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of a measure noi sanctioned by the three branches of the legislature — the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act. The preamble of that measure states the existence of that plot, as recognised from the investigation of a committee, and the inspection of voluminous papers, which the honourable gentleman has chosen to brand as the fabrication of ministers. But why has he introduced this subject, apparently so little connected with the question? In order, as it appears, to give an account of a transaction, of which, I declare, till this night, I knew nothing.* : as little am I acquainted with the dissemination of those inflammatory papers of which so much has been said by the honourable gentleman. I have, indeed, for these few days past, been engaged with the examination of papers, but papers very different from those alluded to by the honourable gentleman. These papers, voluminous in their size, form the records of those societies, whose proceedings have attracted the notice of government. They contain materials of a nature very interesting indeed, and with which this House will speedily be acquainted. When these materials shall be brought forward, it will then appear, whether there is any real ground for alarm, or for supposing the existence of that plot which has been stated : I shall only desire the House to compare what shall
* Mr. Sheridan, in the course of his speech, had coniplained of certain liberties, which he conceived had been taken with his character as a member of that House. — “Suppose,” continued Mr. Sheridan,“ a grcat magistrate of the city, robed in the ensigns of his office, not lightly over. a glass of wine, or after a good dinner, but solemnly and gravely in the court with his brother aldermen, should declare that a member of par liament, by name Mr. Sheridan, would be sent to the Tower within two months, provided the Habeas Corpus act were suspended, and should back his assertion with a bet, and so considerable a bet as one hundred and twenty guineas to six, — would you think this a light or trivial matter? And would not gentlemen suppose that such a magistrate, from his known connection with administration, had some authority for saying so beyond his own ideas as a private man? It would not be orderly to name the honourable magistrate; but if he be in the House, he pro. babiy may be known by a gold chain which he wears.”
appear upon the face of the report of their committee with what has been asserted by the honourable gentleman, as having been made use of by a respectable member of this House. * I am surprised that it could ever have appeared in any other light than as an expression of levity. The honourable gentleman, however, thinks otherwise. From the serious view in which he has taken it up, it appears that a conspiracy cannot be going abroad, but he immediately takes guilt to himself. If his jealousy be indeed so wakeful, and his fears so easily excited, in all proba. bility the bet which he has mentioned with respect to himself may be a fair speculation.
In one point of view I must indeed thank the honourable gentleman for having introduced the topic of the state of the country, and the existence of plots, however irrelevant it might seem to the subject of debate. However irrelevant it might seem, as introduced by him, it is certainly highly in our favour. For if, from the result of the report of your committee, it shall appear that there is ground to suppose that there has existed a system in this country, (and indeed no country in Europe has been exempted from its effects,) to introduce French principles for French purposes, and by French means; if the same system may be traced all over the Continent, and there shall be found to be the most striking coincidence, both in the object aimed at, and the means by which it has been prosecuted; if the whole shall be clearly imputable to the present government of France, and be calculated every where to produce the same effects, which we have witnessed in that country, it must then be admitted, that nothing less than the subversion of that jacobin government, which has been contended for by my honourable friend +, can be adequate to the purposes of the war. The present, indeed, is not a contest for distant, or contingent objects; it is not a contest for acquisition of territory; it is not a contest for power and glory; as little is it carried on merely for any commercial advantage, or any particular form of government; but it is a contest for the security, the tran
quillity, and the very existence of Great Britain, connected with that of every established government, and every country in Europe. This is the view of the nature of the war, upon which this House has acted in its former decisions. It is a view confirmed by the experience of every day, and of every hour ; it is a view which the events of the present moment have tended still more strongly to impress upon the minds of gentlemen of this House, this moment which has been chosen of all others in order to induce us to abandon our principles, and reverse our decisions.
