Page images

them; and that they had ample time, of course, for information; at the same time that ministers had the hardiness to make use of such language, they seemed to forget the almost inquisitive exactness, with which they shut out the members of that house, from obtaining any knowledge of those circumstances, that could alone qualify them to decide with judgment, upon a treaty that either shewed Great Britain to be ruined beyond redemption; or that her interests, and her glory had been sacrificed to views that were not immediately discernable.

The answer to every requisition for the production of any article that might lead to this necessary purpose, as was the case of his motion a few days before, Mr. Sheridan said, was in the language of indignation; it was indecent; it was unprecedented, and preposterous in the extreme, for gentlemen to introduce any circumstance of enquiry before the day appointed for the discussion of the treaty; and yet on that day, right honorable persons in his eye had, with the peculiar modesty which so distinguished them, called on the house for their approbation of a treaty, which, it was argued with much indignation, it would be indecent in them to make any enquiries whatever into. But taking the pledge of their bashfulness and modest confidence in their own superior abilities, as the criterion of its perfection; ministers required the house to be so preposterous as to give a vote of approbation to a treaty, that with the most anxious solicitude they were even prevented from so much as speaking on, until the time they had been so confidently called upon to give it their approbation. And the object of his late motion, he contended, was justly affirmed by an honorable commodore to be of very great magnitude. If Trincomale was given up, our territories in India were in a most precarious situation; and he contended, after remarking on what had fallen from

Commodore Johnstone, and Sir Henry Fletcher, that the house ought absolutely to know the extent of the sixteenth article, and the situation of the negotiation with Holland. He dissected the article in the most humourous manner. To find the meaning of the different articles, grammatical order was to be inverted; for it was impossible to come to the meaning of them, by adhering to the rules of grammar. He then went into the definition of a real British subject, mentioned in the fifth article with America. The twenty-second article with France might have as well run, to prevent all disputes that had hitherto arisen, as all disputes that may hereafter arise; and grounds enough were left for them. Seeds of disunion, and future broils were sown in the inconsistency of a treaty, of which the poorest political dabbler well might be ashamed. The honorable gentleman drew a very affecting picture of His Majesty's loyal subjects in East Florida, consigned to a government and to a religion they detested. Independently of the impolicy of ceding that province, (and he was not inclined to call the validity of the peace in question, for it was his determination, and that of his friends, to support the national faith,) Mr. Sheridan execrated the treatment of those unfortunate men, who, without the least notice taken of their civil, and religious rights, were handed over as subjects to a power, that would not fail to take vengeance on them, for their zeal and attachment to the religion and government of this country. This was an instance of British degradation, not inferior to the unmanly petitions of government to congress for the wretched Loyalists. Great Britain at the feet of congress, suing in vain, was not a humiliation, or a stigma greater, than the infamy of consigning over the loyal inhabitants of Florida, as we had done, without any conditions whatsoever. To the honor of France and Spain, in their most distressing circumstances, in all their cessions, as in Ca

nada, &c. they provided by treaty for the civil and religious rights of their quondam subjects. Mr. Sheridan then read the addresses of the inhabitants of Florida, to the governor, some short time back, breathing in the most animated stile, attachment and loyalty to the religion, and govern. ment of this country, and their detestation of the conduct of His Majesty's rebellious subjects in the other colonies. Mr. Sheridan took a view of the fur trade, the boundaries of Canada, &c. and was apprehensive the great solicitude shewn by administration to conciliate the affections of America, as it had been termed, would be a great means, in the marking of the boundaries, of creating future dissentions. He went, at length, into the different interests acquired by the Americans and French, and those left to us on the coast of Newfoundland. The logwood trade, of such vast consequence, left in a state amounting almost to non-entity, employed much of his animadversions.

The article of Dunkirk was also to be considered, supposing it even not to be of that importance it formerly was, and of which it might hereafter become to posterity, as strongly accumulating and filling the measure of our disgraces; that what had been for more than a century, the pride of our ancestors to enforce, we should so rashly concede; particularly when we were not in a situation, considering our navy (notwithstanding the learned lord's representation), and the relative resources of our enemies, (for it was observed by an honorable commodore, that the criterion of a nation's resources was her credit, and the rule of that credit, the interest she paid, and according to the honorable commodore, Spain paid most enormous interest, and France was much in the same situation;) considering then those relative circumstances, and the naval situation of Holland, Mr. Sheridan contended, we were so far from being reduced to bear such degrading, such

indelible stigmas and impositions, that we were entitled to an honorable peace.

The victory of Lord Rodney, the defeat of the enemy at Gibraltar, our successes in the East Indies, were also enumerated to prove, that our situation was respectable; that if we were reduced in resources, our enemies had not increased theirs, but were at least equally exhausted. He could not avoid remarking the artful attempt of the right honorable secretary, to put the first amendment, and the second of the noble lord in the blue riband, on the same event. He took notice of Mr. T. Pitt's description of the loyalists,—the real loyalists, and the viper loyalists; and yet though the honorable gentleman, in the peculiar stile of eloquence which so much distinguished him, was very warm in discriminating those characters of the loyalists, and pledged his feelings to give every assistance to the real loyalists; yet, in his address proposed to the throne, the vipers were equally recommended to the royal protection, and the house was equally to be bound for them as for the real loyalists. The honorable gentleman was pointed in reply to the Lord Advocate, on his hints thrown out on Mr. Fox's administration, of peace being in the pocket of certain members of a late administration, &c. Mr. Sheridan said, that he had known his honorable friend's disposition when he came into power, and had the honor of acting with him; and he pledged himself, that, though peace was ardently to be desired, though at any time peace was to be preferred, yet knowing, as he did, the relative circumstances of the powers, he never would have acceded to so dishonorable a peace; and for his own part, he did equally pledge himself, that if his honorable friend was of such a disposition, and during his administration had brought such a peace to conclusion, notwithstanding his friendship and esteem for him, he, as an individual, would have opposed it. It was impossible for language to describe his reprobation

of it, or what he felt for the national disgrace; but, he said, the true criterion by which his honorable friend's intentions could be judged by, was his correspondence while in office; and he dared ministers to move for its being laid before the house.-(Here a great cry of "Move, move.") He then made some remarks on the coalition of the parties the learned lord had alluded to, and the honey-moon of their loves, which Mr. Sheridan said, if it was the case that there was a coalition, it was rather to be called the wedding day. Mr. Sheridan then attacked the learned lord on his inconsistency, from his having declared he would support no man whose measures he did not approve. He asked the learned lord, if it was consistency then in him to support the patron of equal representation, to which Mr. Sheridan professed himself a warm friend. Was it consistency to support the independence of America, of which he had ever been so determined an enemy? He put to the Advocate some other questions; and remarked, that there was such a versatility in the politics of some men, that when interest called, every other consideration gave way; and if that was not the case, it was hard to suppose how the learned lord's adoration and high-sounding panegyrics of the noble lord in the blue riband, with which the walls of that house were wont to resound, should now be transferred to those connections which had been heretofore so obnoxious to him. He was very severe on the Lord Advocate for his early desertion, and his unfairness of using, in his peculiar situation, recrimination, which at all events could never be allowed as argument.

Mr. Pitt spoke in answer to the various arguments that had been adduced against the motion for the address to the throne. He was pointedly severe on the gentlemen who had spoken against the address, and particularly on Mr. Sheridan. "No man admired more than he did the abilities of that right honorable gentleman, the elegant sallies of his thought, the gay effusions of his fancy, his dramatic turns, and his epigrammatic points; and if they were reserved

« PreviousContinue »