Sidebilder
PDF

obtained the transfer, than he refused to the Americans their depot at New-Orleans, which was absolutely essential to the whole their north-western trade. Thus actuated, they eagerly purchased Louisiana; but so little was their purchase considered a ground of jealousy at the time, that our minister, in a letter to Mr. Rufus King, the then American ambassador in this country, congratulated him on the acquisition, as favourable to the interests of both countries. It was therefore most extraordinary, that the acquisition of Louisiana should now be set forward as an outrageous act of aggrandizement. But it was said, that the protest of Spain against its occupation had been studiously concealed. That protest, however, certainly was withdrawn; at least it was so stated in a speech of the American president to congress in 1804. But, supposing the whole allegation true, was it wise or prudent to bring it forward now, when the measure had been acquiesced in for the last eleven years? The next ground of charge was the question of West Florida. During the progress of the Spanish revolution, Florida was divided intovarious factions, struggling for the supremacy. The American government interfered, improperly, he thought, and occupied the province, on the ground that it was necessary to prevent it from falling into hands that might be dangerous as neighbours. They declared at the same time that they had no intention of permanent occupancy. We ourselves had recently done the very same thing, by occupying a part of West Florida, for the purpose of making war on the United States. Was this temporary occupation to be held as a proof of our desire of

aggrandizement? Could any imprudence be so monstrous, as during a negotiation to produce such articles of charge as these were? The last ground on which the charge of ambition was founded, was the spirit of encroachment the Americans had displayed in purchasing Indian lands. But this was the system of extending their cultivation which the Americans had always pursued, and this was the system which we ourselves pursued in Canada. The noble marquis next proceeded to make a variety of remarks on the negotiations respecting the boundaries on the Canada line. He observed, that in his opi, nion, the American commissioners had shown the most astonishing superiority over the British during the whole of the correspondence. The noble earl opposite probably felt sore at this observation; as he (lord W.) had little doubt that the British papers were communicated from the common fund of ministers in this country. The results of the prolonged negotiation had been dreadful; and when the treaty itself appeared, it contained really nothing but the

|cessation of hostilities. No one

point had been settled. Having considered what the treaty did include, he should now advert to what it did not include. It described no boundary line from lake Superior to the Mississippi; it stipulated for no direct communication between Halifax and Quebec; the islands of Passamaquoddy were to be the subject of no discretion at all, and they were referred to the arbitration of the emperor of Russia. Above all, it contained not one word respecting the original causes of the war, or th maritime rights in contention tween the two countries. He knew that by some this omission had been called an effort of extraordinary wisdom; and it was thought much wiser to leave those rights upon the general principles of public law. The American commissioners had offered us a peace which should include the pacification of the Indians, and proposed to open an amicable negotiation for the purpose of forming such an arrangement as should protect us from the miseries of an American war, in the event of a renewal of our war with other powers. The time that should have been spent in discussing these important rights, had been squandered in bandying about imputations of a desire of personal aggrandizement. The question, because it was intricate, was not insoluble, or incapable of adjustment, or to be fled from. It seemed to be the principle of the ministers of this day, that because questions required great application, and zeal, and vigour, and diligence, they were to be shrunk from. To leave such a question as this to the de

tained might have been arranged in less time, and there had been time enough to put these important subjects into some shape. The noble marquis only required the house to say whether he had not laid before their lordships sufficient grounds to warrant them in desiring to have the papers produced, to enable them to exercise their own judgment on the case, and give such counsel to the prince regent as should seem to them best founded in justice and policy. He had argued this case as it if were above the rule of precedent, and he wished to keep it so: it had so peculiar a character, that no established rule could be applied to it; for where, he would ask, was the treaty ever before seen which contained no article whatever upon the point which had been fir insisted on, and which was so wel put in the prince regent’s firs declaration of the grounds of war? —a state paper which he felt hap-\ py to compliment for ability and justice.—The treaty contained nathing of the points then insisted

cision of public law, was to leave it to the appeal of the sword. If there were no other reason for the

upon, nor did it even refer to the original causes of war. If the ques- ) tion of precedent were argued on (

