whom he had sold himself.
§ Sir F. Blake
said, he should support the motion, in the hope that the representative voice of a great nation would not be heard in vain in France. He was of opinion, that if our government had assumed a higher tone throughout the recent negotiations, Spain would never have been invaded.
Mr. Secretary Canning
rose, and spoke to the following effect:—Sir; those hon. gentlemen—being by far the greater number of those whom I have the honour to address—who were not present at the commencement of this debate, can hardly imagine what a degree of restraint I impose upon myself, when I say, that it is my intention to confine myself, in what I am about to remark, strictly to the question before the House. For those who were not present cannot be aware that, from the very beginning of the discussion, there has been, whether studiously or accidentally, I know not, a sort of set-off against the figure which an hon. and learned gentleman last night applied to the benches on this side of the House, when he was describing what he conceived to be the variety of opinions by which those hon. gentlemen were influenced, who were nevertheless disposed to vote for the same proposition. Nothing cer- 1048 tainly can exceed the vacillations of opinion, as to the expediency of maintaining peace or of declaring war, which we have this night heard from those who have nevertheless concurred in advocating the repeal of the Foreign Enlistment bill. The repeal of this measure was moved by a noble lord, a professed lover of peace, who disclaimed the slightest wish to involve this country in hostility, and who delivered his sentiments with that moderation and good sense which distinguishes every effort that he makes in this House. The motion was seconded by another noble lord, of whose speech the only character which I will give is, that it afforded in substance, tone, and manner, a perfect contrast to that of his noble predecessor in the debate. That noble lord declared that he was for war, for open war, and argued in support of a pacific motion simply and solely with a view to hostility. Sir, I will not follow the noble lord through that speech; for it would be necessary, in order that my representation of it should be believed, that hon. gentlemen should have been present when it was spoken. The Lacedæmonians were in the habit of deterring their children from the vice of intoxication by occasionally exhibiting their slaves in a state of disgusting inebriety. But, Sir, there is a moral as well as a physical intoxication. Never before did I behold so complete a personification of the character which I have somewhere seen described, as "exhibiting the contortions of the Sybil without her inspiration!" Such was the nature of the noble lord's speech. I will not on this occasion reply to it; being of opinion with I am sure a great majority of those whom I have the honour to address, that this is not a fit opportunity for entering into such a discussion. Let it not be supposed, however, that I am disposed to shrink from the discussion; for the noble lord may believe me, when I assure him that however I may have "truckled" to France I will never truckle to the noble lord [loud cheers from both sides of the House.] I am perfectly ready to meet the noble lord and the hon. gentleman near him, on the whole of this case whenever they may please to bring it regularly under the consideration of the House; and I postpone my reply only until the opportunity which has been promised shall arrive, and because the present measure most be discussed, if discussed at all, only on the assumption that we are to preserve our neu- 1049 trality. If the question which the noble lord and the hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House wish to agitate, is whether the true policy of this country is war or neutrality? if that is to be the is sue in the debate of which they have given notice I can have no possible objection, when the proper time shall arrive, to meet them, and enter into that discussion; and I am confident I shall be perfectly able to show that, whether the question be viewed with reference to the national security and the national interests, or to the equally important consideration of the national honour, the course of policy which wisdom and justice have marked out for this country in the present state of the world is neutrality—neutrality, as long as it can be preserved consistently with our interests—neutrality, as long as it can be preserved, consistently with our honour. But, Sir, as I have already declared, I quarrel with no man who honestly entertains an opposite opinion. I am perfectly ready to meet the advocates for war, and without imputing to them any but the most honourable motives. But I must be allowed to postpone my argument on that point, until the proper time shall arrive its production. In the mean-while, I have a fair right to protest against charges, which no man ought to permit himself to throw out at random, when he knows that they cannot be conveniently replied to. However, Sir, I will not be drawn by any intemperate or premature observations, into a debate on a subject not yet before the House. Whenever that subject comes fairly before us, let it be fully investigated; let the true policy of this country be ascertained, and let the conduct of his majesty's government be judged of by the standard which parliament may think proper to establish. In the absence of such a discussion, and such a result, I shall take it for granted that, both in this House and in the country at large, the prevalent feeling is in concurrence with the course which his majesty's government have thought it their duty to adopt. If, in assuming that to be the case, I am assuming that which is not true, the noble lord and the hon. gentlemen opposite will soon enjoy the opportunity of setting me right, and of dissipating the unhappy delusion under which I am labouring. But, assuming that to be the fact (for we must have some foundation on which to argue), I proceed to discuss the merits of the noble lord's motion, in reference to a system of 1050 neutrality. It was, indeed, in reference to a system of neutrality, that the noble lord brought forward that motion—it was in reference to a