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interpretation would induce us to hesitate in admitting its reality; much more when it is brought against individuals, whose conduct, I trust, has exhibited the reverse of the picture I have now drawn. I appeal to the justice of the House, I rely on their candour; but, to gentlemen who can suppose ministers capable of those motives which have been imputed to them on this occasion, it must be evident that I can desire to make no such appeal.
An amendment was afterwards moved by Mr. Bragge, to leave out from the first word “ that,” and to insert, “ the measure of advancing the several sums of money, which appear, from the accounts presented to the House in this session of parliament, to have been issued for the service of the Emperor, though not to be drawn into precedent, but upon occasions of special necessity, was, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, a justifiable and proper exercise of the discretion vested in His Majesty's ministers by the vote of credit, and calculated to produce consequences, which have proved highly advantageous to the common cause and to the general interests of Enrope,” which upon a division was carried;
December 30. 1796. Me. Pitt moved the order of the day for taking into consideration His Majesty's message, respecting the failure of the negotiation for peace that had been carrying on with the French government.
“ GEORGE R. “ It is with the utmost concern that His Majesty acquaints the House of Cominons, that his earnest endeavours to effect the restoration of peace have been unhappily frustrated, and that the negotiation, in which he was engaged, has been abruptly broken off by the peremptory refusal of the French government to treat, except upon a basis evidently inadmissible, and by their having in consequence required His Majesty's Plenipotentiary to quit Paris within 48 hours.
“ His Majesty has directed the several memorials and papers which have been exchanged in the course of the late discussion, and the account transmitted to His Majesty of its final result, to be laid before the House.
* From these papers His Majesty trusts, it will be proved to the whole world that his conduct has been guided by a sincere desire to effect the restoration of peace on principles suited to the relative situation of the belligerent powers, and essential for the permanent interests of this kingdom, and the general security of Europe: whilst his enemies have advanced pretensions at once inconsistent with those objects, unsupported even on the grounds on which they were professed to rest, and repugnant both to the system established by repeated treaties, and to the principles and practice which have hitherto regulated the intercourse of independent nations.
“ In this situation, His Majesty has the consolation of reflecting, that the continuance of the calamities of war can be imputed only to the unjust and exorbitant views of bis enemies; and His Majesty, looking forward with anxiety to the moment when they may be disposed to act on different principles, places in the mean time the fullest reliance, under the protection of Providence, on the wisdom and firmness of his parliament, on the tried valour of his forces by sea and land, and on the zeal. public spirit, and resources of his kingdoms, for vigorous and effectual support in the prosecution of a contest, which it does not depend on His Majesty to terminate, and wbich involves in it the security and permanent interests of this country, and of Europe.
G. R.” The message being read from the chair, Mr. Pitt addressed the House to the following effect :
I am perfectly aware, Sir, in rising upon the present occasion, that the motion which I shall have the honour to propose to the House, in consequence of His Majesty's most gracious message, and founded upon the papers with which it was accompanied, involves many great and important con. siderations. Whatever difference of opinion may be entertained upon some of the topics which they contain, I am sure there will exist only one sentiment with regard to the event which they announce. We must all concur in that deep and poignant regret which is naturally excited by the information that the negotiation, in which. His Majesty was engaged, is abruptly broken off; a negotiation by which we fondly wished, and perhaps might have sanguinely hoped, that upon terms of peace, which it would have been wise and prudent, and honourable in this country to have embraced, we should at length have been enabled to have retired from a contest undertaken in compliance with the faith of treaties and for the defence of our allies ; undertaken to repel the daring, unprincipled, and unprovoked aggression of the enemy; undertaken for the maintenance of our own independence and the support of our own rights ; undertaken for the preservation of our constitution and laws, and in obedience to those principles of policy by which the conduct of England has so long and so gloriously been directed; undertaken from an union of all these causes and a combination of all these motives, to a degree for which the annals of the world present no parallel. From the documents of which the House are now in possession, and from the proceedings of which they are now enabled to judge, I trust it will appear, that if it was thought necessary to embark in the contest upon such urgent grounds and such pow. erful considerations, His Majesty's ministers have evinced a perseverance equally sincere in their endeavours to restore peace to Europe upon fair, just, and honourable grounds, in spite of the discouragements under which they laboured, and the difficulties with which they had to encounter. To whatever cause, however, the failure of the negotiation is to be ascribed, it must be matter of regret to all, and to none more than to myself. Whatever subject of personal anxiety I may have had, in addition to the common feelings of humanity and for the general happiness of mankind, my sentiments are only those of disappointment. But I have the satisfaction of knowing that this feeling of disappointment is unaccompanied with any reflection, unmingled with regret, unimbitttered with despondency, as it must be evident to the world, that the event which we deplore can be attributed only to the pride, the ambition, the obstinacy, and the arrogant pretensions of the enemy. I feel this consolation annexed to the task which we have now to perform, that we can come forward, not unaware of the difficulty, yet not dismayed by the prospect, prepared to review the situation in which we are placed, to ask what are the causes from which the failare of the negoti. ation proceeded, what opinion it authorises us to form, what conduct it requires us to pursue, what duty it imposes upon us to discharge, and what efforts we are called upon to exert in our VOL. II.
