« PreviousContinue »
his majesty as highly impolitic and extraordinary in the untried situation of the French government, and as justified by no distress, no pressure, no exigency. His lordship asserted, the scarcity was in no respect owing to the war; much of it was, he said, owing to the present unproductive situation of the Netherlands. The disaster at Quiberon had not occasioned it, as the grain which fell into the hands of the enemy consisted chiefly of the cargoes of some of the
American ships which had been seized in their way to France. The bad success of that expedition was, he contended, solely to be ascribed to the treachery of the emigrant corps, which could not have been foreseen.
MARQUIS OF LANSDOWNE.
On the same Subject.
He pointedly ridiculed the satisfaction enjoyed by the ministers, on finding that the prophecies he had former. ly uttered in that house, on the conduct of our worthy allies, had been but half as bad in the accomplishment as they were predicted. After enumerating the victories of the French, and detailing the desertion of the allies, he wished to be informed, how many years of such improvement the nation would be able to bear ? Judging of the future by the past, he had but little confidence in ministers; but if their boasts of our improvement and temporary success were well founded, this was, above all others, the most favourable season for negotiation. The empire could only be saved by peace; and it was of the utmost importance to preserve it entire. The old
story of the French finances had again, he said, been brought forward ; he wished some attention to be paid to the finances of this country. If those of France were not unlimited, the finances of Great Britain were not with. out bounds. His lordship wished to know if the taxes of this year had proved productive. If they failed, all was over. People could only bear taxes to a certain extent: a few more would weigh down the scale. As to the West-India expedition, there was little chance of making an impression on St. Domingo ; and of this lord Chatham was so sensible, that in his seven years' war he never would attempt it. The armament was, he understood, the worst arranged and equipped that had ever gone from this country. After stating its probable inefficacy his lordship asked, whether a worn-out island or two, if taken, were worth the price of such an armament? The plan of the French, in sending out ship by ship, was what our ministers should have followed. If the discussions in the French convention were to be depended upon, the French would not give up the Netherlands for West India settlements, as they were powerful enough not only to retain their own islands, but to invade ours. The language of the speech, though rather more pacific than that of the preceding year, meant, he said, nothing more than a display of the dexterity of ministers in proceeding with the war another year. The last year every thing was to be atchieved by a decisive and vigorous effort ; now the new order of things in France was to be relied upon. With respect to the assignats, it was plain the noble secretary inclined to the old exploded idea, that money was the sinew of war,-an idea contradict ed by the best writers ancient and modern. Livy told us of three things which constituted the sinews of war, good soldiers, good commanders, and good fortune ; all of which the French possessed in an eminent degree. His lordship repeated his former argument, that nothing in point of resources was beyond the reach of a revolutionary government, whereas regular governments had
their limitations in this point; and he trusted that what had happened to the old government of France would serve as a warning to ministers, of the fatal consequences of improvidently exhausting the revenues of this country. He earnestly recommended immediate negotiation : and after an exhortation to peace, as the only effectual remedy which could be applied to the grievances under which the country groaned, his lordship declared that he should support the amendment.
On the State of the Nation.
The honourable gentleman (Mr. Dundas) resists this motion, this night, in a way which, though not wholly new from the same quarter, brings, with every repetition of the same argument, some fresh cause for astonish
The alledgment that this war has been successful, is not made now by that honourable gentleman, for the first time, it is true ; but then his recurrence to former, I will not say exploded, but too frequently urged, and as frequently refuted reasonings, is compensated by something quite untouched in past discussions. It now seems that this war was undertaken for the purpose of conquering the colonies and destroying the commerce of France. The restoration of monarchy--the overthrow of jacobin principles—the abasement of France, and confining her to her ancient limits—the balance of power—the cause of law, order, and religion-all these are gone by; and the splendid reveries, that were soothed
by such contemplations, are fallen, alas! and sunk down to the capture of ships and of tropical settleinents. In this view of things the honourable gentleman ventures to compare the success of the present with that of the seven years' war, and finds great consolation in discovering, that even in that glorious contention there had been some reverses—alluding particularly to Minorca and to Rochefort. With some portion of triumph he refers to these misfortunes, and applies his discovery, in rather a singular manner, as an argument to the present question ; for he gives you this piece of history as a reason against going into any enquiry regarding the failures of the present war. Most unfortunately for the honourable gentleman, the very misfortunes to which he has adverted were instantly followed by enquiries in this house. It has been reserved for the present war, though the most disgraceful in its external, and the most wretched in its domestic consequences, of any that this country ever waged, to be the only war in which this house never saw any grounds for retrospect or revision. All the collected calamities of all their predecessors, for ages, do not equal, either in kind or in number, the exploits, during the present war, of the administration just retired from office ; yet they are the only men ever possessed of the powers of government in this country, who never, even in a single instance, yielded to any enquiry, upon any part of the innumerable and varied disgraces that have marked the last nine years. lucky is the honourable gentleman in the case of Minorca, that every thing respecting that business makes directly against him. To whatever cause the loss of that island may be attributable, this house immediately enquired into the cause. A person for whose memory I have the deepest gratitude and love, then one of the king's ministers, far from resisting, as the honourable gentleman resists, was the most eager in insisting upon enquiry. Unlike the present times, the house of commons, hen, had not been tutored, into that confidence in ministers
which distinguishes later periods ; and the parliamentary enquiries that followed the failures to which the honourable gentleman alluded, so far from embarrassing the operations of government, or unnerving the martial energies of the country, (these stale objections to the approved and happy practice of our ancestors) were succeeded by a series of unexampled renown. Such is the honourable gentleman's luck, in his historical references ! Not one word that I have ever uttered, or that ever came out of the lips of any friend of mine at this side of the house, has tended, even in the most distant degree, to slur or under-rate the atchievements of our feets: and I will leave the house to judge whether any persons, in it or out of it, have dwelt with more rapture upon the tri. umphs of that branch of the service than we have. From this, however, the honourable gentleman strives to draw a defence, of a nature truly singular. He endeavours to intermingle with the glories of the navy the absurdities of his own expeditions : and asks, how the military plans can be all folly, and the naval all wis. dom, both being advised by the same heads ?- The question answers itself. It is in the nature of naval tactics, that a great deal depends upon the officers and men, upon winds and weather ;-in land operations a good plan is almost every thing. Yet the merit of the admiralty is indisputable. It is true, there are parts of the administration of lord Spencer (for whom my personal respect is considerable) not free from blame, particularly what related to the invasions of Ireland ; but where the general system has been judicious and prosperous, it would be invidious to dwell upon a few errors. The honourable gentleman would incorporate these two services; and is ready to take his share in the blame of the admiralty, generously commuting the glories of his department for their miscarriages. Sir, every presumption is in favor of the admiralty : every proof against him. Nobody asks about the merit of the admiralty. It speaks for itself;--and equally obvious is the true