« PreviousContinue »
last session, to be forthwith drawn out and embodied, in pursuance of His Majesty's communications already made to the House of Commons on this subject.
“ His Majesty feels it incumbent on him to make the fullest use of the extensive means already provided by the wisdom of parliament for the national defence. But he feels it at the same time, under citcam. stances which he has stated, indispensably necessary to recommend it to the House of Commons, to consider without delay of such farther measures as may enable His Majesty to defeat the wicked machinations of disaffected persons within these realms, and to guard against the designs of the enemy, either abroad or at home.
* G. R." Mr. Dundas then moved an address of thanks to His Majesty in the language of the message, which was seconded by Mr. Pitt.
After Dr. Sheridan bad spoken in warm approbation of the address, and in a tone and language calculated to animate the exertions of the country, at this important crisis.
Mr. Pitt rose to reply:
Being so well satisfied with certain parts of the speech of the honourable gentleman who has just spoken ; admiring, as I do, in common with the rest of the House, the energy, the vigour, the manliness and eloquence, which were displayed in that speech, I should be extremely unwilling to take notice of other parts of it in which we differ ; but I beg to be understood, it is because I do think unanimity valuable upon the present occasion, and at this inoment, in this House, that I shall abstain from comments upon parts of that speech, to which I cannot assent. I had much rather express satisfaction at the present opinion of the honourable gentleman, from whatever ground it has arisen that his opinion has been changed with respect to the conduct which this country ought to observe with regard to France ; I am glad that he now at least agrees with us in the necessity of resisting the arms of France, and in calling on every man to join in that resistance. - I say, I had rather do so than enter into the discussion of other points in which I differ from that honourable gentleman. I will not suffer myself to follow him over many of the various topics which he has introduced tonight. The merit of his disinterestedness I do not mean to detract from, because he has candidly stated, that while he gives
, bis assistance to us in the present crisis, he does not approve of any part of our conduct wbich he has formerly censured. I, therefore, receive his aid now, as I am confident he intended it to be received, as a testimony of his public spirit. I am more convinced now than ever that that which now animates the zeal, calls forth the ardour, and occasions the display of the eloquence of that honourable gentleman, is owing to the conduct of France; that which now produces unanimity in this House and in this country is nothing more than a display of those prin. ciples, a developement of that character which belonged originally to the French revolution — an event which, for a while, unfortunately had the countenance of that honourable gentleman, but which was then resisted by the nation at large; a resistance which, if not made earlier than the period of the honourable gentleman's conviction of its propriety, would have been too late : even unanimity itself would then have been useless, and the honourable gentleman would have been left without a place for the display of his abilities in this House. I must also say, that although I do not wish to detract from his talents; although I admire his eloquence, and revere the wisdom of some part of his conduct this night; although I rejoice in the . unanimity which we are likely to have upon this occasion, yet it is not to the wisdom, or to the splendid display of talents, or to the animated zeal of an individual, that we are to look for safety; it can only be considered as giving aid to the efforts of millions acting under the clearest necessity. That honourable gentleman, therefore, will not think I should depreciate him, or any other individual, if I said it was adding but little to the efforts of a nation nearly unanimous before ; a nation which did not want that honourable gentleman to tell them, they are contending for liberty, for order, for property, for honour, for law, for religion, and even for existence. They would have been happy to have had him contending with them from the commencement of this contest ; they would, however, have been able to have gone on without him. While I say this, Jet
me give that gentleman the praise and thanks that are due to bim for setting the example he has done ; for, be it recollected, he has set an example of unanimity in this House for opposing the common enemy: let us allow the credit that is due to him; but let us not do such injustice to the zeal and the energy of the country as to doubt, that England was as secure before this unanimity as it is now, and as I trust it will be after it.