system of neutrality, that the noble lord's motion was support ed by an hon. gentleman near him, who always throws a light upon whatever subject he investigates. Undoubtedly, I should very much misrepresent the character of the speech of the noble lord who seconded the motion, were I to assert that it had any reference to neutrality. But, Sir, upon a fair estimate of suffrages, I think I have a right to conclude, that among the supporters of the noble lord's motion the advocates for neutrality bear, at least, an equal proportion to the advocates for war. It is, therefore, in reference to a system of neutrality alone that I should consider myself justified in considering the noble lord's proposition. Now, Sir, let me, in the first place, recall the attention of the House to the precise nature and state of the question. The act of parliament which the noble lord has moved for leave to bring in a bill to repeal, was passed four or five years ago, partly in mitigation of the statute law, and partly in confirmation of the common law; the fact being, that the common law prohibited the transfer of military allegiance to any other power without the consent of the sovereign, and that the statute law annexed to a transgression of the common law on that subject, certain severe and sanguinary penalties. When peace was concluded between this country and Spain in 1814, an article was introduced into the Treaty, by which this country bound itself not to furnish any succours to what were then denominated the revolted colonies of Spain. In process of time, as those colonies became more powerful, a question arose of a very difficult nature; to be decided on a due consideration of their de jure relation to Spain on the one side, and their de facto independence of her, on the other. The law of nations was entirely silent with respect to the course which, under a circumstance so peculiar as the transition of colonies from their allegiance, to the parent state, ought to be pursued. It was difficult to know how far either the statute law or the common law was applicable to colonies so situated. It became necessary, therefore, in the act of 1818, to treat the colonies as actually independent of Spain; and to prohibit mutually, and with respect to both, the aid which had hitherto been prohibited 1051 with respect to one alone. Thus, Sir, has the law stood, from the year 1818 down to the present time. I ought to observe, that it was in order to give full and impartial effect to the provisions of the treaty with Spain, which prohibited the exportation of arms and ammunition to the colonies, but did not prohibit their exportation to Spain; that the act of 1818 declared that the prohibition should be mutual—a declaration which so little deserves the character of bearing hard upon the colonies, that it was in fact an extension of advantage to them. When, however, from the tide of events, war became probable between France and Spain, it became necessary to review these relations. It was obvious that if war broke out, we must either extend to France the prohibition which already existed with respect to Spain, or we must remove from Spain the prohibition to which she was at present subject, provided we meant to place the countries on an equal footing. As far as the exportation of arms and ammunition was concerned, it was in the power of the Crown to remove any inequality between the parties simply by an order in council. Such an order was consequently issued, and the prohibition of exporting arms and ammunition to Spain was taken off. By this measure his majesty's government afforded a guarantee of their bona fide neutrality. It is obvious, that the mere appearance of neutrality might have been preserved by the extension of the prohibition to France, instead of by the removal of the prohibition from Spain; but it would have been a prohibition in words only, and not at all in fact; for the immediate vicinity of the Belgic ports to France, would have rendered the prohibition of direct exportation to France totally nugatory. So far, Sir, was this determination on the part of his majesty's government concerted (as some hon. gentlemen have imputed to us) with France and not with Spain, that I can assure the House with perfect truth that the concert, if concert it can be called, was with Spain, and not with France; for his majesty's government stated to Spain, that there were two modes in which the difference between the privileges of France and Spain might be equalized by an order in council; either by prohibiting the exportation of arms and ammunition to France, or by removing the prohibition upon their exportation to Spain; but it was also stated to Spain, 1052 that his majesty's government could not remove that prohibition as it respected Spain, without removing it also as it respected the South American colonies. Such, Sir, was the motive; namely, to produce an equality between France and Spain, not in words but in fact, which prompted the order in council to which I have alluded. I desire to consider the act, for the repeal of which the noble lord has moved, in precisely the same point of view. I desire the House to consider, whether the repeal of that act would not have—not the same, but the correspondent effect to that which would have been produced by an order in council, prohibiting the exportation of arms and ammunition to France. Sir, every body knows, however he may abstain from saying it, that a repeal of the act in question would be a repeal only in words as respecting France, but a repeal in fact, as respecting Spain. Every body knows that such a repeal would occasion an inequality of operation, certainly not intended by the noble mover who distinctly disclaimed any such wish; but no less certainly desired by some other supporters of the motion, who are not equally impartial. Whether it might or might not be right to testify a partiality to Spain is another and a larger question. I am arguing on the assumption that the policy of this country is neutrality; and I maintain that, whether the repeal of the bill ought to be considered as a right or a wrong measure, it cannot be denied, that it would be an infraction of neutrality.