I do not think it necessary to comment at length upon the string of resolutions brought forward by the right honourable gentleman. They are evidently introduced for the express purpose of recording upon the journals of this House the opi. nions of that right honourable gentleman with respect to the nature, the objects, and the probable events of the war - opinions which he has brought forward both in the course of the present and of the former session. The substance of all his resolutions may be reduced to two, to each of which, now that I am upon my legs, I shall feel it necessary to say a very few words. The right honourable gentleman, in a speech more distinguished by its length and ability, than by any additional matter or novelty of argument, divided the whole subject into three or four periods, in order to prove that the subversion of the jacobin government was inconsistent with the former professions of this government, and in its own nature impolitic and impracticable. In order to prove his assertion, the right honourable gentleman began with adverting to the professions of neutrality, held out on the part of this country previous to the declarations, and to the negociations set on foot, in order to secure the continuance of peace. To this part of his argument, the answer of my honourable friend was so full and satisfactory, as to require on my part no addition. I have only to state, along with him, that it is not every provocation which justifies a war. The French revolution might not, in the first instance, appear to be so great an evil, as it has since evinced itself to be. It might not be discovered to have such pernicious effects as have since unfolded themselves to our view. The extent to which it carries the principle of propagating its doctrines by fire and sword is now, however, no longer a matter of doubt. The principle is rendered still more dangerous by the means which it possesses for carrying in into effect. Can we, then, be supposed to be pledged to the same line of conduct in the present moment, which, in the first instance, we might have deemed it prudent to adopt ? - In proportion as the extent of the evil discloses itself, does not there arise a necessity for increased means of resistance? The right honourable gentleman stated, that even subsequent to the memorable period of the 10th of Angust, we continued our professions of neutrality, though we thought proper to break off all intercourse with the French nation on account of their conduct to the sovereign. Of the principles upon which that intercourse was broken off, the House have already expressed their decided approbation; and can they then, with regard either to the dig. nity of their character, or the consistency of their principles, renew, in a time of war, that intercourse which they thought proper, on such solid grounds, to break off in time of peace; and at a time too, when, I contend, that the attempt to renew such intercourse would be as impotent as it would be dis
* Mr. Fox.
The right honourable gentleman stated, that the objects first held out for the war on the part of this country, were the breach of treaty by the French with respect to the Scheldt, and the views of aggrandisement which they disclosed in seizing upon the territory of the neighbouring powers. So far I admit he has stated justly; but when he says that all idea of interference with the government of France was entirely disclaimed, he states what is not the fact. - Such an interference, I grant, was not precisely stated; it was, however, referred to, even in the first instance. And, in proof of this assertion, I refer to the following passage in His Majesty's mes
sage, brought down to this House so early as the 28th of January, 1793.
“ In the present situation of affairs, His Majesty thinks it indispensably necessary to make a farther augmentation of his forces by sea and land, for maintaining the security and rights of his own dominions, for supporting his allies, and for opposing views of aggrandisement and ambition on the part of France, which would be at all times dangerous to the general interests of Europe, but are particularly so, when connected with the propagation of principles which lead to the violation of the most sacred duties, and are utterly subversive of the peace and order of all civil society."
Such was the language even then adopted by His Majesty, and re-echoed in the answer of this House to that message. A few days after, came the declaration of war on the part of the French. What were the sentiments I expressly declared in the course of the last session, I refer to the recollection of every member present. A few days previous to the close of last session, the right honourable gentleman came forward with a motion precisely similar in nature and effect to the resolutions which he has this day proposed to the House. I then stated, that while the existing system continued in France, we could have but little hope of obtaining a peace upon solid and permanent grounds; that, could a peace be obtained, I certainly should not consider the continuance of the system, as itself, an objection. At the same time I expressly assured the House that the prospect of affairs was such as not to afford the smallest ground of rational expectation of our ever being able to obtain such a peace as we could either accept, or, for any length of time, hope to enjoy, while France remained under the influence of jacobin councils, and that the prospect of bringing the war to a conclusion, as well as the security for any engagements which we might form with France, must ultimately depend upon the destruction of those principles, which were hostile to every regular government, and subversive of all good faith. I as. serted farther, that if an opportunity should occur, in which we