Page images
PDF
EPUB

[EXPEDITION TO COPENHAGEN.] Mr. nisters have thought fit in every debate Sharp rose and addressed the house as to tell us in a triumphant and taunting follows :-I am now, sir, to intreat your tone, that what they have been doing attention, and the attention of the house, has been sanctioned by universal approba. to a motion of which I some time sincetion. This assertion, so loudly and so gave notice; but, sir, in giving that notice often repeated, renders it incumbent on then, and now in rising to perform the every man who thinks himself and the promise implied in it, I am afraid that I public calumniated by this imputation, to have suffered myself to be too much take every proper opportunity of denyinfluenced by irresistible feelings of dis- ing his concurrence, and of disclaiming approbation respecting the expedition to any participation in the sanction so skilCopenhagen, and by those of deep re- fully, but so unjustly taken for granted. gret for its consequences, and too little by The public opinion, sir, to this effect, may a proper regard to my own want of pre- conditionally perhaps have been expressed tensions to that indulgence from the house, very early in this proceeding (though I which I have risen to solicit. ' I will not, am far from thinking that it has), but that however, sir, diminish that small claim to opinion, if it even existed, has certainly the accustomed generosity of the house, changed most rapidly, and the conduct of which

every member may hope that he ministers in acting without the necessary has not forfeited, by occupying one mo evidence, or in suppressing that evidence, ment of its time with a topic that must be seems now to have occasioned an universal so little interesting to it, as the feelings surprize and censure.-Such an approbaand difficulties of an individual.—And tion may have been obtained by false yet, sir, the difficulties are neither few, pretences, the conscience of the people nor inconsiderable, which must be sur may have been surprized'; they may have mounted by any man who has to request thought it but justice to ministers to prethat the thoughts of parliament may again sume that they would justify their conbe directed to a subject already so fre- duct, but, sir, we ought not to do the pubquently discussed in many of its parts, and lic the injustice to believe, that they delion which most of the distinguished persons berately approve this remarkable measure, in this country have communicated the unless it be defended by facts that are information which they had to give, de- incontestible, and by reasonings that are clared the sentiments that they had form- unanswerable, both proving its overruling, ed, and detailed, too, at so much length evident, irresistible necessity. It is, sir, and with so much ability, the arguments very easy to conceive that the capture of by which they supported such sentiments. many ships of the line, and an arsenal of Yet perhaps, sir, it may not be wholly stores would, at first sight, be very strikuseless, perhaps it may be very advanta- ing to the imaginations of the people of geous that parliament should be remind this country, who feel at all times with ed, (though by me very briefly) of some such extreme sensibility whatever is conof those facts, opinions and reasonings, in nected with the navy; with the navy, sir, a stage of this important business, which at once the source of their security and it was impossible to omit, without leaving of their glory. But it would be libelthe discussion imperfect, and the senti- ing both their hearts and their underments of parliament undeclared. But, standings not to believe that they took it sir, in truth these several debates, to which for granted, that information, indubitaI allude, have rather been of a prelimi- ble information, would be afforded to nary and preparatory nature, clearing the them, proving the urgent necessity of obway for a final and solemn examination of taining these ships, and these stores, by the conduct of ministers, by which they besieging the capital, and destroying the have had the courage to say (courage inhabitants of a nation with whom, two is not the word, sir) that they have saved very short interruptions excepted, their their country, but by which, in a trans- fathers and themselves had been at peace action of the greatest importance to the for centuries, and with whom our connecnational character and interests, the forations had recently increased in a most remer may have obviously been disgraced, markable degree, producing incalculable and the latter destroyed. There are how- benefits both to them and to ourselves.-ever, sir, other reasons rendering it high- Sir, I could not congratulate his majesty ly proper to bring this subject again on this success against his neighbour, and before the eyes of parliament, for mi- his kinsman; I could not participate in VOL. X.

