The Earl of Durnley
considered it his duty to call for the production of a Letter written by sir John Moore to lord Castlereagh, which, in his opinion, was necessary, with the other papers already moved for, to assist the house in deciding upon the measures adopted during the Campaigns in Spain and Portugal. He should, therefore, move, "That there he laid before the house a copy, or extracts, of sir John Moore's letter of the 13th of January last, to lord Castlereagh."
The Earl of Liverpool
said, that, at the time the other papers were communicated to the house, respecting the measures which had been pursued in Spain, it had been thought improper to produce the document just now moved for. He would assure the house, when this letter came to be placed on their lordships' table, they would then clearly perceive the impropriety of its being produced before them. When sir John Moore wrote the letter alluded to, he expressed himself as desiring it might not be considered a public and official communication, because he was not enabled at that instant to convey a more correct statement, but should take an early opportunity of sending a more accurate dispatch. The letter also contained other matter, which clearly shewed sir John Moore never intended it to be considered or produced as a public document. These were the reasons which would have inclined his majesty's government not to have acceded to the production; but when noble lords opposite were so strenuous in maintaining a contrary opinion, upon second consideration he should think it right not to resist the motion, because, although considerable detriment was done by acceding to the production of letters of this description, still more injury might arise, if, after being repeatedly called upon, they should withhold the communication. He was therefore disposed not to resist the noble earl's motion, but was the more readily inclined to accede to it on account of its being worded in that way which left the production discretionary as to a copy or extracts.
§ Earl Grey
acquiesced in the propriety which ought to be attended to in not producing letters and papers which might be of a private nature only. But with respect to the letter of sir John Moore, it must be allowed it was not altogether private, but 806 related to measures of which the house would not be enabled from other sources to supply the information. It probably was very true, when that officer wrote he was not prepared to communicate in that correct manner which he afterwards intended to do by a regular dispatch; however, such was the event and the mournful calamity that ensued, he had no doubt sir John Moore never could find an opportunity to fulfil his intentions on that subject. Without this letter, therefore, the house would not possess all the necessary information; and on that ground bethought there could be no impropriety in the production. For in cases of great moment, and where it was necessary for parliament to have every public document to guide their judgment, even what were termed private letters, if they contained public matter, and which could not be produced elsewhere, however inconvenient, ought certainly to be laid before the house; and he was glad the noble Secretary had shewn so much wisdom and propriety of conduct as at last to accede to the motion. The motion was then agreed to.
The Earl of Rosslyn
trusted that the noble earl, who had upon second consideration acceded to another motion, would also be induced to accede to the one he was about to propose, particularly if the noble earl reconsidered that what before he entertained as a doubt, could not form any serious objection. It would be observed, on reference to the papers already produced, there was a deficiency which ought to be supplied, and he could perceive no ground for objecting to the production of all Instructions given to our different ministers resident in Spain, and their communications respecting the same to his majesty's Secretaries of State. After a few observations in support of its being proper and necessary, the noble earl moved. "That a copy of all Instructions and communications which had passed between the three Secretaries of State, and any of the ministers in Spain or Portugal, respecting the arrangement of Military measures, and every provision for carrying them into effect, be laid before the house."
The Earl of Liverpool
said, if reference were had to the papers already laid on the table, he thought they were voluminous enough, so voluminous that their lordships would not have patience to peruse the whole of them. But although his majesty's ministers had with great readiness 807 agreed to their production, yet the noble lords opposite, in respect to their desire for the production of papers, seemed to be possessed of a disposition like the amor nummi,for as the papers themselves increased, the desire for more increased in the same proportion. He believed there never was an inquiry instituted into the conduct of any administration, where more information had been granted; for the papers already produced contained a succinct account of all measures adopted from the commencement, throughout the whole campaign, and every information might be obtained from them which could be reasonably desired. In regard to the motion now made for the production of all Instructions given to ministers, upon which were founded the subsequent military proceedings; he had to remind the house it was riot usual for those who wished to form their opinion, whether favourable or unfavourable, upon the conduct of administration, to judge them by the Instructions given, but by the acts themselves, for which they were accountable. Had any proceedings been adopted, which were contrary to the Instructions given by ministers, it would then be their care to produce the instructions themselves, thereby to exonerate them from responsibility. Thus, if it were proper to produce the Instructions at all, that would be the care of ministers; for if they were not produced then administration would be considered responsible for the whole of the measures brought under their consideration. Therefore, could the house desire on this occasion any other information than that which regarded their conduct in the affairs of Spain? They were ready to take upon them all the acts which had been done, and so far to give every information moved for; and he did not consider it proper to assent to the production of those Instructions. He would also observe, that the miliiary arrangements in Spain were such as were highly judicious, and all the provision made for forwarding their march, for supplies during the march, and for comfort and convenience to the whole army, was satisfactory to his mind, and was approved of by every officer on the expedition. For the reasons which he had already stated, he should consider it his duty to resist the noble earl's motion.
§ Earl Grey
rose, for the purpose of supporting the motion of his noble friend. The noble Secretary had justly represented be papers on their lordships' table to be 808 very voluminous; still, that was no excuse for the production of more, if they did not contain the information necessary to guide the judgment of that house, when they came to decide on the conduct of his majesty's ministers. He did not presume to ascertain the minds of others by the impression made upon his own, in respect to the contents of those papers; but for himself he could declare, he never required more patience than in their perusal; nor, when he reflected upon the result of those measures therein described, did he ever read any papers with more displeasure, and even disgust. The noble Secretary had also stated, it was not proper, on this occasion, to refer to the Institutions, but the acts themselves which ensued, and that the production would he inconsistent with what was usual and precedented. To what precedents the noble Secretary referred, it was impossible for him to imagine; but he was certain, that all the precedents which were in his knowledge tended to shew that this sort of information had never been refused when necessary, and accordingly moved for. He begged their lordships to recollect when the campaign was carried on previous to the battle of Austerlitz: at that time information was moved for respecting the conduct of administration, and a motion for the production of all instructions and communications which had passed between this government and their accredited ministers was agreed to. In a still more modern instance, when the conduct of the late administration was called in question relative to the mission of an expedition to Portugal: on that occasion all Instructions and communications which had passed between the Secretary of State and his noble friend (the earl of Rosslyn) had been readily communicated. If he reverted to all former instances, he should find the conduct of his majesty's ministers unprecedented, and the doctrine just now held forth by the noble Secretary, most novel in its principle. No doubt could be entertained but these Instructions and communications were essentially requisite to be laid before the house, precedent to the motion intended to arraign the conduct of ministers in the late campaigns of Portugal and Spain. How was it possible to come at the reasons of many of the acts themselves which took place? When the delay attended sir David Baird's landing the army at Corunna, there was either blame to be attached to ministers for giving defective or improper Instruc- 809 tions; or it was the misconduct of others; or it was the effect of unavoidable accident; but how it was, could only be truly ascertained by complying with the present motion. There was also less objection to the inconvenience of producing these papers at the present, than on former occasions; because there was not much danger of their communication affecting the negotiations or treaties of other continental powers. The house would consider that every information ought to be supplied on the present question, with regard to the military arrangement, and every provision made for the British army. How was the fact? Did not every calamity ensue, every distress which could harass the soldiers, and which could wear out the patience of a skilful Commander? Such was the situation into which the English were led, that all the personal valour of the troops, and the wisdom of their commander, could not extricate them from their difficulties. Fortune herself, in the most capricious hour of her changeable dispensation, could not have afforded them relief. The noble earl concluded with many other forcible observations in support of the motion.
§ The motion was then put by the lord Chancellor, from the woolsack, and negatived without a division.