The order of the day being read for summoning their lordships to take into consideration the Papers relative to the late Negociation with France,
§ Lord Grenville
rose, and spoke as follows: My lords, having had the honour of presenting to your lordships the Papers relative to the late Negociation between this country and France, it now becomes my duty to move your lordships to address his majesty on the result of that negociation. I do not think it necessary to enter into any lengthened detail upon a subject which is already so fully and amply before your lordships by means of the papers on the table. The documents which are in your lordships' hands, are fuller and more ample than have been presented to parliament on any former occasion of a similar nature, certainly more so than in those cases respecting which it has formerly been my duty to present papers to parliament. It would not, perhaps, have been advisable that these papers should be so minute in their details, had it not been for the very full, though not equally correct statement published by the French government. It 260 will nevertheless be perceived by your lordships, that there are several omissions in the papers, omissions which could not be supplied without injury to this country or to our allies. It must be evident, that the instructions given to our minister for the regulation of his conduct during the negociation with which he was intrusted, could not be given amongst these documents, without the risk of injury to our interests. To reveal the instructions given to a minister employed to negociate a peace, must necessarily reveal the value which we set upon possessions or upon cessions, and the motives which actuate the government in consenting to give up, or desiring to retain the one, or to insist upon the other: a species of information, which it is evident must be of inestimable advantage to the enemy. It is not merely, however, with respect to ourselves that it becomes important to omit certain documents, but also with a view to the interests of our allies. It is not enough that the publication of documents and papers will not be injurious to yourselves; but you have no right to set up that as an argument for a publication, which may tend to reveal something the knowledge of which by an enemy may be injurious to your ally. The forms of our constitution require in certain cases the publication of the documents which have passed between our government and that of a foreign state, and if an inconvenience to ourselves sometimes arises from this practice, it is overbalanced by the benefits resulting from that constitution; but you have no right to set up the forms of your constitution as a reason for publishing what may tend to injure your ally. Conceiving, therefore, that the omissions in these papers are fully justified, and that the papers themselves are sufficiently ample to give every information relative to the negociation, I shall not enter into a detail, which is already in your lordships' possession. My object is to move an address to his majesty, humbly and gratefully acknowledging his majesty's desire to restore to his subjects the blessings of peace, assuring his majesty of our conviction that the failure of the negociation entered into for that purpose did not arise from any failure in his majesty's paternal regard for the welfare of his people, but is wholly to be attributed to the exorbitant demands and ambitious views of France, and pledging ourselves to concur, in every effort, to support his majesty in the continuance of 261 the contest. I will now, my lords, briefly notice a few of the leading principles which characterize the Negociation, which is the subject of our discussion. There can be no doubt that peace was desirable, if a peace could be obtained consistently with the honour and the interests of this country. It must always be desirable to put an end to the calamities of war, and every state actuated by enlightened views of policy, will necessarily consider the prosecution of war as the means of obtaining an honourable, a secure, and a permanent peace; a peace which shall ensure safety against the renewal of war, and safety in the conduct of it in the event of its renewal. There may be cases in which a nation, actuated by views of sound policy, may think it advisable to make great sacrifices for the purpose of obtaining a peace, which bears every promise of being permanent. If we look back to the treaties of peace formerly concluded by this country, we find that though, of course, they could not be considered as permanent, yet that, they produced a considerable interval of tranquillity, an interval which might then be fairly calculated upon, and which, inasmuch as it served to recruit and increase the resources of the country, was worth making sacrifices to obtain. In this view of the subject, and with the moral certainty of obtaining a considerable interval of tranquillity, valuable sacrifices, I do not mean merely valuable in point of finance, of commerce, or of revenue, but valuable in point of strength, might consistently with sound policy and expediency be made for the purpose of obtaining a treaty of peace. But those who consider the state of Europe for 6 years, or I may say for 13 or 14 years past, must be convinced that there was no rational hope of any considerable interval of tranquillity following a treaty of peace with France. It became therefore an object in this negociation, to seek out for an equivalent to set up against that want of permanence, which must attend any peace made under such circumstances. Valuable sacrifices could not be made to obtain an unstable and insecure peace. I was therefore, my lords, of opinion, and still am of opinion, that the only basis upon which we ought to treat with France, was that of actual possession. We had made several valuable conquests by means of our maritime superiority, whilst France had made great and extensive conquests on the continent. Those conquests 262 were, however, of a description totally distinct, and could not be exchanged with any prospect of advantage to either country. This country being a great maritime and colonial power, and France a great continental power, there could be no reciprocity of cession between the two powers, which could in any degree tend to their mutual advantage. The conquests made by this country could be of no use to France, unless she could become a great commercial and colonial power: the conquests made by France could be of no use to this country, unless she could become a great continental power. Thus, the state of actual possession appeared to me to be the only true basis of negociation between this country and France, the only basis upon which peace ought to be established, under the circumstances in which that negociation took place, the only basis on which it could rationally be founded, viewing the relative situation of the two countries, regarding also the situation of Europe, and the slender prospect of a peace concluded under such circumstances, producing any considerable interval of tranquillity, and for the attainment of which, therefore, no valuable sacrifices ought to be made by this country, because they could not ensure to us safety against the immediate renewal of the war. This was, therefore, the basis which I thought the only one which ought to be the foundation of a treaty of peace between this country and France, if such a treaty was to be attained, and this also was the opinion of those with whom I had the honour to act, amongst whom and myself the greatest and most perfect unanimity prevailed, previous to, and from the moment of, the commencement of the negociation to its close. During the whole procedure of that negociation, from the hour it began till the moment of its breaking off, we had but one opinion upon the subject, and unanimously concurred in all the steps taken during its progress. I have already observed that the state of actual possession was the only basis which appeared to his majesty's ministers to be the fit and proper basis for our negociation with France. It will not, however, be supposed, that a negociation upon the basis of actual possession, was to exclude a discussion of equivalents to be given for certain cessions to be agreed upon. This is necessarily included in a negociation, taking for its basis the state of actual possession, inasmuch as it naturally arises out of the relations of 263 states, which come to be discussed in the progress of such a negociation. This too is the more necessary where a negociation involves the interests of allies, the procuring for whom of advantages, of course gives rise to a discussion as to the equivalents to be given, or the sacrifices to be made by the powers negociating, to procure advantageous cessions for their respective allies. My lords, when his majesty's present ministers came into office, they found a treaty concluded by their predecessors with Russia, in which each party bound itself not to conclude peace, without the consent of the other. I am not about to question the wisdom of such a treaty; on the contrary, I think it a wise measure. I am decidedly of opinion, that if what remains of Europe is to be maintained, if Europe is to be recovered, as I trust it will be recovered, it can only be by a firm bond of union, a strict alliance between this country and the powers of the continent. When I declare that a wise treaty, in which one party cannot make peace without the consent of the other, I am not to have extreme cases put for the purpose of shewing that inconveniencies may arise from such a stipulation. My answer to such an argument is short—that extreme cases ought not to be put. Extreme cases cannot be included in, nor ought they to be an objection to, a general rule; they must be met and provided for on their own specific grounds, An extreme case may be put, that Russia might demand, as a condition of peace, that half the old French monarchy should be ceded to her; in that case, it is not to be supposed that this country would continue the war upon such a ground. Such extreme cases, however, may be put out of the argument, having no connection, in fact, with the broad and general principle on which such treaties are concluded. It is not enough for this country merely to form an alliance with the powers of the continent, who themselves near the enemy, and subject to his immediate inroads, feel all the horrors of war in the heart of their territories, whilst we, free from all fear of participating in their calamities, conceive ourselves at liberty to withdraw from the contest and make peace whenever it suits our convenience. This is not a system which can lead to any practical good. The powers of the continent will not, under such a system, feel that community of interest which is absolutely necessary to effect any thing 264 against the enemy, Let there be a stipulation that one party shall not make peace without the consent of the other, and then there will be that community of interest, and that unity of action which in the present circumstances of Europe are so absolutely necessary to make head against the enemy. Even, however, supposing that the treaty with Russia, to which I have just alluded, had not been wisely concluded; still the sacred engagement of the sovereign having been given to Russia, his majesty's ministers were bound to act in compliance with the injunctions of that treaty, and to fulfil its conditions. Thus, therefore, the negociation commenced in compliance with the injunctions of that treaty, and, at the same time, with those views with regard to our other allies, which were dictated by justice and good faith. Amongst those allies were to be classed those to whom we were bound by treaty, and those to whom we were bound by the circumstances which had occurred during the war, and the situations in which they were placed, in consequence of the events of that war. Of the former class of allies were Sweden and Portugal; and of the latter, Naples and the elector of Hanover; who, in this case, must be considered as a separate and distinct power. With respect to Sweden and Portugal, nothing more was required than to guarantee to those powers their state of actual possession; no conquests having been made by them which it was necessary to cede, nor any thing taken from them respecting which it was necessary to enter into discussion. The king of Naples stood in a different situation; he had unfortunately, like too many other continental states, been deprived, by the power of France, of all his dominions on the continent of Europe. My lords, I have no hesitation in saying, that I would have consented to make sacrifices not merely valuable in finance, in revenue, or in commerce, but even sacrifices of safety and of strength, to procure the restoration to the king of Naples of the kingdom of Naples; but no sacrifices that we could make, could have been an equivalent to France for the restoration of the kingdom of Naples. It therefore necessarily became a discussion of equivalents, with the view of indemnifying the king of Naples for the loss of his kingdom somewhere else. With respect to Sicily, the king of Naples was still in possession of that island, or rather, I would say, it was in the possession of a 265 brave, and, as it has been proved, an invincible British army. That army had entered the island with the consent of the king of Naples, who had received them there in the full confidence that they would defend it bravely and gallantly against the enemy, and at the same time in the full persuasion that the island would not be given up to the enemy. Would it not, therefore, have been an indelible disgrace to this country to have given up Sicily to France upon their offer of an equivalent? Was it for us to traffic with Sicily, and to dispose of it, without the consent of its sovereign? if the king of Naples chose to surrender his dominions for what he might consider a sufficient equivalent, upon the continent of Europe, he was, of course, at liberty to make such an exchange; but it was not for us to traffic with Sicily, and barter it away for any equivalent, without the consent of its sovereign.