—Sir, if I have succeeded in showing, that there is no ground for repealing this act, in order to mark our neutrality; if I have succeeded in showing, that what has been done by his majesty's government—manifests, if not neutrality, a leaning, not to the stronger, but to the weaker party—it only remains for me to examine whether there is any thing in this act so contrary to the established law of nations as to render it unfit to be longer continued. Sir, the act is divided into two plain and distinct parts; the one prohibiting British subjects from entering into the military service of belligerent states; the other forbidding the fitting out of privateers for the service of those states, in British ports with British means and money, or which are to be manned with British seamen. With respect to the former part, on which the greater portion of the debate of this evening has hinged, I agree with my right 1053 hon. friend near me in considering it as the part which is of the less importance as regards Spain; because though there; is no doubt that any advantage taken of the proposed repeal would be in favour of one belligerent, and that a disposition to violate our neutrality on that side, has been already manifested: yet I do not think that it would go the length which has been anticipated by many. I do not mean to say that Spain has shewn herself ungrateful for the services of distinguished individuals upon former occasions; but the laws of Spain have been changed since that period. I have observed, and so must those who now hear me have observed, that shortly after the late speech of the king of France, or, at all events, upon the first burst of feeling having manifested itself in Spain, certain regulations were adopted relative to the admission of foreigners into the Spanish army. It was then decided that foreigners who had previously served in the Spanish army, should be allowed to re-enter it—up to the rank of serjeants; and that foreigners who had not served in that country before should be permitted, with all their hearts, to serve—up to the full rank of privates [a laugh]. So that here, at least, no very strong temptation is held out to induce the co-operation of the military spirit, skill, and enterprise of this country in support of the Spanish cause. I have also reason to form this opinion, from a recollection of what took place upon former and no very distant occasions. When, the army of England last fought in Spain, they fought in favour of a united! people against a foreign and a common foe. How altered is the case at present! Who is there who could wish to see Englishmen on entering the Spanish territory opposed, not to the foes of Spain, but directing their bayonets against Spanish bosoms? This, I confess, is a sight which I would rather not witness. In one case, perhaps a feeling of gratitude might be created in the minds of Spaniards; though I confess that upon this point I am not very sanguine; for I recollect, that, though something like gratitude was manifested by the Spaniards for the services rendered by the English during the late war, there was also upon the embarkation of our troops something like a public gratulation, that the country had been at length cleared of the presence of those heretics [hear, hear!]. This I am aware I may be told arose out of the- 1054 bigotry of the Spanish government. And here I cannot help observing that the charge of bigotry urged against Spain, in her dealings with her colonies, is incorrect. Indeed, the reverse is the fact; the main obstacle having been the difficulty of managing their popular assemblies. There is a peculiarity of character in the people of Spain, which from its reserve makes the Spaniard a Spaniard and nothing else. This feeling may perhaps serve to knit them more closely together, and render them more national. It may, too, and it is to be hoped will, have the effect of extinguishing the feuds and party differences by which they are at present unhappily distracted. Without imputing blame to them in any degree on this account, I can only repeat, that such is the fact. It is undoubtedly true, that Spaniards amalgamate less readily than any other European people, with the habits and institutions, as they concurmore slowly or unwillingly in the views and policy, of any other nations; and I state the circumstance as furnishing an additional argument why it is not altogether desirable to repeal this measure at the present time, for the purpose of mixing up British soldiers with the existing dispute between France and Spain.—But I consider the other branch of the case of infinitely greater importance. A noble lord has made an allusion, and with great fairness, to a speech made by me upon a former evening, in which speech I endeavoured to point out what were the duties imposed upon us by a strict neutrality. That speech has been referred to, as if it contained something that was appalling—some axiom that was unheard of and abominable—because it advocated the principle of our maintaining a strict neutrality. Good God! is it to become a maxim with this country, that she is ever to be a belligerent? Is she never, under any possible state of circumstances, to remain neutral? If this proposition be good for anything; it must run to this extent—that our position, insulated as it is from all the rest of the world, removes us so far from the scene of continental warfare, that we ought always to be belligerent—that we are bound to counteract the designs of Providence; to reject the advantages of nature, and to render futile and erroneous the description of the poet, who has said to our honour, that we are less prone to war and tumult, on account of our happy situation, than 1055 the neighbouring nations that lay conterminous with one another. But wherefore this dread of a neutrality? If gentlemen look to the page of history, they will find that for centuries past, whenever there has been a war in Europe, we have Almost always been belligerent. The fact is undoubtedly so; but I am not prepared to lay it down as a principle, that if, at the beginning of a war, we should happen to maintain a species of neutrality, it was an unnatural thing that we should do so. Gentlemen say, that we must be drawn into a war, sooner or later. Why, then I answer—let it be later. I say, if we are to be drawn into a