The Marquis of Lansdowne
wished, before the order of the day was read, that the noble lord opposite, or some other of the Prince Regent's ministers, would give some explanation on a subject nearly connected with it: he alluded to the alleged detention of French ships by our cruisers. There were two questions which required an answer: first, whether any ships had been so detained? second, whether, if they had been so detained, the detention was authorized by Government?
replied, that the detention had occurred in only one or two instances; and certainly they had not been authorized by the Government.
§ The order of the day for the consideration of the Prince Regent's Message being read,
The Earl of Liverpool
rose. Approving as he did of the answer given by his noble friend to the questions which had been put to him, he had nothing farther to say upon that subject, and he therefore would now proceed to call their lordships attention to the Message which be had last night the honour to deliver to their lordships from his royal highness the Prince Regent; and though he did not anticipate much opposition to the Address which he intended to propose, yet he felt it his duty, considering the nature of the crisis, and of the events which had lately taken place, to make some few observations: but a desire always to spare the time of their lordships as much as possible, and a desire likewise to abstain from all discussion of topics on which considerable differences of opinion might be entertained, would 357 induce him to keep clear, as far as he could, of every point not necessarily connected with his motion. He was not one of those who expected, that after the changes which had taken place in France during the last twenty-five years, and the moral convulsion which had agitated that and other countries of Europe, affairs would settle in a permanent stale of repose and security, without any danger of a revulsion, against which it was wise to guard by prudent measures of precaution: but he admitted at the same time, that none of them had in contemplation the events which had happened in March last, or that so sudden and entire a change should have been effected in so short a time without a struggle. In looking at the Treaty of Paris, to which he must now pall their lordships attention, there was one circumstance which could not fail to strike every one who considered the time and state of things under which it was concluded—he alluded to the remarkable liberality of the conduct of the Allies on that occasion. He could not look at that circumstance, even now with regret, because no one could contemplate the power, the extent, and population of France, and not feel that it would have been unwise to have exacted from that people any thing which could reasonably humble them in their own estimation. If advantage had been taken of the situation in which the Allies then stood, to demand any thing which might he dishonourable for France to grant, the Allies were aware, that by that course they would have been sowing the seeds of future wars, that the first opportunity would perhaps be taken to infringe the Treaty, and that its nature might furnish some excuse, though not a just ground for the infraction. It was, therefore, the policy of the Allies to act with a wise liberality. Perhaps there were some concessions with respect to which there might be a doubt whether they were necessary or advisable: but this, at least, was clear,—that the character of the Treaty was, under the circumstances, that of an arrangement highly honourable to France. It was a treaty with which the people of that country had every reason to be satisfied—one which had been studiously rendered consistent with every feeling which they could justly entertain as Frenchmen and good subjects. Such being the general nature of that Treaty, he was desirous also to call their lordships attention to the Treaty of Fon- 358 tainbleau, and to the circumstances under which it was concluded; and he was the more desirous to do so, because he believed that some misapprehension had prevailed on that subject. The part which this country had taken in that Treaty, rendered it necessary to say something on that point. Whatever might have been the wish of the Government of this country as to the matters which formed the subject of that Treaty, there was, in truth, no alternative for them. They were obliged to give a qualified assent to it: but in justification of the Sovereigns, the circumstances under which that Treaty was made ought to be considered in all their bearings. These circumstances were very different from what they were supposed by many persons to have been. When in March last year the Allies advanced to Paris, a declaration was issued by the Emperor of Russia and King of Prussia, that they would not treat with the person then at the head of the French government. After the attack upon the French troops near Paris, and the entrance of the Allies into that city, a revolution took place: the Conservative Senate was assembled, and a provisional government appointed to negociate with the Allies. Under these circumstances it was proposed to grant a place of retreat for the person who was then ruler of France, and it was represented in support of this proposition, that it afforded the only means of avoiding a civil war in France, and of bringing over the marshals, who probably would not accede to the new arrangement unless that point were secured. At that time the only marshal who had acceded to the new order of things was Marmont. Besides the consideration of the state of the provisional government, it was to be recollected that Buonaparté himself was at the head of 30,000 men; that there was an army of 50,000 men in the south, under the command of marshal Soult, whom there was no reason for supposing to be unfaithful to Buonaparté and there was also in Italy a large army, much superior, taking into consideration its appointments, to that opposed to it, which there could be no doubt would be faithful to him. In addition to this, all the fortified places in France, Holland, and on the Rhine, were nominally subject to his authority—nominally, he said, because it was impossible to know what effect the appointment of the provisional government might have had upon the garrisons. With the know- 359 ledge of these facts, though it was probable that, if the Allies had thought proper to continue their attack upon