—With respect to Hanover, my lords, I feel some difficulty in addressing your lordships upon that topic, not that there is any doubt as to the clearness of the principle upon which our negociation with respect to that electorate rests, or as to the injustice committed by the enemy upon the territories of that electorate, but from a doubt that from some perversion or distortion of what is clear and obvious, there should be an idea entertained that our beneficent sovereign had for a moment wished to sacrifice any British interest to the re-attainment of Hanover. My lords, his majesty, with that beneficence which has always characterized his reign, had not the remotest wish that the least British interest should be sacrificed for the purpose of obtaining the restoration of Hanover. But, my lords, the restoration of Hanover to its sovereign was a point in which the honour of this country was deeply involved. It was said by a great statesman, now no more, after some remarks relative to Hanover, that if Hanover was invaded on account of its connection with this country, he would as soon fight for Hanover as for Hampshire, the honour of the country being equally involved in both cases. Hanover, my lords, was at peace with France, it was not connected in any way which could be a legitimate cause for war between France and that electorate; yet Hanover was seized by France soon after the latter power had declared war against this country, and for no other reason than because it was thought by France a good means of injuring this 266 country, to invade and take possession of Hanover. Hanover was therefore sacrificed to injustice on the part of France for the express purpose of injuring this country. Would it not, therefore, be disgraceful in us not to insist upon the restoration of Hanover to its sovereign, from whom it had been taken, solely on account of its connection with this country. The restoration of Hanover, thus unjustly seized, was therefore insisted upon as an indispensable preliminary to the negociation. The French government felt the injustice of the act, and consented to restore it. This was consented to, previous to the commencement of the negociation, and never afterwards became an object of dispute. And your lordships are perfectly aware, as is clearly evinced by the papers on the table, that the rupture of the negociation did not proceed from any discussion about Hanover, but arose from far different causes. My lords, the principle upon which his majesty's ministers acted during the whole of the negociation was, that of good faith towards our allies. Without that, no treaty can be concluded by this country, without disgracing ourselves. The principle acted upon by the French government invariably through the whole negociation was, that of endeavouring to effect a separation between us and our allies. This clearly appears in the four stages of the negociation. The first at the commencement of the negociation, when the French government offered us terms which, had we been negociating for ourselves alone, might perhaps have been considered as the fair price of peace, but which, under the circumstances in which we negociated, were offered us as the price of dishonour, as the price of the desertion of our faithful ally, as the price of a direct breach of good faith. Here then, it was evidently their object to tempt us by these offers to separate ourselves from Russia. The second stage of the negociation was, when the French government, partly by threats, partly by inspiring hopes and making promises, contrived to persuade the Russian minister at Paris, M. D'Oubril, to sign a separate treaty of peace. Nothing, my lords, shews more clearly the views and objects of the French government than the alteration in their tone, after they had succeeded in obtaining the signature of this separate treaty with Russia. Then the French government say to our ministers, no, we cannot now grant you the same terms we were willing 267 to do before. The signature of a separate treaty with Russia is equivalent to a splendid victory; therefore we must insist upon better terms. This, my lords, is not our language, but your lordships will mark the expression used by the French ministers in the papers now in your hands, when speaking upon that subject, and which evinces, in the clearest manner, the great importance which they attached to the separation which they thought they had effected between Russia and this country. They considered it equivalent to a splendid victory, and this expression was not loosely used in conversation, but forms a part of the written sentiments of the French government upon that event. A suspicion afterwards arose, that this treaty would not be ratified, or probably intelligence of the refusal of the emperor of Russia to ratify it had then reached Paris, although of this we know nothing. Which brings me to the third stage of the negociation; when the French government, finding the treaty would not be ratified, immediately offered us better terms, in the hope of finding that though they could not separate Russia from this country, they might, by the offer of better terms than they had previously offered, separate this country from Russia. Failing, however, equally in their endeavours to induce Russia to enter into a separate treaty, or to induce this country to enter into a separate treaty, they at length agreed to a negociation; to be carried on conjointly for the interests of Russia and Great Britain. This brings me to the fourth and last stage of the negociation, when they departed from the principle they had agreed to, of negociating with Russia and England conjointly, when they refused to agree to the terms asked on behalf of Russia, and again offered terms to this country, on the principle of a separate negociation. The rupture of the negociation was, of course, the consequence. My lords, in all this procedure on the part of the French government, it is manifest, that, from the first moment of the negociation to the last, their only object was to endeavour to effect a separation between this country and Russia. Had Russia, my lords, insisted upon extravagant and immoderate terms, or had she insisted upon points trifling and uninteresting, it would have been a painful duty for me to stand up in this place and state the rupture of the negociation in consequence of any such conduct on the part of Russia. But, my lords, the very contrary of all this was the 268 case; the terms insisted on by Russia were moderate, free from all views of ambition, and were only directed to the security of her allies. She demanded the guarantee of Sicily to the king of Naples, and the evacuation of Dalmatia by the French troops. By holding Dalmatia, the French turn the flank of the defence of Austria, and threaten the Austrian capital. Dalmatia also, though not immediately connected with Turkey, is yet occupied by the French troops, with hostile designs against that power. Dalmatia is not necessary to the vast empire obtained by the arms of France, and can only be held by the latter power as a post of offence towards Austria and the Porte, and of hostility towards Russia. These were the only terms insisted on by Russia, not to gratify any objects of ambition, not for the increase of power, but to obtain security for her allies, to obtain that in which this country was equally interested. The guarantee of Sicily to the king of Naples was clearly a British object, and in which this country has a preferable interest. This evacuation of Dalmatia by the French troops, to which Russia confined herself, not making any demand of the territory, is also of importance to this country as well as to our ally. With this good faith and moderation on the part of Russia, would it not have been an indelible disgrace to this country if we had violated good faith on our part? If we had accepted separate terms, would it not, after the good faith displayed by the emperor of Russia, have been a foul stain upon the country never to be washed away—a disgrace and a degradation which never could have been disunited from our name? And what are these terms which were offered to us as the price of disgrace and dishonour? We were to be allowed to keep Malta, which France can never take from us except by acquiring a naval superiority. The Cape of Good Hope also, which is equally secure to us, and which if it should be by accident taken by any French fleet, which might escape our blockading squadrons, would not remain 6 months in the possession of France. India, where our power is not to be shaken by any efforts of France, and Tobago, merely to mention which, is sufficient; these were the terms offered to us to induce us to disgrace and dishonour ourselves by violating our good faith, and deserting our faithful ally. My lords, I should have rejoiced if I could have had the opportunity, instead of moving an address 269 to his majesty upon the rupture of the negociation, of moving an address upon the conclusion of peace. That I have not that opportunity, is wholly to be attributed to the enemy, to his views of ambition, to the principles upon which he acted, and which were utterly irreconcileable with those principles upon which this country must ever act, for the preservation of her interests, and the maintenance of her honour. I am sure I shall have every heart and mind in the country with me, when I say that this country never can negociate upon a principle of inferiority to France. An expression was used by the French ministers, which is stated in the papers, that if we had made peace at the period alluded to in the papers, the treaty of the confederation of the Rhine would never have been signed, or at least would not have been published. It happens, however, that supposing peace to have been concluded with the utmost rapidity after the arrival of our ministers at Paris, the treaty could not have been signed before the treaty of the German confederacy was published. Thus this very confederation must unavoidably have preceded the treaty, and, supposing it to have happened the day after, it would necessarily have been a cause for war. My lords, I will only make one more observation respecting the stay of our minister at Paris. It was perfectly evident that, when the chief of the French government set out to take the command of the army, it was impossible that the negociation and hostilities against an ally of one of the parties negotiating could go on pari passu. The assembling of the French army was, indeed, a sufficient cause for breaking off the negociation, and when the chief of the French government set out to commence hostilities against the ally of Russia, it was clearly impossible that the negociation and the hostile attack could go on at the same time. My lords, at the opening of the session, every thing like a pledge to his majesty respecting the result of the negociation was carefully avoided, until the papers should be regularly before the house. Now that the subject comes regularly under your lordships' discussion, I intend to propose that your lordships should pledge yourselves to support his majesty in this contest, the continuance of which has been rendered absolutely necessary by the ambition of France. His lordship concluded by moving, "That an humble address be presented to his majesty, to assure him 270 that this house have taken into serious consideration the papers relative to the late negociation, which he has been pleased to lay before them, and that we see with gratitude, that he has employed every means to restore the blessing of peace, in a manner consistent with the interests and glory of his people, and at the same time, with an observance of that good faith with our allies, which this country is bound to retain inviolate. That while we lament that by the unbounded ambition of the enemy, these laudable endeavours to restore tranquillity to his kingdom, have been frustrated, we beg leave to assure his majesty, that no exertion shall be wanting, on our part to support and assist him, in the adoption of such measures as may yet be found necessary, either for the restoration of peace, or to meet the various exigencies of the war in this most important crisis."