4 G

this wretched triumph, nor could the peo- of one is entitled to as much respect as of ple of England, unless they looked for an hundred,) because, sir, fortunately we such a vindication; for if they had, their have lately learnt that a resolution sancjoy would have been as absurd and as tioned by the whole chorus of the madreadful as that of an infant delighted jority may be rescinded by the same mawith the blaze of its own garments on jority, and that papers denied when wantfire. Sir, the burthen of proof lies heavi-ed to elucidate the proceedings by which ly on those who advised his majesty so to the safety and honour of England were employ his navy and his army.--Every endangered, will be granted, when any man must hold such an unprovoked breach one of his majesty's servants thinks such of neutrality in abhorrence, unless it be papers are necessary to his own vindicaunanswerably justified, and those who tion. Since majorities can so easily have bestowed upon it an approbation be change their opinions for such purposes, 'fore enquiry, are now entitled, are now it is but treating them handsomely to supcalled upon to retract that approbation, pose, that a similar change may take place unless they have proof that the necessity when such a change is demanded by their was not to be resisted, and the violence duty and their consciences.—The facts of not to be avoided. What, sir, has been this astonishing event are few and striking. the conduct of ministers? they seem to In a season of profound peace with Denhave formed themselves into a Society for mark, and in truth at a time of increased the Suppression of Papers. They have communication and connection with that denied all the material documents, and neighbouring kingdom, a large British have only granted others to answer pri- army and fleet sail to the attack of its cavate purposes. They have denied to par- pital, invest it, besiege it, fire it, bring liament what ought to have been the ma destruction on its peaceable inhabitants, terials of their defence, and have com- and finally obtaining possession of it, bring pelled us to bring them to trial without home all the ships in its harbour, and all the evidence to which we had a right. the stores in its arsenal.--This is the trans-They stand at the bar, sir, by their own action which the ministers are bound to fault, under the strong, the natural preju- justify not only to the consciences of a dice, that either their allegations are majority of this house, but to the complete wholly unfounded, or that if they do pos- satisfaction of every honest man in the sess any knowledge from which parlia- nation, and every reflecting man in Eument is excluded, that the effect of that rope, since his majesty confesses in his knowledge would have been to condemn declaration of the 25th of Sept. · That and not to acquit them.-Sir, they must · he owes to himself and to Europe a frank be either condemned or acquitted. Par exposition of the motives which dictatliament, as it values its own character both ed his late measures in the Baltic.'-And abroad and at home, must pronounce a since he adds, feeling it to be a cruel nesentence on this transaction, and as scru- cessity, · He did forbear as long as there pulously, as if sworn to determine accord-could be a doubt of the urgency of the ing to that evidence. This country, sir, danger, or a hope of counteracting the Europe, the world, expect that we shall do ' means and dispositions of Denmark.'our duty strictly. And the world will es- Whether such a frank exposition of the teem or despise parliament as it conducts motives of the measure has been given : itself on this great, this serious occasion. Whether every doubt of the urgency of -Sir, I own that there is one discourage the danger has been removed : Whether ment that I feel, for it is not possible to not a hope did remain of counteraction conjecture what may be the result even if by any but the violent means employed ? their violence be condemned, since, un - These are the questions, this is the happily, sir, we have too recent an experi- issue which the house is now to try, and ence, that a verdict of guilty pronounced in trying it, the house itself is on its by an awful tribunal may lead to reward; trial, and every man in it too on his own a sentence of condemnation, may be a trial, before the face of this country, title to promotion. But, sir, I own that I of Europe, and of the world.---The Justiam not discouraged by a recollection of fications áre, 1. • That France designed the majorities that have hitherto supported to obtain possession of the Fleet, by ministers, (although, sir, such is my seizing Jutland and Holstein. 2. That reverence for a majority, and so par- Russia had combined with France for this liamentary is its nature, that a majority purpose. 3. That Denmark had intrigued

6

with the enemy, and was hostile. 4. That | ing the intention of France, and the posiDenmark though friendly, was unable to tive data he had of such intentions, but

5. That the danger arising from he says nothing of the confederacy; and these facts, was certain, urgent, and so speaking of this vindication in a subseextreme, as to create a case of urgent, quent dispatch, he says, ' that so far from paramount necessity, leaving his majety's concealing the reasons which produced ministers no choice; but, while it was yet that expedition, he had declared them time, to seize the ships, and that they with the utmost frankness.' In Mr. Secremight obtain them, to besiege and fire tary Canning's reply to the dispatch of the city and destroy its peaceable inhabi- 2nd Sept. he says that his majesty entiretants.:--. Of the first there is no dispute ly approved of the answer returned by lord - It is saying nothing to say that France G. L. Gower to general Budberg's note, is hostile, ambitious, active, unprincipled, on the subject of the operations at Copenready to break all laws divine and human, hagen. Lord G. L. Gower also in anoto obtain her purposes. This we know, ther dispatch, states expressly that it was and knowing, have not hitherto dreaded her sometime after this that the French mission power, or so dreaded it, as to take, till considered itself as having triumphed.' lately, cruel and impolitic counsel of our -But, sir, the dates alone are sufficient fears.–Violent and intemperate as the to destroy the credibility of the pretext, ruler of the French is, it may be said of and with its credibility to destroy too all him as it was of Philip of old, that in one our pretensions to veracity and justice. respect, you may never doubt his veraci- The treaty was signed on the Niemen, on ty: you may always believe him when the 8th July, and the order for the sailing he threatens. Yet even in using this plea, of the expedition was on the 19th. It is his majesty's ministers have contrived to remarkable, too, that the object of this put themselves in the wrong, or at least to expedition had been announced several render themselves subject to contradic- days before in more than one newspaper. tion, by stating in the declaration that The collection, too, of so extensive an arthey had positive information of the mament required much previous exertion, enemy's determination, which assertion and much previous time; nor will any

