every effort had been made by the Prince Regent's government, consistently with the honour and interests of the country, to effect an object, which, in every point of view, was so highly desirable, but unfortunately in vain. That no proposition had lately been made by the enemy was to be accounted for by the events which had occurred during the last six months. As to the Slave Trade, however hostile he had been to the abolition of it, nevertheless when that abolition had become the law of the land, he became as anxious as any one, that foreign powers should also abolish the traffic. He assured their lordships that this object had not been lost sight of by any of the governments in power since the act of the legislature. There had been, however, great difficulties to encounter in the progress of the negociation, but with one of the powers alluded to, the negociation was in a train to lead him to hope that it would speedily be brought to a successful termination. With the other power greater difficulties had occurred, from the unsettled state of its government; but the object had not been lost sight of, nor would any effort be wanting on the part of ministers, to bring the negociation to a successful termination.

PRINCE REGENT'S MESSAGE Rerpecting THE INVASION OF RUSSIA.] On the order of the day for taking into consideration the Prince Regent's Message respecting the Invasion of Russia,

The Earl of Liverpool said, that in rising to move an Address in answer to his Royal Highness's most gracious Message, he should perhaps have thought it only necessary to move the Address, leaving to that feeling which he was satisfied actuated the great majority of that House and the country, to express a concurrence in an object, which embodied so many sentiments congenial with, and characteristic of genuine British feeling. Understanding, however, that elsewhere some sentiment had been expressed hostile to the purpose of the Message, he felt it necessary to draw the attention of the House to the circumstances which gave rise to it. A greater exertion had been made by the ruler of France against Russia, than he had put forth against any other power. He had entered Russia with a force of not less than 360,000 men, including 60,000 cavalry, and this at a time when, from various circumstances, not now to be entered


into, one of which, however, was the delay which arose in making peace with the Turks, which detained a large portion of the Russian force in a remote part of the empire, the Russian army was numerically inferior to the invading army of France. Under these circumstances, the advice was followed which had been given from various quarters, but particularly by the gallant commander of our armies in the peninsula, to act upon a defensive system. In conformity with this system, the Russian troops retreated, but in a manner that gave birth to the most sanguine hope of the events which ultimately followed. During the course of the retreat not a corps was cut off, nor a detachment made prisoners, except in partial conflicts. At length the opportunity arrived for offensive operations, and the events that followed were already before the public. To give effect to this offensive system, the greatest sacrifices had been made. There was no example in modern warfare of so great and magnanimous a sacrifice as that of the burning of Moscow. Look at a population of 200,000 persons, voluntarily quitting their homes, and sacrificing their houses and their property, in order that Moscow might not afford quarters and become a place of arms for the enemy. It was not merely, however, at Moscow, that these sacrifices were made, but hundreds of villages were destroyed, upon the approach of the enemy, by the inhabitants, who, after making this sacrifice, in numerous instances, retired into the adjoining woods, and returned with whatever arms they could procure to encounter the invaders of their country. In every other instance of an invasion by the French arms, except in the peninsula, the people had stood for nothing; in Russia they had stood for every thing-actuated by an universal spirit of patriotism, they had voluntarily made the greatest sacrifices, they had offered up every selfish consideration, every sentiment of mere personal enjoyment, every private object, at the shrine of their country. In these sacrifices, and in such a contest, it was evident, that much individual misery must have been endured. To contribute in some degree to the alleviation of that misery the generosity of Britons was called upon-a generosity which was characteristic of British feeling in all its warmest impulses, where no other consideration intervened. But here, to the feelings of generosity, every consideration of interest was added. Why did


