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of affairs varied since that time, so as to make negotiation more eligible at the present moment than it was at any former period? I heard my honourable friend state one fact on this business, which no evidence can contradict. I heard him with pleasure state, that the situation of France was now so weakened and exhausted, as to make peace with that government, though not secure, yet, in consequence of that weakness, attended with a considerable degree of security. That something more of this security exists at the present moment, I not only admit, but contend that the prospect is improving every day, and that this becomes more and more ascertained; as I shall state before I sit down. But is this a reason why we should negotiate at this moment? I think not. From facts that are notorious, from things known to the world, there is now a general feeling that there is, comparatively speaking, a sense of security in the country, when compared with the alarming uneasiness which some time ago prevailed. The enemy have not been able to avail themselves of their success and acquisitions, nor have they acquired solid and substantial strength. The natural anxiety of the people of this country has led them to remark the progress of the decay, decline, and ruin of the enemy, as being more rapid than they could have foreseen. When this business was formerly discussed, it was used as a very considerable argument against negotiation, that from our situation then, we could not hope to treat with France on terms of equality: that our affairs since the commencement of the war were in so unfavourable a state, that we could not reasonably hope to obtain terms of equality, or any thing fair and honourable. Is not this argument very considerably strengthened at this moment, when you compare the state of this country and France ? Exhausted and wearied with the addition of your own weakness, will you give up the contest in despair? We should then, like Holland, have to consider what indemnity France would expect of us. I state this as a practical objection, and wholly independent of any question on the security of negotiation. Those who argue for peace, consider our situation as rendered more fit for negotiation in this way:— that we have lost our allies, by which we are reduced to such a state of weakness, that we must listen to peace; and now that our allies have deserted us, it is unnecessary to obtain their consent. We formerly refused to treat with France, because we were satisfied she was unable to maintain that peace and amity that ought to prevail among neutral nations. Gentle. men have chosen to forget all the arguments used with regard to acknowledging the republic of France. We refused to treat with M. Chauvelin after the unfortunate murder of Louis XVI. We refused to acknowledge a government that had been reeking with the blood of their sovereign. Was not that an objection not to acknowledge them at that period? The murder of the King preceded but a very few days the declaration of war against this country.
The next argument is, whether you would dishonour yourself by acknowledging a republic that might endanger your own independence, and which made a public profession of principles which went to destroy the independence of every nation of Europe ? I say, I will not acknowledge such a republic. The question here is but simply whether you will acknowledge so as to treat with it ? It is not, nor has it been, since the commencement of the war, the interest of England, not from any one circumstance, but from taking all circumstances together, to institute a negotiation with the ruling powers now existing in France.
As to the declaration of the Emperor to the Diet, if it is authentic, that he should be happy to enter into a negotiation for peace, I beg leave to say, this declaration must be supposed to bind the Emperor in no other capacity than as head of the empire; and I am sure they cannot, and will not state that that precludes him, as Duke of Austria, or King of Bohemia, from performing any agreement he may choose to enter into, on his own separate account, in those capacities. As the head of the empire, he might, from the present situation of that country, think it wise and expedient to go beyond the line he may chalk out to himself as a sovereign prince and king, as King of Bobe. mia and Archduke of Austria. There may be circumstances to induce him, as the head of the empire, to wish to open a negotiation with France, rather than run the risk of a separate negotiation, through the medium of the King of Prussia, contrary to the constitution of the Germanic body. One of the next points relied upon, and imputed as blame to ministers, was the circumstance of the war in La Vendée and with the Chouans being at an end. I do not see how that circumstance can attach any blame to government. It has been stated, that the inhabitants of La Vendée have submitted to the French republic. Whoever has conversed with gentlemen coming from France, has been made acquainted with the situation of the inhabitants of La Vendée and the Chouans, as well as from the Paris newspapers. - They will do well to consider, whether the French government can have any degree of confidence, that they can reap the least advantage from that union. The advantages of the peace in that quarter have been entirely in favour of La Vendée and Britanny, and not of the republic; the inhabitants have gained by the treaty, and lost nothing. The republic has no right to any accession of strength from this district of the kingdom. Were they subject to requisitions? or did they furnish recruits for the army? or did they increase the treasure of the country? By the articles of their submission to the laws of the republic, if they are reported truly, they are in fact an independent government, from which what are called patriots are excluded. The state of La Vendée was directly the reverse of that of Holland; and if that country was not an accession of strength to the republic, is it not a confession of the weakness of the government, that they found themselves under the necessity, notwithstanding all their splendid success, to enter into such a treaty as a sovereign would never have entered into but from necessity ?
