« PreviousContinue »
move to address the crown that Trincomale, &c. should not be restored until the treaty with Holland should be concluded, and peace restored to the Carnatic. Ministers not having given any answer, he moved that such parts of the treaty at present pending between Great Britain and Holland, as related to cessions to be made by the former to the latter, be laid before the house.
The motion was seconded by Mr. Fox. Mr. Pitt rose with great warmth, and inveighed with much vehemence against the motion. He observed, "Did any member ever hear of ministers proclaiming to the house secrets of a treaty still depending,” and “that a more preposterous thing could not have been done by the mover, than to call for the particulars of a treaty before it was concluded. He trusted, therefore, that in his cooler judgment he would withdraw his motion."
Mr. SHERIDAN declared, that in making the motion, he had no other object whatever than to procure such information as should enable him to form a safe judgment of the peace; and if he could not obtain that information, he would readily consent to withdraw his motion, which had been treated with so many harsh and unprovoked expressions by the right honorable member. That gentleman used frequently to recommend it to members to debate with coolness, temper, and moderation; he was sorry that in this instance the right honorable gentleman had not a little enforced the precept by example. He wished also that he had spoken in as high a tone, and held as lofty a language in making the peace; he would not then be obliged to stand so much on the defensive, as perhaps he might be under the necessity of doing on Monday next; because he might, by talking and acting boldly, have made a better peace. The question was with
CONSIDERATION OF THE PRELIMINARY ARTICLES OF PEACE, BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND FRANCE AND SPAIN, AND OF THE PROVISIONAL TREATY WITH THE UNITED STATES
The preliminary articles of peace between Great Britain and France, and between Great Britain and Spain, were signed at Versailles on the 2d of January, and on the 27th, copies of the same, and of the provisional treaty with the United States of America, were laid before both houses of parliament; and after a short debate ordered to be printed.
Monday, the 17th February, was appointed for taking them into consideration; and in the intcrmediate time several motions were made for such papers and documents as might assist the house in deciding on their merits. On the day appointed, upwards of 450 members were assembled. After the papers were read, a motion was made by Mr. Thomas Pitt, and seconded by Mr. Wilberforce, "that an address of thanks should be presented to the King, for his gracious condescension in ordering the preliminary and provisional articles of the several treaties which His Majesty had concluded, to be laid before them; and to assure His Majesty, they had considered them with that attention so important a subject required. To express their satisfaction that His Majesty had, in consequence of the powers intrusted to him, laid the foundation by the provisional articles, with the states of North America, for a treaty of peace, which they trusted would insure perfect reconciliation and friendship between both countries; and that in this confidence they presumed to express their just expectations, that the several states of North America would carry into effectual and satisfactory execution those measures which the congress was so solemnly bound by the treaty to recommend in favor of such persons as had suffered for the part they had taken in the war; and that they should consider this circumstance as the surest indication of returning friendship. To acknowledge their due sense of that wise and paternal regard for the happiness of his subjects, which induced His Majesty to relieve them from the burthensome and expensive war; and to assure His Majesty they would encourage every exertion of his snbjects of Great Britain and Ireland in the improvement of those resources, which must tend to the augmentation of the public strength, and the prosperity of his dominions."
Of this address an amendment was moved by Lord John Caven dish, to leave out all that part after the words "to assure His Majesty," and to insert instead thereof the following: "His faithful commons will proceed to consider the same, with that serious and full attention which a subject of such importance to the present and future interests of His Majesty's dominions deserves. That in the
mean time they entertained the fullest confidence of His Majesty's paternal care: that he will concert with his parliament such measures as may be expedient for extending the commerce of his subjects. That whatever may be the sentiments of his faithful commons on the investigation of the terms of pacification, they beg leave to assure His Majesty of their firm and unalterable resolution to adhere inviolably to the several articles for which the public faith is pledged, and to maintain the blessings of peace, so necessary to His Majesty's subjects, and the general happiness of mankind.”
A second amendment was afterwards moved by Lord North, to insert after the words "commerce of his subjects," the foliowing: "And His Majesty's faithful commons feel that it would be superfluous to express to His Majesty the regards due from the nation to every description of men, who, with the risk of their lives, and the sacrifice of their properties, have distinguished their loyalty and fidelity during a long and calamitous war!'