§ Lord Hawkesbury rose,
and said:— Although, my lords, we may differ in some instances with respect to the particular mode and course pursued in this negociation, yet, on the present occasion, there can be no room for difference as to the great principles and the result. I am convinced, that, at this moment, while our enemy continues to pursue his aggressions, and to follow that system by which his conduct has been regulated since the commencement of his career, such a peace as we alone look to as affording security to ourselves and allies is utterly unattainable. I therefore most completely concur with the noble lord upon the great points which he has stated, and of course do not feel desirous of urging any material objection to the address. At the same time this address may, in some parts, be liable to ambiguity, and therefore, if I do agree to it, it must be with some qualification. But, my lords, I most particularly approve of the conduct of the government, in the good faith which it has maintained with respect to our allies. And if Russia had insisted upon the evacuation of Dalmatia by the French, and if that were the only point of difference between us and the French government, I have no hesitation in saying that, upon that point alone, ministers would have been fully justified in breaking off the negociation. I have always thought, and maintained, my lords, that if there was any point which ought to be attended to more than another, if there was any point which ought to be insisted on in preference 271 to every thing except our own vital interests, that point was, that Dalmatia and Istria, formerly dependencies of the Venetian states, should be evacuated by the French troops. In these points then I most unequivocally agree with the noble lord who has proposed the address. But while I say this, I beg not to be understood as approving all that passed in the course of this negociation. Where we approve of the general result, we may still differ materially as to some particular parts. At the same time I am perfectly ready to allow, that where we do approve of the general principles that pervade the whole, and of the practical result, we ought not to be too fastidious respecting modes, or too particular in searching out minute and comparatively trifling errors. This I declared on a former occasion, and I still adhere to the opinion which I then expressed. But when a declaration is solemnly made to the public, which is not borne out by the papers now on your table, I must confess that this appears to me no trifling matter, and therefore it makes a most material difference. I allude, my lords, to the declaration of his majesty, where it is stated that the French, from the outset of the negociation, agreed to proceed upon the basis of actual possession, subject to the interchange of such equivalents as might be for the advantage and honour of the two countries. Now I confess that, after a most careful examination of these papers, I have found nothing in the whole of them that can be considered as a certain and unequivocal foundation for such a declaration. Before the arrival of lord Yarmouth in London, the basis of actual possession was so far from being agreed upon, that another very different was expressly stated to be the grounds upon which the French government would enter upon a negociation. Lord Yarmouth, indeed, gives a statement in writing as a conversation which he had with Talleyrand, and he, no doubt, firmly believed that Talleyrand had proposed the basis of actual possession. But in looking over the papers, and examining with all the attention in my power the written account which the noble lord has given of that conversation, I can find nothing that can afford a distinct, precise, and unequivocal proof that the basis of actual possession was clearly agreed to by the French minister. The words are: "Vous l'avez, nous ne vous la demandons pas."—But in order to affix the proper and precise meaning to these words, we must look 272 at the context, and this shews that the words are not general, but that they refer only to Sicily specifically. But I confess, that though the words had been general, yet I should not have considered the mere verbal declaration of any minister, without any written document on the subject from him, by which he could be bound, as a sufficient ground to warrant the assertion, that the basis of the uti possidetis was actually and distinctly agreed to by the French government. This, my lords, is a point of material importance, not only with respect to this, but with regard to all other negotiations. I have always understood that the grounds of negociation were to be laid down in written documents, and to be taken from conferences reduced to writing at the time, so as to leave no room for cavil, and to bind the parties to something specific, which they could never recede from, without exposing their want of faith to all the world. There may undoubtedly be some previous communications between the parties, leading to a particular point, and these may undoubtedly be very properly produced, in order to throw light upon particular parts of the subject, and to enable others to judge of the precise meaning and bearing of certain expressions, in which there might otherwise be some ambiguity. Indeed there can be no doubt that lord Yarmouth fully believed, that the basis of uti possidetis had been proposed by Talleyrand. Still, however, this is an exparte statement, which the other party may admit or deny as they may think proper. Such statements can never constitute the essence of a negociation, or afford a clear and undeniable ground of proceeding. If there is any object, which in cases of this sort ought to be attended to more than another, it is to have distinct and positive admission of the basis, to have something which may be put on record, which the party cannot deny, and to which you may refer, and from which, if the other party should recede, all the world would be satisfied that you were in the right and he in the wrong. In all negociations, therefore, the settling of a clear and distinct basis, is one of the most material objects. It was not sufficient then that lord Yarmouth understood that the basis of actual possession had been acceded to by Talleyrand. But you ought to have demanded a precise and categorical recognition of that basis as a preliminary step, before you gave full powers to treat to your negociator. This 273 would have avoided all obscurity. There could have been no room, at least no fair grounds for cavilling after this. I do not by any means object to previous communications. These may be useful and even necessary. Neither do I object to their production, but as they form no part of the essence of the proceedings, they cannot be admitted as the only proof of the particular basis agreed upon. This ought to be clearly seen from the written and essential documents, and of all others this is the point upon which precision is necessary. But more particularly in the present instance, the utmost precision is to be expected, after the declaration which has been made by his majesty, that the French government, from the beginning, admitted the basis of actual possession. Yet, my lords, notwithstanding this, the declaration is not borne out by these papers, and the utmost that they prove is this, that lord Yarmouth believed that the basis of actual possession was admitted by M. Talleyrand in a conference. Having, my lords, said thus much on that particular point—a point which most certainly claimed considerable attention, on account of its importance in various views, I have no hesitation in saying, that I most heartily concur in the general result of the negociation, and, with the above exception, that I most cordially join in the address, and in the assurances of support to his majesty, in prosecuting the war, which it has been found impossible immediately to put an end to, upon grounds in any degree consistent with the security and honour of this country, or the maintenance of good faith with our allies. My lords, I feel it due to myself, and to the house, to state my views with respect to the war in which we are engaged, and with respect to the means which we have to support it. No man can possibly be more anxious for the restoration of peace to this country and to the world, if peace could be obtained upon terms consistent with security and honour. For peace, I agree with the noble lord, great sacrifices might be made, if it was likely to be permanent, and would afford in any way a proper compensation for these sacrifices. Though I think, my lords, that foreign conquests are not to be yielded lightly, though I think that the conquest of colonies may be very advantageous to the country to a certain extent, and that these are undoubtedly of great value, as the means of procuring a safe and permanent peace, yet I am not one of 274 those who think that our colonial possessions ought to be extended indefinitely. Colonies are undoubtedly valuable to a commercial country, but they are not valuable to us beyond what we can protect and govern. We ought to consider what are our own means, what our military force is, and what it may be made. Every thing that is beyond what we can protect and govern is only a delusive power, or rather a source of weakness. But after all, my lords, the great question as to peace is, could it possibly be obtained? Could we, consistently with the honour and interests of our country, conclude a peace with the French government at the present moment? Now, there are two points to be considered here. First, what was the situation of the continent at the commencement of the treaty with France in 1801? It was certainly very different from what it is now. At that time Holland and Switzerland, though subject to the influence of France, were not completely united to it. Naples was entire, and Austria, though she had lost much of her military reputation, was still a great power. Whatever she had lost in point of military character, she was, in point of population and extent of territory, equal to what she had been at the commencement of the war with France. It was said then, that the best chance for the salvation of Europe was in peace. We were powerful at sea, the French were powerful on the continent. This great power they had acquired owing to the energies which were roused by the French revolution, to which a military direction had been given. The advantages which they possessed, arose out of the particular circumstances in which they were placed, and were not natural, but artificial. History proves, my lords, that when a military direction is given to the energies of a people called forth by the peculiar circumstances attending great and general revolutions, they are then commonly most formidable to their neighbours. Many therefore thought, and I confess I joined in the opinion, that if France was left to herself, her power would sink to its natural level. This was one powerful motive for concluding a peace, which appeared to be highly desirable, provided the state of things in Europe could be left as they were at the time. Now, however, all the states to which I have alluded, have been either completely subdued by France, or reduced within comparatively narrow limits. In 1801 there 275 was another object in view. We wished to try the feelings of France, and to find out what would be the policy of its government upon the restoration of peace. There were two ways in which that government might act, and each had its supporters. It might choose to endeavour to acquire confidence at home and abroad, which could only be done by a system of moderation, or it might consider its security to lie in pursuing that system of aggression, which had marked the progress of that revolution from which its power had arisen. The latter system was that which they adopted, so that scarcely three months had elapsed from the time of signing the treaty till its spirit was violated by repeated aggressions. Ever since that time, these aggressions have been continued, as an instance of which we have only to look at the German Confederation, to which the noble lord has adverted. These, my lords, are considerations which must have the greatest weight in our view of this question, and in reflecting whether it was possible that any peace could have been obtained that could afford permanent security to us and to our allies, or that could be consistent with the honour of this country. Without these objects, peace cannot be concluded, for peace without them would be little else than a surrender to the enemy. With regard to the commerce of the country, considered with a view to peace, that undoubtedly in itself is a matter of internal regulation. I can easily suppose that two nations may be at peace with each other, and yet refuse to have any commercial communication. But with regard to France and Great Britain, between which there are so many points of