On the subject of Ireland, the honourable gentleman says, he will make a motion on some future day. I will venture to say, that when that subject comes to be discussed, if Ireland forms now part of the weakness, instead of the strength, of the British empire, it is because those very French principles, the fatal in. Auence of which that honourable gentleman has stated to-night, in a strain of energy and captivating eloquence which I will not weaken by attempting to repeat his words - it is owing, I say, to these French principles, which found their way into that kingdom, where the arts of deception, from various causes, are more easily practised, and are more successful than in this. I will therefore say, that with every desire, with every wish, to see adopted a system of conciliation with Ireland, when that may be practicable, I must tell him, that if he means by a peace with Ireland, peace with those who are devoted to the French, I think that would be as mean a capitulation, as that which he described with respect to our submitting to a foreign yoke: I say, you may as well expect peace with a French army at the gates of London, as peace with the jacobins in Ireland.
If I doubted any thing on the subject of French ambition, which was introduced by that honourable gentleman, it was upon the reserve which be made for treating with the French after an invasion. I know no situation which can justify a nation of freemen under any circumstances, in making a treaty of capitulation, or surrender of liberty and independence to the mercy of the enemy; and it is a sentiment in the heart of every Englishman, a law beyond any statute, that it would be high treason for this country to treat with France, while a single regiment of French forces remained in England. I must apply
the same feelings and the same sentiments with regard to Ireland.
And now, as to the other only point which I intend to notice in the speech of the honourable gentleman, I mean the state of a conspiracy in this country; he has said, that much might be known to government which is not known to him. I know that much is known to government which cannot be known to him upon that subject. I know that the country at large is sensible, that there is a body of men, too considerable in number and activity for government to pass by them unnoticed: men who are going on with the daring purpose of corresponding with the French, for establishing a spirit of republicanism in this country, under the auspices of a foreign force. This is supported by the conduct of our enemies; we can see nothing of the proceedings of our enemies ; we can see none of the speeches of their leaders, in which it is not attempted to animate the French people to invade this country; no temptation to make their armies embark; no endeavour to prevail upon their scanty marine to try their feeble efforts, that is not followed up with the hope of success, by the co-operation of traitors in this country. I think, therefore, I may venture to say, that when the crown does state by a message, that the information is received of the existence of such a design, we ought to be prepared in the best manner possible.
When we know that the enemy are forming a plan to invade this country; when we know that in former times, on such communications from the throne, our ancestors, without investigation, had recourse to the measure of enabling His Majesty to secure and detain those who are suspected of conspiring against his government, I say we should be wanting to ourseselves, if we hesitated in adopting the measure to which the honourable gentleman alluded, seemingly with a dislike, in one part of his speech, but which I hope this House will give effect to before we separate this night. It was my intention to have moved for that. law imniediately after disposing of the address; but that having suggested itself elsewhere, we may be enabled to give it the force of law more speedily. I hope the interval will not be a great many minutes before we see that measure has received the sanction of another House of legislature. It is a measure that becomes necessary on grounds intimately connected with the subject now before us. I am very glad there is now no difference of opinion upon the main question; the union of this House is very desirable upon this point: and, therefore, although I may protest against some of the doctrines of the honourable gentleman who spok last, I am unwilling to dwell upon the points on which we differ, because I am unwilling to disturb their unanimity.
The question upon the address was immediately put and agreed to nemine contradicente.
May 25. 1798.
Mr. Pitt, conformably to the notice he had previously given, ani after stating that the object of his motion was precisely the same with that, for which a similar bill had been brought in in the year 1779, namely, to suspend for a limited time the protections which various descriptions of persons enjoy, to prevent them from being impressed into the service of the navy, moved for leave to bring in a bill for the more effectual manning of His Majesty's navy: at the same time intimating, that, as the present alarming situation of the country made it necessary that this measure should be passed without any delay, he should wish that the bill might this day proceed through its different stages, with a suitable pause at each, if required, and that it should be sent to the Lords for their concurrence.
Mr. Tierney complained of the very extraordinary and precipitate man. ter in which the right honourable gentleman had called upon the House to adopt the measure proposed. He had heard no arguments, he said, that proved its propriety; he knew of no sudden emergency that urged its necessity; even if he had, some time ought to have been allowed him to weigh the force of such argumerts, and examine the nature of such an emergency, before he proceeded to give three or four votes on a measure of which no notice of any sort had been given; and of which no idea had tver entered his mind. If the right honourable gentleman persisted in hurrying the bill through the House in the manner proposed, he must give it bis decided negative, however reluctantly he opposed any measure that was said to be necessary to the safety of the country. For, from