HL Deb 04 February 1808 vol 10 cc312-4
Lord Grenville

said, he had a paper to move for, which might tend to enlighten and guide the conduct and the discussions of that house, on that most important topic, our relations with America. It was with much anxiety and regret, he continued to look back at those expressions in his majesty's speech, where it was stated, that the president of the United States had refused to ratify the Treaty which had been sent out from this country. to America. He was inclined to believe there was some inaccuracy in these expressions, which might lead to mischievous misconceptions. Their lordships were well aware, that the president of the United States could not, of his own authority, refuse to ratify a treaty of that kind; and that such a refusal must previously have the sanction of the Senate, &c. The principal paper, he should now have the honour of moving for would be, the Message of the President of the 28th of Oct. last to the Houses of Congress. It was not in his power to contemplate the issue of our present discussions with America without uneasiness and apprehension. Much had been said of the comparative distress which either country must experience from a rupture; some contending that America would suffer most; others, that England would be the greater loser. He should not attempt to appreciate the comparative evils of either as resulting from a state of hostility; but he laboured under the melancholy conviction that the consequences of hostility would be extremely detrimental to both; and the reflection that the one must suffer a great deal, by no means mitigated, in his mind, the hardships with which, from the same cause, the other must be afflicted. Much, however, as he was disposed to deprecate a war with America, he should never think of averting that evil by the surrender of any of the just rights of England, more especially of her maritime rights, to which she owed almost every thing. Sooner would, he consent to perish in a struggle for their assertion and conservation, than think of surrendering them in order to prevent that struggle. Much better was it to fall in the endeavour to maintain them, than tamely and deliberately to surrender that, from which sprung our proudest glory, from which chiefly flowed our strength and prosperity. He should still, notwithstanding, cherish the idea that the good sense and moderation of the two countries would obviate the necessity of an appeal to arms, and that their mutual interests would point out a safer and wiser conduct to pursue. Such were his feelings respecting the relative situation of the two countries. We had already all Europe against us: we should not be too easier to add America to the long and formidable catalogue of our enemies. The noble lord concluded with moving, That an humble Address be presented to his majesty, praying, that he would be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before the house a copy of the Message of the President of the United States of America of the 28th of Oct. last, to the Houses of Congress.

Lord Hawkesbuly

said, he would not be led into any discussion of the points now at issue between the two governments, by any observations in which it had pleased the noble baron to indulge. He was as sensible as that noble lord could be, of the great importance of continuing on a footing of friendship with America; but, highly as he valued the continuance of those relations of amity and good understanding, he could never think of purchasing it by the surrender of any of our rights, much less of any of our maritime rights; upon which our very existence might be said to depend. At the same time, however, that he insisted on that resolution, he did not hesitate to say, that every thing would be done on the part of his majesty's government to manifest a disposition to peace and moderation; in a word, every thing that could tend, short of the sacrifices he had already alluded to, to maintain uninterrupted a good understanding with the United States of America. He had no objection to the production of the paper moved for by the noble baron—The question was then put, and agreed to.

Lord Auckland

next rose, to move that there be laid before the house a copy of the Declaration delivered to the American Plenipotentiaries by the Plenipotentiaries of his majesty, in the month of Dec. 1806. When that document was before the house, an opportunity would arise of justifying the Orders in Council issued by his majesty's late government, and which his majesty had been advised to represent as inadequate to their purpose in the speech with which, in his majesty's name, the commissioners had opened the present session of parliament. He concluded with moving for the production of that documemt.

Lord Hawkesbury

did not see the necessity of producing this paper. It was already before the world, and every advantage might be derived from it in argument which the noble lord could wish for. His objection to the production of it was chiefly an objection of form; for he was at a loss to see with what propriety a paper so intimately connected with the Treaty itself could be produced, while it was not thought proper or necessary to produce the Treaty itself.

Lord Holland

was surprized to see the noble secretary stop short so suddenly in his career of concession; and his surprize was still greater at the reasons assigned for it. The noble secretary refused to produce the instrument moved for by his noble friend; and why? because it had had a close connection with the Treaty, which it was not thought proper at present to produce. Yet, but a moment ago, he made no objection to the production of a paper moved for by another noble friend of his; which paper, however, had a much closer connection with the Treaty than that to which he now objected. However public the paper might be, it was for the dignity of that house, and for the convenience of discussion, to have it laid on their lordship's table by an order of their own.—The question was then put and negatived.