him, they might have succeeded, yet the struggle would have been formidable, and its result doubtful. It was, therefore, matter of serious consideration, whether they should not accede to an arrangement which would at once end the struggle—which would bring all the marshals into obedience to the provisional government—stop the effusion of blood, which was always so desirable to avoid—secure the great objects for which the Allies had entered France; and, above all things, prevent a civil war from arising in that country. Under those circumstances was the Treaty of Fontainbleau agreed to by the two Sovereigns then at Paris. When his noble friend who was then in France (viscount Castlereagh) knew that the Allies had entered Paris, he proceeded to that capital, and learnt that the Treaty of Fontainbleau had been entered into with Buonaparté, and expressed his strong disapprobation of its. Bat having been convinced by the representations of the Sovereigns who had concluded that Treaty, that it had been the only means open to them for putting an end to the contest, and to avoid a civil war in France; and being of opinion that the words of the allied Sovereigns being pledged, they had no alternative but to abide by that Treaty; he consented to accede conditionally to that engagement. That accession could not be unconditional, as we had never, acknowledged Napoleon as the Emperor of the French. We, therefore, did not accede to such part of the Treaty as continued his title of Emperor, nor such part as regarded the pecuniary arrangement; but to the part which guaranteed the sovereignty of Elba to Napoleon, and the duchies of Parma and Placentia to the daughter of the Emperor of, Austria. The peculiar circumstances under which the Treaty of Fontainbleau was entered into, not only afforded justification to the allied Powers who concluded it on one part, but were most material in the view of another subject before the House. That Treaty was concluded with a person with arms in his hand, which gave him an option to conclude it or to continue the contest:—as he had chosen to agree to that Treaty, having embraced the alternative, he was bound in all the principles of good faith to adhere to it.
Having stated thus much as to the circumstances under which the treaty was 360 concluded, he should say a few words as to the manner in which it had been executed. It had been asked, why precautions had not been taken to prevent the escape of Buonaparté from Elba. It was to be recollected, that the individual in question was not to be considered in any degree as a prisoner in Elba: the sovereignty of the island had been conferred on him; and to look on him in any other light, would be in contravention of the Treaty which had been concluded with him. He should not enter into the merits of that part of the arrangement. It had been said that Elba was an improper place for Buonaparté: but in what view was it stated to be improper? Not as connected with any thing relating to France, but on account of the superior means of escape which it afforded. He did not know-whether it did afford such means in a superior degree; but if they adverted to the circumstance, that in whatever situation he was placed, he must, according to the treaty, be at liberty, they would see, that in whatever place he was put, he might hare escaped from it. As to the precautions which had been taken, he should merely observe, that the whole of the British fleet could not have effectually blockaded the island so as to have prevented an escape; but so far as was consistent with the spirit of the Treaty, the object had not been neglected, and an understanding existed (as had been explained by a noble friend of his in another place) that the commanders of the vessels should prevent any attempt to escape as far as was possible. With respect to the character of the British officer attached to Buonaparté at Elba (sir Neil Campbell), and who was absent at the time of his escape, it was but just to say that there was nothing improper in a temporary absence from the island; neither could it be said, even had he continued in Elba, while the military power and the police of the island was in the hands of the man who had made an escape, that he would have been able to have prevented it. Indeed, the case of other individuals who were in the island when the plan of escape was put into execution, proved the contrary. An embargo was laid on all vessels the day before the escape took place, and some individuals, who were suspected, were put under restraint until the plan had been put into execution. As to the supposition that any breach of the treaty had been 361 committed by the king of France, he could positively deny that any such breach had taken place on the part of that monarch. The pecuniary article of the Treaty, taken in its literal sense, could not have been violated, because, as the annual payment of a certain sum was stipulated for, it was clear that the first payment could not yet have become due. Neither could it be said that any breach had taken place of the Treaty, unless a representation had first been made to the Allied Powers, and they had refused to compel the fulfilment of it. But it was not necessary to argue at length, that no breach had taken place in the Treaty. The proclamations of Buonaparté proved, that it was not on account of any violation of the Treaty of Fontainbleau that he had made his attempts; but he professed that he meant to violate, on the first opportunity, this Treaty, and to resume his power, which he had sacrificed when he had no other alternative but to do so, with the intention of recovering it. On the first proposition, therefore, there could be no ground for doubt, that the spirit and effect of the Treaty of Fontainbleau, of the Treaty of Paris, and the preamble on which it had been founded, had been violated. Those treaties had been concluded on the condition of the absolute renunciation of the crown of France by Napoleon, for himself and his descendants. The resumption of the authority in that country was, therefore, a distinct, positive, and Undeniable violation of the Treaty of Paris, and the agreements on which it was founded. If the French nation had recalled Buonaparté, they also would have been a party to that violation:—the nation, however, had not recalled him, and he had not that ground to rest on; he had acted in defiance of all the legal authorities in that country.
