Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Walsingham, who dwelt particularis on the dangerous consequences of a precipitate peace, which would tic trirtuvuig awav the advantages we had gained by our perseverance ia this arduous contest, and yielding to despondence, at a time when we ought to make the molt of the difficulties our enemies had to contend with, and were not likely to furmount, if we continued to act with the resolution that had hitherto characterised our mo j sure*.

In reply to these alserlions, it was ohseived by the duke of Bedford, that it was more consistent, with the dignity of a British parliament, (o frame an address of its. own, than to copy the speech of (he minister, though delivered from the throne. His sentiments differed materially from the ministerial language he had heard. It represented the French as on the verge of ruin; but (he truth of facts, opposed to the illusion of words, was that they were hitherto superior in the contest, notwithstanding the constant predictions of the minister and his partifons, during the three preceding years, that they had not sufficient resources to prolong it another campaign. The duke adverted with great severity lo the reiterated allegation, that the French government was incapable of fulfilling the customary duties and relations of amity and good understanding with other states. He reprobated with equal asperity the fruitless destruction of men in the West Indies, and the ill-fated expedition to the coast of France. These, and the other evils of the war, particularly the scarcity that afflicted the nation, he imputed to the misconduct >nd incapacity of ministers. It was therefore she duty of parliament to

lay these grievances before the sovereign, and to supplicate him to" relieve the sufferings of the natsen, by consenting to a negotiation (or peace, which was the only effectual remedy for the many calamities under which the people laboured, in consequence of this unlbctunate war.

The observations of the duke of Bedford were warmly controverted bv lord trrenville, who insisted that the situation of this country was evidently superior to that of* France In every point os view. Our successes at sea were far more conducive to the internal prosperity of the kingdom, than the dear-bought victories of the French had, or could ever prove to the people of France. The depreciation of the paper currency in that country, was, in his opinion, a circumstance to its detriment, and in our favour, that fully deserved the reiterated notice that had been taken of it. The most judicious of the French financiers were deeply sensible of (lie effects it would ultimately produce, and strongly deprecated the farther issue of anv notes, and the withdrawing of no

* , o

sels than ten parts nut ot thirteen from circulation. With such glaring proofs of the pecuniary distresses of the enemy, was it prudent or reasonable to advise pacific measures, when with a moderate degree of patience on our side, he would probably be soon compelled to listen to m.>re reasonable terms of peace, than the pride rchtlting from hi; late succetses would now permit him to accept. He concluded, bv representing the failure of the expedition to the coast of France ns occasioned bv the treachery or those French corps that had been too confidently relied upon.

He

He was replied to by (he marquis of Lansdowne, who pointedly animadverted on the prosperous situation wherein ministers asserted the country stood at the present moment. What he had foretold was come to pass; our allies had deserted us, and our enemies were every where victorious. The trite argument of their ruined finances was still revived; but in what state were our own? were they inexhaustible? were they equal to the support of ourselves, together with the weight of those pretended friends who had taken our money, and converted it to purposes entirely foreign to those for which it was granted, and who were waiting with their accustomed avidity for fresti grants. Taxes could onlv be carried to a certain length: beyond which they would in this country, as in all others, become intolerable. But money alone was no security for success; sagacity wras of far greater consequence. The ministerial projects anuonterprizes displayed little of thb essential requisite; failures aud disappointments continually attended them. This however was juit surprising, as their attempts against :hefbe were glai ingly marked with imprudence. The expedition to St. Domingo, for instance, was an unpardonable act of temerity; here the French were insurmountable: it was the capital scat of their strength in the West Indies; of this the great lord Chatham was so well convinced that he wisely forbore, oven in the midst of his successes, to make it an object of attack. The French, it was true, were straitened lor monev, but they had that which was better; they had good loldiers and excellent commanders; on thole they chiefly depended, and

fortune had favoured them. Con-" rage was inexhanistible, but wealth had its limits: and the example of France ought to warn us of the danger of stretching the pecuniary resources of the nation beyond their natural bearings. The war had tried them to such an extent, that it was time to cease the experiment how far they would go, and to make negociation take phice of hostilities.'

The earls of Mansfield and Darnley spoke in favour of the address, and the duke of Graf ton and the carl of Lauderdale against it. The latter inveighed bitterly against ministers for the assurances they had given to the public in the former lellions, that such was the superior might os the confederacy, that France would be utterly unable to relist it; but how different the reality from the fair appearances they had held out! defeat and desertion had characterised those allies in whose name such lofty promise* had been made; and to complete the picture of the nrftional calamities, we were now visited by a scarcity, undeniably owing to the improvident conduct of thole at the helm; yet ministers boldly asserted that our condition was improved, and that of the enemy worse than ever. But did not facts give the strongest denial to thole shameful asseverations? was not the enemy in possession of all we had conquered, and preparing for new conquests? was not the coalition broken and dissolved, and some of its principal members in treaties of peace aud amity with the French? could any man of tense and integrity interpret such things as improvement;; in the situation of this country? did they entitle us to expect that the

French French should be the first to sue for peace, as ministers presumptuously aflerted?

The amendment brought forward by (he duke of Eedsord was strongly opposed by earl Spencer, who contended that in so extensive a war, waged in almost every part of (he globe, it could not be expected that the mercantile (hipping of this country would always, escape the vigilance of an enemy, whose only and perpetual object at sea was depreciation. It was .indeed more surprising that his captures were so sew, when it was considered that we carried on nearly the whole trade of Europe. He gave a satisfactory account of the naval transactions during the peceding season, and made it appear that the milchinces which had befallen the commercial sleets were owing to unavoidable accidents, and not to misconduct. He justified the employment os Mr. Puillaye, as a peri.1:1 through whose means the principal communication was kept up with France, where he headed a considerably party of royalists.

