« PreviousContinue »
meant well to the country; because whatever might be thought by any individual here, it wag certainly improper to inform our enemies abroad, that the country refused their confidence to Ministers, or to insinuate that they were weak and wicked. At present, probabilities were greatly in favour of the pending negociations terminating fortunately in favour of this country; neither did he perceive how their progress could be dangerously obstructed, except by too unguarded, and, certainly, groundless, censures against the proceedings of Administration.
Lord Lord Fielding; believed that there ntver was an AdmimTitlding. flration who, if all their measures were considered, had so little title to confidence as the present, who, upon all important occasion?, had withholden from the House, and the country, every point which could explain their measures, or satisfy the people. In November Inst they had demanded that an augmentation of ten fail of the line should be made to the ordinary peace establishment, without stating any cause ; and since that time, they had made an addition of six fail of the line, without giving any one reason for their conduct. Sir James Sir J. St. Clair Etjkine observed, that nothing could be St. Clair more unconstitutional and alarming, than the established poErikine. i")tjon cf Ministers and their friends, that the House of Commons had no right whatever to know the grounds upon which an armament was to be prepared, and additional burdens laid upon the' people to defray the expence of it. Before any gentleman could vote away the money of his constituents, upon confidence in Ministers, and such vague reasoning as they had from the other fide ot 'the House, they must give up every duty to their constituents, or inclination to attend to their interests. A very nice distinction was attempted to bs drawn by soim: gentlemen between an armed negociation and a v»ar; for his part, he considered an armament like the present much more likely to produce war than peace; but they had gone farther, and said, that the side of the House on which he stood wisihed to infringe upon the prerogative of the Crown, because they called for explanation, pending a negociation; now he contended, that it was not only right, but perfectly consistent and constitutional, for the House of Commons to know what occasioned this armed negociation, before they agreed to support its consequences; and if this were denied them, and implicit confidence in Ministers insisted upon, he must think that all duty to constituents was overlooked, and nothing remained of the privileges which the House of Commons had always boasted that they possessed, by never voting away the money of the people, without a good and solid reason why, but an empty name; and not the least shadow of either right, privilege, power, or authority
remained. The friends of Administration claimed confidence for in armament, and if they obtained that, certainly those who fncouraged them to arm could not oppoie their going to war; aniToy these means, the House, without any information whatever, was tq!>e duped, first to support an armed negotiation; next, most probably, a war; and then bound to defray the expences with their constituents' money, all upon implicit confidence, and because asking for explanation, during a negociation, was thought by Ministers to be infringing on the Royal prerogative. As to foreign alliances in general, nothing had been said against them on that side of the House, but that the propriety or impropriety of contracting, depended entirely upon their nature and extent, and a great difference lay between treaties formed on schemes of speculation and rasli ambition, and those entered into for the defence of the country, or its allies, and other purposes that may promote its interests and prosperity. If it were possible that the arguments used by the honourable and learned gentleman who spoke lately, and all others on that side of the House, could have any effect, there was an end to all the best p> inciples of the constitution, and a total desertion of every true and honest argument which had ever been used in defence or support of that constitution, which our ancestors and, he yet trusted, we gloried in possessing. The honourable and learned gentleman thought that the Kmg of England should always negociate with the sword at his side.—Whether this was the most moderate, plausible, and least burdensome way of seeuring peace to the nation, he would leave to the House to determine. But, the meaning of all the arguments used by the Minister's friends on this point, seemed to be, in the first place, a blind and implicit confidence; in the next, an idea that we ought to follow Ministers in all their wild prospects, whatever they might be; and lastly, that we are to be arbiters to all Europe, and dictate to every nation our own terms. If such was the idea of negociating, with a view to preserve the general tranquillity of Europe, he hoped that the House would resolve to abandon it at ooce, and act more rationally and more constitutionally. The House had been told, what he thought was still a greater and more important breach of their privileges, that withholding the supplies to carry on an armed negociation, though no grounds were stated to establish the necessity of it, was infringing upon the prerogative of the Crown. In this mode of arguing, he asserted, that all the privileges and authority of Parliament were demanded to be sacrificed to the Crown, ad by preventing them from interfering when they had tha power to do it, any attempt afterwards must be unsuccessful. He compared the situation in which the House of Commons Vol. XXIX. Z was
was placed to the Lion in the fable, who having paid his addresses to a young woman, her father advised him to have his teeth drawn and his nails paired, that he might be the more acceptable to his favourite; the lion consented, and having submitted to the operation, found himself incapable to obtain the object of his willies, because he was deprived of all power to bring the father to consent. As to precedents, none had been, or could be mentioned, which were applicable to the present question. Since the accession of the Brunswick Family to the Throne, there never was an instance of any armament which concerned the British interests, or any supply to defray the expence of arming being alked, without previously cornnmnicatir.g to Parliament the causes for it; and all mess.ti/'cs from the Crown upon such occasions, had stated specifically the grounds upon which application was made to the Parliament. He approved of defensive alliances, without admitting that by entering into a defensive alliance, we were bound to interfere in all the quarrels of our allies. It was no solecism in policies to advance, that our entering into defensive alliances with every state in the world, could not be productive of any harm. He could not Conceive, except we had absolutely made an offensive treaty with Prussia, that there existed any right to call upon us now to go to war with Russia; but, according to the doctrine of confidence, whatever the treaty was, the House of Commons were neitherto read it nor understand it, but must take it upon the word of the Minister, that there was a treaty out of which a system arose, which obliged us to support Prussia, to prevent the aggrandizement of Russia. He considered Oczakow as only a small indemnification to Russia for the blood and treasure whxh she had lost in a tedious and expensive war, and thought the demand, on our part, that she should relinquish that conquest, as unreasonable as unjust, especially when all the world believed, that the war between Russia and the Porte was instigated entirely by us and the King of Prussia. He then adverted to,the growing prosperity of France, and the commercial benefits that other countries would gain, when we were deprived of the Russian trade, and he did not altogether submit to the argument, that we were to be equally well supplied with naval stores from Poland, by commanding the navigation of the Neister. Our Russian trade he considered as of great consequence, and putting 600 fliips, and their crews, out of employment, was an object worthy of serious attention; the conduct of Russia, and her demands, as far as they were known, seemed to be dictated by unexampled moderation, while ours exhibited directly the reverse; and he must insistthat the barriers of the constitution were broken down, and this country degraded in th« eye* of all Europe, when they 1 4 were
were tc.'d that it did not become the Houseof Commons to appoint a Committee to examine the finances of the country, • er to make any inquiry into the conduct of a weak or wicked .Administration, lest other countries should know that weakness, and take advantage of it.
