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been censurable indeed: instead of doing so, they immediately sent out expeditions to capture the Dutch settlements, which we may now either restore to the stadtholder, if he should be re. stored, or else we may retain them ourselves. If, instead of that line of conduct, His Majesty's ministers had then acknowledged the French republic, does the right honourable gentleman, does the House, suppose that the terms we should then have obtained would have been better than those we can now expect? Then, it was asked, why did not administration negotiate for peace before the confederacy was weakened by the defection of Spain and Prussia, because, of course, better terms might have been obtained when the allies were all united, than could be expected after they became divided? It undoubtedly would have been a most advantageous thing, if we could have prevailed upon the Kings of Spain and Prussia to have continued the war until the enemy were brought to terms, but that not having been the case, #2 at least had the advantage of the assistance of those powers, while they remained in the confederacy. Before any blame can attach upon ministers upon this ground, it will be necessary to shew, that, prior to the defection of Prussia and Spain, terms were proposed to us, which we rejected. Whether these two powers have gained much from the peace they have made, is not a question very difficult to be answered. Whether Spain was really in that state that she could not have maintained another campaign, without running the risk of utter destruction, is a point upon which I do not choose to give an opinion ; but, with respect to Prussia, she certainly enjoys the inactivity of peace, but she has all the preparation and expense of war.
The right honourable gentleman again adverts to the form of government which, he says, it was the intention of ministers to establish in France, and alludes, particularly, to the affair at Toulon; and from that subject the honourable gentleman makes a rapid transition to the case of M. de la Fayette. With respect to what might be the treatment of that unfortunate gentleman, the cabinet of Great Britain had no share in it, nor did ministérs think themselves warranted in interfering with the allies
upon the subject. With regard to Mr. Lameth, the right honourable gentleman certainly did ministers justiee, when he said they could feel no antipathy to that person; and they certainly did feel great reluctance in ordering him to quit the kingdom: but as to the motive which induced them to take that step, they did not conceive it to be a proper subject of discussion. The act of parliament had vested discretion in the executive government, and they must be left to the exercise of it.
The right honourable gentleman has also alluded to the situation of the emigrants, and asserted, that if government were of opinion that there was no prospect of making an attack with success upon France, it was the height of cruelty to have eme ployed them. This, however, was not the case : there were, at different times, well-grounded expectations of success against that country, and surely it cannot be considered as cruelty to have furnished the emigrants with the means of attempting to regain their properties and their honours.
The right honoutable gentleman has also thought proper, in his speech, to dwell at considerable length on the state of the enemy's finances. He is willing to admit that their finances are, as he says I have stated them to be, in the very gulf of bankruptcy - in their last agonies. But then the right honourable gentleman proceeds to ask me whether, notwithstanding this financial bankruptcy, they have not prosecuted their military operations with increased vigour and success? Whether, notwithstanding these their last agonies, they may not make such dreadful struggles as may bring their adversaries to the grave ? I will not now detain the House by contrasting the finances of this country with those of the enemy; I will not now dwell on the impossibility of a nation carrying on a vigorous war, in which it is annually expending one third of its capital; but I will tell the right honourable gentleman that the derangement of the French armies at the latter end of the last campaign, the exhausted state of their magazines and stores, and their ultimate retreat before the allied troops, furnish a convincing proof that the rapid decline of their finances begins to affect in the greatest
degree their military operations. How far their recent successes, on the side of Italy, deserve credit to the extent stated by the right honourable gentleman, I shall not take upon me to say: I have had no intelligence on the subject, and therefore shall offer no opinion to the House.
