The Duke of Norfolk rose,
agreeably to notice, to move for certain Papers which might tend to throw more light on the motives which had induced his majesty's ministers to propose and undertake the Expedition to Denmark. As he understood that the production of some of the papers for which he should move, would not be objected to, he should begin by moving for those papers, that the observations which related to one set of the papers, might not be entangled with those which referred to another set; he should now therefore, move, an humble address to his majesty, praying he would be graciously pleased to direct, that there be laid before the house, such Proclamations as had been issued by our naval and military commanders, before Copenhagen, previous to their attack upon that city. This motion being agreed to, the noble duke proceeded to move for papers of a more specific nature, which related to the hostile intentions of Denmark, and the secret arrangements entered into at Tilsit between the emperors Alexander and Napoleon, and which arrangements were said to be hostile to the interests of this country. Without the production of documents of the description, it was utterly impossible for ministers to make out a case that should appear justified by the necessity under which they pretended to have acted, and which formed the chief apology for their conduct. He was aware that a necessity might exist that would supply a complete vindication, but the difficulty was to draw the line where that imperious necessity commenced; and this view of the affair led him, for a moment, to notice the Declaration subscribed with his majesty's name, which had received the sanction of the British government, and which must be attributed to the advice of the servants of the crown. After an attentive perusal of that instrument, he could discover no such necessity as had been pretended; that attempt at justification which had been submitted to the eyes of all Europe had failed, and we were exposed to the disgrace consequent on this failure. Admitting 341 there was such a necessity, the difficulty of our situation was to be met with wisdom and policy. It was not enough that by the effort we gained something; we must compare the losses with the acquisitions, and determine which preponderated. True it was, that we had gained possession of the Danish Navy; but by that possession we had thrown Denmark into the arms of France, and encreased the number of our enemies by the addition of this neutral and independent kingdom. He did expect that some pains would have been taken to satisfy the house on this questionable transaction: that the Declaration being incompetent, the deficiency would have been supplied by documentary evidence, showing, that had the Danish fleet not been captured by our Navy, it must inevitably have fallen within the grasp of the enemy. It was said, that the danger was imminent, because Holstein was in the power of France. This assertion was incorrect; but were the fact otherwise, until the whole of Jutland should have been occupied by the troops of the foe, no such peril was to be apprehended; but, after we had committed this act of injustice and violence, every thing was to be feared, because we had, by our own misconduct, alienated the affections of a friendly state; yet, if the French army were in Jutland, was the conquest of Zealand secure? While the Danes possessed a fleet to defend themselves, the enterprize would have been hazardous and difficult, and might have ultimately terminated in the triumph of naval over military tactics. But the utility of the Danish marine was not confined to herself; it was the constant object of jealousy to Russia, and contributed to controul the operations of that power, which was now inimical to this country, and had the complete dominion of the Baltic Sea. Was it intended by ministers to assert that no nation on earth had a right to naval power except Britain? The same policy which led them to capture the Danish fleet should have urged them on to Cronstadt, to seize the navy of Alexander; and the marine of Portugal should, on the like principle, have been forced into our harbours. To the application of such a rule of conduct, the globe itself could assign no limit: from the British Channel to the confines of China it was to be extended. Not Denmark only, but Russia also, by such an aggression, was converted into an inveterate enemy— 342 Russia, from whence our arsenals were supplied with the most valuable articles for the maintenance of our maritime strength.—Russia, who herself possessed a powerful navy, which would become a most important accession to the naval resources of France. Ministers, surely, under such circumstances, would be disposed, for their own credit, to lay before the house all possible information, to silence the tongue of calumny, which had been so loud upon the occasion. His principal motive in applying for these documents was, certainly, the preservation of the honour of the country, which so long had maintained its character and dignity amongst the nations of Europe. He did not think it necessary to detain their lordships any longer, on a question to which he could not conceive that there existed any well-grounded objection, but should content himself with moving an humble address to his majesty, praying for the production of the substance and dates of all information transmitted by his majesty's ministers at the court of Denmark, during the last year, respecting the naval force of that country; and more particularly respecting the measures that had been adopted for augmenting the same, or for putting it in a state of forward preparation for sea.—On the question being put,
Marquis Wellesley rose.
He said he had listened with the greatest attention to the speech of the noble mover, but must certainly differ from him as to the necessity of having before their lordships the mass of documents, which had been called for. What! could their lordships doubt for a moment, that they had not sufficient proof before them to justify the conduct of his majesty's ministers, in having undertaken that great and saving measure, the Expedition to Copenhagen? He thought that without any further proof than what was already before their lordships, the question was now ripe for discussion. On stating this, he rested on the proofs before their lordships and the country, he meant the various circumstances and facts which could not escape the notice of the most common observer. Why ask for official documents, when their lordships might adduce the progress of events, the relative situation of Denmark and France, and then again the relative situation of England with either, or with both? To ask for further proofs than the circumstances of the case exhibited, would be to slur 343 and insult the national character. In fact, such a parliamentary proceeding would be to cast a reproach on the country for having defeated the enemy, and frustrated his designs by anticipation. With a view, however, of going as largely into the subject as some noble lords seemed to wish, he should consider, first, the necessity of the case; next, the designs of France, and her means to accomplish them; thirdly, the means of Denmark to resist France; and, lastly, the law of nations, as involved in the question. He should, in taking his view of the state and condition of France, not carry their lordships attention farther back than the battle of Trafalgar, that proud and glorious event for the honour and independence of this country. At that period there was a hostile disposition against France on the continent; even after the defeat of the Prussians, there existed an enmity and disposition on the continent against her influence and dominion; in fact, as long as the continent saw any hope of resisting the French with success, a rancorous feeling and disposition to manifest resistance, appeared, either directly or indirectly, in most places which could bid defiance for the moment to the power of France; but he was sorry to add, that the feelings and disposition which had thus distinguished the continent, while the fate of France was questionable, immediately changed after the unfortunate battle of Friedland. From that time the hope of the continent was turned into despair, the face of things was altered, and instead of resistance being thought of, every thing fell before the sword of the triumphant armies of France. Taking up the situation of Buonaparte at this period, how different was it from his condition at the period when we gained the victory of Trafalgar! Though a short time had elapsed from the achievement of that memorable event to the success of the French at Friedland, yet such a sudden change had taken place on the continent, that the hopes of further resistance to them seemed wholly abandoned. This, then, being the relative situation of France and this country at the time, it must be obvious to every thinking mind that Buonaparte would immediately turn his views and power against the resources and ascendancy of the British empire. Did their lordships want any proof of his intention to destroy and annihilate our independence, nay, our very existence as a nation? Could a doubt remain 344 in the breast of their lordships of his hatred, and of disposition to try all means by which he might accomplish our ruin and overthrow; and how could he expect to promote his designs so effectually as by the complete ruin of our commerce and naval superiority? He had asked their lordships, whether they could hesitate for a moment to decide that such was the intention of Buonaparte; but if doubts could be still entertained on a subject, which to him appeared as clear as possible, surely they must be removed by the declaration of the enemy himself, who vaunted, soon after the battle of Friedland, that he had conquered the peace of the continent. And how did he gain his object even on the continent? By compelling the powers whom he conquered, or whom he intimidated into an affiance, to yield to his wishes, and co-operate with him in his fixed, his determined, hostility against the existence of this great empire. Having thus forced, directly or indirectly, all the powers which he was able to controul, in the first instance, against England; having, as he stated, conquered a peace on the continent, in order to commence a terrible war against our naval superiority, could it be supposed by any reflecting man in the country, with such evidence before him, of a determined. and fixed resolution to try all means for the accomplishment of our downfall—could it, he would again ask, be supposed that our active, desperate, and powerful enemy, would have neglected to avail himself of the means and resources which Denmark presented for the furtherance of his projects? Was it to be imagined that the consummate general and able statesman who was at the head of affairs in France, entertaining such views, would neglect the desirable expedient of adding the navy of Denmark to his resources. If we should not be satisfied with this presumptive proof, we might bring the testimony still nearer; for he announced this intention almost in direct terms, after the fatal battle of Friedland; and the whole of his subsequent conduct had been illustrative of it. The movement of the French armies, the appointment of a distinguished officer in Hamburgh, close to the scene of action, and the collection of a vast military force in that neighbourhood, all conduced to shew that he meant to overawe, if not to conquer, Denmark; and, either by fraud or force, to render her subservient to his grand project for the humiliation of Great 345 Britain. This plan was not confined to Denmark; it was to be extended to Portugal; and in both countries all British subjects were to be seized, every means of oppression was to be employed, the combined forces of these kingdoms were to be directed to complete the punishment of the oppressors of the seas, the enemies to the freedom of navigation throughout the world. This was not vague conjecture: the purpose was disclosed at the court of France by her military ruler to the ambassadors of Portugal and of Denmark, in immediate succession. The communication was not made in the moment of haste, or under the ebullition of passion: it was imparted during the frigid formalities of state ceremony. It was well known, that before the 1st of September, he publicly demanded of the minister of the court of Portugal, in the presence of the ministers of all the courts who had envoys in his presence, whether he had transmitted his order to the court of Portugal to join their fleet to the maritime confederacy against England, to shut their ports against its trade, and to confiscate the property of its subjects within the Portuguese territory? and having said this he turned round to the Danish minister and asked him, whether he had transmitted the same order to his court? The design of the emperor of the French, therefore, to draw the fleet of Denmark into his power, was manifest, and no documents were required to make it more clear. That he had the power to carry his designs into execution was to him equally clear.