It was to be remarked, that in all the former revolutions which had taken place in France, during the last twenty-five years, although in reality they were often effected by military force, or by mobs directed by individuals or clubs, yet there had generally been some pretence of a legitimate authority, either a convention, or a national assembly, or a senate; but now the whole transaction had been purely a military act, not referable to any legitimate organ of the public will, but a direct assumption of power by the military force. On the first article of the Message it was not, therefore, necessary for him 362 to trouble the House farther: it was evident that this country had a just cause of war against Buonaparté wielding the power of France. But he was far from wishing to say, that because a war was just, it should therefore be entered upon. The justice was but one part of the question; another part was, whether the war would be wise, prudent and politic, under the present circumstances of the country. It was impossible to conceal from themselves the dangers with which the recent event threatened this country; it was impossible to conceal from themselves the conduct and character of the person now at the head of the French government, and the events which, during the last eighteen years, that character and conduct had produced. It was impossible to forget the invasion of so many independent countries—of Spain, of Austria, of Prussia, and of Russia, and the impossibility which seemed to have existed formerly of preserving relations of peace with the individual in question. They could not turn their eyes from the peculiar circumstances under which he had returned to France: he had returned under the protection of the military power, and had professed his object to be to restore the tarnished glory of the French arms. All these considerations were grounds for the most serious apprehensions. He did not, however, wish to pledge the House to any rash, hasty, and inconsiderate declaration, but to place fairly before their minds the alternatives—armed preparation and defence, or active war. Between those alternatives, he requested their lordships not to decide at present, and he requested it for these reasons—because it was a question that involved many circumstances which they could not then have before them. It was not a British question merely, but an European question. It was necessary that the most perfect concert should exist between the British Government and his Majesty's Allies, before any just decision could be formed. It would be therefore an act of imprudence, if at that time he called for any other decision than that which the subject of the Message required. The first point was one on which there could be no difference, viz. that it was expedient that there should be the most intimate concert between this Country and the allied Powers on the Continent. Consistently with this principle it would be necessary to weigh well the interests of the other 363 powers of Europe, as well as the interests of this country. What his own sentiments were, as far as he was acquainted with those interests, he should think it inconsistent with his duty to state. Whatever that opinion was, he could confidently state that there was no disposition on the part of this Government to drive the Allies into a more extensive war policy than might be consistent with their own sentiments and feelings. After remarking that the House could feel no difficulty in agreeing to the opinion of the Message, that armed preparation was necessary, and that concert with the Allies was desirable, and would be beneficial to the general interest of Europe; his lordship concluded by moving the Address, which was an echo of the Message.
