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considering the prejudices and suspicions which their previous conduet must have excited in the minds of the French, that, instead of adopting the open and manly manner which became the wisdom, the character, and the dignity of the British nation, they adopted a mode calculated rather to excite suspicion, than to inspire confidence in the enemy. Every expression which might be construed into an acknowledgment of the French republic, or even an allusion to its forms, was studiously avoided : and the minister, through whom this overture was made, was, in a most unprecedented manner, instructed to declare, that he had no authority to enter into any negotiation or discussion relative to the objects of the proposed treaty.
“ That it is with pain we reflect that the alacrity of His Majesty's ministers in apparently breaking off this incipient negotiation, as well as the strange and unusual manner in which it was announced to the ministers of the various powers of Europe, affords a very unfavourable comment on their reluctance in entering upon it, and is calculated to make the most injurious impression respecting their sincerity on the people of France. On a review of many instances of gross and flagrant misconduct, proceeding from the same pernicious principles, and directed with incorrigible obstinacy to the same mischievous ends, we deem ourselves bound in duty to His Majesty, and to our constituents to declare, that we see no rational hope of redeeming the affairs of the kingdom but by the adoption of a system radically and fundamentally different from that which has produced our present calamities. Until His Majesty's ministers shall, from a real conviction of past errors, appear inclined to regulate their conduct upon such a system, we can neither give any credit to the sincerity of their professions of a wish for peace, nor repose any confidence in their capacity for conducting a negotiation to a prosperous issue. Odious as they are to an enemy, who must still believe them strictly to cherish those unprincipled and chimerical projects which they have been compelled in public to disavow, contemptible in the eyes of all Europe from the display of insincerity and incapacity which has marked their conduct, our only hopes rest on His Majesty's royal wisdom and unquestioned affection for his people, that he will be graciously pleased to adopt maxims of policy more suited to the circumstances of the times than those by which his ministers appear to have been governed, and to direct his servants to take measures, which, by differing essentially as well in their tendency, as in the principle upon which they are founded, from those which have hitherto marked their conduct, may give this country some reasonable hope, at no very distant period, of the establishment of peace suitable to the interests of Great Britain, and likely to preserve the tranquillity of Europc.”
The motion being read, Mr. Pitt immediately rose :
It is far from being my intention, Sir, unnecessarily to detain the attention of the House, by expatiating at any great length on the various topics introduced into the very long and elaborate speech which you have now heard pronounced. The right honourable gentleman who delivered it, thought proper to lay considerable stress on the authority of a celebrated orator of antiquity *, who established it as a maxim, that, from a retrospect of past errors, we should rectify our conduct for the future ; and that if they were errors of incapacity only that had occa. sioned our misfortunes, and not an absence of zeal, strength, and resources to maintain our cause, and secure our defence, instead of such a disappoinment being a cause of despair, it should, on the contrary, invigorate our exertions, and reanimate our hopes. That such a retrospect may, in most cases, be wise and salutary, is a proposition which will hardly be denied. It is evident, that our appeal to experience is the best guard to future conduct, and that it may be necessary to probe the nature of the misfortune, in order to apply a suitable remedy. But in a question so momentous and interesting to the country, as undoubtedly the present question must be, if it can be deemed expedient to run out into a long retrospective view of past calamities, surely it must be far more so to point out the mode by which their fatal effects may be averted, and by proving the origin of the evils complained of, to judge of the nature and efficacy of the remedies to be applied. Whatever, therefore, our present situation may be, it certainly cannot be wise to fix our attention solely on what is past, but rather to look to what still can, and remains to be done. This is more naturally the subject that should be proposed to the discussion of a deliberative assernbly. Whatever may have been the origin of the contest in which we are engaged, when all the circumstances attending it are duly considered, it has had the effect of uniting all candid and impartial men, in acknowledging the undisputed justice of our cause, and the unjust and wanton aggression on the part of the enemy. Such having been, and still, I presume to say, being the more general opinion, prudence then must tell us to dismiss all retrospective views of the subject, and to direct the whole of our attention to what our actual situation requires we should do. The right honourable gentleman must have consumed much time in preparing the retrospect he has just taken of our past disasters; and he has consumed much of his time in detailing it to the House ; but instead of lavishing away what was so precious on evils which, according to him, admit of no remedy or change, would it not be more becoming him, as a friend to his country, and an enlightened member of this House, to attend to what new circu stances may produce, and to tracc out the line of conduct which in the present state of things it would be prudent to pursue ?