war, let us be drawn into it on grounds clearly British. I do not say—God forbid I should—that it is no part of the duty of Great Britain to protect what is termed the balance of power, and to aid the weak against the insults of the strong. I say, on the contrary, that to do so is her bounden duty; but I affirm also, that we must take care to do our duty to ourselves. The first condition of engaging in any war—the sine quâ non of every such undertaking—is, that the war must be just; the second, that being just in itself, we can also with justice engage in it; and the third, that being just in its nature, and it being possible for us justly to embark in it, we can so interfere without detriment or prejudice to ourselves. I contend, that he is a visionary politician who leaves this last condition out of the question; and I say further, that though the glorious abandonment of it may sound well in the generous speech of an irresponsible orator—with the safety of a ration upon his Tips, and none of the responsibility upon his shoulders—it is matter deeply to be considered; and that the minister who should lay it out of his view, in calling on the country to undertake a war, would well deserve that universal censure and reprobation with which the noble lord opposite has this night menaced me. If it be wise for a government, though it cannot prevent an actual explosion, to endeavour to circumscribe the limits and to lessen the duration of a war, then I say, that the position we have taken in the present instance is of more probable efficacy, than that in which we should have stood, had we suffered ourselves to be drawn into a participation in the contest. Participation, did I say? Sir! is there any man who hears me—is there any man acquainted with the history of the country for 1056 the last twenty years—who does not know the way in Which Great Britain has been accustomed to participate in a war? Do not gentlemen know, that if we now enter into a war, we must take the whole burthen of it upon ourselves, and conduct the whole force and exertions of the Peninsula. But, supposing such tote our course, how different must be our situation, as compared with former periods. When we last became the defenders of Spain, we fought for and with a united people. What would be the case at present? Any interference on our parts in favour of Spain must commence with an attempt to unite contending factions, and to stimulate men of opposite interests and opposite feelings, to one grand and simultaneous effort. Now I do not hesitate to say, that the man who would undertake to do this under present circumstances, must either be possessed of supernatural means of information, or of a hardihood which I may envy, but shall not attempt to imitate. I say that those men will not consult the true dignity of the country, who, finding fault with the part we have adopted, wish to indemnify themselves by endeavouring to make us perform that part amiss. Our course is neutrality—strict neutrality.; and, in the name of God, let us adhere to it. If you dislike that course—if you think it injurious to the honour or interests of the; country—drive from their places those neutral ministers who have adopted it; but until you are prepared to declare war, you are bound to adhere to and to act upon the system which ministers have laid down. I stated a few evenings ago, that we could have no difficulty in the course which we had to pursue, in observance of a strict neutrality. We have spent much time in teaching other powers the nature of a strict neutrality; and, generally speaking, we found them most reluctant scholars. All I now call upon the House to do, is to adopt the same course which it has recommended to neutral powers upon former occasions. If I wished for a guide in a system of neutrality, I should take that laid down by America in the days of the presidency of Washington, and the secretaryship of Jefferson. In 1793, complaints were made to the American government, that French ships were allowed to fit out and arm in American ports, for the purpose of attacking British vessels, in direct opposition to the laws of neutrality. Immediately upon this representation, the American government held, 1057 that such a fitting-out was contrary to the laws of neutrality; and orders were issued, prohibiting the arming of any French vessels in American ports. At New York, a French vessel fitting out was seized, delivered over to the tribunals, and condemned. Upon that occasion, the American government held that such fitting-out of French ships in American ports, for the purpose of cruising against English vessels, was incompatible with the sovereignty of the United States, and tended to interrupt the peace and good understanding which subsisted between that country and Great Britain. Here, Sir, I contend, is the principle of neutrality upon which we ought to act. It was upon this principle that the bill in question was enacted. I do not now pretend to argue in favour of a system of neutrality; but it being declared that we intend to remain neutral, I call upon the House to abide by that declaration, so long as it shall remain unaltered. No matter what ulterior course we may be inclined to adopt—no matter whether at some ulterior period the honour and interests of the country may force us into a war—still, while we declare ourselves neutral, let us avoid passing the strict line of demarcation. When war comes, if come it must, let us enter into it with all the spirit and energy which becomes us as a great and independent nation. That period, however, I do not wish to anticipate; and much less desire to hasten. If a war must come, let it come in the shape of satisfaction to be demanded for injuries—of rights to be asserted—of interests to be protected—of treaties to be fulfilled. But, in God's name, let it not come on, in the paltry pettifogging way of fitting out ships in our harbours to cruise for gain. At all events, let the country disdain to be sneaked into a war. Let us abide strictly by our neutrality, as long as we mean to adhere to it; and by so doing we shall, in the event of any necessity for abandoning that system, be the better able to enter with effect upon any other course which the policy of the country may require.