—It had been asserted by the noble duke, that many difficulties would remain to be encountered, even after the enemy should be in possession of the peninsula of Jutland. The noble marquis said he had himself taken some pains to collect information as to the maritime obstructions and facilities on the coast of Zealand, which he would submit to the notice of their lordships, in answer to the opinions to which he had just adverted. The ordinary state of the Belt in the winter season was to have the passage intercepted by floating ice, which was carried off by the current, and dispersed by the wind, or occasionally melted during a warm interval, so as entirely to disappear. There were no tides in the Belt; and the course of the stream accompanying the wind, nothing was more frequent than for vessels in that channel to be driven off from their station. In 346 this situation of things, the enemy might with facility effect his purpose of transport from the adjacent territory. The large extent of coast was another circumstance to be considered; so that, without the necessity of supposing any favourable state of the elements, it could be readily imagined, that the occupation of the continental dependencies of Denmark would be soon followed by the conquest of her insular possessions. It might be inquired, if the Danish army would be inactive during these hostile proceedings? What was its strength? It was stated at 25,000, men, on paper; but he believed, in effective force, it did not exceed 18,000 How could this irregular levy encounter the victorious troops of France, poured into the country in numbers, at pleasure, proportioned to the degree of resistance to be expected? It perhaps would also be asked, on what principle of policy it was that we offered to guarantee to Denmark the security of her dominions, when so much difficulty must attend their preservation? He would not pretend to determine what might have been the result, had the Danish army been supported by British valour, and had their combined exertions being aided by the organization of a patriotic people, in defence of their hearths and their altars; but, in any view he could take of the subject, it would have been an arduous and difficult enterprize. Some inconvenience would have arisen from other causes. Zealand did not afford a sufficient quantity of provisions for the maintenance of its own inhabitants; and hence, even for the ordinary demand, it was necessary for her to obtain her principal articles of subsistence from Holstein and Jutland. If numerous forces were collected in the island, much larger demands would be made upon the continent than could be answered, because the French would be in possession of those dependencies, and thus the apparent means of security would increase their danger, and they would ultimately fall a sacrifice to their own necessities. Whatever might be the disposition of England to assist them in this emergency, it might be physically impossible; the inclemency of the season would, probably, prevent access at the time when communication was absolutely necessary to their support. Reflecting, then, on all these circumstances, it was his firm conviction, that whenever the French thought it necessary to their schemes of aggrandisement or power, Zea- 347 land would have become an easy victim to their ambition. The policy of Buonaparte might, perhaps, have dictated less violent means; he might have contented himself with threats, "I will spare you," he might have said "your islands; I will even resign to you your continental possessions, on the condition that you unite your naval and military forces with the rest of Europe against the common enemy. If you obstinately persevere in maintaining your relations of amity with the despot of the ocean, your German provinces shall be partitioned by new claimants, and your islands shall become dependencies on the adjacent shores." It was not difficult to discern, that Denmark had no strong bias in favour of this country: her disposition was manifestly shewn on the memorable occasion of the armed neutrality. But nice inquiries into her political attachments were not, in the present circumstances, necessary; it was sufficient to shew, that she was absolutely dependent upon France; and the unavoidable conclusion was, that she would be subservient to the purposes of France. The state of the continent necessarily assimilated her interest to that government; and, in truth, she held her most productive territories only by its permission. Not only her dominions, but the chief support of her importance—her commerce, was at the disposal of the same power; for, in time of war especially, she must be deprived of her intercourse with the most opulent states, unless the concurrence of France should sanction her proceedings. From all that had been urged on these various departments of the subject, he would draw three natural inferences. 1st. It was the purpose of France to seize the Danish Fleet. 2d. It was in the power of France to seize it. 3d. Denmark had no adequate means of resistance—.He would consider these positions now as sufficiently established, and would proceed to some other matters of great weight in his view of the subject. What would have been the consequence, had France obtained the co-operation of this powerful marine? Their lordships would immediately perceive, that it would not have been a solitary acquisition. It would have been added to the navy of Russia, and the subjection of the Swedish fleet would have precipitately followed; and thus, the whole of the floating strength of these three powers would have been under the controul of our enemy. It would have been 348 no trifling accession; 40 sail of the line would have been placed in a commanding situation for the attack of the vulnerable parts of Ireland, and for a descent upon the coasts of England or Scotland; and in opposition to this formidable navy the admiralty could not have assigned any competent force, without weakening our stations in the Mediterranean, in the Atlantic, and in the Indian seas, at a time when it was most necessary to maintain our superiority in all these situations. Such being the character and power of the enemy, and such the condition of Denmark, was it possible that any one of their lordships could assert that the danger was not imminent? The case of danger, made out, even in the imperfect manner he had stated it, was so great, that it concerned the very existence of the country, as an independent power. Had ministers not acted as they had done, they would have fatally abandoned their highest duties; and he hoped in God, that if ever similar circumstances should occur, the same wisdom would be found at the helm, to conduct the vessel of the state in security, amid the shoals and rocks that threatened its destruction? The moment was precious: a few weeks, perhaps, the progress of a single week, would have rendered the attempt unsuccessful, and we should have been exposed to all the dreadful consequences he had detailed. Addressing a British audience, he could scarcely justify arguing the subject; the peril to which the nation was liable called up every sentiment of affection to our constitution, to our liberties, and our laws, and, in terms mandatory and irresistible, dictated the course which must be pursued. The violence which had been attributed to this measure was unavoidable; every attempt at negociation was unsuccessfully made; every offer of remuneration was insultingly rejected. It would have been useless to have extorted promises from a people wholly at the disposal of the enemy; nothing less than the resignation of the fleet was sufficient, and the means by which it was obtained was justified on every principle of truth, of equity, and of honour. The great maxims of the law of nations were founded on the law of nature; and the law of security or self-preservation was, among these, the most important and sacred. It was a law equally to be obeyed by individuals and communities. The king, placed at the head of the great society subsisting on these islands, had no duty paramount to 349 the protection of his people, and by the servants of the crown this imperious duty had been, on this momentous occasion, vigilantly and ably discharged. The principle of the great law of nature and nations was clearly applicable to the case before their lordships. Here was an instrument of war within the grasp of. our inveterate enemy: we interposed and seized it; and this act of energy and wisdom was to have the hard epithets of rapine and impiety ascribed to it! To shew that injury had been done to an innocent party in a transaction, was not to prove its iniquity. All war had the effect to involve in its horrors the helpless and the innocent; but it was not on that account, necessarily unjust. Let any man say how war could be conducted without it. As neutral individuals might be sacrificed in the common calamity, so also might neutral nations. In cases of this kind, the party committing the injury? was frequently mistaken; it was often not done by the ostensible instrument, but by the silent agent, which by previous misconduct had exposed the sufferer to such an unfortunate situation. Were not such principles fairly referable to every part of this extraordinary case? If he had accurately stated the relative rights of communities as founded on the laws of nature, the government of Great Britain had only put in exercise that law of self-preservation that needed no learned and intricate disquisitions to justify. What signified reasoning on abstract rights, it might be said, when the general voice of Europe proclaimed the criminality of our conduct? But, was the tongue of Europe free as to the great principles of public law, affecting the interests of Great Britain, especially on subjects connected with our maritime claims? Could their lordships point out any place on the map of Europe where any one dared to breathe a sentiment adverse to the ruler of France? What flag was free? What ship navigated the ocean but under his orders? What commerce was there in Europe, but under his appointment and controul? What soldier, what lawyer, what churchman, what layman, dared to utter an opinion inimical to him? Was not the subjugation, not only of the continent, but of the body and mind of every individual on its surface complete? It reminded him of the condition of humiliated Greece, when the arms of Philip of Macedon were triumphant, and the Delphic Apollo was said, by a distinguished orator 350 of that time, to speak only in the Macedonian dialect. Every where throughout Europe the oracular decisions by which she was governed were French, and to them obedience was paid, due only to divine authority. From these considerations, he hoped that the conduct of his majesty's ministers would be respected and approved; that no proceeding in parliament would tend to sully the glory of this most distinguished achievement; and that nothing would lead the world to suppose that the councils of the nation suspected the purity and honour of this great and saving measure. It would be a source of gratification to the enemy, if he saw that the senate of the land joined in the condemnation he had so hastily determined. This was the severest blow he had felt since he had commenced his reign; on one occasion at least, fortune had not attended his chariot wheels, and in the prosecution of his most favourite project he had been humbled and disappointed. The noble marquis repeated his conviction that his majesty's ministers had, in the case before the house, rendered a great and essential service to the country; and feeling as he did upon the occasion, he must decide against the propositions of the noble duke.