In the close of his speech the right honourable gentleman alluded to his former professions respecting the prosecution of the war. According to these professions, he, and every gentleman who thought with him, declared, that should the enemy reject overtures of peace, or appear reluctant to enter into negotiation, when proposed, then he, and every man in the country would unite in advising the adoption of the most vigorous measures : and that not only such conduct on the part of the enemy would unite every Englishman in the cause, but that while it upited England, it must divide France, who would be indignant against whatever government or governors should dare to reject what was the sincere wish of the majority of its inhabitants. Instead, therefore, of expatiating on the exhausted state of the financial resources of the country, and running into an historical detail of all our past calamities, a subject which almost engrossed the right honourable gentleman's speech, I must beg leave to remind him of those his former professsions, and invite him to make good the pledge he has so often given to this House, aod to the country, and not to inflame the arrogance and unjust pretensions of the enemy, by an exaggerated statement of our past misfortunes, or of our present inability to retrieve them by a spirited and
vigorous prosecution of the war. His feelings as an Englishman, and his duty as a member of parliament, must assuredly induce the right honourable gentleman to exert his abilities in suggesting the most effectual means of insuring our success in the contest, especially since he heard the late arrogant and ambitious professions of the enemy. All retrospective views I therefore for the present must regard as useless, and think it far more wise and urgent to provide for the success of future exertions ; not that I decline entering into the retrospect to which I am challenged, which I am ready to do with the indulgence of the House, but because I feel it of more serious importance to call your attention, not to the retrospect alone, but rather to the actual state of things, which the right honourable gentleman has entirely omitted.
And, first, let me observe, that, while I endeavour to follow the right honourable gentleman through his very long detail of faets and events, I shall follow him as they bear on a particular conclusion which he wishes to draw from them, but which the country does not call for, and which it will not admit. What is the conclusion to which he wishes to lead us ? Does it not go to record a confession and retractation of our past errors ? An avowal that, instead of a just and necessary war, to which we were compelled by an unprovoked aggression, we are embarked in a contest in which we wantonly and unjustly engaged, while our defence is evidently such as our dearest interests call for, and which a regard to justice, and to every moral principle, legitimates and sanctifies? Can, then, this House adopt a motion, which directly contradicts its recorded opinions, and which tends to force on it new counsels; or, in other words, to oblige it to rescind all the resolutions it has come to since the commencement of the war? The right honourable gentleman has, in rich and glowing colouring, depicted our exhausted resources ; the went of vigour in our measures, and the inattention of ministers to seize on the more favourable opportunities for making peace. He also assumes, that the sole cause of the war was the restoration of monarchy in France; and that this cause after.
wards shifted into various other complexions. All these charges, however, as well as the unjustness of the war, he establishes only by presumption. The right honourable gentleman then goes back to 1792, when he says the first opportunity was offered of our procuring peace to Europe, but of which ministers did not avail themselves. He also refers to a speech made by me on the opening of the budget of that year, which he describes as having been uttered in a tone of great satisfaction, triumph, and exultation. It is true, indeed, that I felt much satisfaction in exhibiting to the country the high degree of prosperity to which it had then reached ; - not less satisfaction, I am sure, than the honourable gentleman seems to feel in giving the melancholy picture that his motion has now drawn of its present reduced situation ; and I felt the more vivid satisfaction in viewing that prosperity, as it enabled us to prepare for, and enter into, a contest of a nature altogether unprecedented. Now, however, when that prosperity is over, the honourable gentleman dwells on it rather rapturously, though it seemed little to affect him at the time it was enjoyed. But, not only are ministers accused of having neglected the opportunities of making peace, but when they have attempted overtures of that nature, they are charged with insincerity, or with holding forth something in the shape and make of these overtures that must create suspicions of their sincerity in the enemy, or provoke their disgust. What can countenance such an accusation, I am sadly at a loss to discover : for at the periods alluded to, every motive of public duty, every consideration of personal ease, must have induced me to exert the best of my endeavours to promote a peace, by which alone I could be enabled to effect the favourite objects I had in view, of redeeming the public debt and the 4 per cents. as alluded to by the honourable gentleman. No stronger proofs could be given of the sincerity of government to promote and insure peace, than was then given by His Majesty's ministers; and if they were disappointed, the fault is not with them, but their conduct must be understood and justified by the imperious necessity which ip 1793 compelled them to resist an unprovoked aggression. As to