§ Lord Grenville
said, he knew not whether he should have troubled their lordships on the subject of the Address moved by the noble earl, had it not been to remark on the impropriety of any premature allusion to points not included in the Message or the Address. If at that time he was to have entered on the consideration of the policy of that treaty, by which it was hoped the contest in which this country had been engaged was finally terminated—if he had then to examine the loose and negligent stipulations which had produced that dreadful alternative which lay before them—he should have had much to remark; and should have inquired how far any circumstances could have justified the bringing that struggle to a conclusion, by a treaty which, as it now appeared, though he had long strove to hide it from himself, afforded no security whatever against its instant and immediate renewal. If that had been the proper moment, he should have inquired what new plan was it, under which the conduct of gallant officers, in matters affecting their own honour and the interests of the country, was to be regulated, not by instructions—but to rest on an understanding, loose and undefined, between them and some of the superior officers of the state; whence an accident had happened, which placed before them the alternative of armed and insecure peace, or fierce and doubtful war. But at the present moment, those considerations were foreign to the question before them; and he knew not why the noble earl had called up the remembrance of that negligence—of that neglect of the vital interests of the country—which the circum- 364 stances he had referred to betrayed. But being placed as they were in a perilous situation, it was the conduct of men, of Englishmen, to consider, not how we had come into such a state, but what line was to be adopted to extricate ourselves. The Message which had been communicated to the House, and the directions which the Prince Regent declared he had given, he fully approved of—both the measures of concert which had been taken, and that armed and formidable preparation by which the interests of the country had been saved. He had eagerly cherished the hope that the struggle had been brought to a final termination, and had anxiously anticipated the moment when we were to reduce our naval and military establishments; which reduction he thought was due to the past exertions of the country, to the state of our finances, but above all things to the principles of the constitution. It was without reluctance, that at the present moment he gave up all idea of reduction for the present; and he should cheerfully assent to measures which, instead of reducing establishments, would increase the burthens under which the country laboured, but which were, at the same time, indispensably necessary. As to the concert between the Allied Powers, he was persuaded that there was no possible issue by which we could hope for success, but through the road which the Message pointed out to the House and the country—a close, intimate, and cordial connection between this country and the allied powers of the Continent. He hoped, therefore, that every effort would be made to maintain peace and harmony between the different Powers, if it existed; to reestablish it, if it had been unhappily interrupted; and as the most cordial union was to be hoped for among the Allies, as the best security for Europe, so the unanimous feeling of the country was to be encouraged. If he could hope that the voice of an individual could be heard beyond those walls, or even beyond this country, he was most anxious to impress on the House, and he hoped that it would be impressed on foreign powers also, that, now we had again been plunged into that dreadful situation, every state should give up the idea of separate interests. It was to be recollected by all, that they had not to consider whether this or that separate interest might be pursued with hope of success, but that all hope of general safety, as well as the particular interest of 365 each state, entirely depended upon the abandonment of every private and particular interest. If he were asked, what for the last twenty-five years had been the general cause that had subjected nearly all the slates of Europe to calamities and ruin, and which had enabled the French to carry their triumphant arms from one capital to another,—that no government was undisturbed, no country secure, no people safe,—the cause, he should answer was, that no arguments, no force of reason, not even the dreadful force of calamitous experience, could inculcate the idea, that not merely a nominal federation, but an intimate union of feeling and purpose among the governments and people could afford safety to any part of Europe from those calamities. No separate interest, therefore, should at such a time be suffered to intrude on the mind of any man, or into the counsels of any state. Having heard the Address which had been proposed by the noble earl, he could not but state, that it met with his entire and cordial concurrence, because it was strictly limited to what circumstances required. It would have been most improper that Parliament should have been called on to decide on the ultimate course to be pursued, till the circumstances by which that course could be properly determined, were communicated to them by the constitutional authority from which they were entitled to receive it. Whenever a perfect concert was established, which might justify such a Message as would put Parliament in possession of the policy which the Powers might think proper to pursue, then would it be for them to decide on the great and difficult question between two dreadful alternatives. He trusted he should not then be found wanting in duty to his country: his judgment might be erroneous, but it should be founded on the best lights which Parliament might be in possession of; but he should be sorry if any thing had escaped him at present which might be misconstrued (for it could only be misconstrued, if so interpreted,) to convey an opinion on a matter which Parliament had not yet to decide. It had been said, that the question was an European as well as an English question. It was an English, because it was an European question. He should cheerfully await the decision of the Powers who had deliberated on the common safety of Europe, and each particular state; and when Parliament was 366 called on to examine the subject, he hoped all the grounds which could with propriety would be laid before them; well assured that as unanimity in Europe was the only hope for the general safety, so the unanimous spirit and opinion of the people of this country was to be regarded as the most effectual security for this country, and the most animating prospect of success in whatever line we sought to pursue.