The original address was supported by Mr. Secretary Townshend, Mr. Chancellor Pitt, Mr. Dundas, the Solicitor-General, and by Mr. Powys, Mr. Banks, and some other country gentlemen. The amendments by Lord North, Mr. Fox, Mr. Burke, Mr. Sheridan, Governor Johnstone, Lord Mulgrave, Sir Henry Fletcher, Mr. Adam, and by several country gentlemen.
Mr. SHERIDAN made a very accurate reply to the Lord Advocate; and warmly touched upon the strokes the learned lord threw out on the conduct of his honourable friend, (Mr. Fox) and the share he had taken during the short time he was in administration to effectuate the great end of peace. He contended that the treaty on the table was of the most disgraceful nature, for it relinquished completely every thing that was glorious and great in this country. If there was a single article that had a view to the interests of the empire,-if there was a single article that had not concession for its object, he would not contend that the peace was what almost every person pronounced it. The sixteenth article was one of the most inconsistent political productions that could possibly be supposed; it was couched in such vague and loose terms, that it must have relation to the impending treaty with Holland. It was with the view of finding out the extent of that article, and what reference it had to the treaty yet pending, and the
political disposition it evidently had towards France, that the honorable gentleman made his motion on a former day; and which called forth the indignation of a right honorable person in his eye (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) as being inconsistent with the established usage of the house,-unprecedented and preposterous in the extreme. This convinced him, however, that the right honorable gentleman was more a practical politician than an experienced one; his years and his very early political exaltation, had not permitted him to look whether there had been precedents, or to acquire a knowledge of the Journals of the house. Had his youth permitted him to acquire such knowledge, his discretion would not have suffered his abilities, which Mr. Sheridan greatly admired, to be carried away by his heat and precipitancy; he would not with so much indignation have resented the asking questions, which it was the duty of ministers to satisfy. If he had consulted the Journals, the honorable gentleman said he would have found incontestible evidence, to prove the groundless authority of his indignant assertions ;-he would have found that it was not unprecedented to lay a depending treaty before the house; nay, that before a single step had been taken to complete any of the points of it, it had been usual for parliament to be in possession of the principles upon which it was proposed a treaty should turn. Parliament was called upon to assist with its advice on the vast subject of national importance; which peace must naturally, in all times be, as involving in it so much the general prosperity, and happiness of Europe. Ministers in former days, had not the ingenious modesty, and handsome diffidence of those of the present; they, distrusting their own abilities on a matter of such infinite importance, were not ashamed to call in the assistance of parliament. They were not so eager to sport their responsibility;
nor did they fear that the house would interfere to rob them of the glory of their negociations; nor did they, with the anxious solicitude of the present gentlemen, hide every iota of the progress of their negociation, either with a view of astonishing the world with the splendor of their pacific acquisitions, or to shew their contempt of the wisdom of parliament, in the administration of their own transcendant abilities.
After having proceeded in this vein, he introduced, in support of the conduct of ministers, at the treaty of Aix la Chapelle, stated by the noble lord in the blue riband, a further precedent, extracted from the Journals of the house, in Queen Anne's reign, before the treaty of Utrecht; and which Mr. Sheridan read as part of his speech. It stated, that Her Majesty, notwithstanding it was the undoubted prerogative of her crown, to make peace and war; nevertheless, anxious for the happiness of her people, and relying on the affection of her faithful commons, had ordered to be laid before them, for their advice and approbation, the principles upon which she conceived a general pacification could be most effectually established for the glory of her crown, and the happiness of her people; at the same time informing them, that no step had been taken for the completion of the treaty, nor would there, without their advice and approbation. Thus he shewed, that it was not only precedented to lay the case of the negociation before the house, in its depending state, but the principles upon which the treaty was to take effect, before the negociation for it had ever been commenced. How unlike that was the conduct of the present minister, when the amendment of his noble friend, proposing to give time for the consideration of the articles, to which they were called upon in so very extraordinary a manner to give their approbation: they were told, they had the articles for three weeks before