There is another circumstance which has been relied upon, and which I must not pass over in silence. Among other events of the day, we see that Holland and France have entered into an alliance; and that Holland is to furnish France with twelve ships of the line, and eighteen frigates. The present state oť
Holland makes that circumstance more favourable for this country than we had reason to expect it would have been when Holland was over-run by the French.
The question is, whether the state of France is not so weak; whether the distractions and disturbances of the country, and the discontents of the people, are not so great, as are likely to lead to some change or new order of things, more favourable than any that has hitherto appeared ?
First, as to the weakness of France. We have been told by the right honourable gentleman, that there was no appearance in France of the relaxation of its efforts; that the reign of terror ended with the month of July last; and subsequent to that period they have been as successful as ever. But surely it is not very wonderful if the operations of that great and extraordinary machine had wound up the whole of that extensive empire, by all the men who were put in a state of requisition, and by all the meretricious treasure that was amassed; if so many causes operating so long, the effects were not to cease as immediately as the causes. The effects in their operation survive the causes : but have the French acquired fresh vigour? Whoever has taken any pains to look at the number and efforts of their armies, and state of the provisions and magazines, and attends to the manner in which requisitions have been carried on; whoever reads the accounts the members of the convention give of themselves ; whoever reads their speeches; whoever trusts to their own account of themselves; — these all prove that the vigour and etertion of that country have been evidently diminishing.
In the next place, look at the state of their assignats, which for a long time has been the subject of a great deal of anxious attention to the convention. They have been employed almost in a perpetual contest about two things, – to make a constitution, and to raise their credit, by preventing an unlimited nunber of assignats entering into circulation. They therefore passed a decree to withdraw a certain number of them to raise their credit. The nominal value of assignats was only 251. per cent. At present they are somewhat less than 5l. per cent. Their expendi
ture is incredible ; last month it amounted to twenty-seven millions sterling, which is more than is wanted by Great Britain'in the course of a year. This expense amounts to three hundred and twenty-four millions sterling per annum, which exceeds the whole national debt of Great Britain. The commerce of that country is totally extinguished, and a portion of bankruptcy mixes itself with every transaction.
The next article is the price of provisions, respecting which I have received a great deal of authentic information within these few days, indeed I may say within these few hours; and the price of provisions is so very high, and scarcity prevails to such a degree, as must stop all great and extensive operations.
In the next place, I doubt very much whether the provisions for the French army and navy will in future be so regularly supplied as they formerly have been. I have accounts of provisions being re-landed from on board some of the ships at Brest; and the city of Paris has been supplied by pittances from the army on the Rhine. Expressions of discontent are not confined to individuals, but are general, and such as come home to the door of every individual in France. What will be the effect of this complicated pressure, how long it may be continued, or what order of things may ultimately rise out of it, I shall not pretend to say. But I think it may produce, and probably at no great distance of time, some new order of things, more friendly to a general pacification, and to a regular intercourse with the other established powers of Europe. Such is the genuine prospect for all the countries of Europe, for an order of things more satisfactory than we have seen at any former period. It is owing to your perseverance in forcing them, and to which they are un. equal, that they would willingly accept of peace. But because you have such a prospect at this moment, you are by no means certain that a safe and honourable peace could be obtained. That is, at this moment, premature; a continuance of your perseverance some time longer will in all probability produce that happy effect.