The Marquis Wellesley
said, that whatever was the ultimate result of the present calamitous crisis, it could not fail to be animating, amidst the danger which threatened this country and Europe, that the spirit of our people, the valour of our arms, the extent of our resources, had been carried to their utmost pitch; and while we had afforded an example to others, we had saved ourselves, and risen to a height beyond our hopes both in security and glory. He rejoiced also, that instead of being hurried precipitately into violent acts of war, which would have betrayed real timidity, the more dangerous, because it assumed the garb of courage, they had merely been called on to give credit to his Majesty's ministers for those measures of prudence and precaution which would enable the country to resist the danger in whatever shape it appeared. Wish these sentiments he should have terminated his observations, but for certain remarks of his noble friend (the earl of Liverpool), which were such that he could not remain silent. The observation to which he particularly alluded was, that we could not expect Europe to subside into a state of peace without some further convulsions. It had been long his opinion, and it was known to be so, that the conduct of Congress had led to the events which we had now to regret; that system (if indeed that could be called a system, which was nothing but an undigested mass of mutilated materials) which the Powers at Vienna had established, had been in his judgment the true cause of the dethronement of the august family of Bourbon. The noble lord had said, that in framing the Treaty of Paris, care had been taken to consult the character and honour of France. In viewing this subject, it was evident that there were two systems of policy that might be pursued. In the first place, that France should be required to withdraw within her ancient limits; if this principle were adopted, then it ought to be applied equally 367 to all the other governments of Europe:—in the second place, if general changes and distributions of territory were resolved upon, that the same rule should be applied to France that regulated other powers. Had either of these lines of policy been pursued? No: no general system had been acted upon; the mere will and pleasure of the parties was consulted, and the Sovereigns at Vienna had punished one Power because it first entered into the contest with them, and another because it had last quitted the cause which it had espoused. The result had been, that instead of fixing a system of permanent tranquillity and happiness, the labours of Congress had been devoted to establish a system of gross injustice and absolute discordance. The misfortune with regard to France was, that neither of the two principles he had noticed had been observed: she had been compelled, with a very slight deviation, to retire within her ancient frontiers; she had been severely punished, while other Powers had bee a aggrandized to an immense extent, and great accessions of territory and strength had been given to those who had, from various causes, become objects of peculiar favour. This it was that had produced so strong a feeling in France against the Bourbons; for the people considered them merely as agents in the hands of foreign Powers, who had made them the instruments of degradation and injustice to the French nation. One of the chief advantages obtained by Buonaparté, and of which he had made such ample use in his declarations, was, that France had been degraded and lowered in the eyes of all Europe, by means of those whom foreigners had placed upon her throne. With respect to what the noble earl had said upon the Treaty of Fontainbleau, he had no difficulty in admitting, that there had been such a contravention of its articles as would justify this country in going to war: we had the right of commencing hostilities; but that was only half our case, since before war was declared, it would be fit to know whether such a measure were prudent and politic. He was, however, by no means disposed to admit all that the noble earl had stated upon the subject of the Treaty of Fontainbleau, especially that part in which he had argued that the terms had not been infringed, because the sum agreed to be paid had not yet become due. But even for a moment allowing that assertion, what 368 had been done on the stipulations regarding the duchess of Parma and Placentia, and her son? What steps had been taken to carry them into execution, or had they not been entirely neglected? The Powers of Europe might, perhaps, deem themselves secure; but under any circumstances could it be held wise or prudent not to keep up at least the semblance of justice with regard to those distinguished persona in whose fate France was so deeply interested? Was it wise or prudent to afford such a powerful weapon to Buonaparté? The noble earl had asserted, that the Treaty was made when Buonaparté was at the head of a large force; if so, all who still adhered to his cause must be considered, in some sort, parties to the engagement; and what could be thought of the combined wisdom of those who not only neglected the proper custody of the person of the individual, but were so careless in the observation of the articles as to enable him to return with a strong semblance of justice on his side? He hoped that the noble earl would, on an early day, fulfil his promise of bringing down a full explanation of all the circumstances of this arrangement, and then the House would have an opportunity of more satisfactorily investigating this point. In the mean time he should express his sincere hope, that any dreadful consequences resulting froth a breach of this Treaty, on either side, might be averted, and that it might be attended with the beneficial result of enabling Congress to review the arrangements they had made, and without any views of individual aggrandizement to act upon the broad principle of general advantage. As his noble friend who spoke last had well observed, all private and personal interests must be sacrificed to the general welfare; and it was in vain to hope for harmony and union among the Powers of Europe until they consented to look at Europe as a whole, and to legislate for the happiness and tranquillity of that whole. The noble marquis ardently hoped that the aggravated calamities of a new war would be averted, and that the state of peace which we had only contemplated might be realised, for our own welfare, and for the welfare of the rest of Europe; but if it were necessary to recommence hostilities, if its policy were proved, he would say in conclusion, that no man in the country would be found more ready than himself to give every support to the executive government, for the vigorous 369 and successful prosecution of a just and necessary war.