France invade Russia? not for the sake of invading Russia, but because Russia would not adhere to the continental system; because the government of Russia would not consent to exclude from her ports the produce of our industry. Great Britain was, therefore, attacked through the medium of Russia, and to look at the question merely in a mercantile point of view, the greatest benefit had already accrued to our commercial interests from the Russian successes. Was it nothing to have the market of 36,000,000 of people? Already had our commercial interests been materially benefited. The great interests connected with our colonies, had experienced the advantage flowing from the rise in the price of all colonial produce; our manufacturing interests had been benefited by the increased demand for the produce of their industry. Every channel of commerce had received fresh life and vigour, through the successes of the Russians. Looking at the question, therefore, in the narrowest point of view, the proposed aid was eminently called for--but in how much greater a degree, from other causes, and other feelings? Had it been merely a check to that torrent of ambition which had deluged so many other countries, still he would have contended for the grant; but here, where British interests were concerned in the contest-where British interests were so materially benefited by the result-how much more was such an aid called for? Let it not be supposed that he was insensible to the privations and the sufferings of the people of this country; but let it be recollected that here we were exempt from the actual calamities of war. The sending out fleets and armies on foreign expeditions, or the taxation consequent upon war, were as nothing, compared with those calamities which arose from a country being made the actual theatre of war. From these horrors we were exempted, but let us look with an eye of generosity to those who were suf-ing as to their objects, not only as to carryfering all the horrors of such a calamity. ing on the war, but as to the means of Was it not of importance to shew a dispo- bringing about a secure peace. Whether sition to aid the suffering people of Russia, the emperor of France should escape or and thereby cement the union of the two not, he trusted that the events that had powers? The French in their invasion of happened would clear the way for that siRussia, by the cruelties they had com- tuation of affairs, which might render a mitted, and by the sacrilegious destruction peace upon secure grounds, less difficult of of their sacred edifices, had inspired the attainment; and that upon this point Russians with a detestation which would there was a thorough understanding benot only be felt by those now in existence, tween the courts of Petersburgh and Lonbut by generations still unborn. Was it don. For such an object, so highly to be not of importance then, by the aid af- desired, he anxiously looked to the effects (VOL. XXIV.)

Lord Holland never felt himself more embarrassed than upon the present occacasion, and had it not been an established rule with him, never to shrink from his parliamentary duty, he would have preferred being absent. His embarrassaient arose from this, that he thought the proposition impolitic, but at the same time that it would be unwise and unsafe to reject it. He perfectly agreed with the noble earl in his praise of the patriotism of the Russian nation, and this praise was more particularly applicable to the peasantry, who in sacrificing the produce of their earnings, had not the consolation of those feelings which were inseparable from the soldier, but were actuated solely by motives of pure patriotism. He could not, however, agree in the propriety of the mode proposed, nor did he see that the aid could consistently be afforded. If such a sum was disposable for this purpose, why had it not been applied to replenish lord Wellington's military chest; and might not the emperor of Russia say, if this money had been applied in time to replenish lord Wellington's military chest, it would have been of greater advantage to my cause than sending it now to me? The only argument that could induce him to accede to the proposition, was that used by the noble lord, of shewing a disposition to aid the Russian nation. He agreed that this was of importance, and he trusted, at the same time, that in the alliance of the courts of Petersburgh and London, there was a perfect understand


forded by this country, to fix the sentiments of the Russian nation in unison with our own, and thus cement the union of the two governments? The noble earl concluded by moving an Address of concurrence, and mentioning that the sum proposed to be granted was 200,000l. The higher ranks in Russia had begun a contribution which this sum was intended to aid.

of this alliance, nor would he for a moment | suppose, that any intention existed of endeavouring to force any other government upon France; which could only have the effect of rousing against us the yet remaining considerable resources of that power. With respect to the proposition now made, it must rest upon the responsibility of ministers. He did not think enough had been laid before the House to shew the propriety of the grant, but he was willing to believe that ministers had in their possession information to warrant the proposition. If any hint had been giver to ministers that such a grant would be acceptable to the Russian government, or the Russian nation, then he should not hesitate a moment in agreeing to it. Under this impression, he would not withhold his vote from the proposition.

The Address was agreed to nem. dis.

fected by resorting to this measure? Had it tended to support the war in the peninsula? It was a well known fact, on the contrary, that ministers had been unable to send a requisite supply in specie to lord Wellington, and that his lordship had only been enabled to procure a supply from the circumstance of there being two prices in Portugal, a gold price and a paper price. Had a similar legislative enactment to this prevailed in Portugal the supply could not have been obtained. Thus it would be seen that it was only upon the principle of two prices that our army was supplied in the peninsula, a principle which, in fact, prevailed in this country, but in ineffectually endeavouring to counteract which by this measure, ministers had precluded the means of adequately supplying our army there from hence. The same principle also of two prices prevailed in Canada, where 100,000l. in Bank notes had been sent, and had been discounted, being taken at the rate of 14s. in the pound. Impressed with the idea of the futility of enacting what was in itself absurd, and in its consequences mischievous, as it could not prevent the two prices which it was its object to counteract, and as it operated by driving the gold out of the market to prevent a return to a sound and healthy circulation, he intended to have taken the sense of the House upon a motion for dividing the Bill into two; but as the House was thinly attended, he should not put it to the vote.

