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form of government, from which an expectation of stability was to be drawn, His Majesty's ministers readily waved all eti. quette, and would not let such forms stand in the way of the permanent object of the peace and tranquillity of Europe, and they made direct proposals to the enemy. Had they, however, adopted the expedient proposed to them, and employed a neutral power to make their communications, was it to be expected that we should appoint that neutral power our minister plenipotentiary to manage our interests, as well as those of our allies ? The gentleman through whom the communications were made at Basle, is one perfectly qualified from his talents, his zeal, and his integrity, to conduct any negotiation ; but whatever may be his character, it would be the height of imprudence, or rather folly, to intrust the management of a negotiation of such uncommon moment to the discretion of an individual, and at such a distance.
The motives which induced His Majesty's ministers not to employ the same minister who had made the advances, as the negotiator of a peace, are not confined to what I have hitherto stated; it was also, necessary in order to show our allies that we did not go beyond the line of that arrangement which was concerted with them, and that, true to our engagements, we had no separate object, and would not proceed a step without their concurrence. We wished to avoid any thing which could excite the slightest suspicion, that we were disposed to a separate negotiation, which was what France would wish, and what was her uniform aim during the present contest. This was a policy which in some instances was too successful with some of our allies, and which enabled her to enforce on them successively more harsh and unequal conditions. It was with a view to the same open dealing, that it was thought proper to publish to the different courts of Europe the message and the answer, that the world might judge of the moderation of the allies, and the arrogance of the enemy.
There was one ground of sincerity which I believe the right honourable gentleman did not state; but which the
Directory rested upon, principally, in their answer. This was the proposal for holding a general congress. How this could support the charge of insincerity, I am at a loss to conceive. The British government pointed out the mode of pacification. This the enemy thought proper to decline and to reproach, but did not attempt to substitute any other mode by which the object was likely to be obtained. So far from projecting any thing which could even justly be an object of suspicion, ministers had preferred that of a congress, which was the only mode in which wars were concluded in all cases wherein allies were concerned. ever since the peace of Munster, the two last treaties only excepted. This charge of insincerity was represented by the right honourable gentleman as the probable cause of the exorbitant terms demanded by the enemy :-“ They are high in their demands," says the right honourable gentleman, “because they know you are not in earnest; whereas, were they confident in your sincerity, they would be moderate and candid." In my humble apprehension, the extravagance of their terms leads to an opposite conchusion, and proves that the plea of insincerity is with them only a pretence. If they really thought His Majesty's ministers insincere, their policy would have been to make just and moderate demands, which, if rejected, would exhibit openly and in the face of the world, that want of candour, and that appetite for war, which the right honourable gentleman joins in so unjustly attributing to us. But having, in fact, no disposition for peace, and led away by false and aspiring notions of aggrandisement, the government of France offered us such terms as they knew could not possibly be complied with. Did they know the spirit, temper, and character of this country, when they presumed to make such arrogant proposals ? These proposals I will leave to the silent sense impressed by them in the breast of every Englishman. I am, thank God! addressing myself to Britons, who are acquainted with the presumption of the enemy, and who, conscious of their resources, impelled by their native spirit, and valuing the national character, will prefer the chances and
alternatives of war to such unjust, unequal, and humiliating conditions.
The plea of the French directory, that their constitution did not permit them to accept of any terms, which should diminish the extent of country annexed by conquest to the territories of the republic, the right honourable gentleman himself very fairly condemns; because, if persevered in, it must be an eternal obstacle to the conclusion of any peace. That the interests of foreign nations should yield to those laws, which another country should think proper to prescribe to itself, is a fallacy, a monster in politics, that never before was heard of. Whether their mi. litary successes are likely to enable them to preserve a constitution so framed, I will not now inquire, but of this I am certain, that the fortune of war must be tried before the nations of Europe will submit to such pretences.
On a fair examination, however, will it appear, that the right honourable gentleman is right in observing, that this allegation could be no more than a pretext? If so, is it not singular that the right honourable gentleman, who seems so shocked at this pretext of the law of the French constitution, should direet none of his censure against the legislators, or government of that nation, but vent all his indignation on the British ministers, for deferring their proposals for peace, till the enemy had formed such a constitution as rendered peace impracticable? I will not now recount all those arguments which, on former occasions, I have so frequently submitted to the House, nor the motives which induced me to decline all proposals for peace, till some form of government was established, which had a chance of being stable and permanent. Surely, however, it is too great a task imposed upon me to be able to foresee, amongst the innumerable and varying constitutional projects of the French, the precise system on which they would fix at last. Much less could I foresee that they would have adopted a constitution which even the right honourable gentleman himself would be induced to condemn. But, having so condemned it, he should in justice have
transferred his censures to those by whom it was framed; instead of which, all the thunder of the right honourable gentleman's eloquence is spent at home upon the innocent, while the guilty at a distance are not disturbed even by the report.
However the spirit of this country may be roused, and its indignation excited, by the exorbitant conditions proposed to it by the enemy, yet even these extravagant pretensions should not induce us to act under the influence of passion. I could easily have anticipated that unanimity of sentiment, with which such degrading proposals have been rejected by every man in this country, but our resentment, or our scorn, must not for a moment suffer us to lose sight of our moderation and our temper. We have long been in the habit of waiting for the return of reason in our deluded enemy, and whenever they shall descend from those aspiring and inadmissible projects which they seem to have formed, and are proceeding to act upon, we shall still be ready to treat with them upon fair and honourable terms. We are particularly interested in urging them to the acceptance of such a constitution as may be best suited to their character and situation, but we must take care that their constitution shall not operate injuriously to ourselves. We do not shut the door against negotiation whenever it can be fairly entered upon, but the enemy, so far from meeting us, say plainly they cannot listen to any terms, but such as in honour we cannot accept. The terms of peace which the right honourable gentle. man pointed at, and which, after all, he considers as very disadvantageous, are, that the French may retain their conquests in Europe, and that we should keep our acquisitions in the colonies. What however is the proposal of the directory? No less than this: that every thing should be restored to them, and they in return are to give up nothing. It is also urged by the honourable gentleman, that we were to blame in so abruptly breaking off the negotiation, and communicating the result to the world, together with the observations made upon it. To this I will answer, that the terms proposed by the enemy cut short all further treaty ; and as to the communication of the result, it will have, at least, the important consequence of dividing the opinions of France, and uniting those of England.
The motion was rejected;
October 6. 1796.
DEBATE on the address of thanks to His Majesty for His most gracious speech * on opening the session.
Although I feel myself impelled, Sir, from more than one consideration, to come forward on the present occasion, I shall not be under the necessity of troubling the House much at length. It is certainly to me matter of great satisfaction, that
*“ My Lords and Gentlemen,
“ It is a peculiar satisfaction to me, in the present conjuncture of affairs, to recur to your advice, after the recent opportunity which has been given for collecting the sense of my people, engaged in a difficult and arduous contest, for the preservation of all that is most dear to us.
“ I have omitted no endeavours for setting on foot negotiations to restore peace to Europe, and to secure for the future the general tranquillity. – The steps which I have taken for this purpose have at length opened the way to an immediate and direct negotiation, the issue of which must either produce the desirable end of a just, honourable, and solid peace for us, and for our allies, or must prove, beyond dispute, to what cause alone the prolongation of the calamities of war must be ascribed.
" I shall immediately send a person to Paris with full powers to treat for this object, and it is my anxious wish that this measure may lead to the restoration of general peace, but you must be sensible that nothing can so much contribute to give effect to this desire, as your manifesting that we possess both the determination and the resources to oppose, with increased activity and energy, the further efforts with which we may have to contend.