§ Earl Grey
was happy to be relieved from the necessity of giving any opposition to the motion before the House; he consequently should not detain the House at any length upon the present occasion, more especially after what had been so ably stated by his noble friend who had just taken his seat. He could not, however, avoid making a few observations upon some part of what had fallen from the noble mover of the Address. Among other things it had been observed, that it could not be expected that Europe could revert from a state of military armament to a condition of tranquillity and social happiness, without some convulsion or disturbance in our progress to that condition. All men who contemplated the affairs of Europe with the eye of a statesman, must be sensible of the truth of the remark; but what his lordship complained of was this, that instead of measures having been taken to avert the evils which the noble lord had asserted were foreseen, all the arrangements of Congress had contributed to produce that convulsion and disturbance. At one time there was actually danger, that before the conclusion of any negociations, a war would be commenced between some of the Powers, and the arrangements were not completed without many disputes and differences. Indeed it could scarcely he hoped, even if France should have continued under the reign of the beneficent monarch, whose dethronement all regretted, that she could long remain uninvolved in hostilities. Why had not precautionary measures been taken, if such consequences were foreseen? Ministers might on some future occasion be called to a severe account for the share they had had in this neglect; and if his lordship was not much mistaken, their conduct throughout had been marked with a total absence of principle, and a most culpable blindness to that which they now wished to persuade the House they had contemplated. By their means, in his lordship's judgment, some of the highest interests of Europe and the world had been sacrificed, and to them was principally to be attributed the new war in which we were about to be involved. The noble earl had argued, that it was our interest to conclude a peace honourable to France. Unquestionably that was the fit line of policy. Such conduct would hare been wise and 370 meritorious; but instead of pursuing it, as the noble marquis had said, our conduct had been totally different, and we had given Buonaparté and the French people, reason to say, that we had made the family of Bourbon, instruments in the disgrace and degradation of France in the eyes of the world. Thus, then, ministers had abandoned that very line of policy which the noble lord had declared to be just towards France and politic towards ourselves. For this deviation from their duty ministers had incurred a heavy responsibility, and might be called to a severe account.—The noble earl had next adverted to the inducements held out for the Treaty of Fontainbleau. Admitting that Buonaparté was then in power, and that it was necessary to make some concessions to obtain his removal, yet in that very proportion were ministers bound strictly to observe the conditions of the Treaty. If it was then important to obtain it, it was equally important that it should be observed by the good faith of the nation. The noble earl declared, however, that the articles of the Treaty of Fontainbleau had not been broken, and that Buonaparté had not insisted upon it in his declarations. The public journals were the only source from which he (earl Grey) could of course obtain information, and they contained a proclamation, in which Buonaparté expressly stated as a ground for his conduct, the breach of the article that related to the duchess of Parma and his son. If the noble earl rested the right of this country to make war upon France upon the infraction of the Treaty of Fontainbleau by France, it became him in the first place to shew (and the House would require further information upon that point), that we at least had done our duty, that we had broken no faith—and that before any plea was given by the late emperor of France to renew hostilities against him. He hoped, whatever might be the result, that we never should be reduced to the low and pitiful expedient of arguing, that the terms of the Treaty of Fontainbleau had not been infringed with regard to the pecuniary engagement, because the money stipulated to be paid did not become due until the termination of the year.