The Earl of Clancarty contended, that the most mischievous consequences would result from having two prices, and that the supply to our army in the peninsula was best secured by the present measure, The Bill then passed through the Committee.

GOLD COIN BILL.] On the order of the day being read, for going into a Committee on this Bill,

The Marquis of Lansdowne expressed a wish, that the Bill had been divided into two. To one part of it he was disposed to agree, namely, that which respected distress for rent; it was true, it was a part of a faulty system, but it was certainly necessary to protect tenants from oppression in being called upon to do that which would be, under present circumstances, a violation of the original contract with the landlord; for though a noble friend of his in calling for rents in specie, had laid down rules which were perfectly equitable, yet other landlords might not be actuated by the same equity. So far, therefore, he agreed in the measure; but to the other part of the Bill, which went in fact to declare, that no person should part with gold, except for less than its value, nor take paper except for more than its value, he considered it as a system pregnant with incalculable mischief. He would not now enter into the question of depreciation; but confine himself to the more immediate object of the Bill, and he contended that it was perfectly absurd to attempt by a legislative provision to give a currency to paper, which was not worth the value set upon it. Similar expedients had been the resort of all weak and tyrannical governments, and had successively failed. The natural consequence was, the driving all the gold out of the market, and thus precluding the means of returning to pay-night, he should have left the question he ments in specie. What good had been ef- was about to propose to be decided by the

The Chancellor of the Exchequer then said, that had it not been for some intimations of intended opposition which the reading of the Message had produced last

Friday, December 18.

PRINCE REGENT'S MESSAGE FOR RELIEF TO THE INHABITANTS OF RUSSIA.] The House resolved itself into a Committee of Supply, to which the Message of the Prince Regent respecting the invasion of Russia was referred. The Message being read,

unbiassed judgment and feelings of the this measure expedient, was that of a House, with scarcely any attempt at ob- subscription entered into at Petersburgh, servation. He still hoped that four-and-at the head of which the Empresses and twenty-hours reflection might have con- the rest of the royal family had placed vinced the gentlemen from whom those themselves, for the relief of the greatest intimations proceeded, of the propriety of sufferers by the French invasion. Till this the measure recommended by his Royal step was taken, it might have been doubted Highness; and in that hope he should whether there were any practicable means trespass but a short time on the attention of administering those comforts which the of the committee, and avoid as much as liberality of this country must wish to suppossible every topic upon which a dif- ply, but which would now be easy of apference of opinion could be entertained, plication through the medium of the combecause he felt that nothing could add so mittees appointed for that purpose in much to the grace and dignity of the pro- Russia, who would enquire into particular ceeding, or stamp so much value on the cases, and apply relief where it most was gift which it was proposed to bestow, as needed, with the same anxious solicitude its being sanctioned by the unanimous and discriminating care which had been voice of the Commons of the United King- so often displayed in similar cases in this dom. country.

In what manner the relief should be applied, whether in money or in any supply of necessary articles, or by a due mixture of both modes, he could not at the moment be prepared to state. It might be proper on this subject to leave much to the discretion of our ambassador at the court of Petersburgh, and at all events to consult him upon the subject; in which no time need be lost, as the ambassador might be instructed to make such advances as were necessary, upon account.

He first felt himself bound to give some account of the particular time at which the measure was proposed, because some gentlemen had spoken of it as a surprize upon the House, and appeared to think that it was on that account objectionable. It was, indeed, in one sense, a surprize, not only upon the House, but upon his Majesty's ministers; for it arose out of events which could not have been anticipated, and the intelligence of which had but just reached this country; events of the most important and gratifying, yet, in some With regard to the amount of the sum, respects, of the most melancholy nature. he was aware that it could not be comWhile the enemy remained upon the Rus-mensurate with the extended misery, to sian territory it was obvious that no relief the alleviation of which it was to be diof the kind now proposed could have been rected. On the other hand, it would not afforded; because it could neither have become the liberality of this country to been administered with certainty, nor en- offer to our allies, suffering in our cause joyed in security. But we have now the and the general cause of Europe, not less satisfaction to know, that the French armies than in their own, a scanty and penurious have been driven with discomfiture and grant.-Allies he repeated, suffering in our disgrace from the limits of the Russian em- cause, as well as in their own, for the conpire. This, he hoped, would sufficiently test in which Russia was engaged, was not account for the grant not being proposed merely one of the greatest importance to at an earlier season, and he thought it the political interests of Great Britain, but would be obvious to every gentleman that immediately connected with the direct init could not be delayed, without losing the terests of those manufacturing bodies grace and merit of a spontaneous gift, and whose sufferings had been invidiously sacrificing the dignity of the House, whom stated as an objection to the grant. That it became rather to lead than to follow the the manufacturers had suffered from many impulse of public opinion: for he was causes, and especially from the loss of the convinced that, if parliament were even American trade, he was far from denying; for a few days to hesitate, the feelings of but the glorious successes of the Russian the people of this country would be so ex- arms appeared to offer an ample compencited as to break out in some voluntary sation for the loss of the American market, acts of public generosity, and parliament in the extended markets of Europe, which might be compelled to imitate an example now seemed about to open to their industry. which it better became them to give. In this point of view he was persuaded that those manufacturers who had been alluded to, would be among the first to ap

