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those which most required support were, the inability of Denmark to resist the seizure of her fleet by France; and that, even in such a case, Great Britain was menaced with a danger so ima minent, as to justify an attack on a neutral power. On the first of these points, it was contended, that the invasion of Zealand from Holstein might be effected without difficulty, since cruizers cannot always keep their stations in the Belt, nor, consequently, always prevent the passage of troops. The importance of the subject will induce us to examine each proposition separately.
The animosity of Bonaparte we readily admit. But, with respect to his power, the humiliation of Austria and extinction of Prussia had not converted the brave and robust nations of Germany into the willing instruments of his despotism. The unsuccessful campaign of Russia, though it rendered peace expedient, had not alienated the esteem of the Emperor from this country, and still less that of the Russian nation; nor could it have created in either any attachment to France. However improbable, let it be admitted as not impossible, that Denmark might have been compelled to become a reluctant auxiliary of Bonaparte, and an unwilling instrument in his hands for the subjugation of other nations. But it was reserved for the Danish expedition, to unite with Bonaparte the hearts and resources of all the inhabitants of Denmark and Russia. The conferences of Erfurth furnish an instructive commentary on our Baltic policy. The march of the veteran troops of France from the Oder to the Ebro, proves at once the confidence established between Bonaparte and the Northern powers, and the disgust which the violence of our measures was naturally calculated to excite. Thus it is, that one precipitate step has levelled with the dust, that fair fabric of moral grandeur, which would probably have rendered England the rallye ing-point of Europe, in the dawn of happier times.
If, by the weakness of Denmark, be meant any thing else than her incapacity to defend the feet which we seized, we cannot perceive that it furnishes any justification of the measure. Were Lord Wellesley's assertion correct, that ships cannot keep their station in the Belt, nor prevent the transport of troops into Zealand, the question indeed would be materially changed. But the first naval authority in this country, Earl St Vincent, affirmed, in the presence of Lords Cathcart and Gambier, in the House of Peers, and challenged contradiction, that it was easier to invade Great Britain from Boulogne, than Zealand from Funen,-on account of the number of gun-boats that might be collected, and the excellence of the anchorage in the Belt. This proposition was not disputed in that House ; nor did Sir Arthur Wellesley, Sir Samuel Hood, or Sir Home Popham, in the other, attempt to
state any observations to detract from its weight. So much, then, for the assertion, that, Holstein once occupied, Zealand was at the mercy of France, and the navy of Denmark at her disposal.
But, of all the grounds on which the expedition has been defended, the least tenable is, the hostile disposition of the Danes. • It is impossible for you to be of that opinion !’exclaimed the Emperor of Russia, in conversation with Lord Hutchinson. To us it certainly appears impossible ; for, even if we could disregard entirely the direct affirmation of his Majesty, of his generals, and of his ministers, --and the regret and reluctance so strongly expressed in resorting to such an extremity,--we need only reflect, that the isle of Zealand was exposed to attack from England only -the province of Holstein exclusively from the French; and that the former, during three years, had been stript of every soldier that could be spared from regular garrison duty, and the whole Danish army, with the prince at their head, collected on the frontiers of the latter province; whilst the fleet of Denmark, with the exception of one ship of the line, was laid up in ordinary. But we would ask any man of common sense and candour, Whether, if Denmark had been conscious of listening to proposin tions affecting the vital interests of Great Britain, such would have been the distribution of her army, or such the condition of her navy? A distinguished member of the late administration, whose exertions to procure justice for the Danes have been equally able and unavailing, states a fact, which decidedly militates against the supposition of hostile intentions,—that the number of Danish vessels in our ports, on the 2d September, greatly exceeded the average proportion,—the number seized amounting to 320. Yet the College of Commerce at Copenhagen had assured the owners, so late as the 13th of August, (only two days before the arrival of the English army), that any report of a misunder• standing with Great Britain was totally destitute of foundation;
nothing having been done on their parts, whereby the good understanding hitherto subsisting betwixt both courts could any ways be considered as lessened or interrupted.'
We proceed to consider the necessity of the measure. The most strenuous advocates for the expedition against Copenhagen admit, that it can only be justified by necessity; that it forms a ree markable exception to the generous maxims which Great Britain has adopted, and which foreign nations have admired and applaudo ed; but that the danger resulting from the possession of this fleet by Bonaparte was so great and lo imminent, that we were justified in anticipating his designs. Now, we entirely-concede the truth of the old maxim, . Salus populi suprema lex;' but consend, that the danger apprehended was inconsiderable, remote and
contingent; and, consequently, not such as to warrant fo atrocious an act of aggression on a neutral power. Ministers themfelves did not imagine the country was menaced by great and im. minent peril ; for the plan which they then adopted for augmente ing the army and militia was ayowedly calculated, not for imme. diate operation, but for a gradual increase of our forces. But will it be seriously stated, that this nation would have been in a ftate of tremendous and unparalleled peril, although the navy of Bonaparte had been actually augmented by fixteen ships, thirteen frigates, and fix brigs? Since when, we would ask, had this force, in the hands of the enemy, appeared fo formidable to England? When the war was last renewed, the victories of our na-, val heroes had not completed the destruction of the French ma. rine. France had still a powerful fleet; and Russia, Pruflia, Sweden, and Denmark.--all the Northern powers-were united in a confederacy hostile to this country. Yet, did our measures, at that time, argue pufillanimity, or beget despondency? Did any man then venture to state to the British nation, that the imminent pea rils which menaced these realms had rendered obsolete the politice al code of our ancestors, and that safety could only be found in imitating the violence and atrocity of the enemy?
There is only another point of view in which it may be proper to consider this subject. Could Denmark have consented to the facrifice we demanded ? Her continental poffeffions were exposed to French invasion; her capital might be laid in ruins by an Englifh fleet; and her foreign poffeffions were at the mercy of Great Britain. A strict neutrality was therefore a line of conduct imperiously prescribed to the Crown Prince, by the local peculiarities of his territories. We have the authority of the Emperor of Russia, the public and-repeated menaces of Bo. paparte, and our own experience, to convince us, that neither threats nor promifes would induce him to depart from it. If, however, Bonaparte should cease to respect his neutrality, and feize úpon Holstein, what means of defence had the Crown Prince left, excepting his fleet, of which we demanded the surrender Without it, indeed, his capital, with the rest of his dominions, must have fallen a prey. That fleet was constructed at an immenfe expense, and constructed for the security of Denmark. Never was that fecurity more imminently endangered ; and, at that very crisis, it is demanded, in deposite, to add to the sea curity of Great Britain, although the immediate conquest of Holstein, and, according to his Majesty's declaration of the 25th of September, the seizure of Zealand by the French, must have been the inevitable consequences. It appears to us, that every transaction nearly or remotely con,
nected with the Danish expedition, partakes of its character. In the declaration promulgated by ministers on the 25th September, his Majesty declares, that he is not desirous, from any motive
but the security of his own dominions, or for any object of ad
vantage or aggrandizement, to carry measures of hoftility beyond • the limits of the necessity which produced them.' This declaration corresponds entirely with the magnanimous disposition of the Sovereign ; and it certainly was the duty of ministers to have acted in conformity to it. But if that necessity demanded that the Danish fleet should be removed out of the reach of Bonaparte, it would have been at least natural to have declared openly our intention to restore them when the danger was at an end. Instead, however, of being kept in deposite for that purpose, they are added to the British navy. Above all, what plea of state-neceffity, what law of self-preservation, could call for the seizure and confiscation of three hundred and twenty merchant vessels, which, in the unsuspecting confidence of neutrality, were found in our ports immediately previous to the commencement of hostilities? Of these veffels, many had been wrongfully brought in, and had been decreed by our courts to be restored. Yet, ale though we might have animadverted on this measure on another occasion, we are sensible of its propriety on the present; and are perfectly ready to admit the harmonious composition of the whole transaction, of which no incidental deviation into magnanimity disturbs the consistency, or injures the general effect. * In the person of Bonaparte, the success of unprincipled power is strongly exemplified. Yet we are far from measuring the amount of that power by the extent of the superficies over which his authority is felt. The minds of men are not bowed to the yoke. The elements of resistance are not extinguished. From the loss of civil occupations, a military spirit is fast spreading itself over the Continent; and, in the very cloud which blackens all our horizon, we may see the bow which is set for a token, that the tempest will not be for ever. Whether this generation will live to see the troubled waters subside, and the antient landmarks of the world reappear above the flood, is indeed more difficult to conjecture. But, whatever be the destined means of our deliver. ance, we think we may fay with certainty, that it will not be accomplished by a coalition of Sovereigns : and that, if England is to have the share she might once have expected in this great redemption, it must be by reverting to her antient maxims,-by ex hibiting a contrast, and not a counterpart, to the violence and selfishness of her enemy,—and by expiating the fatal and degrading error of which we have been speaking, by some signal act of generosity and forbearance.
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