contact, both at home and abroad, I apprehend there cannot exist a determined commercial hostility for any great length of time, without producing a degree of irritation which must terminate in war. In contemplating all these considerations, my lords, I cannot conceive how, in the present disposition of France, any permanent peace could be obtained. Whatever terms might be granted at the moment, and no honourable terms have as yet been offered, peace must at all events be exceedingly precarious. But in considering this subject, my lords, you will observe, that while you continue at war, you have at least this advantage, that whatever exertions France may make, they must be confined to the continent of Europe. But peace would open to her the way to Asia, 276 Africa, and America. To these at least I hope her power cannot extend. Another thing to be considered is, that while you are at war, you are upon perfect equality with your enemies. You are as powerful by sea, as they are by land. But if peace should take place, from the very nature of the two cases, their power would not be made less, while your superiority would be diminishing, for peace would furnish them with the means of advancing in that particular sort of power, in which your superiority is undisputed. I state these things, my lords, not as making against peace absolutely. They are not arguments for eternal war, but they are circumstances that ought to have great weight with us in considering whether what we gain by a peace is a proper compensation for what we lose. But there is another thing, my lords, to which we ought to attend, in considering the question of peace, and the terms to which we are entitled, and that is, the internal situation of this country. The people in general seem to rejoice at the rupture of the negociation; not, my lords, because they thought war preferable to an honourable peace, but because, from a view of the present state of things, they despair of obtaining an honourable peace. Though war is an evil, they justly consider it as preferable to a hollow and dishonourable peace. Thinking war therefore necessary, they are willing to submit to all the sacrifices which may be requisite to support it, rather than hazard every thing upon the event of a dishonourable peace.—Another consideration upon which I reflect with infinite pleasure and pride, is the present flourishing state of our Finances, which is to be ascribed to two great measures, which have done more towards the welfare and greatness of this country than any that were ever before devised: The one suggested, brought forward, and matured by that illustrious and exalted character, my late right hon. friend now no more (Mr. Pitt), I mean the sinking fund, which is unquestionably the greatest measure ever produced by the ingenuity or wisdom of man:—the other, that of raising a considerable part of the supplies within the year, also first brought forward by my deceased friend, and which was acted upon, and in some degree improved, by the noble viscount opposite (lord Sidmouth). Those two measures have been of almost incalculable benefit to the country: the permanent taxes are not, I believe, less than 18 277 millions: the Sinking Fund at this time produces 8 millions and a half; and if we have but perseverance to go on for a few years, with a strict regard to economy in our general system of expenditure, we shall arrive at that happy period when the Sinking Fund will equal all the loans that may be necessary for the expences of the country; and though the debt being permanent constitutes what may be called an evil, yet in the resource of the Sinking Fund we have the consolatory reflection of having the means to meet it. It has often heretofore been asked, how long will you go on borrowing and borrowing; when will the limits of our taxation end? An answer may now be given: in a few years the Sinking Fund will meet every part of our expenditure, and shew the extensive value of that system, which will crown with immortal honour the memory and name of the illustrious character whose great financial genius produced it. If we look at the commercial resources of the country, we shall find them not less prosperous. The year 1798 has been looked upon as the most prosperous year of commerce that was ever known to this country. But by a paper which I have in my hand, it appears that in 1805 it had reached a much greater height. The amount of the imports in 1798 was 46 millions; in 1805, 53 millions. The amount of the exports in 1798, was 33 millions; in 1805, 41 millions. I state these things, my lords, in order to shew the means which we have of continuing the war.—I am, my lords, perfectly satisfied that his majesty's ministers have acted right in breaking off the negociation rather than give up Sicily, and in not divulging what they would have thought a reasonable exchange or equivalent for Naples. I agree with the noble baron who moved the address, that it would have been wrong to put the enemy in possession of what places or territories you think of high value, or to let them know what is likely to be your ultimatum till the last moment of shewing it. I agree with him also in the fact, that every attempt has been made to detach us from our allies. I rejoice to think those attempts have proved abortive, for nothing redounds more to the honour and magnanimity of this country than the good faith which it has always kept with its allies, and the fidelity which it has uniformly observed towards them. I am happy in being able to say, that I think the country is in the right. We made every 278 reasonable effort to obtain a peace on just and honourable terms to ourselves and our allies: those efforts have unfortunately failed, and we ought therefore to address his majesty to assure him of our support in continuing the arduous contest in which we are engaged, till a peace can be concluded that is likely to secure the honour and interest of the empire, and to be of permanent duration. I think the basis of the negociation ought to have been reduced to writing, as it would have placed the whole in a clear point of view, and have taken it out of the power of the enemy to deny what it really was when it suited their purpose to throw obstacles in the way of its conclusion; but as far as the substantial points of the negociation go, I certainly highly approve them, and the more I contemplate the subject, the more perfectly convinced I am, that we have no alternative but to continue the war with increased vigour and energy; and, painful as the reflection may be, I am as decidedly of opinion that the continuance of it, under the present disposition of France, is safer than peace. I am persuaded, if we go on with vigour and energy, we shall succeed at last; and I am convinced, that if the government do their duty towards the people, the people with alacrity will do their duty towards them, in the fullest confidence of bringing the contest to an honourable and just termination.
My lords, after having attended to the able speech which we have just heard from the noble baron, I feel myself called upon to request your lordships indulgence, if I trespass for a short time in noticing some points in the noble lord's speech; and, my lords, I must say, that it was with a degree of pain and concern, I heard the noble lord declaring, that he could only give a qualified approbation of the address to his majesty, which is this night submitted for your lordship's adoption. The noble lord laments, that the declaration of his majesty, stating the causes of the rupture of the negociation with France, should contain an averment, which is not clearly made out by proof in the papers submitted to your lordships' consideration; I mean, that the negociation was commenced in consequence of the offer of the uti possidetis on the part of the government of France. But, my lords, I trust I may be allowed to say, that if there be any one point established on the principle of the common understand- 279 ing of mankind, the one in question is, I apprehend, such a point. I am willing to admit, indeed, that in the documents which have been submitted to your lordships, there is not to be found any such specific declaration on the part of the French government; but still I contend, that the whole negociation was conducted upon this very basis. In the letter addressed by M. Talleyrand to Mr. Fox, in the early stage of the correspondence between the two governments, M. Talleyrand states, that France desires nothing of Great Britain that she already possesses. Now, surely, nothing else could be meant by this avowal, than that nothing was intended to be asked, which was then actually possessed by Great Britain. I would farther ask of the noble lord, what it was that caused a temporary suspension of that negociation? Was it any demur which arose on the part of the French government upon this point? No; but it was a delay occasioned by a matter of form as to the manner in which the negociation was to be conducted, and not from any objection which was started to this understood basis. In five or six weeks afterwards, lord Yarmouth arrived from Paris, when, by desire of his majesty's ministers, he committed to writing the substance of the various communications he had held with M. Talley rand, who, it appears, in the name of the government of France, made use of the following expression, "nous ne vous demandons rien," words which he afterwards energetically repeated. And, my lords, I apprehend, that no one who has carefully perused these papers, will attempt to contradict the assertion, that previous to the 20th of July last, when M. d'Oubril signed the Provisional Treaty with France, in the name of the Russian government, my lord Yarmouth entertained no doubt on his mind, that the state of actual possession was the mutually acknowledged basis. The first attempt to question it, in fact, though even then not expressly in words, was after this period, when M. Talleyrand avowed, that circumstances had altered, and that, in consequence, the French government had determined not to agree to that which was consented to originally, and that they must insist upon having possession of Sicily. I admit also, that upon three subsequent occasions, attempts were made by the French negociators to deny the statements of lord Yarmouth, and that uniformly after the signature of M. d'Ou- 280 bril's treaty, In the answer of the French negociator of the 8th of August, to the note presented by lord Lauderdale, general Clarke declares, that the idea of treating on the basis of the uti possidet is, had never entered into the mind of the French emperor, and that he would not give up Tobago, nor any other part of the territory of France, the integrity of which he had sworn to defend. But even during that interval, when it was not known whether D'Oubril's treaty would be ratified or not; or rather when, as it should seem, the French government had reason to apprehend the refusal of its ratification by the emperor of Russia, and when pressed in conversation between lord Yarmouth and gen. Clarke, and reminded by the former of the various conversations which had taken place between him and M. Talleyrand, on this point; general Clarke merely evaded, without denying them, calling them loose conversations, "des romans politiques;" and lord Lauderdale states, that they did not deny the fact, when they were met face to face; when strongly urged on this point, not one of the French negociators denied that such was the agreement with lord Yarmouth. And it is remarkable, that, although the chief of the government of France then declared that he would never alienate Tobago, nor any other part of the territory of France, which he had sworn to defend; yet, in the course of a few days afterwards, a proposal was made to cede not only Tobago, but Pondicherry also, and Chandernagore and Mahee, to Great Britain. Now, all this combines to shew, that the statement of lord Yarmouth was originally well founded, as well as how little confidence can be placed in the assertions of the French government and its plenipotentiaries. The papers which have been submitted to your lordships' consideration, prove the truth of the fact that lord Yarmouth was authorized to make the communications he did, from the French to the British government; and afterwards, when lord Lauderdale met the French ministers, face to face, one of them attempted to evade and shuffle, whilst he could not deny the fact. I apprehend, therefore, my lords, that we are fairly entitled to argue, from the silence and the admission of the French plenipotentiaries themselves, that the uti possidetis was the basis originally agreed upon between the two governments. But why, it may be demanded, was not the French government called upon 281 to avow their agreement with this principle in writing? They unquestionably wished it to be so understood by us, although they cautiously avoided formally committing it to