—As to what the noble earl had observed upon the immediate subject of war, his lordship thought that it would have been much more prudent and politic not to make any declaration of a right to make war until the country was prepared to maintain that 371 right by the actual commencement of hostilities. The noble earl admitted, that the question had not yet arrived, whether we should or should not actually declare war; then, where was the prudence or policy, in the mean time, of insisting upon the right? Many inconveniencies might result from such a hasty proceeding; we insisted to France upon our right to make war, and that we would prosecute it if we were able. If, then, we abstained from the prosecution, what was the inevitable inference, but that we were not in a situation to do so from the state of weakness to which we had been reduced? There did not, therefore, appear much wisdom in this premature and hasty assertion of the abstract right. At the same time his lordship readily allowed that it was necessary to take precautionary measures, by the augmentation of the effective force of the country, as was stated in the first part of the Message, and, as in the second, to establish such an intimate connexion and concert with our Allies, as to enable us to act with vigour and decision, should we unfortunately be reduced to that extremity.—His lordship begged to state, in a few words, the grounds of his opinion, with respect to the question of the right of war. The noble earl, in arguing this point, had, in his opinion, rested it upon the very worst grounds that he could have chosen, when he argued, that Buonaparté had broken the conditions of the Treaty of Fontainbleau; and, therefore, that we had a right of war, although he (earl Grey) was not at all prepared to deny the conclusion; on the contrary, he was about to argue in its favour, but on different grounds. It would be right, considering the circumstances under which they were executed, to contemplate the treaty of Fontainbleau, the Convention of Paris, and the Treaty of Paris, as but one instrument; and there was no principle of the law of nations more clear than this, that if in a treaty between two powers, certain conditions are inserted, grounded upon a particular state of circumstances, if those circumstances should be altered with respect to one of the powers, the other party to the Treaty is absolved from all the obligations which were binding, until the condition of affairs was so altered. Consequently, the right of making war, and of demanding additional securities, reverted to the power whose circumstances remained unchanged. His lordship further established his position by a quotation from Vattel. He then proceeded to apply 372 this principle to the case of France: the Treaty of Fontainbleau had been signed in contemplation of Louis the 18th continuing upon the throne of France; those were the circumstances, which were now totally changed by the invasion of Buonaparté consequently the conditions of the Treaty were abrogated, as far as related to this country, and we were absolved from any adherence to it. On this ground, setting aside the flimsy pretences of the noble earl who moved the Address, his lordship was of opinion that we had a claim to demand from France, under the new circumstances of the case, additional securities, and a right of resorting to arms in case the Government of that country should refuse to afford Great Britain those securities. Such were the general principles of the law of nations on which his lordship grounded the abstract right of Great Britain to make war upon France, should such a step, on future consideration, be deemed necessary, politic, or expedient. He begged leave, however, to disclaim that against which he had ever protested, the interference of this country with the people of France, or of any other kingdom, in the internal arrangements they may think fit to adopt. In all that had been so eloquently stated by his noble friend (lord Grenville) upon the general interests and the true mode of promoting the general welfare of Europe, he fully concurred, and he hoped that the Allied Powers, should they again be called upon to legislate for Europe, would revert to those general and generous principles for which they professed to have fought, and upon which their declarations originally avowed that they were determined to act. No opinions upon this subject were however contained in the Address; and he therefore cordially approved of its terms, and rejoiced that he was placed in a situation to concur in its spirit and its letter, the ulterior question being still left undecided. His lordship hoped that before Parliament was called upon to make any decision on a question of such incalculable magnitude, such communications would be made as would enable the House to exercise a sound judgment and a wise discretion, without hurrying the country into a war in which its best interests were involved. So important to England and to Europe, did his lordship consider a state, of tranquillity, that to the last he should fondly cherish a hope that peace might be maintained.
The Address was then agreed to nem. diss.