§ Lord Hutchinson. —
My lords; I have listened with the greatest attention to the very able and eloquent speech of the noble marquis, but have been unable to extract from it any justification satisfactory to my mind of the expedition to Copenhagen. According to my opinion, the noble marquis has completely failed in proving that Zealand could not have been effectually defended, even if the French were in possession of Holstein and Jutland. I am of opinion, that, even supposing the French to have been in possession of Holstein and Jutland, still Zealand might have been defended with effect against the French arms. My lords, it was my lot to be employed on a very important mission, and I think it the more necessary to say a few words respecting that mission in consequence of partial extracts from my letters having been communicated in another place, by which I have been held out as giving opinions which were never delivered by me. The Russian army in Poland never amounted to more than 70,000 men, with the exception of two detached divisions, amounting to about 30,000. The French troops were estimated at 150,000. From the 351 disasters sustained by the former, and after the unfortunate battle of Friedland, the loss of the Russians amounted to 40,000 men: they lost also 1898 officers, and 29 generals. I was then perfectly convinced that Russia must make peace with France. I believe also that the emperor of Russia was sincere in his desire to mediate, if possible, a peace between this country and France; but, at all events, I then believed that the relations of peace and amity might have been preserved between Great Britain and Russia. The Treaty of Tilsit was signed on the 7th of July. On the 23d of August, my lords, I had a conversation with the emperor of Russia at Kamincostroff. His imperial majesty asked me whether I had not admitted to count Strogonoff, three days after the battle of Friedland, that it was necessary for him to make peace? I told him that I had done so, that I was of that opinion then, which subsequent events had confirmed; that I thought myself bound in justice to him, and to myself, publicly to avow it, which I should continue to do as long as I lived. His imperial majesty said, we are, then, both agreed on the necessity there was to make peace. I. answered in the affirmative. His imperial majesty proceeded to state, that he had offered his mediation to England; that he attached no false vanity (gloriole was the French word) to the acceptance or rejection of his mediation; but that it was his most sincere and anxious wish that England should make peace, as he was sure that it was his interest, and also that of Europe, and ours, that we should restore tranquillity to the world.—I said to his Imperial majesty, that he had not given sufficient time for England to accept or reject his mediation, because a much longer period than a month must elapse before any answer could be received; and though the disposition of my mind inclined towards peace, I, nor no other man in England would accept it, but on conditions the most reasonable and honourable; that as far as we were concerned, the events of the war had been highly favourable.—To which his Imperial majesty replied, that the time allowed was of no importance, because we might take three or four months, if we pleased, to accept or reject his mediation: but his anxious wish and desire was, that we should make peace. That he had a perfect knowledge of the feelings and character of the people of England; that he had been made 352 acquainted by Buonaparte with the conditions of peace proposed to be offered, and that he had no doubt that even I myself would consider them to be highly reasonable and honourable.—Some confidential conversation followed, which I do not think myself at liberty to disclose, but from what then passed, as I have already stated, I was justified in believing that the relations of peace and amity might have been preserved between the two countries. It has been stated in another place, that I had given an opinion, that if the attack on Copenhagen had not taken place, Russia would not have gone to war with this country. My lords, I never gave any such opinion, nor do I mean now to say, that if that attack had not been made, there would have been no war with Russia, but I mean to say, that the result of that expedition did materially change the relations between Great Britain and Russia, and give rise to sentiments of a very hostile nature at the Court of Petersburgh. Intelligence of the result of the attack on Copenhagen arrived at St. Petersburgh on the 27th or 28th of August. On the 4th of Sept. I saw the emperor a second time at Kamincostroff. His Imperial majesty began the conversation by asking me, "what I thought of our attack upon Copenhagen?" I replied, that I was entirely ignorant of the circumstances which had occasioned that attack, but that I hoped the administration in England could justify themselves, and prove to the world that the Danes were on the eve of joining all their forces to the French, to make common cause against England.—His Imperial majesty told me in reply, that it was impossible for me to be of that opinion, if I would recollect the repeated conversations which had taken place between us, on the subject of Denmark, at Bartenstein, in which he told me that he had used every effort in his power to bring forward the Crown Prince of Denmark, and to induce him to join the coalition against France; the answers of the prince had always been explicit and uniform, that he had maintained for many years a system of neutrality, in which he was determined to persevere, as the people whom he governed had flourished and prospered under it; and that no consideration should ever induce him to depart from it. His imperial majesty added, that I must be acquainted with the decision of character which belonged to the Crown Prince, 353 that nothing was so difficult as to shake his determinations, or to induce him to change any line of conduct which he had once adopted; and that he was sure no connection existed between the French and Danish government previous to our attack on Copenhagen.—I then said, that I believed lord G. L. Gower had delivered to his Imperial majesty's minister a Note on the subject; to which his Imperial majesty answered that he had, but that the contents of it were nugatory, as it contained no sufficient explanation, or offer of satisfaction. His Imperial majesty then proceeded to state the great concern which our unjustifiable aggression had given him; that the French government never had done any thing so strong—that it justified every thing they had done or might do hereafter. If such proceedings were admissible, there was an end of all those relations which had usually influenced the conduct of nations towards each other; that every body was at liberty to do just what they pleased, and that he might attack Sweden to-morrow. His Imperial majesty then told me in the most peremptory language, tone, and manner, that he would have satisfaction, complete satisfaction, for this unprovoked aggression. That it was his duty as emperor of Russia to demand it, and that he would have it; and he asked me, whether even I myself would venture to differ with him on that subject? He then said, that he was bound to Denmark by the most solemn treaties and engagements, which treaties and engagements he was determined to adhere to and fulfil. His Imperial majesty then added, that he supposed we meant to make an attack on Cronstadt; he did not know what the event of that attack might be, but this he knew, that he was determined to resist to the last man, and to prove himself not entirely unworthy of filling that high station to which it had pleased Providence to call him. I told his imperial majesty that I had strong reason to hope and believe, that no attack would be made on Cronstadt. His Imperial majesty said he was prepared for such an event, and had taken his determination upon it, which was that which he had before stated to me. He then closed the conversation, by repeating with much emphasis that "he would have satisfaction, for Denmark."—My lords: after such a declaration, is there any man who can say that the attack upon Copenhagen has not had a considerable effect 354 upon the disposition of the emperor of Russia? I must even think that it formed a principal part of the immediate cause of war with Russia; and I will ask if this was not a good cause? The reason it was not immediately declared, I have reason to believe, was that Russia had two fleets at sea, and in some measure in our power.—My lords; I cannot sit down without complaining of the liberties that have been taken by the English newspapers, with the character of the emperor of Russia. While in his dominions I repeatedly experienced the most unpleasant sensations, on perusing the false and scandalous animadversions of our public prints. There was a time, when such unjustifiable attacks would not have been permitted, or would have been punished. To the good faith, magnanimity, and perseverance, of the emperor Alexander, I wish to bear my testimony. I am persuaded that there was not a soldier nor a cannon in all his dominions, that was not called forth in the war. I cannot sit down without solemnly declaring, that our conduct towards Denmark is generally disapproved of on the continent. I declare it in the face of this house and of all England, and under this conviction I shall certainly give my cordial vote for the motion of the noble duke.
§ Lord Erskine
contended, that not only the papers moved for by his noble friend ought to be produced, but also whatever information had been received respecting the naval preparations of Denmark, or the intentions of that power to join in a maritime confederacy against this country. This was information which, he concluded, would not be produced, because no such information had been received, and thus the house was to be left without a single document to support the extraordinary, unprecedented, and unjustifiable measures against Copenhagen. The consideration of the hostility of Denmark was now wholly put out of the question, and the act was defended on the ground of the law of nations. But he would contend, that no precedent for such a measure was to be found in the history of Europe. It was by the principles of the law of nations that the conduct of ministers was to be judged; they were not then called upon to approve or condemn the thing, or its authors; they wanted information merely to enable them to form a judgment. If any thing could give delight in reading the history of civilized nations, it was the progressive im- 355 provement that was to be traced in law and civilization, amongst the nations of the world. This was the first instance in which the principles of that amelioration had been trampled upon by us. Revolutionary France was the first to violate those principles, and in support of them and for our security, we had carried on a war against that country at the expence of 200 millions of money. France then made the Treaty of Pilnitz her pretext, as this country now did that of Tilsit. France gave then no evidence of such a treaty, neither did ministers new. He had opposed the government in the late war, not because he condemned the principle, but because he did not think that the war would accomplish its professed object. He opposed the war upon that ground, though it was supported by the matchless eloquence of the minister who then presided over his majesty's council—an eloquence which far exceeded any thing that had ever been exhibited in any assembly of a civilized nation. This country had always put itself forth as the conservator of the peace of the world; and well she might, standing as she did upon a rock, inaccessible to the common enemy. If she had persevered in her honourable career, the tyranny of the continent would go when the tyrant was gone. What would have been the opinion of other nations of this illustrious country, if she had made sacrifices and encountered risks in adhering to her old principles? So far from gaining security by abandoning them, she exposed herself to ruin. In his opinion, the law of nations had been violated, and he should explain his notion of the matter by a very simple illustration. If a fire were to break out in the Haymarket, it would be justifiable to pull down an adjoining house to prevent the spreading of the flames; but a man would be by no means justified in pulling down his neighbour's house, at Hyde Park Corner, lest the conflagration should reach his house; still less on a rumour of such a fire, when no fire had taken place in the Playmarket, or on a report alone that some malicious person intended to set the house there on fire. He would prefer that France had the Danish fleet, rather than we the enmity of the Danish people. Ministers thought they had got rid of danger, but they had got into the midst of it. The conduct of the English in the massacre of all the Danes on the report of an invasion by Swein, recorded in the first volume of Mr. 356 Hume's history, was an analogous case. The invasion did take place which had not been before in contemplation, and a dreadful retaliation was the consequence. If the fact was that Denmark was hostile, we should have encountered and beat her manfully. He ridiculed the idea of ministers taking away so many useless ships, and christening them anew, as the Gypsies did children whom they had purloined. If we had carefully avoided imitating France, if we had observed principles pure and uncontaminated, England would be now looked up to as the shield, the disinterested protector, and the saviour of Europe; and the nations of the earth might expect to have their chains broken. But ministers had no rules of right but their own opinion. They did not even deign to consult parliament. He compared them to an unfortunate party in a court of law, who, from the total want of papers, documents, and proofs, by winch he had hoped to have established his point, finds himself in the disagreeable predicament of being non-suited. He considered this as the greatest cause that ever was, or could be, agitated in an assembly of the civilized world. From the unfortunate proceedings that were had recourse to, we could neither derive security, satisfaction, nor honour.