present motion, he trusted their lordships would support it, in order to have this question set at rest. He had never heard that America had disputed his majesty's maritime rights [“Yes,” from the ministry.] He understood that she only asserted the extreme difficulty of applying them to the relative situations of their ships and rights. If they did dispute the right in question, did ministers hope by leaving it untouched to prevent war? There was no question but in that case we should very soon be at war about it. It was, therefore, that he thought the treaty defective: whatever of substance it con

the other side, he was prepared with very excellent precedents for his motion for granting papers after the conclusion of a treaty of peace, of which the circumstances were as nearly similar to the present as possible. There was one more ground on which the present motion would be irresistible. Although there might be many cases, in which, after the conclusion of peace, the particulars of the negotiation had better be concealed under the mysterious veil of diplomacy, yet much of the correspondence on this treaty had already been before America, and had there the effect of healing

divisions among the provinces, of actually changing the character of the government from commercial to military, and of disposing the nation to make the greatest exertions for the purpose of raising a tremendous navy. It was, therefore, important for us to show to the American government the moderation of our views, and the justice of our intentions towards her, and that our object was to rest our connexion upon the foundation of reciprocal confidence.

Sheech of Sir JAMEs MAckINTosh, on Bonafiarte's Escape from Elba. Sir James Mackintosh said, that he should not undertake to decide whether any thing substantially new had been, or could be added to the judicious and unexaggerated statement of his honourable and learned friend (Mr. Abercrombie); but sure he was, that whoever were to know the excellent speech of his learned friend only from the answer which had been attempted to it, must be totally mistaken in its purport and scope. The question was not, as it had been argued on the other side, whether there was a case for the conviction of ministers, but whether parliamentary ground was laid for inquiry into their conduct. On the question thus stated, he really could scarcely see a plausible pretext for difference of opinion. The right hon. gentleman (Mr. B. Bathurst) had indeed been pleased to charge the representations made on this side of the house of the mischievous effects of this fatal error with exaggeration, and had deigned in his generosity to say that he made allowance for the feelings of his right hon, friend (Mr. Elliott)—so

much distinguished in the house by that power of compression, and that union of elegance with gravity, which required a calm, as well as a comprehensive understanding. No man was more master of himself, as well of his audience; no man was less likely to be hurried away by the impetuosity of disorderly feelings. How had his righthon. friend been so unfortunate as to incur the indulgence, and require the merciful consideration of the right hon. gentleman? Could any feeling be too warm for the case? Was it in the power of eloquence to magnify the evil? Wars which had raged for twenty-five years throughout Europe; which had spread blood and desolation from Cadiz to Moscow, and from Naples to Copenhagen; which had wasted the means of human enjoyment, and destroyed the instruments of social improvement; which threatened to diffuse among the European nations the dissolute and ferocious habits of a predatory soldiery; at length, by one of those vicissitudes which bid defiance to the foresight

of man, had been brought to a

close, upon the whole, happy, beyond all reasonable expectation, with no violent shock to national independence, with some tolerable compromise between the opinions of the age, and the reverence due to ancient institutions; with no too signal or mortifying triumph over the legitimate interests, or avowable feelings of any numerous body of men; and, above all, without those retaliations against nations or parties which beget new convulsions often as horrible as those which they close, and perpetuate revenge, and hatred, and blood from age to age. Europe seemed to breathe after her sufferings. In the midst of this fair pros

pect, and of these consolatory hopes, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from Elba; three small vessels reached the coast of Provence; their hopes are instantly dispelled, the work of our toil and fortitude is undone, the blood of Europe is spilt in vainIbi omnis effusus labor!

