« PreviousContinue »
gratitude to my sovereign, and that duty which I owe as a mem-
January 2!. 1794.
Debate on the address in answer to His Majesty's most gracious speech * on opening the session.
The address, which was moved by Lord Cliffden and seconded by Sir Peter Burrell, was strenuously opposed by Mr. Fox, who, at the conclusion of his speech, moved the following amendment,—“ To recommend to His Majesty to treat, as speedily as possible, for a peace with France upon safe and advantageous terms, without any reference to the nature or form of the government that might exist in that country.”
Mr. Pitt observed, that the motion which had been brought forward by the right honourable gentleman † who spoke last, amounted to little less than negativing the address, and upon this principle, what had previously been said by the noble lord I
My Lords and Gentlemen, “ Tue circumstances under which you are now assembled, require your most serious attention.
“ We are engaged in a contest, on the issue of which depend the maintenance of our constitution, laws, and religion; and the security of all civil society.
You must have observed, with satisfaction, the advantages which have been obtained by the arms of the allied powers, and the change which has taken place in the general situation of Europe since the commencement of the war. The United Provinees have been protected from invasion; the Austrian Netherlands have been recovered and maintained; and places of considerable importance have been acquired on the frontiers of France. The re-capture of Mentz, and the subsequent successes of the allied armies on the Rhine, have, notwithstanding the advantages recently obtained by the
exactly referred to the subject of debate.
From the length to which the discussion had been carried, and the lateness of the
enemy in that quarter, proved highly beneficial to the common cause. Powerful efforts have been made by my allies in the south of Europe; the temporary possession of the town and port of Toulon has greatly distressed the operations of my enemies; and in the circumstances attending the evacuation of that place, an important and decisive blow has been given to their naval power, by the distinguished conduct, abilities, and spirit of my commanders, officers, and forces, both by sea and land.
“ The French have been driven from their possessions and fishery at Newfoundland, and important and valuable acquisitions have been made both in the East and West Indies.
“ At sea our superiority has been undisputed, and our commerce so effectually protected, that the losses sustained have been inconsiderable, in proportion to its extent, and to the captures made on the contracted trade of the enemy.
“ The circumstances by which the farther progress of the allies has hitherto been impeded, not only prove the necessity of vigour and perseverance on our part, but, at the same time, confirm the expectation of ultimate success.
“ Our enemies have derived the means of temporary exertion, from a system which has enabled them to dispose arbitrarily of the lives and property of a numerous people, and which openly violates every restraint of justice, humanity, and religion; but these efforts, productive as they ne. cessarily have been of internal discontent and confusion in France, have also tended rapidly to exhaust the natural and real strength of that country.
“ Although I cannot but regret the necessary continuance of the war, I should ill consult the essential interests of my people, if I were desirous of peace on any grounds but such as may provide for their permanent safety, and for the independence and security of Europe. The attainment of these ends is still obstructed by the prevalence of a system in France, equally incompatible with the happiness of that country, and with the tranquillity of all other nations.
“ Under this impression, I thought proper to make a declaration of the views and principles by which I am guided. I have ordered a copy of this declaration to be laid before you, together with copies of several conventions and treaties with different powers, by which you will perceive how large a part of Europe is united in a cause of such general concern.
“ I reflect with unspeakable satisfaction on the steady loyalty and firm attachment to the established constitution and government, which, notwithstanding the continued efforts employed to mislead and to seduce, have hour, it was impossible for him to go much into detail; yet in circumstances of such peculiar and transcendent importance as the present, though he could add little more, in point of argu
been so generally prevalent among all ranks of my people. These sentiments have been eminently manifested in the zeal and alacrity of the militia to provide for our internal defence, and in the distinguished bravery and spirit displayed on every occasion by my forces, both by sea and land: they have maintained the lustre of the British name, and have shewn themselves worthy of the blessings which it is the object of all our exertions to preserve."
“ Gentlemen of the House of Commons, “ I have ordered the necessary estimates and accounts to be laid before you, and I am persuaded you will be ready to make such provision as the exigencies of the time may require. I feel too sensibly the repeated proofs which I have received of the affection of my subjects, not to lament the necessity of any additional burdens. It is, however, a great consolation to me to observe the favourable state of the revenue, and the complete success of the measure which was last year adopted for removing the embarrassments affecting commercial credit.