§ Lord Boringdon
defended the expedition to Copenhagen, on the grounds of the evident intention of France to obtain possession of the Danish fleet, and the inability of Denmark, as well as her disinclination, to resist; nor did he see on what grounds noble lords on the other side could condemn the expedition to Copenhagen, without also condemning the expedition to Constantinople, and the Instructions alleged to have been issued to a squadron sent to the Tagus. The noble and learned lord who spoke last had compared together the Treaty of Pilnitz and the Treaty of Tilsit; the former, it had been formerly stated by a noble lord (Grenville) on the other side, then in office, had no existence; could it for a moment be contended that the Treaty of Tilsit had no existence? [Lord Erskine said across the house, he meant the secret articles.] The secret articles were also clearly established. With respect to the offer of Russia to mediate, it had been said by a noble lord on a former evening, that a mediator was not an umpire. Upon this subject, however, he would quote the authority of an able diplomatist, he meant M. Talleyrand, who, in a report to the 357 French Senate, expressly states, that the ground of refusing the offer of Russia to mediate between France and Austria was, that she was too much a party in the cause to be an impartial mediator. He was so fully convinced from the information which had been communicated, and from the evident state of Europe, of the wisdom and policy of securing the Danish fleet, that he thought ministers, if they had not resorted to that measure, ought to have been arraigned as criminals at their lordships' bar.
§ The Earl of Buckinghamshire
rose to give his support to the motion of the noble duke, on account of the extraordinary predicament in which parliament was placed. He conceived, that it never before had happened, that the nation had been engaged in a new war, without the precise ground upon which hostilities had commenced being stated to parliament: whereas, upon the present occasion, the house was not merely without information as to the specific cause of the war; but his majesty had been advised, both in the Declaration in Answer to the Russian Manifesto, and in the Speech at the opening of the session, to declare a cause for the war with Denmark, which his ministers upon their legs in parliament had been obliged to relinquish.—In the answer to the Russian Manifesto, the expression made use of by his majesty was as follows: "His majesty feels himself under no obligation to offer any atonement, or apology, to the emperor of Russia, for the expedition against Copenhagen. It is not for those who were parties to the secret arrangements of Tilsit, to demand satisfaction for a measure to which those arrangements gave rise; and by which one of the objects of them has been happily defeated." And again, in the speech at the opening of the session, it was stated by his majesty's commissioners, that "they are commanded by his majesty to inform you, that no sooner had the result of the negotiations at Tilsit confirmed the influence and controul of France over the powers of the continent, than his majesty was apprized of the intention of the enemy to combine those powers in a general confederacy, to be directed, either to the entire subjugation of this kingdom, or to imposing upon his majesty an insecure and ignominious peace."—The noble earl then proceeded to show by dates, the accuracy of which, he said, could not be questioned, that the expedition against Copenhagen 358 had actually sailed before there was a possibility of any account, even of the existence of the Treaty of Tilsit, being received in this country;—that it was not a question as to what the articles might have contained, whether they were more or less hostile to our interests; but, the actual conclusion of any Treaty could not have been known.—Under these circumstances his majesty's ministers had been driven to the necessity of finding out other reasons for having commenced hostilities; involving themselves in the strange inconsistency of advising his majesty to assign to Europe and to his parliament a cause of war, which they had totally abandoned in their attempt to justify the measure.—The noble earl said, that even if the constant practice of parliament did not warrant the expectation of official documents being laid upon the table, for the purpose of explaining the ground upon which the country was plunged into a new war, the circumstances he had stated rendered it indispensibly necessary, in this instance. He considered it the more requisite to furnish the fullest information, because the honour of the country was deeply involved in the transaction. The attack of a power, in perfect amity with us, against whom no act of hostility had been alleged, was in itself so questionable a proceeding, that it called for every explanation that it was possible to produce in its justification.—Under circumstances somewhat similar, what was the conduct of the great king of Prussia? Their lordships would recollect, that during the seven years war he had suddenly marched an army into Saxony, and taken possession of Dresden, the capital of the elector:—but he had not felt that he had done enough to satisfy the world by declaring that he had procured copies of the treaty actually entered into by the king of Poland, then elector of Saxony, for the partition of his dominions; for, having afterwards obtained possession of the original treaty, he published it at every court in Europe, in order to render his justification complete.—The noble earl said, he had understood, that it was intended to adduce this precedent in favour of the attack upon Copenhagen, but it was now sufficiently evident, that it would not have answered the purpose, as in the one case there was a positive act of aggression on the part of the power attacked, and in the other, no alleged ground of complaint.—He had listened to the noble marquis (Wellesley) 359 with the utmost attention. He had the greatest admiration of his talents, and affection for his person; and if the eloquent speech he had delivered had failed to carry conviction to his mind, he must believe that the opinion he had formed was not to be shaken. There was one part, however, of his noble friend's statement, which he must acknowledge was calculated to make a considerable impression; but which, upon examination, would be found untenable. Having nearly abandoned the idea, entertained by many persons who had not taken the trouble to inquire into the subject, of the practicability of an army with stores, ammunition, and cannon, equal to the capture of such a place as Copenhagen, passing upon the ice from Holstein to Zealand, he had stated, that boats might easily be obtained by the French, and the passage of the Belt effected, in ordinary seasons; for that, in the straits which separated Zealand from the continent, there were no tides; and that the floating masses of ice, when driven by the wind, had such an effect, that no cruizers could keep their stations; and that it frequently happened, that when driven off, they were not able to regain them for many weeks. To this Statement, the noble earl said, he would oppose the opinion of the highest naval authority (lord St. Vincent's) in this, or in any other country; and upon that authority he would venture to assert, that, so far from cruizers not being able to keep their station in the Belt in ordinary seasons, the anchorage was so good as to render it perfectly practicable; and, by placing gun-boats upon the coast ready to put off, any armament unsupported by a superior naval force might be effectually resisted.—The noble earl said, he was aware, that during the late attack upon the island of Zealand, some few vessels had got over, notwithstanding the vigilance of our cruizers; but the number was so small, as rather to furnish an argument in favour of his statement than against it. His lordship declared, that no man entertained a higher opinion of the officers employed upon the expedition than he did. He knew their merits, and with many of them had lived in habits of friendship and intimacy; but, if with such a force as was then sent, both naval and military, considering the unprepared state of the Danish government to meet it, there had been so much difficulty to surmount, as was represented upon the motion for the 360 Thanks of Parliament to those officers, what must be thought of the power of the Danes to defend Zealand, with sufficient time for preparation—the 25,000 men withdrawn from Holstein, in addition to the 35,000 which, by the report made to his majesty's ministers, were actually in arms upon the island? Whatever zeal for the public interests, professional knowledge, and a gallant spirit could effect, he was persuaded those officers would have accomplished; but their services must have been greatly exaggerated if the Danes could not prevent Zealand from falling into the hands of France, with all their resources applied to that purpose—60,000 men in arms, and a naval force, with which France could not provide the means of contending. His noble friend had stated, that Buonaparte had declared at his levee, that the fleets both of Portugal and Denmark should be united against this country; and that he seldom failed to execute his purposes, so publicly announced. That such a declaration might be considered as an indication of the real designs of Buonaparte, he was ready to admit;—but, had he succeeded in the case of Portugal? and he was persuaded he would equally have failed in that of Denmark, though the custody of their own ships had been left to the Danes themselves.—Upon an attentive consideration of the whole of this subject, he was decidedly of opinion, that it was not only the interest of the court of Copenhagen, but its settled policy, to maintain a system of neutrality. But it was not surprising, that, with such a government as that of France to deal with, the necessity of temporizing, to an extent that might sometimes appear unfriendly to this country, should occasionally arise;—and the more especially, when it would be recollected, that the continental possessions of Denmark were in the power of Buonaparte whenever he might be disposed to take measures for their subjugation. It did not however follow, that because it might have been expedient for the Crown Prince to pursue that policy, in the hope of retaining those possessions, that he would have carried it to the extent of surrendering into the hands of the French emperor his navy; the real source of his strength, and independance: a surrender, that must inevitably have led, in a very short time, to the ruin of the commerce, and the loss of he colonies of Denmark. In truth, the honour, the spirit, and political steadiness, 361 which had distinguished the Crown Prince, all led to a different conclusion; and his lordship said, he was thoroughly convinced that his royal highness had the means, as well as the disposition, to defend his maritime independance, even if he was not allowed to maintain that system of neutrality, in which it certainly was his interest to persevere. It had not been pretended that Denmark had manifested a hostile disposition towards this country: on the contrary, his majesty "had lamented the cruel necessity which had obliged him to have recourse to acts of hostility against that nation;"—attributing the measures he had reluctantly taken to the designs of France, under an idea, as expressed in his majesty's Declaration of the 25 of Sept. (p. 115.) that, "Holstein once occupied, the island of Zealand was at the mercy of France, and the navy of Denmark at his disposal."—To this proposition the noble earl said, he must dissent, for the reasons already stated. After the able speech of the learned lord (Erskine) he felt no inclination to enter into the discussion of the law of nations, as connected with this question. He would however observe, that he thought the reasoning inconclusive, which attempted to bring the seizure of the Danish Fleet within the principle of self-preservation. The idea of a northern confederacy, combining all the naval force of the Baltic, had indeed been held out to alarm the country, and to swell the danger which the measures that had been adopted were intended to avert; whilst the real fact was, as it would appear upon a close view of the case, that of this supposed combination of naval force, Sweden was with us, the Baltic fleet belonging to Russia completely in our power, and therefore the Danish fleet (even if at the disposal of France, which at least was questionable,) the only danger against which we had to provide; and this, his majesty's ministers would represent to the country to be so imminent, as to justify measures which, but for the French revolution, would be without precedent, and which his lordship said, he could never admit to be of a magnitude to warrant the application of the principle of self-defence, as laid down by any author upon the law of nations.—Without inquiry into the particulars of the secret arrangements entered into at Tilsit, war with Russia became probable from the moment that treaty was concluded; and the strong apprehension it excited in the minds of his 362 majesty's ministers of a northern confederacy, at the head of which the emperor of Russia had agreed to place himself, rendered it their duty to take precautionary measures against that power. It had been said however, that the Russian people were friendly to this country, and that an attack upon Cronstadt would have had an injurious effect upon their feelings; and this was an argument brought forward by those who could resolve to attack the unoffending Danes, and "inflict all the horrors of a besieged and bombarded capital upon the innocent inhabitants." But even supposing that it was not advisable to meddle with the few hulks left at Cronstadt (and it had been stated by high official authority that there was nothing else there), why, under the circumstances of danger, upon which alone our conduct was defended, were the Russian ships of war that passed through our fleet in the Baltic, and the Russian squadron in the Mediterranean, suffered to escape? By taking possession of the latter, we should have facilitated the negotiation then depending with the Turks; and with such an instrument in our hands, we might safely have trusted to the mediation of the court of Petersburg; whilst at the same time, by a strong naval force in the Baltic, we should have protected Sweden, have enabled Denmark to maintain her neutrality, kept open the Sound, and thus effectually have disappointed the expectations Buonaparte had formed from the influence he had acquired over the emperor of Russia. By such a course, we should have commanded the respect, instead of drawing upon us the enmity, of all Europe. But above all, we should have avoided the abandonment of those sacred principles of justice and honour, by which the conduct of our government had been so advantageously contrasted with that of France; we should have kept alive that hope, which, under all the pressure of the times, had animated and encouraged a large proportion of the community of this country;—that the atrocious and profligate principles of the French government must lead to its destruction, and that to whatever difficulties and dangers we might be exposed, by the vicissitudes of war, the hand of Providence would ultimately be stretched forth for the protection and security of the British nation.—His lordship concluded by saying, that in his view of this transaction, we had comparatively gained little in point of strength 363 but lost every thing in point of character; and he was apprehensive we should deeply lament the day, when the people of England had been taught to receive the spoils of Copenhagen as naval trophies,Turno tempus erit, magno cum optaverit emptum "Intactum Pallanta; et cum spolia ista, diemque, "Oderit!"—Under all these circumstances, the noble earl considered it his duty to support the motion of the noble duke; not only, because an adequate justification of the attack upon Copenhagen did not appear to have been made out; but, because the house was not in possession of sufficient documents to give authority and effect to its proceedings.
