HL Deb 26 May 1809 vol 14 cc711-3
The Earl of Liverpool

rose to move an humble Address to his majesty, thanking him for his most gracious communication to the house, and assuring him of the readiness of that house to comply with the intentions of his majesty. The noble earl took a short review of the circumstances that had occasioned his majesty's Message, and stated that the present contest into which Austria had entered with France, had arisen solely out of her own view of the state of her empire, and the dangers with which it was menaced by the oppression and ambition of the enemy. The government of this country had not by any argument or persuasion, or by the exercise of any sort of influence whatever, contributed to the determination which the emperor of Austria had been advised to make. But whatever might be the case with respect to that point, he believed that not one of their lordships could entertain the smallest doubt as to the justice of the great cause in which Austria had engaged in war with France. On that subject he believed there could be but one opinion. He therefore hoped that their lordships would be unanimous in their vote in favour of the Vote of Credit which he was about to move. A similar vote during war had been the usual practice of parliament; and it was certainly most desirable to afford every practicable facility to Austria in the existing conflict, in resistance to the overbearing tyranny and unbounded ambition of the French government. The Treaty which his majesty had concluded with the emperor of Austria could not be laid before the house till the ratifications were exchanged; but he took that opportunity to state again to the house, that that Treaty contained nothing whatever of a subsidiary nature. All that government now asked was a Vote of Credit for the sum of three millions to be placed at their disposal, and to be used by them as circumstances might render it advisable to dispose of it. This was not asked merely with a view to the affairs of Austria, but also with reference to our ancient ally of Portugal, and to the cause of Spain. He was happy to say that the interests of the peninsula did not appear so desponding as to cause us to refuse a continuance of our aid to those who had so nobly, so gallantly, so patriotically and so loyally maintained the honour and independence of their country against the pretensions and invasion of France. While the same noble and determined spirit was manifested, he was convinced that it was the policy of this country to continue its assistance to them. What might be the result of the contest, it was impossible to foresee; but while the Spaniards did not despair of it themselves, while they evinced the same manly and patriotic disposition to defend their rights and their independence, he trusted that their lordships would feel the propriety of assisting them in a cause, in the object of which every one must sympathise with them, and wish them success. He repeated, that in the case of the Austrian war, that government had in no respect been urged by this country. His lordship concluded by making his motion.

The Duke of Norfolk

expressed his sentiments as to the great necessity of taking care of our own resources, for the purpose of our own protection. In point of justice there was no claim upon us from Austria, nor any further claim from Spain, though he would add, that he wished them every success in their endeavours. There was, however, a duty which we owed to ourselves. If France succeeded against Austria, which was but too probable, then he feared a similar success would be obtained by France over Spain: and we must bring our minds to a situation in which we were to go on without the continent of Europe. Indeed, even if we made peace, we should have to preserve that peace by such a defensive attitude as would continue to entail upon us vast expences; and therefore, upon a view of the whole, he thought we should, particularly after our late campaign in Spain, be careful how we expended our lives or our treasure. His grace then made some observations on the system pursued in Spain, of fighting for an unfortunate individual in captivity, and compared it with our conduct at the revolution, when we took a different course, and chose another person capable of doing something for our cause. His grace seemed to infer that the Spaniards did not act wisely in this particular.

Lord Harrowhy

rose in consequence of the observations of the noble duke. This country might, as the noble duke thought, lose some part of the money voted, in the event of the failure of Austria and Spain; but it would lose nothing of its character; it would lose nothing of its fame or its reputation. It would have the consolation of knowing that it had not, by its supineness and indifference, assisted the common enemy in the downfal of Europe. His lordship defended the Vote of Credit as an usual measure, and one which the present circumstances particularly called for.

The Marquis of Douglas

stated his objections to the subsidizing of the continental powers. He saw no great hopes from the Austrian contest, as Buonaparte was now at Vienna, and there was even reason to suppose that the emperor Francis had solicited peace. There was no duty, he contended, on our part, which required any pecuniary assistance to Austria. He cautioned administration against an improper expenditure of money on continental connections.

Lord Boringdon

was happy to hear from ministers that we had taken no part in urging Austria to the present war. He was satisfied, nevertheless, that the Vote of Credit was usual, reasonable, and necessary. It was certainly desirable, whatever might be the issue of the war, that government should possess the means of assisting, to a moderate extent, the efforts of the European nations against the oppressions of France. There was nothing, he heard, of subsidy in the treaty with Austria. All that was asked was a Vote of Credit, to enable ministers to act according to the exigencies of affairs.

The motion was then carried.