writing, in order, doubtless, that they might afterwards have room to cavil; but is this any sufficient reason, why this government should not have treated upon that ground? The tone of the French government evidently altered after the signature of D'Oubril's treaty; but there had been a clear admission, previous to this event, that such was the mutually understood agreement. I cannot, then, avoid being of opinion, that when these considerations are candidly weighed, this single objection, as stated by the noble lord (Hawkesbury) should not have induced the noble lord to give a mere qualified approbation to the address. It may not, indeed, be perfectly regular, if I remind the noble lord of what formerly passed in another place, when he defended the negociations in a former treaty of peace, when his lordship called upon the other house of parliament, to look to the result of the whole, rather than to the detail piecemeal, and if it appeared, from the ratification of the whole, that it had been conducted upon sound principles, the house ought to be satisfied. Now, I would ask, can there be any room to suppose that it was not the intention of the French government that it should be fully understood by us, that the uti possidetis was the basis on which they agreed to treat; and, although they artfully continued to decline committing it into a formal written declaration, I have no hesitation in saying, that the people of England are perfectly satisfied that this was the intention of the French government. I acknowledge, indeed, that it is a serious thing for ministers to put forth any declaration in the name of their sovereign, which cannot be substantiated by facts; but, after what I have stated, I think that there can be no just ground for imputation the veracity of the government of this country. I am persuaded, my lords, that but few negociations can be quoted, which, throughout the whole of them, exhibit, on the part of government, more proofs of self-denial, and good faith and honour, than his majesty's ministers have manifested upon the present occasion. All the territories of Sweden, of Portugal, and of the Porte, were guaranteed in their integrity. On the part of the king of the Two Sicilies, no positive treaty bound us to his interests, so that all that was attempted on his be- 282 half, was honourable on our part. Our scrupulous adherence to our treaty with the emperor of Russia, and that even at the trying period of M. d'Oubril's improvident provisional and separate treaty with France, does honour to the good faith of this country; and I trust that we shall continue to cherish our connection with that magnanimous emperor, from a conviction that the interests of both countries are deeply involved in the continuation of that connection. With respect, my lords, to Hanover, I confess that I have met with animadversions on that subject which have given me pain. It is true, that it was a part of the Act of Settlement, that this nation should not be obliged to enter into war, on account of any foreign settlements, appertaining to the family which should inherit the throne of these kingdoms, without the express consent of parliament; but, surely, it was no part of the Act of Settlement, nor was it ever intended to make Hanover an exception to those other parts of the continent of Europe, which might become an object of British attention. It must be perfectly within the recollection of every noble lord, that when the first attack was made by France upon Hanover, that that was not made the ground of the war; at the same time, when in the course of the late negociation, his majesty's government considered it a point of honour to stipulate, that this seizure should be restored to its legitimate owner, they acted upon principles of magnanimity and justice. When Hanover was threatened during the war of the Spanish succession, parliament voted an address to his then majesty, in 1725, in which they stated, that they would stand by his majesty, against any menace of any potentate, against any territories of his majesty, although not belonging to Great Britain, in case such an attack should be made, in consequence of his majesty's just regard to the interests of this kingdom. Upon this principle of honour, our ancestors acted; and, I trust, my lords, that their descendants of the present day, will never swerve from their spirit. When we look to the continent of Europe, its present aspect, I confess, penetrates me with sorrow; still, so long as our connection with Russia exists, hope exists; added to which, there are other circumstances which, in my mind, at least afford a probable ground of expectation. The extent of dominion and of power are by no means convertible terms; power, 283 when founded upon injustice and the grasp of inordinate ambition, can never be so solid, as when built upon the basis of justice and legitimate authority. The present power of France is chiefly derived from the military genius of its chief; which, though calculated to dazzle and to gain temporary success, yet is not formed to gain respect or attachment. Every father of a family is obliged to part with his son, to feed the ranks. The power of France is sustained by terror, whilst its ambitious ruler is secretly regarded with detestation; and should it not fall to the lot of this man to enjoy unexampled successes, then who knows but that a single check or reverse of fortune, will, to him, be likely to be more fatal than was ever before known in the history of the world? Looking, therefore, to the uncertainties of human life and fortune; regarding, likewise, the power, the fortitude, and zeal which animate our ally, the emperor of Russia, I cannot see any ground for despondency; and above all, looking to the spirit of the people of this country, I trust we shall arrive to an honourable termination of the present contest; for, I confess, it is on the spirit and fortitude of the people of this country, that we are called to place our chief reliance. The noble lord has justly animadverted upon the two financial sources of our national prosperity, the Sinking Fund, and the practice of raising the supplies within the year. The Sinking Fund certainly is a measure of incalculable benefit to our finances, and one which will immortalize the great man by whom it was established. I shall only say, therefore, upon this point, that at the present moment, we have resources very different from what they were in 1801. Then, the attempt to raise war taxes was abandoned, and the income tax was mortgaged to a certain extent. In the intermediate time, 97 millions have been funded, and at this moment, taxation to the amount of 4,900,000l. has been imposed in addition to the war taxes, amounting to nearly 20 millions sterling. With such means, exceeding double the amount of the interest of the national debt in 1793, and looking forward to the increasing surplus of the Sinking Fund, the nation need not fear to proceed in the struggle with perseverance and fortitude. I trust we shall submit to no compromise, in which our national honour shall at all be tarnished; that we shall come forth from this trial of fortitude with 284 honour; and that, if we apply vigilantly, usefully, and economically, what shall be raised for the public exigencies, there is no limit to the exertions which this country will be disposed to make, either in extent, or duration of time. With respect to the late negociation, I shall ever contemplate with satisfaction the share I have had in it; no better proof was ever afforded of good faith and of a firm regard to the permanent interests of the country. I shall only repeat, in a word, that his majesty's declaration is strictly true in substance and in fact, and that the Silence of the French plenipotentiaries affords satisfactory proofs upon this point. Government, by their conduct in this negociation, have, I trust, given a satisfactory pledge, that they will, in no case, compromise either the honour or the interests of the country.
declared that if he were to confine his observations to the papers on the table, he should have very little with which to trouble the house, for in the most dispassionate and impartial examination of them, it distinctly appeared to him, that throughout the whole of the late negociation, there was evinced on the part of the British government the utmost sincerity and good faith; on the part of the French government, the utmost artifice and duplicity. He thought it perfectly apparent that the uti possidetis was understood by France to be the basis on which the two countries intended to treat, and on which the negociation proceeded. It was obvious that this was a proper basis for this country to proceed on, and it was equally apparent that this basis had been acquiesced in by France, at least that that country had given our government to understand that she acquiesced in that basis of negociation. If there was any thing in the course of the discussion to which he objected, it was to this, that the negociation had been too long delayed. If this country should ever again enter into a negociation with the present government of France, he hoped the basis on which it was to proceed would at once be fairly and distinctly pointed out and ascertained. While he lamented the failure of an honourable attempt to restore peace to the country, he could not, however, forbear contragulating himself, the house, and the country, on the general state of their affairs, and on their ability to carry on the war with vigour and effect. Adverting to the state of the continent, and to the military operations of 285 the French, he observed that it was evident the person at the head of the French nation had determined not to sheathe the sword of war until he had subjugated the whole of Europe, and this country in particular. How were his ambitious designs to be counteracted? By a manly exertion of our power and resources. The retrospect of our naval and military fame was most encouraging. Let us recollect Camperdown, Aboukir, and Trafalgar, on the one hand, and Acre, Alexandria, and Maida, on the other, and we should look forward with confidence to the result of the contest in which we were engaged. The papers on the table, in his lordship's opinion, afforded satisfactory evidence of the activity, spirit, and energy of our councils, and held out to us the well grounded expectation that our courage and resources would be properly directed for the interest of the country. Our inveterate enemy, finding he could not otherwise induce us to enter into dishonourable terms with him, had attempted to aim, what he conceived, a vital blow at our commerce and manufactures. This, however, would also be found unavailing. He might, to his own conception, shut up the ports of the continent against us, but still our manufactures would flourish, and would find their way, even into the territories over which he exercised dominion. But, to injure our manufactures, it would be incumbent on him to shut against them, not the ports of the continent of Europe only, but those of Asia, Africa, and America; over which it was obvious that he could not possibly have any controul. Amidst our present gloom, said the noble earl, I cannot but derive some sources of consolation. One amongst others is that produced by the measure, which, in the early part of this evening, was brought forward by a noble lord high in his majesty's administration. I mean the bill introduced for the abolition of the Slave Trade. I rejoice that the inhuman traffic in slaves is seriously proposed to be put an end to. This to me is a source of consolation; another is the preservation of the established church. But here I cannot help lamenting that so little has been done of late years. In the reign of queen Anne, no less than 50 churches were at once ordered to be built; but have we been sufficiently attentive to tins object, notwithstanding the vast increase of inhabitants in our populous towns and cities? Is it not for want of this, in a great mea- 286 sure, that the sectaries have of late years spread and abounded, so as to even threaten the safety and security of our religious establishment? I lament, likewise, the violation of the Lord's day, and that trades are suffered to be exercised on that day, to the disgrace of the country. The increased publication of newspapers on that day, I consider as coming within this charge of the violation of that holy day; and, even at the present moment, a new paper is advertised to be published, professedly denominated the Sunday paper.' These, I consider, as so many dark specks over our political hemisphere; nor are they trifling in their consequences; for, assuredly, if we neglect moral and religious considerations of this nature, we may look forward with fearful anxiety. But, I trust, we shall still adhere to the principles, civil and sacred, by which this country has so long flourished: "O fortunatos nimiÙm, sua si bona nôrint!"
