HC Deb 05 March 1841 vol 56 cc1354-6

On the question that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply,

Mr. S. O'Brien

took the opportunity of adverting to the state of the relations between Great Britain and the United States. Two circumstances were alleged in the public papers which seemed to him to deserve notice. The first was, that a true bill had been found against Colonel M'Leod, on a charge of murder and arson, in the course of the discharge of his duties under instructions from the Canadian authorities;—the second circumstance was, that the legislature of the state of Maine had passed the following resolutions:— That the governor be authorised to take immediate measures to remove the troops of the Queen of Great Britain, now quartered on the territory called, disputed, by the British Government, but by the treaty of 1783, by the resolutions of both houses of Congress, passed in 1838, and by repeated resolves of the Legislature of Maine, clearly and unequivocally a part of the rightful soil of this state. Resolved, that the resources of this state be, and they hereby are, placed at the disposal of the governor, and the specific sum of 400,000 dollars be and the same is hereby appropriated out of any money in the treasury for the purpose of carrying the said resolution into effect. He did not know what degree of authenticity belonged to these resolutions; but if they were authentic it seemed to him that they amounted to nothing short of a declaration of war against this country. He was, probably, more averse to war than any other individual in the House, and he thought a war with the United States to be particularly deprecated, since it must necessarily possess something of a fratricidal character. If, however, war did take place, Great Britain would have the consolation of knowing that it was not of her seeking. She could not, however, maintain her rank as the greatest nation of the world, if she allowed herself to be insulted, and she could not be entitled to claim the allegiance of her colonial subjects if she did not extend to them adequate protection. He had seen, on the part of the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs, a great display of vigour to support the policy of Great Britain in a case of a more doubtful character, and he trusted that the noble Lord would indicate an intention to display, on the present occasion, some portion of the vigour he had shown in connection with the affairs of the East. The movements of the noble Lord were so secret that it was sometimes impossible for the House to as certain the direction in which he was proceeding; but he felt it his duty, as an individual Member of Parliament, to say that he should think British interests better secured, by a strong fleet off the North American harbours, and a powerful army along the line of the British American boundary than by mere unsupported diplomacy. He left it to Government to say whether the present estimates were upon a sufficient scale to enable them to adopt the course to which he had referred; but they would be wanting in their duty to the country if they did not come down to Parliament for adequate means to meet such an emergency; and he was sure that the House would support them in measures necessary for the maintenance of the honour and character of Great Britain in every part of the world.

Mr. Ewart

said, that it was one thing to be armed before it was necessary, and another to be armed at the proper time; and, for himself, he did not see the necessity now of anticipating hostilities. He thought and believed that the mass of the people of the United Slates were in favour of peace; the majority of the people there, knew too well the general interests of the world, to wish to see peace disturbed by any unhappy collision with this country. When we were unopposed to any enemy, we should not be too anxious to vaunt of our power. He trusted that the present unhappy causes for discord would pass off without any ill consequences; and he felt that if they did, it would not only be in accordance with the wishes, but with the interests of both countries.

Mr. Hume

hoped that the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, would be able to state something that would remove any prejudice that might be created by the speech of the hon. Member for Limerick. He was satisfied that there was nothing in the present transactions to call for immediate interference, They did not know that anything had taken place in these provinces except what was authorised by the municipal law, and it was too soon for the hon. Member to appeal to war till he had seen whether these transactions had been in accordance with the law of the country in which they had taken place.

House in a Committee of Supply.