own defence, and what support and assistance policy demands that we should grant to our allies for the vigorous and effectual prosecution of a contest in which we are compelled to persevere.
As to the next point which I shall have to consider, I cannot expect equal unanimity; not, however, that it is much more complicated, although undoubtedly not so self-evident. I allude to the failure of the negotiation, in point of terms, and which renders a continuance of the war necessary; but have we bot the consolation that the aggression has uniformly been on the side of the enemy, and that nothing has been wanting on the part of this country to restore peace, on the grounds on which peace alone would be desirable? When we wish for peace, we wish for a secure and permanent peace, and the secure and permanent possession of those blessings with which peace is accompanied.
If, in that necessity to which we are now subjected, of pursuing with vigour the war in which we are engaged, we can look for consolation, amid the sacrifices with which it will be attended, to the original aggression of the enemy by which it was occasioned, to the consideration, that no endeavour has been omitted which can evince our earnest and sincere desire of peace, and that this sentiment still predominates to put an end to the contest upon those principles which alone can render that event desir. able; which can secure a peace, safe, honourable, and permanent, which can restore those blessings which it is calculated to produce, and those advantages for which it is worthy to be desired;
- if we have adhered to these considerations, we have done every thing which it was in our power to perform. We may lament the failure of His Majesty's exertions upon this occasion, but at least we have not to regret that they have been wholly without advantage. They must prove to which party the prolongation of the war is to be imputed; they will tend at once to unite England and to divide France; they will animate our endeavours with new energy and new confidence, while they must have the effect to enfeeble and to embarrass the operations of the
enemy. The question is not merely how far His Majesty's mi. nisters and those to whose province it is committed to judge of the terms, upon which peace ought to be concluded, and what offers are to be proposed, (a duty always attended with difficulty, but in the present circumstances peculiarly embarrassed and urusually critical) acted properly in the conditions upon which they were willing to treat: but after the propositions which were made had been rejected; when, instead of yours, terms utterly inadmissible and glaringly extravagant were substituted; when, to a peremptory objection, was added the refusal of all farther discussion; when the negotiation was abruptly broken off, and His Majesty's ambassador was sent away; when all this is accompanied with a proceeding still more insulting than the original dismissal, when a condition is reserved, which is not even the semblance, but which stands undisguised as the most glaring mockery of negotiation, it remains for the House to judge whetherany thing has been wanting upon the part of ministers, whether any thing more is required to display the sentiments and the views of the enemy. It remains to be seen whether there are any gentlemen in this House, who, as friends to peace, as friends to their country, who, consistent with the principles of statesmen, or the feelings of patriots, can discover any alternative in the ultimate line of conduct to be pursued. From the marner in which what I have now said has been received, I hope it will not be incombent upon me to dwell more particularly upon this topic, before I advert to others which come previously to be considered.
The two leading points which arise from the views connected with the subject in discussion, are, the sentiment which it is proper to express upon the steps to be taken by His Majesty for the purpose of obtaining peace, and then, combining the offers made with the rejection of the enemy, and the circumstances with which it was accompanied, what sentiment parliament and the nation ought to entertain, with regard to the conduct necessary to be adopted for our own security, for maintaining the cause of our allies, and protecting the independence of Europe.