§ Lord Eldon.
—I rise, my lords, with feelings peculiarly alive to the strong necessity of carrying fully into effect that part of the address proposed by the noble baron, of supporting with the most unceasing vigour and undaunted resolution the great contest in which we are engaged. Whoever reflects on what may prove the final issue of that contest, of what may prove the fate of this empire; whoever feels for the honour and happiness of Great Britain, must perceive, that the only chance of safety, and the great hope of ultimate and decisive triumph, now depends upon a vigorous prosecution of the war. Whilst, then, the genuine British feeling continues to animate the people of this empire, I am convinced there is not a man in this house, or in this country, who would not rather perish in the calamitous conflict, than willingly compromise the dignified character of Britain, or tamely submit to any base acknowledgement of inferiority to any enemy, however extensive his territorial influence, or splendid his military success. But, my lords, in entering into the discussion of the merits of the late negociation, anxious as I feel to express my approbation of the conduct of his majesty's government in fully supporting the acknowledged character of this country for sincerity and good faith; satisfied as I am with the manner in which the interests and safety of our allies have been preserved, as well of those powers to whom we were bound by the solemn com- 287 pact of the most sacred obligations, as of others, whose strong claim upon our assistance, arose equally from the benefit of the principle, and the congeniality of the interest; yet, my lords, I may be permitted to say, without the least imputation upon the conduct or reputation of ministers, that I lament the protraction of the negociation. The prolongation of the correspondence I regret, because the chicanery and the deception of the French government were so peculiarly marked, and so apparently observable throughout every stage of the negociation. And, my lords, give me leave to say, that when, under the direct authority and express avowal of his majesty, such a negociation is thought necessary to be originated, no one act should be overlooked, or any circumstance omitted, calculated to lessen, either in the eyes of the enemy, or of Europe, the glory and honour of the crown, connected, as they are, with the greatness and security of the empire. Therefore, I should have pondered longer and longer, previous to my acquiescence in any procedure in which the manifest intention of the enemy of these realms was to delude by delay, to defeat by deception. For if, by any unfortunate and destructive infatuation, we should ever be brought to imitate the conduct of those countries, which, from narrow views of policy, and a confined, selfish, and fatal contemplation of events, have ultimately been made the victims of their own delusion, and annihilated by that very power to which they had so repeatedly succumbed; if, I say, the people of Great Britain should ever be induced to forget the proud distinction of their own immediate situation, or neglect the sacred principle, by the exercise of which that proud distinction was obtained, then should we have to regret the complete forgetfulness of all that was hitherto held sacred; to witness the lamentable submission of British honour and good faith, to the most scandalous violation of every principle of equity, and every precept of common justice. To guard against such an humiliation, and to preserve unsullied the unrivalled honour of the British name, there is not, I am convinced, an individual in this country, through whose veins one drop of British blood circulates, but would voluntarily shed it in that noblest of all causes, and who does not look forward with the most ardent feelings, to that great and important trial, upon the result of which his, own and his country's happiness and 288 security will depend. But, my lords, though I fully appreciate the danger of the crisis, and the energies which such a danger demands to have brought into immediate action; and though I strongly feel the necessity of supporting his majesty with firmness and vigour, yet, from my knowledge of the man who commands the resources of France, from my knowledge of his respect for no law, and my conviction of the unceasing ambition by which he is actuated, I can by no means bring myself to join in that part of the address, where the ineffectual endeavours of his majesty to terminate a pacific treaty with the chief of the French government, are considered as a cause of regret. God forbid, that for one moment I should be considered the advocate of an interminable war, or an unfeeling spectator of the numerous afflictions and distresses which war occasions! yet, however humane considerations may tend to repress the assertion, I cannot refrain from expressing my dissent to this part of the address; and upon this point I appeal to the testimony of the noble viscount (Sidmouth) opposite. I appeal to the opinion, which, previous to the ratification of the Treaty of Amiens, I thought it my duty, as an honest servant of the crown, to communicate to my sovereign At that period I never did assert, that the conditions of that treaty were glorious and honourable; I did not contend that its stipulations were such as to provide for the permanence of peace, or the lasting security of Great Britain; but I was induced to hope, that after the conquests which the chief of the French empire had obtained, that after the actual enjoyments and the comforts derived from his own repose, he would be unwilling to forfeit the great blessing he was possessed of, or to disturb the reciprocal tranquillity of the respective countries. But, my lords, considerably changed are my opinions, and widely different are my views of the advantages of a peace with France, when I recall to my recollection, I that scarcely was the Treaty of Amiens executed, when the most insidious and open violation of every principle of good faith was exhibited; when, in defiance of every provision of that treaty, the head of the French government recommenced his system of unbounded aggression, with a renovated lust of power, with a complete disregard of all those maxims and usages, which were wont to support the honour and happiness of the civilized world. But 289 if a further proof was still wanting to exhibit the characteristic duplicity of the French cabinet, let us, my lords, look to the dates, when the Russian minister D'Oubril was either forced, or tricked, to sign a separate treaty with France. Here the strong inducement with that minister, was to save the Austrian empire; for this specific purpose, and this alone, the treaty was actually executed, by the plenipotentiary of Russia; yet, if I do not much misconstrue the dates, the changes in Germany, and the Rhenish Confederation, were not only meditated, but actually completed, if not at the signing of the treaty by D'Oubril, most certainly before the arrival of that ambassador with the treaty at the court of St. Petersburgh. In this most flagitious conduct of one nation to another; in this uniform perseverance in fraud, aggression, and injustice, I find the strong argument which justifies me not to lament the failure of a pacific adjustment with an enemy, whose aggressions, in times of peace, are equally hostile with his movements in times of war.—Having thus declared my opinion upon the result of the negociation, I shall now advert to the basis upon which the declaration of his majesty has asserted that it commenced and proceeded. This principle of actual possession, or the uti possidetis, is asserted to be the basis upon which the respective governments originated the discussion. Now, my lords, fairly and plainly arguing the question, and comparing the understood and admitted meaning of the uti possidetis with the two bases agreed upon between that great departed statesman (Mr. Fox) and M. Talleyrand, I do confess I cannot recognize the principle of actual possession as the basis of a treaty. Uti possidetis are two latin words, fully empowering the contracting parties to hold, in their respective possession, whatever territory or conquests over which, at or before the execution of the treaty, they may have obtained a sovereignty. Let us compare this definition of the uti possidetis, with the two bases agreed upon, either with the one which specifies the determination of contracting upon general grounds for ourselves and allies, or with the more enlarged principle of guaranteeing the security of the lesser states; and I am sure, that, from such a comparison, there is nothing in the annals of diplomacy, to justify, from such a construction of the bases of a negociation, by the most tortured perversion which 290 the most ingenious reasoner may adopt, any thing approximating to the principle of actual possession. That his majesty's ministers were sincere in believing that the uti possidetis was the admitted basis, I most candidly believe, and that it was the design of the French government to encourage that impression, at the same time that it cautiously avoided committing itself to such a compact throughout the entire progress of the correspondence. Indeed, the conduct of his majesty's government has proved it to be a government seeking peace, in the spirit of peace; whilst the contrasted fluctuation of the enemy, shifting and evasive, at one moment giving up one concession, in the next reclaiming the proposition, which it before conceded, clearly exhibits that, from the beginning until the rupture of the negociation, the same perfidy and bad faith were the actuating principle of the French cabinet. But there is one fact, to which I must beg the attention of your lordships, as it is one upon which the declaration of his majesty, the character of his government, and the credit of the country, are at issue with the statement of that man who is at the head of the French empire, and has, in the face of the world, positively denied that the uti possidetis was the basis of the late negociation. This is a circumstance which it behoves his majesty's ministers fully to explain; and to convince this house, and all Europe, that what has gone abroad, sanctioned by the name of their sovereign, is the true and justified inference. But the noble baron opposite, has proved, with considerable perspicuity, that the principle of actual possession, is the only principle which could apply to the comparative situation of Great Britain and France, that, from the diversified nature of the various conquests of the respective empires and from the maritime superiority of the one compared with the territorial influence of the other, the only probable basis upon which a treaty honourable to both the contracting parties could be effected, was the basis of the uti possidetis. Having thus proved that the principle of actual possession was the only basis upon which a beneficial treaty could have been concluded, the noble baron has certainly added to the number of the reasons, and enforced the cogency of those arguments, which render it absolutely necessary for ministers to prove to a demonstration, that the principle of the uti possidetis was the actual basis, agreed 291 and acted upon in the late negociation. Really, I know not in what part of the official papers presented to this house, his majesty's ministers will find this principle of actual possession, once recognized by the French government. Surely not in the letter dated the 5th of March, where an extract from the speech of the chief of that empire states the readiness of the enemy to make peace upon the basis of the Treaty of Amiens—a basis directly contrary to the principle of the uti possidetis; and a treaty, to which, from the former feelings of the noble baron opposite to me, I am surprized he could have for one moment listened. But, my lords, not only in the letter of M. Talleyrand, of the 5th of March, is there no mention of this basis, but in the whole of the respective communications from the 20th of March to the 13th of June, not a syllable, word, or sentence, of such an import or meaning, is to be found. Is it not rather remarkable, that in the progress of a correspondence, avowed, by the Declaration of his majesty, to have originated and continued upon the basis of the uti possidetis, now that the negociation has failed, his majesty's ministers are unable to bring forward, for the satisfaction of this house and the country at large, no better evidence of the recognition of that principle, by the government of France, than the few scanty undefined words of the French minister? and indeed, my lords, it has produced in my mind no small degree of astonishment, to find in the answer of Mr. Fox, to the communication of M. Talleyrand, where this disinclination of France to demand any of the possessions of England is stated, no one observation or reference to the principle of actual possession; although that answer was intended to amplify and elucidate the important nature of the basis proposed, together with the probable commercial advantage of France, and the consequent respect of her naval flag. With respect to the conferences of the earl of Yarmouth with the French minister, how does the history disclose itself? On the 2d of