The duke of Norfolk spoke for

the amendment, and the lord chancellor in opposition to it. Thedukst of Bedford in resuming that subject recurred to (he expressions used by lord Grenville, which were, (hat "in case the constitution now offered to the people of France, sliould be found IikeJy to establilh itielf in such a form as to secure a government that might preserve tho relations of peace and amity, his objections to treat with them would be entirely removed." _ The substance of what had been spoken by lord Grenville, was contbmable to the words taken down by the duke of Bedford; but the former declared himself of opinion, that it was not parliamentary to make the words of a peer, uttered in the course os the debate, a formal ground os proposing or of recalling a motion. Hereon the duke consented to withdraw his amendment; refuting however his approbation to that part of the address which asserted an improvement in the situation os public affairs. The address was then finally moved, and carried in the affirmative.

[ocr errors]

CHAP. II.

A Proclamation offering a large pecuniary Reward for the Discovery os any Persons guilty of the recent Outrages again/I the Person os ike King.— Conference between the Lords and Comments on this-Subjcc~l.—A Billsor the Safety and Preservation os the King's Person and Government.Debates thereon in both Houses of Parliament.—A Billsor the Prevention of Seditious Meetings.Debates thereon.The iteo Bills under Discussion in Parliament occajion a general Alarm, and much Opposition without Doors.— In this Opposition the lead was taken by the Whig-Club.Which was followed by the Corresponding Societies and other Associations.As well as different Bodies legally incorporated.The Minijlry still persevere in their Measures.Debates on the numerous Petitions against the two Bills now

. pending in Parliament.General Indignation againji the Principles-and OhjeRs of these.The two Bills passed into Laws.

IN (he mean time she indignities offered (o the king were a subject os universal discourse, and highly reprobated by the prudent and moderate, as precursory ossar greater evils than had hitherto been experienced by (hole who vented their discontent in tills outrageous manner. On the last day of October, a proclamation was issued, offering a thousand pounds for the discovery of any person guilty of those outrages. On the fourth of November it was followed by another, wherein it was laid, that previously to the opening of parliament, multitudes had been called together by hand-bills and advertilements, who met in the vicinity of the metropolis, where inflammatory speeches were made, and di'vers means used to sow discontent and excite seditious proceedings. These meetings and discourses were followed three days after by the most daring insults to the king, by

which his person had been imminently endangered. Rumours had also been spread, that assemblies were to be held by disaffected people for illegal purposes. In consequence os those proceedings, it was enjoined by the proclamation to all magistrates, and well affected subjects, to exert themselves in preventing and suppressing all unlawful meetings, and the dissemination of seditious writings.

So great had been the alarm and .indignation, created by the treatment of the king, that as soon as he had gone through the reading of his speech, and had left the house, it was immediately ordered to be cleared of all strangers, and a consultation held by the lords, in what manner to proceed upon so extraordinary an occasion. An address to the king was resolved upon,' and a conference with the house of commons to request their concurrence therein. The majority agreed

m this measure; but the marquis of Lanldowne accused the ministers •os'intending to seize tiiis opportunity lo work upon the passions and fears of the people, and to lead their representatives into concestioiis derogatory to (ho public liberty, and debasing to their character, in order to confirm their ■oirn power at the expeuce ot" the constitution.

A conference with die commons' was held accordingly in thp course of the day., and witnesses were examined in relation to the outrage.1) cwnmilted. Their evidence was communicated to (he commons, and both houses unanimouslv concurred in the addresses proposed,

Ob the sixth of November, ford Greuviiie brought forward a bill, for better lecuring the king's person and government. The mqtive he alleged, was the necessity of preventing abu les similar tr> those that lad taken place on the opening of tbeleihon. He explicitly attributed them to the licentious kngnage and maxims held forth in tiic.audacious meetings, which had been so long laClrc.l, without clue notice on the part of the legislature, but which were now arrived to such a degree of insose.ncc, that they required immediate restriction. He would recur on this occasion, lit; (aid, to prec*denls framed in approved times, the reign of Elizabeth, and the commencement of the reign of Charles II. lie entertained no Awbt that the house coincided with ai; opinion, that a remedy ought inftamiy to be applied to the danger that threa.ter.rd monarchy, in tlie attack so (Viringly made Oij the king's person. In order more effectually to ohviate so great an evil, ie would move the passing of a bill,

Vol. XXXVIII.

which he produced, and wlu'cb was. entitled "an act for the (asety.and preservation of his majesty's, person and government against treasonable and seditious practices ana] attempts." . , . ,

The bill introduced by lord, Grenville was represented "by the, earl osLauderdale, as creating new crimes and treasons, in addition to thole already contained m the criminal code of this country. .. If; tendqd materially to enlarge the laws respecting treason, and would effect an alarming aheration in the very nature and spirit os the corr^ liitution. There was no evidence that, the insults offered to the king originated in the meetings of the people in the fields near Islington, or in any other places, she's meetings had been remarkably peaceable, and those who harangued the crowds that resorted to them from ail quarters of the metropolis, were particularly careful to warn them against all riotous proceedings, left minister*' should avail themselves of that pretext, to put an end to all assemblies of the people. So harsh a measure as that proposed had not therefore the least foundation in the unruly behaviour of thole meeting.;, and were it to pats into a law, the liberty of conferring together, so long enjoyed by the English, and which they justly considered as their indubitable right, would,be radically destroyed, and with it the firmest support of public freedom. The intent of ministers, in adopting so unprecedented a measure, was clearly to silence the complaints of the nation against a war that had involved it in so many calamities, and which they were determined to carry on in defiance of the general inclination to pvace. The

[ C ] vail

« ZurückWeiter »