“Great as must be the extent of our exertions, I trust you will be enabled to provide for them in such a manner, as to avoid any pressure which could be severely felt by my people.”
“ My Lords and Gentlemen, “ In all your deliberations, you will undoubtedly bear in mind the true grounds and origin of the war.
“ An attack was made on us, and on our allies, founded on principles which tend to destroy all property, to subvert the laws and religion of every civilised nation, and to introduce universally that wild and destructive system of rapine, anarchy, and impiety, the effects of which, as they have already been manifested in France, furnish a dreadful but useful lesson to the present age and to posterity.
“ It only remains for us to persevere in our united exertions; their discontinuance or relaxation could hardly procure even a short interval of delusive repose, and could never terminate in security or peace. Im. pressed with the necessity of defending all that is most dear to us, and relying, as we may, with confidence, on the valour and resources of the nation, on the combined efforts of so large a part of Europe, and, above all, on the incontestable justice of our cause, let us render our conduct a contrast to that of our enemies, and, by cultivating and practising the principles of humanity, and the duties of religion, endeavour to merit the continuance of the Divine favour and protection which have been so eminently experienced by these kingdoms.”
ment, to what had already been so ably and fully stated by his noble friend, he considered it as incumbent on him expressly to deliver his opinion on several points which had been urged by. the right honourable gentleman. He still considered it as necessary, in the present stage of the question, to refer to the original grounds upon which the war had been undertaken. The honourable gentleman on the other side had told them that these were of little consequence; and had insisted, that a secure and honourable termination of the war, was the only point which ought now to occupy their discussion. But it became more necessary to refer to these original grounds, as, while the present system continued, there was no probability of any such termination in the present moment.
In recurring then to the principles on which they set out, it would appear that the present war had not been hastily and rashly engaged in, but after due deliberation and mature conviction. It had been the opinion of the majority of that House, and of the great body of the nation, that it was undertaken upon grounds strictly defensive; and that the nation were equally compelled to engage in it by the obligations of duty, and the urgency of necessity. An honourable gentleman had asked Would not we have engaged in the war, even if France had not previously declared against us? To this he would answer, what he had last session asserted, That if we did not receive satisfaction for past injuries, and security with respect to the future, most certainly we would. From the conduct of France, the war, in whatever form it appeared, could only be considered as aggressive on their part. As to what were the objects of the war in the first instance, they had frequently been brought forward in the course of last session, and had again, in the present debate, been stated by his noble friend. These objects were – First, that the system adopted by the French had developed principles destructive to the general order of society, and subversive of all regular government. Secondly, that the French themselves, with a view, no doubt, of extending their system, had been guilty of usurpations of the territory of other states. Thirdly, that
they had discovered hostile intentions against Holland. Fourthly, that they had disclosed views of aggrandisement and ambition entirely new in extent and importance, and menacing, in their progress, pot only the independence of this country, but the security of Europe. -Unless it could be shewn, that we were originally mistaken; that these were not proper objects of contest; or that these objects were already gained ; the obligations and necessity which originally induced us to undertake the war, would operate with equal force at the present moment. In that case, even supposing that disappointment and difficulty had oc. curred in the prosecution of the war, they ought to have no other effect than to inspire us with additional vigour, and stimulate us to new exertions. Though not insensible to any failure or miscarriage that might be ascribed to the misconduct of those employed in conducting the operations of the war, yet these could not at all affect the general question, even if their conduct had as much demerit as had been stated by the honourable gentleman on the other side. However unpleasant he or his colleagues might feel from that peculiar situation of responsibility in which they stood, that was no reason why there should be any alteration in the sentiments of the country. If those disappointments and difficulties arose, not from the nature of the contest, but from the misconduct of those intrusted with the management of public affairs, the nation were not therefore to be discouraged in the career of exertion, and to shrink from the discharge of their duty. If those persons who conducted His Majesty's councils were unequal to the task, let us not think so meanly of the abilities of the country, as to suppose that there are not others of superior talents, without resorting to the few individuals who have ever since its commencement discovered principles inimical to the war. Surely it was not necessary to suppose that all the abilities of the nation were exclasively monopolised by those individuals. But if, on the other hand, the difficulty was ascribed to the nature of the contest itself, which, however, he should much more regret, then would the argument with respect to the misconduct of ministers, or of those