Mr. James Murray disagreed with those who argued against Mr.Tam*t. foreign alliances. He was doubtful whether an alliance with Murray, Poland might not be as beneficial to this country, as an alliance with Russia. He laid that Oczakow commanded the navigation of the Dnieper, being only two miles distant, though it had been otherwise stated by some gentlemen; he ferned to'think that the question was argued as if Poland vis in the possession cf Russia, which was not the cafe; and be next stated some particulars relative to the partition treaty settled at the well-known interview between the late Emperor and the Empress of Russia.
The Earl of fVycomhc deprecated the war which was likely Earl of to take place against Russia, as well as the mysterious and Wycon.be contemptuous silence which the Minister screened himself under, and the unwarrantable evasion of every kind of explanation upon a subject of so great magnitude. The opinion which he expressed was not merely his own; for he would assert and maintain, that the opinion of the Minister's conduct, and the unhappy state of the nation without doors, was precisely the same. While we pretended to be so anxious concerning the balance of power, and were taking such extraordinary steps to preserve it, it would not be amiss were we to pay some attention to our commercial interests at home, lest for one article, during our ilUconducted and madly extravagant armed negociation, we should see the Ruffian trade carried on in American bottoms, and ships of other nations, while ours, which brought in a very large revenue to the • country, and was a good nursery for seamen, were entirely unemployed.
Mr. L. s4. Grant contended, that the measures of Admini- Mr. L. A. stration, so far from being, as wasgroundlessiy and injuriously Grant, insinuated, either weak or wicked, were upright and successful; and that, surely, the good opinion of the country, which had attended them, entitled them to the fullest confidence, which, he hoped, they would have; and if a war should be the consequence of the present negociation, which seemed to be what gentlemen on the other side most dreaded, he avowed that it was not occasioned by the conduct of Administration, but by the opposition which had been made upon this occasion; and the present motion he considered in no other light than tending to impede and embarrass the measures of Government, without any solid or substantial ground for that opposition. He was not, perhaps, entitled to argue from
Z 2 his
his own experience, but the conduct pf Administration, ten or twelve years, ago, was such as, he hoped, no future Administration would ever adopt. It was then the practice for Ministers to come to Parliament on the beginning of every important transaction, and get their fnnction to proceed in it, so that they not only shifted the responsibility from their own flioulders, but whatever mig!it be the consequence of their measures, they brought in the sanction of Parliament as accessary to their misconduct, arguing that they asked for advice, and had received it. He disapproved much of that opposition which gave improper information and advantage to our enemies, and contrasted former Administrations with the present, which had his hearty support. He disliked coming forward with general principles upon any particular question, and he believed that they were introduced for the purpose of displaying oratory, more than convincing by argument. With regard to the armament, they fud only to ponsider whether the existing circumstances warranted it or not; and unless gentlemen were previously determined to oppose whatever the Minister did, he thought the presumptive opinion was, that he, having the best knowledge of their circumstances, had acted right, and was entitled to the confidence of the House and the country. He would consider the question in three distinct points—justice, expediency, and policy, upon all of which, if it were not trespassing on the patience of the House, he would say a few words, and tq free his observations from all heterogeneous matter, when he came to consider the justice of the war, he should be obliged to call the attention of gentlemen to the history of Russia for some time back, and he could prove, that in the war between her and the Porte, flie was the aggressor. From the arguments of some gentlemen, there seemed to be a political partiality for Russia, which he did not think she meritedj and here he introduced the armed neutrality, the attack upon the Turks, and other matters relative to the conduct of Russia. He ascribed the origin of the present war between Russia and the Porte, to the interview between the late Emperor and the Empress, which was for the express purpose of dividing Turkey between them. He contended, that Russia had often broken the treaties we had made with her, and instanced that of 1766, which gave a preference to our woollen manufactures over those of Silesia. This she had disregarded and broken; and she had been guilty of similar violations of all treaties which related to our trade, by favouririg other countries, in defiance of treaties which slie had entered into with us. Mr. Grant went into a minute detail of the trade between Russia and Great Britain, stating, as he proceeded, its advantages and disadvantages to this country, and deducing