The next topic which I have to consider, is the argument drawn from the question of our sincerity in the message delivered to the French minister at Basle, on the 8th of March; and a great variety of observations have been suggested and urged upon that point. One inference drawn by the right honourable gentleman, arises from the circumstance of this message having been communicated four months after His Majesty's speech, and three months after the declaration made to parliament, that His Majesty was ready to meet and give effect to any disposition manifested on the part of the enemy for the conclusion of a general peace. In the first place it must be remembered, that neither the speech from the throne, nor the declaration, expressed any intention in the British government, to be the first in making proposals for opening a negotiation. The fair construction went no farther than to invite the enemy to make the first advances, if they were so disposed, and to show that no obstacle would be opposed on our part to the capacity of the government they had chosen to negotiate terms with this country. Gentlemen, therefore, have no right to feel in any degree disappointed at the delay of the communication, since, in being the first to make any overtures of peace, His Majesty's ministers went beyond any pledge they had given, or any expectation that ought to be entertained.
It has further been objected, that those proposals must be insincere, because it did not appear that on this occasion we had acted in concert with our allies. A sufficient answer to this may be given by the peculiar circumstances of affairs, the lateness of the season, and those communications being cut off, by which we and our allies were before enabled to maintain a ready intercourse. Had this ceremony been complied with, the delay, which it would have occasioned, must unavoidably have been
greater than that of which gentlemen think themselves warranted to complain. They are, however, as much mistaken in their facts, as they are in their inferences, for this step was not taken without previous communication with our allies, and we acted in concert with them, though they were not formally made parties to the proposal; a ceremony which in my opinion would be wholly superfluous.
Another proof, it should seem, of our insincerity is, that, in the message alluded to, we did not recognise the republic. It is truly generous in the right honourable gentleman, generous towards them at least, to find out an objection for the French which they themselves did not discover. We had the answer of the directory to our note, and they took not the least notice of the republic not having been recognised. If that had been a necessary and indispensable form, without which they considered themselves insulted, their natural conduct would have been to give no answer at all. On this point of recognition, however, the right honourable gentleman is always extremely tender, and has it very much at heart. He holds up the example of America to us, as if it was an instance that had any application to the present question. The right honourable gentleman also boldly contends, that if we had paid the French government this mark of respect and confidence, it would have induced them, in return, to propose more moderate terms. I am, however, very far from expecting any such effect; for, in fact, the government of France never seemed to think of it. I do not consider the omission as an act of hostility, and they must be aware, that the proposal to treat in itself implied a recognition, without which it was impossible that a treaty should be concluded.
To show the consistency of the arguments on this subject, I shall take the liberty of recalling the attention of the House to those antecedent periods, when the gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, in defending the French government, held up to our imitation the wise and temperate conduct of the court of Denmark, which maintained a beneficial neutrality with France,
and with which the latter showed itself capable of maintaining the necessary relations of amity and peace. It is indeed true, that France has in a great measure respected the neutrality of Denmark, and observed with it the relations of peace, at least, if not of amity. What, however, destroys the right honourable gentleman's argument at once is, that this wise, peaceable, neutral, and amicable court of Denmark had not recognised the French republic till the present year. So that, in fact, Denmark did not consider the French government as one that it ought to acknowledge, till the form which it assumed rendered it in some degree equally admissible in the eyes of the other powers of Europe.
Another argument of insincerity is, that we did not propose terms to the enemy, while we called upon them for theirs. This I conceive to be that which we had no right to do; the application did not come from the enemy, it was made on our part, and it would have been ridiculous to propose any particular terms to them, till we were previously informed whether they were willing to treat at all. It has also been alleged, that we mast have been insincere, because when we employed the minister at Basle to make this application, we did not at the same time give him the power to negotiate. It was extraordinary indeed that an observation of this kind should be urged by any person who professed the slightest acquaintance with diplomatic proceedings. I would ask the right honourable gentleman, whether it was ever known that the person employed to sound the disposition of a belligerent party, was also considered as the proper minister for discussing all the relative interests, and concluding a treaty? The House must remember, on former occasions, when the right honourable gentleman was so warm in the recommendation of a peace with France, whatever might be its government, that, apprehensive of an adherence to that etiquette, which might prevent us from being the first to make overtures, he advised us to make recourse to expedients, and sound the disposition of the enemy, through the medium of neutral powers. As soon as Frante adopted a