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if it could be fairly made to appear that these gentlemen, (whose names and characters he freely admitted did intitle them to the confidence which was claimed for them) upon a full investigation of the whole subject proposed last year in parliament to be submitted to their inquiry, and being left to their own free and unfettered judgment in forming their decision-had reported, as their decided and unqualified opinion, that the plan proposed by the noble duke, and then under discussion, was a measure which it became the wisdom and prudence of parliament to adopt. Upon this point they were at issue; and the report in his hand was the only authority to which he should appeal, and the sole ground upon which he should argue.

Yet, previous to the least discussion of the matter of the report, he could not omit to take notice of many circumstances attending the manner of its formation. Far from meaning to reflect upon the officers who composed the board, he must beg leave to support the complaint which had been urged by the right honorable gentleman (Colonel Barré) who first suggested this reference, that, in violation of the confidence reposed in ministers, they had not referred the question of a system for the general defence of the country to the board, giving them due time and materials for forming their opinion upon the great and extensive subject; but had merely required from them a short answer relative to two points of attack under certain data of their own imposing.

Many powerful, perhaps unanswerable, objections had been made against the appointment of the noble duke to be president of the board. Some honorable gentlemen had alluded to the peculiar circumstances of the noble duke's personal character; he had been described as a man who was never known to give up a point; but whether this was the case or not, or whether there was some principles of public profession, to which the noble

duke had not very rigorously adhered, he would not pretend to decide; as he might be suspected of speaking from party prejudices. There was one characteristic, however, of the noble duke's mind, which he thought might be fairly mentioned; as it was a peculiarity which had been publicly brought forward in argument by high authority in that house; and if now referring to it, he were to represent that noble personage as of a temper eager for extravagance, and vehement in the extreme;-if he were to describe him as a person who, having taken up a just principle, was capable of defeating all salutary proceeding upon it; by driving on with a heated imagination to the most flighty and preposterous conclusions; the right honorable gentleman opposite to him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would become his authority. He was the person who had led him and the house into that opinion; as must be in the recollection of every honorable gentleman, who, during a former session heard that right honorable gentleman discuss the noble duke's principles of parliamentary reform, and recollected the terms of indignant ridicule with which he had cautioned them against the schemes of so visionary a projector. If, therefore, he was arraigned for following any plan of the noble duke's with a peculiar degree of jealousy, he should leave his justification in the abler hands of the right honorable gentleman.

Yet the noble duke deserved the warmest panegyrics for the striking proofs he had given of his genius as an engineer; which appeared even in the planning and construction of the paper in his hand! The professional ability of the master-general shone as conspicuously there, as it could upon our coasts. He had made it an argument of posts; and conducted his reasoning upon principles of trigonometry, as well as logic. There were certain detached data, like advanced works, to keep the enemy at a distance from the main object in debate.

Strong provisions covered the flanks of his assertions. His very queries were in casements. No impression, therefore, was to be made on this fortress of sophistry by desultory observations; and it was necessary to sit down before it, and assail it by regular approaches. It was fortunate, however, to observe, that notwithstanding all the skill employed by the noble and literary engineer, his mode of defence on paper was open to the same objection which had been urged against his other fortifications; that if his adversary got possession of one of his posts, it became strength against him, and the means of subduing the whole line of his argument. 6 The points which (Mr. Sheridan said) he should conceive that he had distinctly established from the authentic document before the house, notwithstanding the mutilated state in which it appeared, were -first, that not one word, hint, or suggestion on the part of the naval officers tending to give any approbation, either directly or by implication, to the scheme of fortification then in debate, was to be found in that paper; but that, on the contrary, from the manner in which a reference was made to the minutes of the naval officers, of which the result was with-holden, a strong presumption might be grounded, wholly independent of the informa tion which the house had received from members of that board, that those minutes did contain a condemnation of the plan. He did not expect to hear it argued that the result of those minutes could not be communicated, because they were mixed with dangerous matters of intelligence; they had shewn a sufficient degree of ingenuity in the manner of having extracted them from the report; and it would prove extraordinary indeed if wherever the judgment was unfavorable, it should have been so blended and complicated with matter of detail and dangerous discussion, that no chemical process in the ordnance laboratory could possibly separate them; whilst, on the contrary, every approving



opinion, like a light subtile oily fluid, floated at the top at once; and the clumsiest clerk was capable of presenting it to the house, pure and untinged by a single particle of the argument or information upon which it was produced.

In the second place, he should contend that the opinion given by the land officers in favour of the plan, was hypothetical and conditional; and that they had unanimously and invariably, throughout the whole business, refused to lend their authority to, or make themselves responsible for, the data or suppositions upon which that opinion was to be maintained. This circumstance deserved the more particular attention of the house, because the report had been so artfully managed, as in many points to appear to support a right honorable gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) in a contrary asser


Next, he regarded himself as unanswerably jus-` tified in concluding that the data themselves were founded upon a supposition of events so improbable and desperate, that the existence of the case contained in them, carried with it not the imminent danger of Portsmouth and Plymouth only, but the actual conquest of the island. Upon this occasion, he did not think much detail of argument was necessary, after he had, at least in his opinion, irrefragably established, that the case alluded to, in the words often recurred to, "under the circumstance of the data," was literally this, "The absence of the whole British fleet for the space of three months; while an army of thirty or forty thousand men was ready on the enemy's coast to invade this country, that enemy to chuse their point of landing, to land and encamp, with heavy artillery, and every necessary for a siege; whilst no force in Great Britain could be collected in less than two months to oppose them." By no means could he admit as a fact, even taking it for granted that the enemy should decide in assaulting no part but Portsmouth and


Plymouth, he should, with most polite hostility, scorn to strike a blow at the heart of the empire but in the courtly spirit of a French duellist, should aim only to wound in the sword-arm; yet even under this idea, must he deny that these only objects provided for, could be said to be effectually secured. For, first, it was not made out that the enemy might not either land or march to the eastward of Plymouth, where no defence was pretended; and, secondly, the whole question turning upon a supposition of our being inferior at sea, in that case a presumption of the safe return of the inferior fleet and its beating the superior fleet, was the sole resource for the relief of the besieged dock yards; the defence of which was expressly stated in the report, to be calculated only against the force, and for the time expressed in the data; so that the enemy having it obviously in his power, whilst master of the sea, to recruit his own army, as well as to keep the other exposed parts of this kingdom in check and alarm, and thereby to prevent the possibility of our assembling and uniting a force sufficient to raise the siege, it followed that if either the enemy's army exceeded the number supposed, or at the time was prolonged beyond the period calculated, the whole of this effectual security vanished under their own reasoning, and we should merely have prepared a strong hold in the country for our foe; a hold which the circumstances under which he was supposed to make the attack, would enable him for ever to retain.

Mr. Sheridan now proceeded to his remarks concerning the distinction which had during the debate been made relative to the different persons who were supposed to form the opposition to the presnet plan, and said he had heard the old insinuations of party views resorted to by those who defended the original motion; and some honorable gentlemen who most strenuously opposed it, had,

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