The intelligence, however, to which he more particularly alluded, as rendering

[ocr errors][merged small]

The sum he was about to propose was 200,000l., a larger amount than had ever before been voted by parliament for a similar purpose, but which the occasion required to be larger, because the sufferings were more extensive, and the self-devotion and heroism which had marked the conduct of those who endured it, unequalled, he believed, in the annals of the world. With regard to the extent of suffering, it was sufficient to view upon the map the wide range of country to which devastation had been spread, and to reflect that a great and ancient capital with many other towns had been destroyed, and that throughout so extensive a tract scarcely a private dwelling remained to shelter its lately peaceful and secure inhabitants. Thousands, he feared he might even say hundreds of thousands, were driven houseless into the forests, exposed to all the rigours of a Russian winter, and this they willingly endured, rather than betray the honour of their country and submit to the domination of a foreign invader. It was to relieve this great and complicated misery that he called upon the House of Commons to step forward. To relieve it entirely was, indeed, beyond human power; but much might be done by the liberality of their sympathizing countrymen united with the bounty of this nation, and it was, in all events, a consolation to the afflicted to know, that there were hearts which felt for their woe, and were ready to administer to their wants. We must not forget the difference between the price of necessary articles, and the manners of the people in Russia and here, and that a sum which might here appear inconsiderable, would there afford a seasonable and valuable supply. The sum, however, which he was about to propose, could not, in any sense, be called inconsiderable, and he trusted it would be found most extensively useful. But whatever opinion might be entertained on this point, there could be no doubt that the disposition to assist the distress of the Russians, which this proceeding would evince, must carry satisfaction to every heart in Russia, and tend to bind the closer those habits of connection which common interests and long experience pointed out as so advantageous

to both. He trusted that it would lay the foundation of an alliance more durable and more closely cemented than any political or diplomatic arrangement could frame. Every traveller who had visited Russia would bear witness how much the hearts of the people were actuated by good will towards this country; and he trusted that this feeling would now receive greater force. Their gratitude would more than equal our liberality; and on these grounds, without further trespassing on the patience of the committee, and leaving the question rather to their own feelings and judgment, upon facts of unquestionable notoriety, than endeavouring by any argument of his to persuade them to the vote, he begged leave to conclude by moving, "That it is the opinion of the committee, that the sum of 200,000l. be granted to his Majesty to enable his Majesty to afford relief to such parts of the Russian empire as have suffered from the invasion of the enemy."

Mr. Ponsonby declared, that it certainly was his intention to vote for the proposed grant, but it was not on account of any of the reasons stated by the right hon. gentleman, nor was it because the terms in which the Message was conceived, were such as were most likely to induce the House to comply with its request. The Message stated the wish of the government to be, to afford "speedy relief" to the suffering Russians; and after this declaration, the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that before any relief could be granted, it would be necessary to communicate with our ambassador at Petersburgh; so that it would arrive at the end of the winter, when it would be unnecessary. Effectual relief was held out as attainable; but it would not be in the power of the country, not only if it were as liberal but as extravagant, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer could wish, to afford it. But though it was his opinion, that the relief to the sufferers would neither be speedy nor effectual, he should not vote against the proposed grant. But he voted for it, not under the supposition that any of it would go to the Russian peasant, but as a present to the Russian emperor, and lest we should seem to manifest a coldness or backwardness with respect to the noble struggle in which he was engaged. Thinking thus, he did not like the cant of this begging Message, which came to the House under the hypocritical pretence of asking alms for the people. For the sufferings of the people

« ForrigeFortsett »