§ Lord Harrowby
feared, if the noble earl had not been convinced by the arguments urged with so much force and eloquence by the noble marquis, that he should fail to convince him: he thought it his duty, however, shortly to state the grounds of his own opinion. The intentions of France, with respect to Denmark, and the ability of the latter power to resist, appeared to him so evident, that he thought ministers would have been highly culpable, if they had not resorted to measures to secure the Danish fleet from the grasp of the enemy. A learned and noble lord (Erskine) had rested great part of his arguments against this measure on the law of nations; but if one belligerent power set aside the law of nations, and substituted its own law to which neutrals chose to conform, another belligerent power had a right to treat those neutrals in the same manner as they suffered themselves to be dealt with. If one power acted in defiance of the law of nations, and could not be coerced into an observance of it, that law which had been established by common consent, was for the time abrogated, and another power ought not to be bound by it to its own detriment. In this point of view, and with the situation of Europe before our eyes, he considered the justification of the attack on Copenhagen complete, nor did he want further documents to prove its necessity. It required a much broader principle to support the expedition to Constantinople, which was undertaken solely for Russian interests. The object of the expedition to Copenhagen was to avert a danger from this country. He could readily conceive that many of those who supported the expedition to Copenhagen, might object to 364 the expedition to Constantinople, but he could not conceive upon what ground those who supported the latter could object to the former.
The Earl of Moira
said, that he had some difficulty in persuading himself, when the noble lord was speaking, who had just sat down, that he was in a British house of parliament. All excuses he found were now given up, for a dereliction of those high principles of national honour which it had long been our boast and our glory to maintain inviolate, and the only apology that was pleaded for the commission of an act which had left an indelible stain upon our character, was, that it was matter of mere speculative convenience. Much had been said, though in his opinion but little to the purpose, of the hostile intentions of the present ruler of France. No one doubted of those intentions; but where was the evidence that there was any collusion on the part of Denmark; and unless such collusion was proved, how were we to be justified for venting upon Denmark the hostility which we owed to France? Putting this consideration, however, wholly aside, it had been said that it was merely possible that the Danish fleet would have fallen into the hands of Buonaparte, had not we intercepted her views. It appeared likewise to him, that the grounds upon which this supposition rested were altogether improbable. Denmark had uniformly preserved a strict neutrality between the belligerent powers; and there was no reason to think that, on the present occasion, she would deviate from it. Her army had taken a strong position in Holstein, the moment the French troops entered Hanover; and he had not? the smallest doubt that, had she been attacked, she would have defended herself with gallantry and perseverance. He never could bring himself to adopt, or in any way to countenance, the cold-blooded speculation of those who inferred, from the inferiority of the Danish force in point of numbers, that therefore she must have been conquered; as if bravery was not paramount in every contest to mere numerical strength. Those who reasoned in this way would have considered our ancestors who fought and conquered at Poictiers and Agincourt as fools and ideots. The Danes might not indeed have been able to save the provinces of Holstein and Jutland, but had they not the island of Zealand to which to retire, and whither it was impossible for their enemy 365 to follow them? No inference, he contended, could be drawn from the passage of a few individuals, in favour of the possibility of conveying an army across the Belt, particularly when it was considered that they would have had the assistance both of a British and a Swedish naval force to guard the passage. But even supposing that Buonaparte had acquired by some means or other the Danish fleet as an accession to his strength, he had no hesitation whatever in declaring, that he would rather have seen double the number of ships that their fleet consisted of in his power, than that we should have obtained it by the means by which it had come into our possession. As long as there was a power in Europe which, from its regard to justice and to the rights of other states, could form a sort of rallying point to the oppressed, there was some probability that the nations who were groaning under the yoke of a pitiless and inexorable tyrant, would have watched for some opportunity, and made some exertion in common to throw it off. Such a power was this country, previous to the late most unjustifiable and unfortunate attack upon Denmark; but by this attack that hope had been compleatly extinguished. A noble lord had said that war was always a scourge, meaning by this to class the present among the ordinary measures of hostility, whereas he asserted, that this was hardly to he compared with any other aggression, because it poured destruction upon the innocent as inevitable as it had been unprovoked. The minister who signed the order for the expedition should, before affixing his name to the fatal instrument, have reflected on the distraction of mothers on seeing their mangled infants, and the distress in which it was to involve thousands who were guilty of no offence. It had been said, indeed, that these calamities were the effect of resistance, but who could blame this resistance, or did not the Danes, from this very circumstance, particularly recommend themselves to the respect of a generous enemy?—It was attempted, too, to justify the expedition from the hostile spirit which actuated both the government and people of Denmark against this country. But if this hostile spirit was not to be cured by other means than by bombarding their capital, why did they not also demolish those fortifications which enabled them still to shut the Baltic against our navigation? Why did they 366 leave their batteries and the castle of Cronstadt standing? Why did they thus forget their object, and leave their business half finished? Again, they pleaded necessity as an apology. If necessity here meant any thing at all, it was a strict necessity which never had been proved: and if by necessity was intended to be denominated only a higher sort of expediency, the same plea might be urged in excuse of any expedition, however rash, however cruel, however brutal; for who was to draw the line between what really came under this description, and what did not? A noble marquis had talked in high terms of the fortitude of the nation, and of the importance of its shewing itself firm and determined in the present crisis; but where was the fortitude of the government when it could be frightened into an act equally incompatible with its honour and interests by the existence of sixteen miserable, paltry ships in the port of a neutral power? The nation had long been distinguished by its fortitude and magnanimity in the midst of danger, and in those qualities it was no more deficient now than at any former period, but it was not by such a pitiful resource as that which had been resorted to in the present instance, that this spirit was to be kept alive. If we had any thing to fear from Denmark, was it enough to have warded off the danger for one year? he said for one year, for had we not left them in possession of their docks, in which they might soon build other ships, and had they not the same number of seamen they ever had, with which to man them? He solemnly assured their lordships of his firm conviction, that the present measure had brought us nearer to ruin than any, of which any administration, however marked either by temerity or improvidence, had ever been guilty, because it had disaffected every power in Europe to our cause. Its effects were soon visible in the disposition of the Court of Russia, and in the minds of the Danish people it had planted the seeds of irreconcilable enmity. He concluded with conjuring the house to vindicate its own character and that of the country, from the reproach that had been cast upon it. The silence of the nation, he assured their lordships, did not proceed from apathy; they looked to parliament for their justification, and if parliament suffered the business to pass without investigation, it would give rise to serious and general discontent.
The Earl of Limerick
was well pleased that ministers had not rested their defence upon private information, lest they might, when goaded in debate, or taunted by sarcasm, be tempted to imitate a precedent which was more honoured in the breach than in the observance. He had listened with great attention to the speech of the noble lord, on the other side (lord Hutchinson), for whose talents no person entertained a higher respect than he did, but did not feel his opinion in the least degree altered. However it might gratify the curiosity of the public to have great potentates introduced into these discussions, and private conversations with such eminent personages detailed, he would appeal to their lordships, whether such a course was wise? What difficulties might it not impose upon future negociators, with whom foreign princes would not be inclined to communicate, lest their conversations should be similarly made public? This was likely to be felt in any future negotiation, for we were not to be for ever at war with all the world. As to the expedition to Copenhagen, that was fully justifiable, because he could shew, that from the commencement of the last war, the Danes had been hostilely disposed towards this country. They had encouraged and allowed privateers and enemies vessels to carry their prizes into Bergen, in Norway, and to sell them there, condemned in a court formed by the French consul at that port. In the year 1798 his majesty's ministers felt the interests of this country so affected by the conduct of Denmark, that they sent instructions to our minister at Petersburg, to intreat of that court to join its remonstrances with those of our minister at Copenhagen, to procure an alteration in the hostile behaviour of Denmark. Such also had been the opinion of the Russian court relative to the sentiments of that of Copenhagen, that when sending a fleet and army to co-operate with the allies, it was apprehended that the Danes would have attempted to prevent them from passing the Sound, in which event the Russian commander, by secret orders, was directed to land the troops and attack Copenhagen. The conduct of Denmark had been equally suspicious during the last 20 years. If the 16 ships of the line, which he understood were in the ports of Russia, were added to the 20 belonging to Denmark, there would be no doubt that the 36, whatever might be the gallantry 368 of the king of Sweden, would have forced his twelve sail of the line to co-operate with them. The noble earl could not look upon a fleet like that as an inconsiderable force, especially in a port so convenient for the invasion of Ireland, by the passage north about. As to the state of Ireland, he could assure their lordships, that the people of that country were no longer divided by religious prejudices, and would be ready to defend their country against any invader. They understood too well, what a conquered people had to expect from the French despot, not to be prepared to risk every thing in the defence of their country. There were still a few of the Jacobin faction in the country, who were ready to do any mischief, and it was not to be wondered at if they had succeeded in seducing a few deluded peasants to join them in their riotous course. The great body of the nation was sound and loyal, and a French invading force would in no part of the empire meet with a more general or determined resistance.