We had now to commence a new career of peril, at least as formidable as that from which we had fondly hoped that we had been for ever delivered. Was this a case of which it was easy to exaggerate the evils? Could his right hon, friend have felt lukewarmly on such a subject, without throwing doubts on the sincerity of his love for his country, and of his regard for the general welfare of long-harassed Europe? Surely if he had on such an occasion deviated from the usual calm dignity of his eloquence, he might rather be praised than excused. And was this a case in which the house would refuse to inquire whether the misconduct of the government of Great Britain had any share in bringing so many evils on Europe? Some insinuations had been thrown out of differences of opinion on his side of the house, respecting the evils of this escape. He utterly denied them. All agreed in lamenting the occurrence which rendered the renewal of war so probable, not to say certain. All his friends, with whose opinions he was acquainted, were of opinion that in the theory of public law, the assumption of power by Napoleon had given to the allies a just cause of war against France. It was perfectly obvious that the abdication of Napoleon, and his perpetual renunciation of the supreme authority, was a condition,

and the most important condition on which the allies had granted peace to France. The convention of Fontainbleau, and the treaty of Paris, were equally parts of the great compact which re-established friendship between France and Europe. In consideration of the safer and more inoffensive state of France when separated from her terrible leader, confederated Europe had granted moderate and favourable terms of peace. As soon as France had violated this important condition by again submitting to the authority of Napoleon, the allies were doubtless released from their part of the compact, and reentered into their belligerent rights. By the dissolution of the treaty of Paris, war was in right renewed. It depended upon the prudence of the allies whether they should exercise their belligerent right, or seek security in negotiation. But as against France a war to compel the observance of the treaty of Paris, was indubitably just. On these matters he knew of no difference among his friends— shades of difference might, indeed, exist among so numerous a body of independent men on other parts of the subject. Some might doubt more than others whether recourse to hostilities, in the first instance, were wise; whether it were safe and consistent with the duty of the allied sovereigns to their own subjects, and to all Europe. Justice, as against the enemy, is an indispensable, but sometimes the smallest part of the morality of a war. To be . just towards subjects, towards allies, and towards posterity, princes must be convinced of the prudence and safety of war, as much as of its being justified by the conduct of an enemy. What is called the

policy of a war, is generally a greater part of its whole morality than what is too exclusively termed its justice. On this question differences probably might appear. Some, and of which number he owned that he was one, shrunk from the experiment of new war without at least some attempt to try whether the same end, even if more imperfectly, might not be obtained by means less hazardous. He dreaded the dangers of failure, he dreaded the dangers of success; he dreaded the renewal of our former calamities, he dreaded the rise of new and unknown evils. But all were agreed in deploring an event which rendered war so probable, though, as many hoped, not inevitable. Those who feared war the most, were surely consistent with themselves in deeply lamenting what exposed us to such imminent danger of its renewal; and all must concur in thinking, that if that danger had in any degree arisen from the supine negligence of ministers, they were reprehensible and culpable. Did enough appear on the face of the transaction to call for inquiry? That was the question. For if there did, men of all opinions about the prudence of war, ought to agree for voting for the inquiry. The fact was admitted by the noble lord, that no instructions had been given to the commanders of British ships of war respecting the escape of Napoleon. It was therefore acknowledged, that this government had not taken the only precaution within its province against that event. He could conceive only three reasons which might be alleged in defence of this omission:-Either such precautions were unnecessary, or they were unjustifiable, or they were impossible. The noble lord had,

indeed, applied a general reply to all these defences. For he had told the house, that though there were no instructions to naval officers, yet there was “an understanding” (which, by-the-bye, was the only understanding discoverable in the matter), that Napoleon should be detained if met at sea in a certain ill-defined and obscurely-described combination of circumstances. A right hon. gentleman had varied the phraseology —and told us, that not only “an understanding,” but “an impression” of this sort had been conveyed to these gallant officers. The difficulty of the question was too great for instructions. The admiralty, the cabinet, the great civil lawyers who advised the crown, could hazard no advice. But the captains of ships of war were to act on their own responsibility, guided only by these precise and well-defined terms, “an understanding,” and “an impression.” But if it was necessary, or justifiable, or possible, to act on an understanding, or an impression, it could neither be needless, nor culpable, nor impossible to frame instructions. The only difference was, that instructions might be effectual. The understanding and the impression left naval officers ignorant of what was required from them, and what they might lawfully do. But it is clear that inefficiency is no palliation of impropriety, and that whatever may be and ought to be done at all, may be, and ought to be done in the most effectual manner. The noble lord was not to tell the house, “I was a little guilty of the folly and injustice of watching Bonaparte; but it was very little indeed, for I did it so foolishly, that it was sure of producing no effect.” He was not to say, “We should

« ForrigeFortsett »