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duced by the melancholy process of the late war. It was too well known how much his feelings were engaged, not only by the duty of his station, and by his attachment to his country, but by considerations of his own personal reputation, which was deeply committed in the question, to exert every nerve, to arm all his vigilance, and to concentre all his efforts towards that great object, by which alone we should have a prospect, by relieving their burthens, of transmitting to our posterity that ease and comfort which ourselves felt the want of an efficient sinking fund of the national debt; to accomplish which was the first wish of his heart, and this, as well by every means of prudent, well regulated economy, as by a rigid collection of the revenue. But was he to be seduced by the plausible and popular name of economy – he would not call it only plausible and popular, he would rather say, the sacred name of economy- to forego the reality, and for the sake of adding a few hundred thousands more to the sinking fund, perhaps render for ever abortive the sinking fund itself? Every saving which could, consistently with the national safety, be made, he would pledge himself to make; but he would never consent to starve the public service, and to withhold those supplies without which the nation must be endangered.
The relieving by every such means as his duty would suffer him to adopt, the burthens of the people, and removing that load of debt by which she was oppressed, was the grand and ultimate end of his desire; it was the pedestal to which he would wish to raise a column which should support whatever pretensions he might have to reputation and popularity; but let it be well considered, how far the objects of necessary defence, and of public economy, could be reconciled, and let the bounds that divide them not be transgressed. Let it be well weighed, what a certain security for a lasting peace there was in a defencible and powerful situation, and how likely weakness and improvidence were to be the forerunners of war. But should a war happen, where was economy? What was become of the sinking fund? The very expenses of one year's loan would amount to more than the
whole of those fortifications which might have secured us peace, because they would have diminished, or effectually destroyed, all temptation or hope of success in an attack. In this point of view, as the means of preventing a war, he should conceive, that the first million which would be applied as the foundation for the sinking fund, might not be better applied than a million of money for the fortifications ; not that a million would prove necessary, but he chose to state it as high as any other gentleman, let his talents of exaggeration be what they might, could possibly carry it.
There was also another part of the subject which ought to have the greatest weight of all, and this was, that these fortifications being calculated to afford complete security to the dockyards, would enable our whole feet to go on remote services, and carry on the operations of war at a distance, without endangering the materials and seeds of future navies from being liable to destruction by the invasion of an enemy. It had been insinuated, that the second datum in His Majesty's instructions had been used to draw forth an acquiescence from the board of offi. cers, upon an unreasonable supposition of the fleet being absent for an improbable time. He believed there were few gentlemen could forget, that at no very distant period, even since he had the honour of a place in His Majesty's councils, the fleet had been absent for a time nearly equal to that supposed in the datum, upon a service which this country could not have dispensed with, without sacrificing the most brilliant success which attended us in the late war:- a success of such lustre as to spread an irradiation over the more gloomy scenes in which we had been involved. Had we been then in fear of an attack upon our coasts, which from reasons not proper to be mentioned, we happened not to be, Gibraltar, and the renown of defending it, must have been for ever lost. But it was not only by foreign expeditions that we might lose the aid of our fleet in case of an invasion; it might so happen, that our fleet, though in the very Channel, might be prevented by contrary winds, tides, or other contingencies, from arriving to the assistance and relief of the dockyards. What would then prove the situation of this country? The enemy might, in one day, in one hour, do an irreparable injury, and give a mortal stab to the very vital principle of our national vigour: might effectually destroy the seeds of that navy from which alone we had to hope for commerce, for safety, and for reputation. On the whole, he really thought the present rather a question to be considered as connected with our naval establishment, than that of either our army or ordnance, as it was calculated to give liberty to the fleet which had hitherto been confined to our coasts, and as it were to the defence of those dock-yards, without the security of which, the very existence of the navy, or even of the nation, must be no more. Were it to be asked, why the sum required for these fortifications had not been demanded for strengthening the navy, he should answer fairly, that he thought the same sum laid out upon the feet, would by no means afford a proportional strength to what would be derived from the fortifications. The money which would prove sufficient to accomplish those works, would not build as many ships as would answer for the defence of those invaluable harbours of Portsmouth and Plymouth. There was, besides, a certain degree beyond which the navy of this country could not go; there was a certain number of ships, beyond which she could neither build nor man any more ; what that line was, he could not, nor would it be proper for him to point out: yet necess