The Earl of Jersey
contended, that there was no reason whatever to believe that Denmark had entered into any alliance, or that she even had any secret understanding with France, previous to our attack upon her capital. No such inference could be drawn from the quantity of stores found in her arsenals, because there had not been time to collect those stores between the period at which the treaty of Tilsit was concluded and the date of our invasion. And it was worthy of remark, that no movement hostile to us had been observed during that interval. It was rather extraordinary, that so many scruples should be found to the production of the papers now moved for, in a quarter where no great delicacy had been observed on other occasions, in the publication of official papers, and that those ministers who had so imprudently disclosed the dispatches of sir Arthur Paget, from Vienna, and who had commenced their career with divulging the secrets of cabinets, should now withhold information which was essential not only to their own justification, but, to the satisfaction of the country, upon a question in which the national honour was so deeply interested.
§ Lord Hawkesbury
said, there never was a debate in which he would have wished more to have heard every thing that could have been said on the other side, before he delivered his own sentiments; but he felt it necessary for him now to state the rea- 369 sons which induced him to agree with his noble friend in rejecting the motion which had been made. He was called upon to state those reasons by every principle and feeling which he held dear—by the share which he had taken, in conjunction with his colleagues, in advising the measure—and particularly from the ground on which he had heard it attacked. He had heard it called an abandonment of every principle of morality and justice. He would willingly spill the last drop of his blood, rather than advise the country to abandon those sacred principles; but he was prepared to shew that they had not been abandoned or violated. He felt a very considerable difficulty taken off from him by the able manner in which the cause, not so much of ministers as of the country, had been already maintained by different noble lords, but particularly by the very eloquent, argumentative, and impressive speech of his noble friend (marquis Wellesley). The noble baron (lord Hutchinson) had compleatly mistaken his noble friend, when he supposed him to have contended that it was justifiable to depart from the general principles of morality. He thought that it was the best way to make some observations on those general principles, before he spoke of the facts of this case; and he believed, that if they clearly understood each other, it would be found, that there would be no great difference with respect to the principles themselves, but that the doubts would be merely upon the facts, and their application to those principles. He should contend, in the first place, that in the expedition to Copenhagen, there had been no violation whatever of the principles of the law of nations. The best writers who had written on the subject of the law of nations, defined it as arising from the law of nature, and it was allowed, that whatever would be justifiable among individuals, if they had no superior tribunal or jurisdiction to appeal to, was justifiable between nation and nation. This law of nations, founded directly on the law of nature, had been in some respects modified by particular treaties or by the habits and usages of mankind in civilized society. The modifications, however, arising from treaties, as from customs, must be governed by the consideration, whether the other parties adhered to those treaties or usages. If they did not adhere to them, the question must be referred back again, not to the law of force, God forbid! but to 370 the natural law. The first principle which the law of nations inculcated was self-preservation, combined with benevolence and good-will to our fellow-creatures. Self-preservation, which was the strongest of all principles, justified an individual in causing the death of another, and that not only upon general principles, but even by the municipal law. if, then, we were to compare this act with what the law of nature would justify among individuals, we might suppose an individual, who had waged a general war against the human race, who had broken down every thing which was most honoured among mankind, who had subdued whatever was most strong, who had vowed our destruction, and to effect it only wanted those arms which were in the hand of a weak man, who, if he had the disposition, had not the ability to prevent him from seizing them: suppose this powerful individual declaring his intention to get those arms, and taking measures, was there any thing in the law of nature or reason to prevent our depriving this weak man of a weapon, which the powerful man would have wrested from him to use it to our destruction? If no man could deny that an individual would in such a case have a right to act in that manner, why had not a nation? The law of nations was nothing different in this respect from what would be the law of nature among individuals, who had no Common judge, or no superior tribunal to appeal to. If he should be able to prove, that there was such a measure of self-preservation and urgency as to justify the measure, it would be confessed that it was executed in the mildest manner possible; and that this country had put forward no greater degree of force and violence, than was absolutely necessary to accomplish those objects which appeared to his majesty's advisers to be of the most urgent and indispensable necessity.—In stating the grounds upon which he considered the measure to be strictly justifiable, he should resolve them into the following heads: 1. Whether the house believed that there was a design on the part of the enemy to form a great maritime confederacy against this country, and to lay hold of the fleet of Denmark to effect this purpose; 2. Whether it was practicable for him to carry this design into execution, either by absolute force or intimidation; and, 3dly, Whether. the object was of sufficient magnitude and importance to justify a deviation from the 371 ordinary rules of proceeding. On the first point, as to the intention of Buonaparte, there could be little or no doubt. At the time of the signing of the Treaty of Tilsit, no one entertained a doubt but that it was his object to oblige all the maritime powers to join in a great confederacy against our commerce and our very existence as a nation. He never concealed that such was his intention. It was expressly stated in the French bulletins, and in many of the official papers. It appeared not only from these written documents, but from his practice. In his treaties with Mecklenburgh and Oldenburgh, as well as with Prussia, the exclusion of the British navy and commerce from all their ports was expressly stipulated. The justification of Prussia upon the subject, was, that it was not a particular measure with respect to her, but that it was a part of the general system of the continent, to which they were obliged to conform. Besides these general grounds which were, however, sufficient to remove every possibility of doubt, his majesty's ministers acted from positive information which they had received, of the designs of France to force the navies of Denmark and Portugal to act hostilely against this country. Very shortly after his majesty's present ministers came into office, they sent 10,000 men to Pomerania, to assist the king of Sweden, and had a fleet and considerable body of troops to send afterwards to the Baltic, as reinforcements to the cause of their ally. Before the sailing of this fleet, that information arrived which determined them to direct this force against Copenhagen. It was not unusual for parliament to act upon a fact distinctly stated to them by his majesty's ministers; but, in the present case, all the confidence which ministers required was, that parliament would believe them when they stated, that they at that time knew the fact, which every body knows at present, and of which there could not be a doubt. They had received the most authentic information from Portugal, that that country had been invited into a general confederacy against us, and to join her navy to that of Denmark and the other continental nations. A short time afterwards, the French minister at Lisbon, by a note dated the 12th of August, positively required that Portugal should make war against England; that, she should seize the persons and properties of all Englishmen in Portugal; and that they should join their fleet to that of Den- 372 mark and the other continental powers. Was there any body who could believe that Denmark alone was to be excepted from the nations of the continent, whom the French emperor wished to force into this general confederacy?—The next point was, the practicability of accomplishing his object. In considering this, it was necessary to consider the situation of France, after the battle of Friedland and the treaty of Tilsit. All the great continental nations then lay prostrate at the feet of France. She had conquered, separately, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, and there was nothing existing on the continent to which Denmark could look for the slightest support. This was a situation of things which never before existed on the continent. When Austria was in its greatest prosperity,when Lewis XIV. was in the full tide of his success, still there were strong powers left in Europe to which a weaker nation might look for support; but after the treaty of Tilsit there was nothing of that sort. This was a situation of things which the most eminent men who wrote in former times upon the law of nations, never did, nor ever could have taken into their contemplation. As to the power of Denmark to resist the attempts of France, it was evident that an attack upon Zealand was not necessary, in order to induce her to join with France, especially when that power was in good understanding with Russia. The Crown Prince himself confessed, that in 1801, Denmark had no alternative but to yield to the demands of Russia; how, then, could it be supposed that she would now be able to oppose not only Russia, but France? It had been argued, that even if the French armies had occupied Holstein and Jutland, they could not have crossed the Belt, or invaded Zealand. To this he must answer, that he had the highest military authorities for supposing that the invasion of Zealand from Holstein was very practicable. His majesty's ministers had put it specifically to several military as well as naval authorities, whether, if the French were determined on the invasion of Zealand, they could find small craft enough in Holstein to convey a sufficient number of troops; or whether, if they were to divide their army into four or five divisions of 5 or 6000 men each, one of those bodies at least might not cross the Belt, and effect a lodgment in that island? The answer was, that they could get craft, and probably cross the Belt in the manner mentioned. At the late siege of Copen- 373 hagen, government employed an admiral as high in professional character as any man in the service (admiral Keats); and yet with all his activity and skill, he could not prevent a considerable number of Danish troops from actually coming over from Holstein. The Belt being but 16 miles wide in the broadest place, and much narrower in others, it became very difficult for the squadron to remain there in safety in the long dark nights. A noble baron had, on a former night, stated the passage of the Belt as equally difficult with that of the passage from France to England; but besides that it was considerably narrower, there was another most material circumstance, which the noble lord appeared to have entirely lost sight of. He had forgot to compare the resources of England with those of Zealand. For his part, he had never heard a doubt among naval men, that if the object of France was merely to push over a body of 10, 15, or 20,000 men into this country, it might be done; but when the question was of landing such a body of men as would be capable of making a serious impression upon this country, then it was very seriously doubted, whether from tides or other circumstances, it would be possible to land such a body as would have the slightest chance of success in England. In Zealand, however, the case was very different. if the French could push over 10, 15, or 20,000 men into Zealand, they would probably be masters of the island; for although the Danes would fight with great courage at sea, their army had the character of being one of the worst in the North of Europe. The analogy, therefore, of the noble lord completely failed, unless he could make out some resemblance between the resources of Zealand and those of England. The Danish resources alone could not defend Zealand from France, and it was not to be expected that they would have called for a British force to protect them. It would not have been necessary for France to have invaded Holstein: her bare menace would have been sufficient to influence the determination of Denmark. If, then, there was a danger of France possessing itself of the maritime resources of Denmark, this was a danger which ought to have been immediately counteracted, or it would have been too late. if ministers had delayed a fortnight, or perhaps a single week, the object of the expedition might have failed.