§ Mr. Denman
said, he warmly supported the motion of his hon. friend, but did not wish to be understood as pledging himself to any measure from which a war was necessarily or even likely to follow. The hon. friends with whom he was in the habit of acting would, year after year, and session after session, without interruption, have called for the repeal of this odious 1058 measure, as well as of the Alien bill, had not they but too clearly perceived, that they were vainly contending against those majorities which the ministers could command. When they were told by the right hon. gentleman that foreigners were excluded from entering the Spanish army except in the rank of serjeants or privates, surely reason enough had been shown why it was not necessary to guard against the temptations to foreign enlistment by a measure so objectionable as this bill. He entreated the House not to be deterred from doing what was right, by any threat on the part of foreign powers, to abridge our freedom of action.
§ After a short reply from lord Althorp, the House divided: Ayes, 110; Noes, 216.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, hon. J.||Hobhouse, J. C.|
|Baring, A.||Honywood, W. P.|
|Barnard, visc.||Hughes, W. L.|
|Barratt, S. M.||Hume, J.|
|Benett, John||Hurst, R.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Howard, lord H.|
|Bentinck, lord W.||Jervoise, G. P.|
|Benyon, B.||Johnstone, W. A.|
|Bernal, R.||Kemp, J.|
|Birch, J.||Kennedy, T. F.|
|Blake, sir F.||Knight, R.|
|Brougham, H.||Lambton, J. G.|
|Browne, Dom.||Lemon, sir W.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Lennard, T. B.|
|Byng, G.||Leycester, R.|
|Calcraft J. H.||Lloyd, sir E.|
|Carew, C. S.||Lushington, S.|
|Carter, J.||Leader, W.|
|Caulfield, hon. H.||Maberly, J.|
|Chaloner, R.||Maberly, W. L.|
|Clifton, visc.||Macdonald, J.|
|Colburne, N. R.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Creevey, T.||Martin, J.|
|Crompton, S.||Milton, visc.|
|Cradock, S.||Monck, J. B.|
|Davies, T H.||Moore, P.|
|De Crespigny, sir W.||Newman, R. W.|
|Denison, W. J.||Newport, sir J.|
|Denman, T.||Normanby, visc.|
|Ducannon, visc.||Nugent, lord|
|Ebrington, visc.||O'Grady, S.|
|Ellice, E.||O'Callaghan, J.|
|Ellis, hon. G. A.||Ord, W.|
|Evans, W.||Osborne, lord F.|
|Fergusson, Sir R.||Palmer, C.|
|Fitzgerald, lord W.C.||Palmer, C. F.|
|Glenorchy, visc.||Pares, T.|
|Graham, S.||Pelham, J. C.|
|Grattan, J.||Philips, G.|
|Guise, sir B.||Philips, G. jun.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Power, R.|
|Heron, sir R.||Powlett, hon. J. F.|
|Hill, lord A.||Rice T. S.|
|Rickford, W.||Tynte, C. R.|
|Robarts, A. W.||Warre, J.|
|Robarts, G. J.||Webbe, E.|
|Robinson, sir G.||Wharton, J.|
|Russell, lord J.||Whitbread, S. C.|
|Scarlett, J.||Whitbread, W. H.|
|Scott, J.||Williams, W.|
|Sefton, earl of||Wilson, sir R.|
|Smith, W.||Wood, M.|
|Stanley, lord||Wyvill, M.|
|Stanley, hon. E. C.||TELLERS.|
|Stewart, W. (Tyrone)||Althorp, visc.|
|Talbot, R.||Folkeston, visc.|
|Taylor, M. A.||PAIRED OFF.|
|Titchfield, marq.||Western, C. C.|
|Townshend, lord C.||Russell, Greenhill|