Page images

in any wife to affe&? the question of the prior right of fovereignty of the Malouine otherwise called Falkland's Islands,

This concession was accepted by the Earl of Rockford, who declared on the part of his master, that the prince of Maleran being authorized by his catholick majesty, to offer in his majesty's name to the king of Great Britain, a satisfaction for the injury done him by difpoffesing him of Port Egmont, and having figned a declaration expressing that his catholick majesty disavows the expedition against Port Egmont, and engages to restore it in the state in which it stood before the roth of June 1770, his Britannick majesty will look upon the said declaration, together with the full performance of the engagement on the part of his catholick majesty, as a satisfaction for the injury done to the crown of Great Britain.

This is all that was originally demanded. The expedition is disavowed, and the island is restored. An injury is acknowledged by the reception of Lord Rocha ford's paper, who twice mentions the word injury and twice the word satisfaction.

The Spaniards have stipulated that the grant of poffeffion shall not preclude the question of prior right, a question which we shall probably make no hafte to discuss, and a right of which no formal resignation was ever required. This reserve has supplied matter for much clamour, and perhaps the English ministry would have been better pleased had the declaration been without it. But when we have obtained all that was asked, why should we complain that we have not more? When the poffeffion is conceded, where is the evil that the right, which that con




ceflion supposes to be merely hypothetical, is referred to the Greek calends for a future disquisition ? Were the Switzers less free or less secure, because after their defection from the house of Austria they had never been declared independent before the treaty of Westphalia Is the king of France less a sovereign because the king of England partakes his title ?

If sovereignty implies undisputed right, scarce any prince is a sovereign through his whole dominions ; if sovereignty consists in this, that no superiour is acknowledged, our king reigns at Port Egmont with forereign authority: Almost every new acquired territory is in some degree controvertible, and till the controversy is decided, a term very difficult to be fixed, all that can be had is real possession and actual dominion.

This surely is a fufficient answer to the feudal gab. ble of a man who is every day leffening that splendour of character which once illuminated the kingdom, then dazzled, and afterwards inflamed it; and for whom it will be happy if the nation shall at last difę miss him to nameless obscurity, with that equipoise of blame and praise which Corneille allows to Richlieu, a man who, I think, had much of his merit, and many of his faults.

Chacun parle à fon gré de ce grand Cardinal,

Mais pour moi je n'en dirai rien;
Į? m'a fait trop de bien pour en dire du mal,

Il m'a fait trop de mal pour en dire du bien.

To push advantages too far is neither generous nor just; Had we insisted on a concession of ante

cedent cedent right, it may not misbecome us, either as moralifts or politicians, to consider what Grimaldi could have answered. We have already, he might say, granted you the whole effect of right, and have not denied you the name. We have not said that the right was ours before this concession, but only that. what right we had, is not by this concession vacated. We have now for more than two centuries ruled large tracts of the American continent, by a claim which perhaps is valid only upon this consideration, that no power can produce a better; by the right of discovery and prior settlement. And by such titles almost all the dominions of the earth are holden, except that their original is beyond memory, and greater obfcurity gives them greater veneration. Should we allow this plea to be annulled, the whole fabrick of our empire shakes at the foundation. When you suppose yourselves to have first descried the disputed island, you suppose what you can hardly prove. We were at least the general discoverers of the Magellanick region, and have hitherto held it with all its adjacencies. The justice of this tenure the world has hitherto admitted, and yourselves at least tacitly allowed it, when about twenty years ago you desisted from your purposed expedition, and expressly disowned any design of settling, where you are now not content to settle and to reign, without extorting such a confession of original right, as may invite every other nation to follow you.

To considerations such as these, it is reasonable to impute that anxiety of the Spaniards, from which

the importance of this island is inferred by Junius, one of the few writers of his despicable faction whose name does not disgrace the page of an opponent. The value of the thing disputed may be very different to him that gains and him that loses it. The Spaniards, by yielding Falkland's Island, have admitted a precedent of what they think encroachment; have suffered a breach to be made in the outworks of their empire; and, notwithstanding the reserve of prior right, have suffered a dangerous exception to the prescriptive tenure of their American territories.'

Such is the loss of Spain ; let us now compute the profit of Britain. We have, by obtaining a disavowa! of Buccarelli's expedition, and a reftitution of our settlement, maintained the honour of the crown, and the superiority of our influence. Beyond this what have we acquired? What, but a bleak and gloomy folitude, an island thrown aside from human use, stormy in winter, and barren in summer; an island which not the southern favages have dignified with habitation ; where a garrison must be kept in a state that contemplates with envy the exiles of Siberia ; of which the expence will be perpetual, and the use only occafional; and which, if fortune smile upon our labours, may become a neft of smugglers in peace, and in war the refuge of future Buccaniers. To all this the government has now given ample attestation, for the island has been fince abandoned, and perhaps was kept only to quiet clamours, with an intention, not then wholly concealed, of quitting it in a short time.

Fliis This is the country of which we have now poffeffion, and of which a numerous party pretends to with that we had murdered thousands for the titular fo. vereignty. To charge any men with such madness, approaches to an accusation defeated by its own incredibility. As they have been long accumulating falsehoods, it is possible that they are now only adding another to the heap, and that they do not mean all that they profess. But of this faction what evil may not be credited? They have hitherto shewn no virtue, and very little wit, beyond that mischievous cunning for which it is held by Hale that children may be hanged.

As war is the last of remedies, cun&ta prius tentanda, all lawful expedients must be used to avoid it. As war is the extremity of evil, it is surely the duty of those whose station intrusts them with the care of nations, to avert it from their charge. There are difeases of animal nature which nothing but amputation can remove ; so there may, by the depravation of human passions, be sometimes a gangrene in collective life for which fire and the sword are the necessary remedies ; but in what can skill or caution be better shewn than preventing such dreadful operations, while there is yet room for gentler methods ?

It is wonderful with what coolness and indifference the greater part of mankind see war commenced. Those that hear of it at a distance, or read of it in books, but have never presented its evils to their minds, consider it as little more than a splendid game, a proclamation, an army, a battle, and a triumph. Şome indeed muft perish in the most successful field,


« PreviousContinue »