June, a letter was dispatched from the French minister to Mr. Fox, for the purpose of explaining the nature of the conferences with the earl of Yarmouth, and the object of that lord's departure for this country. This letter arrived in London the 4th of June, the same day on which that noble lord reached town; yet, in this communication, there is not an admission 292 of the principle of the uti possidetis; and though the earl of Yarmouth had a conference with Mr. Fox, about the time of its arrival, yet, in the answer of Mr. Fox, of the 14th of June, there is preserved an equally unaccountable silence upon the actual principle of the uti possidetis. It has been reported as a reason that the direct basis of actual possession was not specifically stated, that it arose from the peculiar circumstances of the German dominions of his majesty. Why the situation of those dominions should operate against a clear, decided, and unambiguous expression of the basis upon which the contracting parties had respectively agreed to treat, I am at a loss to comprehend. But I must again repeat, that in the history of diplomacy I never either read or heard of such a basis of negociation as that which his majesty's ministers have, in the present case, selected for the ground of their justification. There are a few other points upon which I beg leave to trouble your lordships; one is the last letter said, in the French account of the negociation, to have been sent by M. Talleyrand to lord Lauderdale. I shall be glad to hear from the noble lord that no such letter was ever received, or that no minister of a hostile power would dare to send to the plenipotentiary of Great Britain, a communication replete with the most base and injurious calumnies; calumnies which tended to exhibit that noble lord in the most savage form, and which, I am fully persuaded, were to him unfoundedly and improperly addressed. Another instance of the same inveterate malice and unprincipled audacity was the contradiction of one of the French plenipotentiaries, to the report the earl of Yarmouth had made of his conferences with the French minister, on the basis of the negociation, and, which reports were denominated Political Romances. Upon the whole of the evidence which the papers presented to this house contain, I still contend, that the basis of actual possession is not only not proved to be true, but that the evidence makes out no such proposition, even in the remotest view of the case. To the other parts of the address, I repeat my most cordial and hearty assent; deeply impressed as I am with the necessity of meeting the dangers of the crisis, and the menaces of our inveterate enemy, with all that firmness, patriotism and spirit, which have ever evinced the marked intrepidity of this country, and preserved inviolate, 293 the purity of the national character.
§ Lord Grenville
had an anxiety far beyond any personal consideration, that the cause of the country on this great question should stand clear, and its rectitude and truth unquestioned. He was rejoiced to find, than in this enlightened assembly, there was no doubt as to the propriety with which the cause of the country had been conducted that affected any one great principle. He was happy to think that there was no Englishman, who, on reading the papers before their lordships, but would say, with that noble energy which was so well conveyed in the language of the learned lord opposite, that he was unworthy of the name of Englishman, who, after his majesty's efforts for the restoration of peace had been frustrated, as the papers evinced, by the unprincipled ambition and bad faith of the enemy, would not be content to shed the last drop of his blood in support of the just cause of his majesty and the country. When he had with so much satisfaction heard this grand principle so eloquently enforced, it was with infinite regret that he heard the noble and eloquent lord enter into the consideration of points of such minute importance that they were no better than mere matters of technical form. It was with infinite pain that he should follow the noble and eloquent lord through these petty details. But he said it might seem disrespectful towards the house, if his majesty's ministers should leave even this part of the objections made to their conduct unanswered and unexplained. Yet if the objection urged by the noble and learned lord were even universally felt, that would not prove that the cause of the country was wrong, or that any error had been committed in the management of the negociation. The most it could amount to would be, that some inaccuracy had been fallen into by those who drew up the Declaration, for he was sure no wilful mis-statement would be suspected, in laying the case before parliament and the public. The noble lord on the other side maintained that there was nothing in the papers on the table to sustain the assertion, that the French government ever proposed to treat upon the basis of the uti possidetis. But even if the noble lord were borne out in his inference, still it would not avail him for the purpose he had in view; because ministers had other and still stronger grounds upon which to rest. At least the noble lord would allow that 294 nothing appeared in those papers to form even an apology for denying that the proposition of the uti possidetis was acceded to by the French government at the outset. Although he might affirm, as he had done, that the statement in his majesty's declaration as to this point, was not directly borne out by the documents on the table; still he would not venture to say that it was directly contradicted. Indeed, it was hardly possible that any candid man would hazard such a contradiction. But, as he had already stated, his majesty's ministers had other information to proceed upon in forming the declaration which formed the subject of the noble lord's animadversion; and the noble lord must have been aware of that, although it seemed so much this night to have escaped his recollection. And this was certainly rather strange, for, considering the practice of that learned profession, of which the noble lord formed such a distinguished member, it was really extraordinary that when the best evidence that the case required, was within his reach, he should have taken up the very worst. The noble lord took for his basis, and argued upon the words of gen. Clarke and M. Talleyrand, to which no man could expect that house or any candid assembly to attach confidence in a business of this nature, and particularly under the circumstances in which those words were written, instead of resorting to that evidence to which a desire of attaining the truth would naturally direct; namely, the evidence of the very person (lord Yarmouth) to whom the proposition of the uti possidetis was made by the French minister, and who was specially dispatched by that minister to bear that proposition to this country. To that noble lord the verbal message which distinctly contained this proposition was committed by the French government, and by him it was communicated to his majesty's ministers. It was not therefore to any words of gen. Clarke or M. Talleyrand, when they found it convenient to change the original ground of the negociation, nor even to the papers before the house, but to the testimony of lord Yarmouth that house was to look for a justification of that paper, the correctness of which the noble lord on the other side thought fit to question. If lord Yarmouth had been dead, if he were not at present forthcoming, if he had not actually spoken, why, in such case, the doubts of the noble lord might have been excusable and his ar- 295 guments plausible. But lord Yarmouth had fully testified to the fact stated in his majesty's declaration. That noble lord's written evidence was before the house, and his vivâ voce evidence was before the country (see p. 249). Was not that sufficient to satisfy the noble lord? If any man asserted that the proofs furnished by the documents on the table were nugatory, as to the establishment of the point respecting the uti possidetis, if it were argued that lord Yarmouth's notes were inadequate, and that further proof was demanded, then he would refer to the words of lord Yarmouth so recently delivered, as the best possible proof that could be looked for by any reasonable man, as amply sufficient to supply any omission that might appear in the papers before the house, and as forming the most complete justification of those concerned in drawing up that passage in the Declaration, to which the noble lord opposite had thought proper to object.—From this point the noble lord proceeded to the consideration of another, upon which he was induced to rise: he meant as to the slur which had been cast by the noble lord opposite, upon the conduct of the negociation. Upon this, he had no hesitation in asserting that the negociation was commenced under the direction of a statesman of the most eminent ability; of one who was particularly conversant with this department of political knowledge; of one who was, beyond any comparison, the ablest diplomatist he had ever known; certainly by far the ablest he had ever seen. Yet the noble lord, opposite, had been pleased to find fault with his mode of proceeding. But that Mr. Fox completely Understood the general practice of diplomacy; that his plan of negociation was precedented and wise, and that the noble lord opposite, mistated that practice, he was fully prepared to maintain. The doctrine laid down by the noble lord, that no negociation should be entered into, unless the first overtures were specifically committed to writing, was, he would affirm, entirely novel and unprecedented. Nothing was so general as to commence with verbal communications, and then to proceed to written documents. In this instance the first propositions were made verbally, but then in every subsequent dispatch to both lords Yarmouth and Lauderdale, it was prescribed to have their propositions committed to writing, and there was no dispatch transmitted by those noble lords to 296 his majesty's ministers in which it did not appear that they uniformly dwelt upon that point. Indeed lord Yarmouth was sent back to Paris for the special purpose of having the communications verbally made to him committed to writing. There was, therefore, no degree of incorrectness, inaccuracy, or looseness, in the conduct of this negociation, on the part of this country, whatever might have been the misconduct of France. Unless, indeed, the noble lord opposite could allege it as an accusation against his majesty's ministers that the French government had receded from their first propositions; unless he could shew that our government manifested a disposition to treat upon a different basis, or had actually proposed such basis; or rather, unless he could cancel from the recollection of their lordships and the country the positive directions to lord Yarmouth to abandon the negociation altogether if the French government would not treat on the grounds proposed in the first instance, it was impossible the noble lord could make out the charges he had endeavoured to establish against the conduct of his majesty's ministers. So precise were ministers on this point, that lord Yarmouth was instructed not to produce his full powers to the French ministers until the propositions verbally made to him should be formally confirmed by being committed to writing; until he should have a written document from the French government. The circumstance of that noble lord's having produced those powers before his instructions were complied with, it was now unnecessary to discuss; whatever might have been the merits of that transaction, sure he was that no one would question the motives of that noble lord, or doubt for a moment that his conduct was actuated by the most sincere and ardent wishes for the interests of his country. It was, however, clear, from the instructions given to that nobleman, that his majesty's ministers used every means to obtain from the French government a written acknowledgement of its views, as stated in its first communications by the same nobleman. For that purpose lord Lauderdale was sent to Paris. At least that was the first object to which he was to attend. That nobleman's instructions were, to have committed to writing the first propositions of the French government, including of course the uti possidetis, or else to return to England.—The noble lord concluded with ob- 297 serving, that he was induced to rise, only with a view to elucidate the two points alluded to by the noble lord opposite, namely, with regard to the statement in his majesty's declaration respecting the uti possidetis, and also in regard to the conduct of the negociation, upon both which points he hoped that he had succeeded in satisfying the house that the noble lord's censures were unfounded, that the statement in the Declaration of his majesty was fully sustained by the facts of the case, and that the conduct of the great statesman who was now no more, was not in any instance more strongly entitled to the esteem, the gratitude, and the admiration of his country—that, instead of having deserved the charge of inaccuracy or incorrectness, his management of this negociation was marked by the most perfect regularity.
