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June 17. 1793.
MR.Fox having moved an address to His Majesty, requesting him to take the earliest measures for procuring Peace with France on terms consistent with the justice and policy of the British nation,
Mr. Pitt rose to deliver his sentiments in opposition to the motion :
After what has been already so ably urged, I do not, in the present stage of the debate, conceive it necessary to speak to the merits of the question. The almost unanimous call of the House shews, that on that point they have already sufficiently made up their minds. But something has been alleged on the general grounds on which the motion is brought forward, and particular allusions have been made to me, which I cannot allow to pass over in silence. The motion has been introduced by the honourable gentleman on the eve of the conclusion of the ses. sion, no doubt as a solemn expression of the sentiments entertained by him on the present state of affairs, and I should be sorry that my opinion on the present occasion should be at all equivocal. I do not, then, hesitate to declare that this motion is in itself the most impolitic and preposterous which could possibly be adopted, the most contradictory to those general principles which at all times ought to regulate our conduct, and the most unsuitable to those particular circumstances in which we are now placed. Such is my opinion of the nature of this motion, which points out to us a line of conduct we can by no means pursue, namely, to make peace upon terms which even,
if within our reach, we ought not to accept, but which, in fact, is only calculated to amuse and delude the people, by holding out to them a possibility of peace, when, in reality, peace is impossible, and thus serving to create groundless discontents and dissatisfaction with the present situation of affairs.
Are we, I would ask, in pursuance of this motion, to be content merely with the French relinquishing those conquests which they have unjustly made, without either obtaining reparation for the injuries they have already done us, or security against their future repetition? There might, indeed, be situations in which we might be compelled to adopt such a conduct. Against necessity there is no possibility of contending. But, indeed, it would be rather strange if we should do that at the beginning of a nuost successful war, which could only be advi. sable at the conclusion of a most disastrous one. It would be a principle somewhat new, if, when unjustly attacked, and forced into a war, we should think proper to cease from all hostilities, as soon as the enemy should be unwilling to support their attack, and go on with the contest. Has such been the case in any of the most favourite periods of the history of this country, to which the honourable gentleman is so fond of alluding? Where can he find any such principle in any of those wars which this country has carried on in support of its independence? And if so, what is there in the peculiar situation of the Frencla, the disturbers of the peace of Europe, and the unprovoked ag. gressors of this country, that should require any other measure to be dealt to them, than what we have been accustomed on former occasions to afford to our enemies? With a prospect of success so great as we have in the present moment, are we to grant them an impunity for all those designs which they have so unjustly formed and attempted to carry into execution ? Would this tend in any degree to remedy the temporary inconvenience to this country, which the honourable gentleman has stated as resulting from the war, but which, in reality, is produced by collateral causes ? In no case would the conduct here pointed out be expedient. But of all cases, where we ought not to stop
merely because the enemy stops, is that where we have suffered an injury without having either obtained reparation or security.
This I will illustrate by what is at present our situation. And first I will ask, what was the state of this country with respect to France, previous to the declaration of war on her part ? We then contended, first, That she had broken a treaty with our allies, which we were bound to support: secondly, That she had engaged in schemes of ambition and aggrandisement, inconsistent with the interests of this country, and the general security of Europe; thirdly, That she had entertained principles hostile to all governments, and more particularly to our own. In consequence of all these circumstances, you then declared in addresses to His Majesty, that if proper satisfaction was not obtained, a war must be the consequence. But while this was in agitation, they had themselves declared war, and been guilty of a sudden and unprovoked aggression upon this country. Is then that aggression, the climax of all their injuries, to induce you to abandon those reasonable views of satisfaction which before you entertained? The necessity of security against those three points, their disregard of treaties, their projects of ambition, and their dangerous principles, certainly becomes greater, inasmuch as their injuries are increased by the aggression. The argument for satisfaction, instead of being diminished, derives greater strength from this last circumstance. Indeed if we were foiled, we might then be induced to abandon those views with which we had set out, to submit to the hardship of our fate, and to receive such terms as necessity might dictate. But those terms which the motion prescribed are not such as are to be aimed at in the first instance, but such as are only to be submitted to in the last extremity. The question then is, whether we shall now court calamity, whether we shall, after a most successful commencement, voluntarily submit to all the most direful consequences of failure and defeat ? At present we have both right and interest on our side. Shall we abandon both ? Shall we, with the means of doing ourselves justice, pass by the most repeated and aggra
vated injuries, and grant peace to those whose unprovoked aggression alone compelled us to arm in our own defence? The question resolves itself into this; shall we, from a view of the present situation of the belligerent powers, risk more by vigorously persisting in the war till we have obtained its objects, or by abandoning it without either reparation or security ? I shall only put the question, and leave it to you to decide.
Allow me only to subjoin a few remarks with reference to some points urged by the honourable gentleman who made the motion. We thought it necessary in the first instance, upon being attacked, to enter vigorously into the war. Did we not see the evils which we might expect to encounter in carrying it on? Were we insensible of those calamities with which every war is attended? Have these evils and calamities turned out to be greater than at first were expected and foreseen ? On this point I shall not refer you to the inflamed exaggerations of the honourable gentleman, who predicted from the war, even in its commencement, every possible calamity, such as the most alarming discontents at home, the total stagnation of commerce, and interruption of public prosperity; and who represented that its infallible consequence must be not to check the schemes and repulse the progress of the enemy, but, on the contrary, to unite their views and concentrate their vigour. No- however justified I might be in taking this statement, I shall refer you only to the more moderate apprehensions of those who, though con. vinced of the necessity of the war, were not insensible to its dreadful cousequences. These apprehensions happily have been disappointed, and the very reverse of those calamities, which there was but too much reason to dread, has taken place. The war has been attended, even in its outset, with the most brilliant, rapid, and unexpected success.
The views of the enemy have experienced a most effectual check, and every circumstance concurs to favour the hope of our being able completely to accomplish every object of the war. Is there any thing, then, in this situation, to induce us to abandon our views of reparation and security? - Are we to give up our claims of satisfaction, merely