—As to the third point, the magnitude of the object 374 for which the expedition was ordered, he must consider 16 sail of the line, in so advanced a state of preparation, as a most important object. His majesty's ministers had received, from time to time, the most distinct information with respect to the state of equipment, and after the capture of Copenhagen it was found that six weeks were sufficient to prepare them for sea, and embark all their stores. He had heard those ships called old hulks; and it had been stated, that they never could have been brought to sea for the purpose of invading this country. The answer, however, to this was, the fact that they did put to sea in a very tempestuous hour, and did arrive in the ports of England with very little damage, and therefore they might have reached the shores of England equally if they had been in the possession of the enemy. As to their quality, whether they were a little better or a little worse, they would have employed at least an equal number in blockading them, if they had been in the hands of the enemy: or rather, they would have required many more than an equal number, according to the system of continued blockade. When the invasion of this country was talked of, there were two modes usually pointed out—an invasion by ships and by a flotilla; and it was now generally supposed that a flotilla could not effect its purpose, unless convoyed by a strong fleet of ships of the line. The taking of the Danish fleet added security to the country in two ways. It first prevented them from being applied to the purposes of invasion; and, 2dly, it prevented the necessity of employing a considerable number of ships to watch them, which could only be had by withdrawing them from other services, and thereby weakening our security somewhere else, either in our colonies or our commerce. A noble lord (Hutchinson), had stated, that our attack on Copenhagen had excited a general feeling of odium and disgust all over Europe. He was sure that the general and prevailing feeling on the continent was the dread of France, although they did not every where dare to express it. He should ask, however, in what part of Europe that was free from the power of France, was this odium and disgust manifested? Was it in Sweden, where the king still preferred the alliance of England? Was it in Portugal that this odium was excited, whose court continued its confidential intercourse with us after that period? Or, he might even venture 375 to ask, was it in Russia? for there he was informed, that much the greater number of people considered the expedition as a necessary measure of self-defence on the part of this country. Those nations who were under the domination of France were obliged to express whatever sentiments were prescribed for them; but if one was to take the public feeling of Europe from those nations that were not yet entirely within the tyranny of France, he believed it would be found that the Expedition had not produced that odium and disgust which had been stated by the noble lord. As to the conversation which the noble lord had mentioned, of the 4th of Sept. he had never beard of that conversation before, nor were ministers at all aware of it. The common safety of the globe required the measure which had been adopted. Nothing prevented France from acquiring universal dominion but the naval power of Great Britain. It alone formed the security of America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. His majesty felt that he owed to his subjects the step he had taken. It was, indeed, no ordinary step; but was it an ordinary situation of affairs, when we ourselves were the only independent power in Europe? Two sources of the power of our enemy were to be the navy of Denmark and the navy of Portugal. They were both happily removed out of his grasp. He had told us that he was resolved to have 'ships, colonies, and commerce.' And to effect this end no power in Europe was to be allowed to remain neutral. Those who contemplated, as they ought, the power of France, and considered, at the same time, that personal safety was the first law of nature, must agree that his majesty's ministers had averted the danger which seemed to threaten the country, with as much mildness as the case would admit of.
Earl St. Vincent
declared, supposing for an instant, Zealand and the Danish navy to be in the possession of Denmark, and the French to be in possession of Holstein, that he should think it more practicable to invade this country from Boulogne, than Zealand from Holstein. As to the situation of the Danish fleet, it seemed to his lordship to be exactly what it was when he first knew it about eight and forty years ago. Having been employed by the late government in the expedition to the Tagus, he was prepared to say, that there was no resemblance whatever between the conduct that would have been 376 pursued in that case, and what had been followed in the present.
§ Earl Grey
said, there never was a question in this or the other house of parliament, of more interest to the country than the present; nor one which more strongly affected the honour of the nation in the eyes of the whole world. So far from thinking the measure justified by what had fallen from the noble lord opposite (Hawkesbury) in the latter part of his speech, in which he had held it out as something which had saved the country from ruin, he remained satisfied, after the most deliberate consideration he could give the subject, that so far from adding to the safety of the country, that point on which its safety most particularly depended, he meant its honour, had not only been greatly weakened, but had in fact received a mortal stab. The noble lord had treated it as a question of necessity, arising out of that first of all duties, self-preservation. In that view of the subject, his lordship should attempt to follow him. He had endeavoured to make out three propositions: 1st, that the object of France was to collect as great a force as possible for the annoyance of this country; and that the navy of Denmark was part of the force, so destined against us; 2d, that it was practicable for the French government to force Denmark into this measure; and, 3rd, that it was a scheme of so much danger to us, as warranted us in adopting, nay, as rendered it absolutely necessary for us to adopt, the measure in question. As to the first, his lordship was free to admit that there could be little doubt of the anxiety of France to unite every power she could to carry on the war against us with as much success as possible. This he was far from disputing; but still the noble lord could not allege, that it was of itself any thing like a sufficient vindication of the act which had been resorted to. It might be the policy of France to take the most immediate measures for accomplishing her ends; but it was far from likely that Denmark would also see it to be her true line of policy to grant a ready compliance with the demand of the French government. It was undoubtedly, her interest to keep out of the contest, and, if she was desirous of doing so she had a threat to hold out to Buonaparte, as powerful as any he had to drive her to compliance with his wishes. She had the British navy to apply to for protection and it would have been absolute ruin to 377 Buonaparte's own schemes to have driven her to such a resource. This would at once be putting it out of his power, either then, or at any future period, to accomplish the object he was represented to have had in view. To make out the proposition of the noble lord however, it must be incumbent on him to shew, either that Denmark was not willing to resist, or that she was not-able. His noble friend (earl St. Vincent), had just declared that the Danes in Zealand were as secure against an attack from Holstein, as we were against an attack from Boulogne. The noble lord (Hawkesbury) had read an opinion of a military person, from which it would seem, he wished to have the contrary inferred; but it did not seem to him (lord Grey), to be at all a case in point. It was an answer to a question, as to the chance of some one of five or six divisions, or 5000 out of 35,000 men, succeeding in effecting a landing. This was merely an hypothetical question, the answer to which proved nothing, for it did not say, that supposing any one division of 5000 men making good their landing, that the Island of Zealand must fall as a necessary consequence. His lordship felt himself entitled to complain, that, though this was a motion for the production of papers, the noble lord opposite should come forward and read extracts from this very information, which, at the same time, was refused to be presented to the house. His lordship did not think it could be pretended that the French could have made any successful attempt on Zealand when protected by the Swedish and Danish flotillas, and by the vast naval force of G Britain. There was not, therefore, such a probability, if the Danes had been determined to resist Buonaparte, that he could have compelled them, as warranted us in having recourse to the extraordinary step we had taken. But it was said, the Danes were hostilely disposed towards us, and in proof of this were cited the American War, the Armed Neutrality, and the Confederacy of 1801. From these however, particularly the last, his lordship was inclined to form a directly opposite opinion. They might be induced to reflect what had been the effect of that confederacy. An attack on their capital, and the loss of a considerable part of their fleet. He could not believe that, with this in their recollection, they would be very ready to join in any such confederacy, A noble friend of his, in the course of the debate, had complained of the mu- 378 tilation of his dispatches, and had stated, that if given entire, the effect would have been different. The noble lord would admit the writers of dispatches to be judges at least of their own meaning. His lordship and the other noble lord alluded to were in that house able to speak for themselves, and to vindicate their characters against the improper liberties so taken with them. But, what was the fate of a foreign minister in this situation, left to have his conduct and character misrepresented, and judged of through an improper medium, both at home, and in the countries where his mission lay? For Mr. Garlicke, he could say, that he was a most meritorious and deserving gentleman, and had conducted himself with great credit at Copenhagen, where he left a most respectable character behind him. Though he did ample justice to the mission on which he was employed, he had also done justice to the Crown Prince, and so far from representing him as under the dominion of France, he had uniformly described him as of a disposition and spirit to resist every idea of compulsion, and every attempt to induce him to deviate from his neutrality. This was the character of all Mr. Garlicke's dispatches, so long as he had any opportunity of knowing their contents, and he challenged the noble lord to produce his (earl Grey's) dispatches, if he should presume to insinuate that they breathed any different language. He did in one of his letters figure a possible case, and give directions accordingly, but in the very next sentence he expressed his conviction that such directions were unnecessary. He was particularly anxious that his conduct and character should be fully examined in this and in every other part of his official duty, and for this purpose should be happy to see every dispatch which he had written on the subject laid before the house. It would have been wrong in this country not to have been prepared for what might happen; but in the present measures there had been nothing but vain surmise and conjecture, nothing of that grave necessity which could justify so monstrous a step.