§ Lord Eldon ,
in explanation, disclaimed any intention of casting a reflection upon the conduct or character of the distinguished statesman alluded to, but repeated his assertion, that in the correspondence which took place from March to June, there was not one word about the uti possidetis; and took occasion to observe, that the instructions to lord Yarmouth were, not that he should insist upon the uti possidetis, but that he should not produce his powers unless it were agreed to leave Sicily in possession of the king of Naples.
§ Lord Lauderdale
expressed his happiness to find, that the address before the house was likely to meet with their lordships' unanimous concurrence, but at the same time he could not help observing, that in the course of the discussion, a vast deal of extraneous matter had been introduced, and particularly by the learned lord who spoke last but one. It was not, however, his intention to follow that learned lord either in his irrelevant remarks, or in that part of his speech which had relevancy to the subject under consideration. He could not think of detaining the attention of the house as to the one, and the able and impressive manner in which the case had been opened by his noble friend on the bench near him (lord Grenville) rendered it quite unnecessary for him to offer many observations with regard to the other. He did not rise, therefore, so much with the intention of adding any thing in the shape of argument to what the house had heard from his noble friend, as in order to give his testimony to the learned lord opposite (lord Eldon). But, before he pro- 298 ceeded to answer that learned lord's call. he could not help expressing his surprise that it had been made at all. It certainly was rather singular that the learned lord should apply to him for evidence after having doubted the evidence of lord Yarmouth—that he should deem his testimony of any account, after treating that of lord Yarmouth as perfectly nugatory. Passing this by, however, it did happen that he (lord L.) could give ample evidence to the facts questioned by the noble lord opposite. For, independently of lord Yarmouth's having repeatedly stated these facts to him, he was enabled to confirm them from other sources, particularly from his own conferences with the minister of France. Without, however, any corroboration from his testimony, he would contend that the notes and verbal communications of lord Yarmouth were quite sufficient to sustain the assertions complained of in his majesty's Declaration, and also to vindicate the conduct of the negociation from the noble lord's charge of irregularity. The learned lord professed to have read the papers on the table, and no doubt he had done so with great attention, still he seemed to have overlooked, or but slightly considered the dispatch of the 13th of June from lord Yarmouth to Mr. Fox. There the noble lord repeated the words of M. Talleyrand, that that minister had been "looking out for some means by which a secret and confidential communication might be made, explanatory of the sentiments and views of France, as well as the outlines of the terms on which peace might be restored." After this followed an account of the verbal communication of M. Talleyrand. Comparing this letter with that from M. Talleyrand, of the 21 of June, the propositions asserted by his noble friend in opening the case, appeared to him to be completely made out, and the objections of the noble lord to be most extraordinary indeed. But as to the conduct of Mr. Fox, it was to be recollected, that he wrote two letters on the 14th of June, the one in reply to such part of M. Talleyrand's communication as was written; and the other, presenting lord Yarmouth as an authorised person to make to the French minister a verbal answer to such verbal communications as that noble lord was authorized by that minister to convey to this country. Could any fault be found by any candid man, with that mode of proceeding on the score of regu- 299 larity? Certainly not. But the noble lord opposite inferred that the uti possidetis was not insisted upon by lord Yarmouth, because Sicily alone was mentioned. He called upon the noble lord, however, to examine the dispatch of the 1st of July. There lord Yarmouth states, that in a conversation with M. Talleyrand he mentioned the impossibility of going on any farther upon the outlines of peace "unless he should return to the former grounds, and consider Sicily in its true sense—unless he came strictly within the meaning of his own words." To what then could this refer but to some general proposition before made, and the return of that proposition was easily deducible from this dispatch. The existence indeed of such general proposition appeared clearly from the words of M. Talleyrand, that a change of circumstances was always to be considered as a reason for a change of terms. Further, it was to be observed, that the change then arose out of the opinion which Buonaparte had just adopted, that Sicily could be captured by him with ease. Thus the French government thought proper to recede from their first propositions. In this instance indeed they avowed and attempted to justify the change, and in terms too which pretty intelligibly implied the nature of it. For why insist upon Sicily? because they thought they could get it into their possession, and the connection of possession, with the avowed change of terms in this instance, led at least to a natural and obvious inference in favour of the argument respecting uti possidetis. But there was no occasion to rest upon inferences. Lord Yarmouth had, in his presence, stated to M. Talleyrand himself, the original propositions of that minute, respecting the uti possidetis, as referred to in his majesty's declaration, without meeting any thing like a denial. The learned lord opposite would admit, that there was a very material difference between a controversy as to the inferences deducible from a proposition, and the giving a distinct contradiction to the proposition itself. Now, whatever there might have been of the former, Talleyrand never uttered any thing at all approaching to the latter. On the contrary, indeed, lord Yarmouth's assertion appeared evidently from the language and conduct of M. Talleyrand to ascertain an admitted indisputable fact, as to the original basis of the negociation. But, in order to controvert the statement, that 300 this basis referred to the uti possidetis, the learned lord opposite fixed upon the first communication from France, and finding in that Buonaparte's speech to his senate, in which he spoke of the basis of the treaty of Amiens, the noble lord insisted that such was the probable basis originally proposed by the French government. Now, it happened that the noble lord was rather some. what confused in his examination. For the negociation was not at all on the tapis at the time this speech was made, and therefore the sentiment quoted from it, had no connection with the case before the house. Indeed, the whole was confounding an amicable correspondence between two individuals, one of whom was sincerely anxious for peace, with the official communications of public ministers.—With respect to the continuance of the negociation after his arrival in Paris, he referred, for the justification of his conduct, to the documents on the table, confident that it would appear from them that he had not unnecessarily or improperly prolonged his stay after he found the French government unwilling to act according to the principles upon which alone he was authorized to proceed; therefore no charge of procrastination was attributable to him, for his delay at Paris would have been very short indeed, were it possible for him to have obtained passports as soon as he applied for them. Any time that he remained at Paris, in consequence of apparently pacific changes in the conduct and tone of the French minister, and particularly in consequence of the change produced by the intelligence of the non-ratification of the Russian treaty, was dictated by an anxious desire to avail himself of any favourable opportunity that promised to secure the great object his mission had in view, and in that to secure the honour and interests of his country. With regard to the letter alluded to by the learned lord opposite, he could say, that during his stay in Paris he experienced no want of civility whatever; nor did he know of any thing different, until he saw, in this country, the posthumous letter addressed to him in the Moniteur.—The address was then read from the Woolsack, and agreed to, nem.diss.—Adjourned at 11 o'clock.