fathe Crown Prince mentions with indig- cilities arising from former preparations, nation, as founding the attempt on mere account for the early embarkation. This vague rumour, and prétended informa- plea, however, has not been supported by tion.— The whole amount, too, of the al refusing papers, &c. and has been abanledged information, extends only to their doned. Rússia was at issue with the demaking preparations for collecting a force.claration on a question of fact, and his

- 2nd. That Russia had combined with majesty's ministers have run out of court France, for the purpose of putting the afraid to stand trial.-On the whole it fleet into the possession of France.'—See seems to be believed that his majesty's declaration against Russia, p. 4. and Mr. ministers might have received some intelCanning's dispatch 28th Sept. p. 9. Of ligence to the supposed effect, but that this combination the only proofs offered they found themselves deceived, after havare, an assertion that such a confederacy ing largely rewarded the informant, and formed part of the secret arrangements that having used the allegation as a preat Tilsit; and another assertion, that in- text, it was not possible to own that they formation to this effect had arrived from had been duped.-3rd. But, Denmark has Portugal. This intelligence could not been charged with having been caught have arrived in time to occasion the ex- intriguing with Russia and France, and pedition ; nor is it to be depended on, with having been guilty of collusion. Sir, since it came from that Portuguese minis- the ministers in advancing this charge, ter who had misled us in his communica- which was so soon abandoned, seem to tions to a former ministry, respecting the have acted on the base principle of giving arrival of the French at Bayonne. This, others a bad name, that we may save sir, is distinctly and directly contradicted ourselves the trouble of doing them justice; both by Russia and by France; and such and the same unjustifiable motive seems a confederacy is utterly inconsistent with to have actuated them in charging her the conversation that took place between also, more generally, with bearing an hosthe emperor of Russia and lord Hutchin- tile mind to this country. The hon. se

Lord G. L. Gower vindicates our cretary endeavours to prove it from the conduct towards Copenhagen, by alledg- conduct of the Danes in 1801, (ascribed

son.

in the declaration only to an inability to were it not resist the dictation of Russia and France) | undergone and from their joining the armed neutra- sion here, I lity in the American war.--Now, sir, it is elsewhere, not denied that Russia was concerned, or no pleasure rather was the principal in both these duct of tha hostile acts, and yet we properly enough traordinary confided in her subsequent treaty with us, to the lett and hostility in Bohemia and Poland, I must say against France. Were we to reject her and illogica aid; or at least to place no reliance on it, controversi because she had thought fit to be jealous ever warm of our maritime superiority, to shew dis- as indicati gust at some of the exercises of it, and to political hi combine for its diminution ? But, while aid the Fr the hon. secretary was consulting bistory merely to for past proofs of present hostilities, why country, to did he stop so short? If he had but gone world, to b back to the Heptarchy, he might have testantism found irresistible evidence of the hostility called it, b of Denmark, and of the propriety of re is the sub venging on the Danes, our contemporaries, bulwark of the injustice we had sustained from their assertor of forefathers. Sir, there is undoubtedly of nature, i some levity in such a remark, but the peculiar, a right hon. gent. must be the last to com commercia plain of the introduction of levity into spirit and important affairs, and indeed it is very dif

even of th ficult to treat such arguments in a grave rests are at manner, or to honour such frivolous rea between th sons with the ceremony of serious confuta never befor tion.-Not satisfied entirely to rest the proof of an alien of this hostility on such feeble grounds as --If such d these, the respectable authorities of lord dence of a Grey and Mr. Garlike have been intro never can duced to support this accusation against sir, I canno the Danes: to both of whom have been commercia imputed declarations of their belief in other coun this supposed hostility. It is unnecessary they have for me, sir, to comment on the peculiar even in pe mischief that