essarily such a line must exist in the nature of things, but there never could be any line drawn to limit the security which we ought to provide for our dock-yards. What could be the reason that gentlemen on the other side of the House scemed so anxious to impede this measure? Were they bold enough to stake themselves upon a question of such awful magnitude, and to stand forward with such decided vehemence as the opponents of a measure, which parliament, thinking itself incompetent to scrutinize, had referred to the highest professional authority in the army, and in the navy; which had received the sanction of that authority; and which the ministers of the crown, who could have no personal feelings on the subject, except such as from considerations of their own ease and advantage were adverse from it, and who could share no temptations towards it, but a strong sense of its indispensable necessity, 'declared themselves so much interested about, as to be unable to rest upon their pillows so long as it remained in suspense ? He called upon the House to beware how they suffered themselves to be lightly drawn into a line of conduct which might involve their posterity, nay themselves, in the heaviest calanities.
He flattered himself that more arguments were scarcely necessary to prove, that the proposed system of fortifying the dockyards was absolutely necessary for the preservation and security of the sources of our marine in case of a future war, and that the system in question had received the unanimous sanction of a board of land and sca officers, consisting of the most respect. able and experienced characters in the two services; and that they had in their report pronounced the plan the best adapted to its purpose of any which could be devised, grounded on the most economical principles, and requiring the smallest number of troops. Viewing it properly, it was a naval question, and as such it ought to be considered, because while it gave security to the vital springs and sources of our marine, so far from rendering an increase of the military force of the kingdom necessary, as some gentlemen, from a laudable jealousy of the standing army, and from a natural and zealous regard for the constitution, had been led to imagine, it would actually tend to enable government to keep up a less military establishment than otherwise must be maintained. Thus circumstanced, he should rest all his hopes of support solely upon the power of his arguments to prove what he had asserted in that respect. Having read the words of two preliminary resolutions, which he remarked would prove declaratory of the opinion of the House upon the subject, (should they think fit to adopt them) and which, by being voted previous to their going into the committee of supply, would lay a foundation for their future proceedings, and rest their votes in the committee upon a perspicuous and permanent footing, Mr. Pitt concluded with moving his first resolution as follows:
" That it appears to this House, that to provide effectually for securing His Majesty's dock-yards at Portsmouth and Plymouth, by a permanent system of fortification, founded on the most economical principles, and requiring the smallest number of troops possible to answer the purpose of such security, is an essential object for the safety of the state, ultimately connected with the general defence of the kingdom, and necessary for enabling the fleet to act with full vigour and effect, for the protection of commerce, the support of our distant possessions, and the prosecution of offensive operations in any war in which the nation may hereafter be engaged." After a long discussion of the subject, the House came to a division;
For Mr. Pitt's motion..........
...169 when the Speaker, by his casting vote, decided the question in the negative.
March 29. 1786.
The House having resolved itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration that part of His Majesty's specch on the 24th of January last which recommended the establishment of a fixed plan for the reduction of the National Debt,
Mr. Pitt addressed the chairman of the committee as follows:
Sir, The object I have to refer to this committee is, to consider of the means of decreasing the national debt. To attempt to recommend this purpose by any words would surely be quite superfluous : the situation of this country, loaded with an enormous debt, to pay the interest of which every nerve has been stretched, and every resource nearly drained, carries with it a stronger recommendation than any arguments I could possibly adduce. That something should be done to relieve the nation from the pressure of' so heavy a load is indeed acknowledged by