—It had been said on a former night that some secret article in the Treaty of Tilsit, which had come to the knowledge of his majesty, had occasioned the attack on Copenhagen; and, what was still more solemn, such was the reason assigned by his majesty, both in the Declaration as to the conduct of Russia, and in the Speech on the opening 379 of parliament. The noble lord, however, had passed over this to-night in somewhat of a shuffling manner. The Treaty of Tilsit was signed on the 7th of July, and the order against Copenhagen, it appeared, was given on the 19th of July, so that it was morally and physically impossibly that the sacred Declaration put into the mouth of his majesty could be true. And was not that a ground for enquiry? Was that not a case in which the honour of the house was concerned, and in which their duty called on them to interfere, and set matters to rights? It was said ministers had information from Portugal of the demand for giving up the navy of that country into the hands of France: but what did this government do on that occasion? Did they send to bring their navy away? No; the noble lord believed ministers had no merit whatever in the departure of that Court. It was entirely to be attributed to the severe terms imposed by Buonaparte himself, and his positive refusal to allow the royal family any longer to reign.—His lordship was anxious to know, why Russia had been passed by, she being a party to the confederacy, while poor defenceless Denmark was made to suffer? If matters might be supposed capable of being reconciled, why not give Denmark that opportunity, and punish the actual party in the offence? The doctrines now introduced exploded every principle of the law of nations, and introduced a new system of spoliation. The scoff of dying with our hands on Puffendorf, did away all that Mr. Pitt had been contending for with the thunder of his eloquence for so many years, and all that had been struck with the keen arrows of the Anti-jacobin. Here the noble lord entered into a statement of the condition of the Danish ships, which he considered hardly fit for our service; the ships were small of their class; they were iron fastened, and not coppered. They would require, some of them, six gangs of shipwrights to fit them out in six weeks. Some of them would take six months. The same number of men would build a 74 in a year; so that the repairs of these would cost half of the expence of a new ship of a superior kind. On this view, little advantage was to be gained from the Danish fleet.—As Ireland had been mentioned by a noble baron, he would avail himself of the present opportunity, strenuously to recommend to his majesty's ministers, to take into their most serious consideration 380 the state of that generous, that heroic, though unfortunately oppressed, people, and by every means in their power to endeavour to amelioriate their condition, and thereby to render them the warm and steady partisans of the cause of G. Britain. He advised this the more earnestly, because he was convinced that this country would need every assistance that she could possibly obtain; because he knew, that by the recent conduct of his majesty's ministers, every power of the continent had become hostile to us. Even in Sweden, notwithstanding the steady adherence of the Swedish monarch to his alliance with this country, he was well informed that the Danish expedition had created considerable disgust; and in Russia, after all that had been said on the subject, by a noble lord (G. L. Cower) in another place, he could positively assert, on authority that could not be contradicted, that the general feeling towards England was in the highest degree inimical. It was the first instance in which our character as a nation had been so deeply committed. Why the necessary information was refused he could not conceive. It could only be because ministers felt the weakness of their case; because they felt that they had immolated the honour of the country, and by that sacrifice had forwarded, rather than retarded, the objects of the enemy. We had enabled France to shut the Sound against us, and to exclude our commerce from the continent. We had also given her a port, in which she would have the power of constructing a marine, with much more rapidity, and at infinitely less expence, than in any other port of Europe. Feeling most strongly the necessity of ample information on these and every other point connected with the subject, he should give his most cordial assent to the motion.
The Earl of Mulgrave
entered into an examination of the conduct of the late administration with respect to Portugal; and contended, that after the orders which had been given by them on that subject, they came forward with a very bad grace to censure his majesty's present government for what had been done by them at Copenhagen. The noble lord had expressed his confidence, that Denmark would not have forsaken her neutrality, and that she would have been neither cajoled by the persuasion, nor influenced by the menaces of France, to have made common cause with her against G. Britain, 381 had it not been for the measures adopted by the British government. What ground had the noble lord for this conviction? Let the house recollect the former conduct of Denmark, when, in two instances, in the armed neutrality of 1780, and in the confederation of 1801, she opposed herself to the maritime rights of this country; and in the latter instance in particular, in direct contradiction to the most solemn engagements, recently concluded; and let them then lay their hands on their hearts, and say, whether a different course was to be expected from the Danish court on this occasion, or whether there was not on the contrary infinitely greater reason than ever to believe that the Danes would unite with the enemy against us. A noble lord had said that the Danish ships were not worth having. The last administration, however, would have been very glad to have got the Turkish ships if they could have seized them, which were certainly not half so good; but by no very singular tortuity of reason in the noble lords opposite, every measure was laudable which they endeavoured to effect, and every measure was culpable which his majesty's present government had succeeded in effecting. But the noble lord was in error, the Danish fleet was well worth bringing away. It consisted of 16 sail of the line, which united to the 13 Russian ships, would have formed a fleet of near 40 ships—a formidable navy, and one that might have involved this country in evils of considerable magnitude. Could such means of annoyance have been looked at without apprehension? Would it not have been necessary for us to relax the blockade of several of the enemy's ports; and would not such a relaxation have enabled the enemy's squadrons to escape for the purpose of attacking our colonial possessions, and doing us other irreparable mischief? There might be a great deal of magnanimity in the power of contemplating so much danger without inquietude: but, for his part, he preferred the prudence which prevented us from incurring it. A great deal had been said on the absurdity of allowing the Russian fleet to navigate the seas at pleasure, at the time that this serious attack had been made upon the Danish marine. Now, the fact was, that orders had been dispatched to our officers, not to permit a Russian fleet to go into an enemy's port. It was not want of caution that had admitted the entrance into the Tagus of a 382 Russian squadron, but want of wind and favourable weather, by which sir S. Smith was prevented from reaching the Tagus until two days after that squadron had got in. It was ludicrous to hear a noble earl talk of the Danish fleet as being the same that it was eight and forty years ago; this assertion reminded him of the sailor, who, passing the Horse Guards in his way from the Admiralty down to Portsmouth, saw one of the dragoons mounted at his post; on his return after a ten years absence, he observed another dragoon in the same place. Conceiving it to be the same man, he whimsically exclaimed, 'Ah! damn you, are you there yet!' He supposed the Danish fleet was like the Sleeping Beauty, who awoke after a nap of a century, in full possession of her pristine youth and charms.—The noble lord opposite had said, that to be sure we had got 16 ships of the line, but that, by so doing, we had excited the anger and resentment of the Danes. This was a cause of considerable regret; but he contended, that his majesty's ministers would have shewn a contemptible pusillanimity, and would have acted most unworthily, if they had been deterred from doing that which they conceived to be their duty, by any apprehension of Danish anger and resentment. If they had refrained from wresting from the approaching grasp of a formidable enemy, an engine which would have given him a very considerable addition of power, they would indeed have deserved the most severe reprehension; they would have merited all the reprobation that had that night been bestowed upon them, for having pursued an opposite line of conduct. He regretted that the house was not unanimous on the present question; but he trusted that a very considerable proportion of the noble lords would, by their vote of that night, testify their approbation of the steps that had been taken by his majesty's government.
rebutted all the arguments advanced by the noble earl who preceded him. He contended, that no case whatever had been made out to justify the harsh measures resorted to by ministers, in attacking a defenceless people in a state of avowed neutrality.
rose at a late hour, and supported the motion in a speech of considerable animation. The noble viscount began with strongly urging, that it was the paramount duty of ministers, at all times, to furnish parliament with formal 383 and authentic information, as to the grounds and nature of any new contest, in which, by their counsels, whether wise or imprudent, they had involved the country. The war with Denmark was a new war, and upon what pretence could ministers ask for the support of that house while they refused it that information which, upon all occasions of war, had never been denied? The noble viscount then proceeded to consider the question in reference to the disposition of the Danes towards this country, and contended, in the first place, that there was no one reason to suppose the Danes were hostilely inclined towards us, and in the next, even admitting that they were, that this would not in itself justify the measure of the expedition.—He next adverted to Russia, and commented with much force on the glaring anachronism in imputing the expedition Which sailed in July to intelligence not known here till the 8th of the following month. He dwelt upon the indecency of putting such an assertion into the sacred mouth of his majesty. As to the designs of the French in the Baltic, he thought the best guarantee this country could have had in that respect, was the power most interested in such interference; and it was his firm persuasion, that Russia would never have suffered France to have established any serious influence in that sea. The noble viscount then proceeded to argue the question on the ground of danger to this country. He considered this danger, first with respect to its certainty—that certainty had not been at all made out. He considered it next in reference to its magnitude, and denied that any proof had been adduced to convince any impartial man that it was greater in point of magnitude than certainty. He lastly considered it with respect to its urgency, in which he thought it failed as much as in either of the two former considerations. The noble viscount concluded an impressive speech, with a solemn appeal to their lordships to pause before they decided upon a question involving so deeply the national character; and to bear in mind, that if, as had been said, the expedition was generally approved of hitherto by the country, it was because that country looked with confidence to his majesty's ministers for the fullest and most satisfactory information.—The house then divided,
Contents, 35 Proxies, 13—48 Non-Contents, 67 Proxies, 38—105
Majority against the motion, 57. List of the Minority. Norfolk, Auckland, Somerset, Carysfort, Bedford, Erskine, Devon, Ellenborough, Argyle, Ponsonby, Stafford, Lauderdale, Derby, Yarborough, Jersey, Hutchinson, Cowper, Braybrooke. Essex, Stanhope, Proxies. Hardwicke, Bute, Grey, Shaftsbury, Cholmondeley, Carnarvon, Albemarle, Lucan, Fitzwilliam, Thanet, Spencer, Hereford, Buckinghamshire, Dorchester, Sidmouth, Bulkeley, St. John, Ossory, Besborough, Lilford, Darnley, Dundas, King, Foley, P Holland, Spencer of Worm- Moira, leighton (lord Grenville, Brandford)