may arise from encouraging not conten any minister to be at once so communica- ministers ha tive a member of parliament of extracts blance of r from documents to answer a purpose in not wantin debate, and so reserved a minister when positive kin the whole of the documents are wanted this unfoun by parliament to enable it to judge of the In the first necessity of a new war; because, sir, in the Proc the futility and unfairness of such an im- bier and lor putation have been abundantly shewn by in the Dec the subsequent defences of the noble lord, intimates th and by subsequent proceedings in this house. because she It is enough now for me to state, that hostile cor neither the noble lord, nor our minister at

too, of the the Danish court, did, in their dispatches, they might express any opinion of the sort that has in Zealand, been imputed to them. I am well aware is another that here, sir, there are topics of censure conciled to against the right hon. gent. which are engaged in fruitful enough and would be tempting, She had n

case

with her navy, which continued just in the case of urgent, imminent, paramount, irsame state of preparation in which it had resistible necessity,' but it is gone, vanishbeen for nearly half a century, nor could it ed, and has left no traces. I can find no have been ready for sea, in less than six substance left, not enough to set up even or eight weeks. Her merchant ships were, as a man of straw, that I might coinbat it. too, chiefly in our ports, or in the seas For, sir, every failure of the reasons aswhich we command, and her sailors were signed for each separate cause of dread, distributed over the world, but mostly the abandonment of the plea derived from in our employ and in our power. Even the alledged articles, or engagements, or our West India ships have been chiefly arrangements at Tilsit, from the charged, manned by Danish sailors, our native sea but abandoned collusion and hostility of men having been constantly impressed the Danes; as well as the deficiency of into his majesty's service, so that mer proof even as to their inability when aidchants can scarcely retain even the ship's ed by us and by the Swedes, all these are apprentices, and too frequently even the so many props

taken away

from the

supmasters themselves are carried off. There port of that crazy building, the fortress are, indeed, a few invalided men from our of the arguments of ministers, namely, ships of war, and here and there a single that the danger to this country was cerlandman who wishes to go to sea; but all tain, extreme, and imminent, and the posthe remainder of the mercantile crews are session of the Danish ships the only means Portuguese, or Swedes, or Danes; of the of averting it, creating together a former a few, of the Swedes more, but in- of urgent necessity, leaving his majesty's comparably the most have been Danes. ministers no choice, but, to use their own And this, sir, has been the fact for many words, while it was yet time, to seize the years. I leave the house to judge the im- fleet and stores, and in order to obtain portance of this fact, both as it affects our them, to bombard the capital and destroy power of retaining them in case of hosti- its inhabitants.—Sir, but as to the case of lity, and as it leaves little doubt of the tem necessity, it is my sincere opinion, that pers of the seamen themselves. They had the danger been made out, the neceshave, indeed, for more than ten years sity could not have been inferred, and this, been half Englishmen, and the Zealander, I know not how, seems to have been too Holsteiner, and Norwegian sailors have much taken for granted even by those who become almost as much attached to this deny, and justly, the existence of such necountry as to their own.--It so happened, cessity. We look too much at our own sir, that at the time of the expedition sail- fears, and too little at the other link of the ing, most of those Danish ships were here chain, the means of delivering us from which bring the summer importation, and danger by the possession of the Danish carry away those articles of our manufac- ships and stores. This latter part of the tures and colonial produce, which they necessity we have never been suffered to want for their autumn trade and their dwell upon, but it has been hurried away winter consumption. It is usual for the from our contemplation almost as soon as Danish merchant or captain who order ) it has been offered to it. Ministers have these goods, to give to the manufacturer the courage to say, 'as I have already obor dealer a credit on the merchant here, served, that they have saved their country, to whom the sale of the imports has been because they have seized the ships in a consigned. — Of the merchants one of way much more likely to endanger than to the most extensive and respectable is the secure us.--They say they have worked a Danish consul, and to him freqent appli- miracle, but, alas, there are no believers. cations were made by the manufacturer -Saviours of their country!- They have or dealer for his opinion as to the proba- at least the reward of virtue, although bility of war, and prudence of preparing without its merit, for it seems that they the goods. So slow, sir, was this gent. are happy in their own approbation.—But to believe that hostility would ensue, that these are vain boastings to conceal their I know that he steadily persisted in ad-fears, and vainer self praise to conceal their vising the captains to be tranquil, and the humiliation.—Sir, we have not got possestradesmen to go on, although his own sion of the fleet of Denmark—the fleet interests and that of his correspondents the fleet of Denmark, this is the constant must have been deeply injured by such | boast.We have only the ships, the caradvice, if founded on error.–And now, casses, while the living, animating, princisir, I am come to the consideration of that ple has escaped from our grasp—and is gone

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »