Slike strani

comitants, tended, undeniably, to impede cultivation, and to defolate the countries where it was waged: the moft fertile parts of Europe having lately been the continual fcenes of this deftructive war, the productions of the earth had been neceffarily diminished, and it was unreasonable to deny that the war was, in a very confiderable degree, the caufe of a deficiency in the neceffaries of life. He concluded by moving, that fuch conditions of peace thould be offered, to the French, as would confift with the fafety and dignity of Great Britain.

The ideas of peace and fecurity, were, in anfwer to Mr. Fox, reprefented by Mr. Pitt, as incompatible with the fituation of this country refpecting France. Every motive militated for a perfeverance in the conteft. The enemy felt his increafing debility, and, notwithstanding his fuccefles in the field, betrayed a consciousnefs that his ftrength was materially diminished. Hence it was that he had latterly fhewn a difpofition to peace. But the intereft of this country required a deliberate confideration of the state of France, in order to judge of the expediency of entering into negociations at the prefent moment. Such was the fall of the French paper in circulation, that it was now funk to one and a half for every hundred of nominal value. Seven hundred and twenty millions fterling had been fabricated and made current, and this enormous quantity was ftill on the increafe. Was it credible that a nation, reduced to fuch traits, would be able to make head against the formidable enemies that were preparing to aflail it with redoubled vigour, and whofe fituation was fo much more advantageous in point

of pecuniary refources? However fuccefsful on their frontiers, through military efforts, and the chances of war, the fyftem of the French was fo radically heinous, that it could not laft. Were the European powers to reunite against them, they could no longer ftand their ground. The interior parts of that large kingdom were in a ftate of the utmoft wretchednefs. Trade and commerce were annihilated, and industry found no occupation. Hence proceeded the facility with which the French recruited their armies, and the defperate fpirit, that animated men, who could procure no fuftenance but at the point of their fwords. But energies of this kind were not in their nature durable, and would certainly terminate in a fhort lapfe of time. So great was the difficulty of procuring fpecie for the moft urgent demands, that neceffary articles, in kind, were given in payment, and people were glad to accept of any thing that bore the femblance of pay. Would it not, therefore, be the height of imprudence, after reducing them to fuch a fituation, to pafs by fo favourable an opportunity of reducing them ftill lower, and of fecuring, to ourfelves, the advantages refulting from their evident and undeniable depreffion? After adducing farther arguments, in vindication of his conduct, a divifion took place, when two hundred and forty voted for the address, and fifty-nine for the amendment, moved by Mr. Fox.

On the next day, which was the thirtieth of October, the addrefs was moved, in the house of lords, by lord Mountedgecomb, who fupported it with much the fame reafonings that had been used in the houfe of commons. He was feconded by lord Walfingham,

Walfingham, who dwelt particularly on the dangerous confequences of a precipitate peace, which would be throwing away the advantages we had gained by our perfeverance in this arduous conteft, and yielding to defpondence, at a time when we ought to make the moft of the difficulties our enemies had to contend with, and were not likely to furmount, if we continued to act with the refolution that had hitherto characterifed our measures.

In reply to thefe afertions, it was obferved by the duke of Bedford, that it was more confiftent with the dignity of a British parliament, to frame an addrefs of its own, than to copy the fpeech of the minifter, though delivered from the throne. His fentiments differed materially from the minifterial language he had heard. It reprefented the French as on the verge of ruin; but the truth of facts, oppofed to the illufion of words, was that they were hitherto fuperior in the conteft, notwithstanding the conftant predictions of the minifter and his partifans, during the three preceding years, that they had not fufficient refources to prolong it another campaign. The duke adverted with great feverity to the reiterated allegation, that the French government was incapable of fulfilling the customary duties and relations of amity and good underftanding with other states. He reprobated with equal afperity the fruitlefs deftruction of men in the Weft Indies, and the ill-fated expedition to the conft of France. Thefe, and the other evils of the war, particularly the farcity that afflicted the nation, he imputed to the mifconduct and incapacity of minifters. It was therefore the duty of parliament to

lay thefe grievances before the fo vereign, and to fupplicate him to relieve the fufferings of the nation, by confenting to a negociation for peace, which was the only effectual remedy for the inany calamities under which the people laboured, in confequence of this unfortunate


The obfervations of the duke of Bedford were warmly controverted by lord Grenville, who infifted that the fituation of this country was evidently fuperior to that of France in every point of view. Our fuccelles at fea were far more conducive to the internal profperity of the kingdom, than the dear-bought victories of the French had, or could ever prove to the people of France. The depreciation of the paper currency in that country, was, in his opinion, a circumftance to its detriment, and in our favour, that fully deserved the reiterated notice that had been taken of it. The most judicious of the French financiers were deeply fenfible of the effects it would ultimately produce, and ftrongly deprecated the farther iffue of any notes, and the withdrawing of no lefs than ten parts out of thirteen from circulation. With fuch glaring proofs of the pecuniary diftrefles of the enemy, was it prudent or rea: fonable to advise pacific mealures, when with a moderate degree of patience on our fide, he would probably be foon compelled to liften to more reafonable terms of peace, than the pride refulting from his late fucceffes would now permit him to accept. He concluded, by reprefenting the failure of the expedition to the coaft of France as occafioned by the treachery of thole French corps, that had been too confidently relied upon.


He was replied to by the marquis of Lanfdowne, who pointedly animadverted on the profperous fituation wherein minifters afferted the country ftood at the prefent moment. What he had foretold was come to pass; our allies had deferted us, and our enemies were every where victorious. The trite argument of their ruined finances was still revived; but in what ftate were our own? were they inexhaustible? were they equal to the fupport of ourfelves, together with the weight of thofe pretended friends who had taken our money, and converted it to purposes entirely foreign to thofe for which it was granted, and who were waiting with their accustomed avidity for fresh grants. Taxes could only be carried to a certain length: beyond which they would in this country, as in all others, become intolerable. But money alone was no fecurity for fuccefs; fagacity was of far greater confequence. The minifterial projects and enterprizes difplayed little of this effential requifite; failures and difappointments continually attended them. This however was not furprifing, as their attempts againft the foe were glaringly marked with imprudence. The expedition to St. Domingo, for inftance, was an unpardonable act of temerity; here the French were infurmountable: it was the capital feat of their firength in the Weft Indies; of this the great lord Chatham was fo well convinced that he wifely forbore, even in the midft of his fucceffes, to make it an object of attack. The French, it was true, were ftraitened but they had that which was better; they had good foldiers and excellent commanders; on thofe they chiefly depended, and

for money,

fortune had favoured them. Courage was inexhauftible, but wealth had its limits; and the example of France ought to warn us of the danger of stretching the pecuniary refources of the nation beyond their natural bearings. The war had tried them to fuch an extent, that it was time to cease the experiment how far they would go, and to make negociation take place of hoftilities.

The earls of Mansfield and Darnley fpoke in favour of the addrefs, and the duke of Grafton and the earl of Lauderdale against it. The latter inveighed bitterly against minifters for the affurances they had given to the public in the former feffions, that fuch was the fuperior might of the confederacy, that France would be utterly unable to refift it; but how different the reality from the fair appearances they had held out! defeat and defertion had characterised thofe allies in whofe name fuch lofty promifes had been made; and to complete the picture of the national calamities, we were now vifited by a fcarcity, undeniably owing to the improvident conduct of thofe at the helm ; yet minifters boldly afferted that our condition was improved, and that of the enemy worse than ever. But did not facts give the strongest denial to thofe fhameful affeverations? was not the enemy in poffeffion of all we had conquered, and preparing for new conquefts? was not the coalition broken and diffolved, and fome of its principal members in treaties of peace and amity with the French? could any man of fenfe and integrity interpret fuch things as improvements in the fituation of this country? did they entitle us to expect that the


French fhould be the firft to fue for peace, as minifters prefumptuously afferted?

[ocr errors]

the amendment, and the lord chancellor in oppofition to it. The duke of Bedford in refuming that, fubject recurred to the expreffions used by lord Grenville, which were, that "in cafe the conftitution now of fered to the people of France, fhould be found likely to establish itself in such a form as to fecure a government that might preserve the. relations of peace and amity, his objections to treat with them would be entirely removed."

The fubftance of what had been fpoken by lord Grenville, was confomable to the words taken down by the duke of Bedford; but the former declared himself of opinion,

The amendment brought forward by the duke of Bedford was strong-, ly oppofed by earl Spencer, who contended that in fo extenfive a war, waged in almost every part of the globe, it could not be expected that the mercantile fhipping of this country would always efcape the vigilance of an enemy, whofe only and perpetual object at fea was depredation. It was indeed more furprising that his captures were fo few, when it was confidered that we carried on nearly the whole trade of Europe. He gave a fatisfactory account of the naval tranfthat it was not parliamentary to actions during the peceding feason, and made it appear that the mifchances which had befallen the commercial fleets were owing to unavoidable accidents, and not to mifconduct. He juftified the employment of Mr. Puiffaye, as a perfon through whofe means the principal communication was kept up with France, where he headed a confiderably party of royalifts,

The duke of Norfolk spoke for

make the words of a peer, uttered in the courfe of the debate, a formal ground of propofing or of recalling a motion. Hereon the duke confented to withdraw his amendment; refufing however his approbation to that part of the addrefs which afferted an improvement in the fituation of public affairs. The addrefs was then finally moved, and carried in the affirmative..



A Proclamation offering a large pecuniary Reward for the Discovery of any Perfons guilty of the recent Outrages against the Perfon of the King.Conference between the Lords and Commons on this Subje&t.—A Bill for the Safety and Prefercation of the King's Person and Government.-Debates thereon in both Houses of Parliament.-A Bill for the Prevention of Seditious Meetings.-Debates thereon.-The two Bills under Discussion in Parliament occafion a general Alarm, and much Oppofition without Doors.— In this Oppofition the lead was taken by the Whig-Club.-Which was followed by the Correfponding Societies and other Affociations.-As well as different Bodies legally incorporated.—The Ministry fill perfevere in their Meafures.-Debates on the numerous Petitions against the two Bills now pending in Parliament.-General Indignation against the Principles and Objects of thefe.--The two Bills paffed into Laws.

N the mean time the indignities offered to the king were a fubject of univerfal difcourfe, and highly reprobated by the prudent and moderate, as procurfory of far greater evils than had hitherto been experienced by thofe who vented their difcontent in this outrageous manner. On the last day of October, a proclamation was iffued, of fering a thousand pounds for the difcovery of any perfon guilty of thofe outrages. On the fourth of November it was followed by another, wherein it was faid, that previously to the opening of parlia ment, multitudes had been called together by hand-bills and advertifements, who met in the vicinity of the metropolis, where inflammatory fpeeches were made, and divers means used to fow discontent and excite feditious proceedings. Thefe meetings and difcourfes were followed three days after by the moft daring infuks to the king, by

which his perfon had been imminently endangered. Rumours had alfo been spread, that affemblies were to be held by difaffected people for illegal purposes. In confequence of thofe proceedings, it was enjoined by the proclamation to all magiftrates, and well affected Tubjects, to exert themselves in preventing and fuppreffing all unlawful meetings, and the diffemination of feditious writings.

So great had been the alarm and indignation, created by the treatment of the king, that as foon as he had gone through the reading of his fpeech, and had left the house, it was immediately ordered to be cleared of all ftrangers, and a confultation held by the lords, in what manner to proceed upon fo extraordinary an occafion. An addrefs to the king was refolved upon, and a conference with the house of commons to request their concur. rence therein. The majority agreed

« PrejšnjaNaprej »