« VorigeDoorgaan »
why we should not observe our treaty. Are we to stand by as indifferent spectators and look at France trampling upon the ancient treaties of the allies of this country? Are we to view with indifference the progress of French ambition, and of French arms, by which our allies are exposed to the greatest danger? This is surely no reason for England to be inactive and slothful. If Holland has not immediately called upon us for our support and assistance, she may have been influenced by motives of policy, and her forbearance ought not to be supposed to arise from her indifference about the river Scheldt. If Holland had not applied to England when Antwerp was taken, the French might have overrun her territory. And unless we wish to stand by, and to suffer state after state to be subverted under the power of France, we must now declare our firm resolution effectually to oppose those principles of ambition and aggrandisement, which have for their object the destruction of England, of Europe, and of the world.
The next thing is, whether we see any thing in these papers; which furnishes an answer to the past, or gives any security for the future? What does the explanation amount to on the subject of the treaty of our allies? It refers to the possibility of negotiation at an indefinite period. She says, “she (France) has renounced, and again renounces every conquest, and her occupation of the Low-Countries shall only continue during the war, and the time which may be necessary to the Belgians to insure and consolidate their liberty; after which, they will be independent and happy, and France will find her recompense in their felicity." What is this but an avowal of their former declarations ?
On this subject of interference with neatral nations, there is one or two explanations of the decree of the 19th of November, which has been so often discussed. We are, indeed, told it is injurious to suppose the National Convention could have intended to apply this decree to any country but where, by the public will, they have been called to give assistance and fraternity. This is in fact to advertise for treason and rebellion. Is there any man who could give credit to the reception which the English societies received in France? Though their nambers are too contemptible for the animadversion of the law, or the notice of our own executive government, they were considerable enough for the National Convention. They tell you they are the clear, undisputed, constituted organ of the will of the people at large. What reliance can be placed in all their explanations, after the avowal of principles to the last degree dangerous to the liberty, the constitution, the independence, and the very existence of this country?
My time and my strength would fail me, if I were to attempt to go through all those various circumstances, which are connected with this subject. I shall take the liberty of reading a passage from a publication which came into my hands this morning, and I am extremely glad to have seen collected together, so many instances in which the conduct of France is detected. In a note from M. Chauvelin, dated December 27th, 1792, he complatns of the harsh construction which the British ministry had put on the conduct of France, and professes the strongest friendship for Great Britain. And yet, on the 31st of December, 1792, that is in four days after, one of the members of the executive council, who had given these assurances to England, wrote this letter to the friends of liberty and equality, in all the sea-ports in France.
“The government of England is arming, and the King of Spain, encouraged by this, is preparing to attack us. These two tyrannical powers, after persecuting the patriots in their own territories, think, no doubt, that they shall be able to influence the judgment to be pronounced on the tyrant Louis. They hope to frighten us. But no! a people who has made itself free; a people who has driven out of the bosom of France, and as far as the distant borders of the Rhine, the terrible army of the Prussians and Austrians; the people of France will not suffer laws to be dictated to them by a tyrant.
“ The King and his parliament mean to make war against us; will the English republicans suffer it? Already these free men shew their discontent, and the repugnance which they have to bear arms against their brothers, the French. Well! we will fly to their succour; we will make a descent on the island; we will lodge there fifty thousand caps of liberty; we will plant there the sacred tree, and we will stretch out our arms to our republican brethren; the tyranny of their governmeut will soon be destroyed. Let every one of us be strongly impressed with this idea! Monge."
Such is the declaration of the sentiments of the minister of the marine ; a declaration which separates not only the King, but the King and parliament of Great Bfitain, from the people, who are called republicans. What faith can be put in assurances given on the part of France by M. Chauvelin, on the 27th of December, when, in four days after, we find the minister of the marine writing such a letter? It was to be hoped we might have seen reasons, perhaps, in consequence of friendly explanations, for not going to war. But such explanations as this communication contains, have been justly rejected. I shall not detain the House longer on this subject.
I shall state now what appears to be the state of the negotiation. I take the conduct of France to be inconsistent with the peace and liberty of Europe. They have not given us satisfaction with respect to the question in issue. It is true, what they call explanations have taken place; but their principles, and the whole manner of their conduct, are such, that no faith can be put in their declarations. Their conduct gives the lie to their public professions; and, instead of giving satisfaction on the distinct articles, on which you have a right to claim a clear and precise explanation, and shewing any desire to abandon those views of conquest and aggrandisement, to return within their ancient limits, and to set barriers to the progess of their destructive arms, and to their principles, still more destructive; instead of doing so, they have given, -explanations I oanaot call them, but an avowal of those very things you complain of. And in the last paper from M. Chauvelin, which may therefore be considered as the ultimatum, are these words :
“ After so frank a declaration, which manifests such a sincere desire of peace, his Britannic Majesty's ministers ought not to have any doubts with regard to the intentions of France. If her explanations appear insufficient, and if we are still obliged to hear a haughty language: if hostile preparations are continued in the English ports, after having exhausted every means to preserve peace, we will prepare for war with the sense of the justice of our cause, and our efforts to avoid this extremity. We will fight the English, whom we esteem, with regret, - but we will fight them without fear."
This is an ultimatum to which you cannot accede. They have neither withdrawn their armies from the neighbouring nations, nor shewn the least disposition to withdraw them. If France is really desirous of maintaining friendship and peace with England, she must shew herself disposed to renounce her views of aggression and aggrandisement, and to confine herself within her own territory, without insulting other governments, without disturbing their tranquillity, without violating their rights. And unless she consent to these terms, whatever may be our wishes for peace, the final issue must be war. As to the time, as to the moment when war is to commence, if there is yet any possibility of satisfactory explanation, and security for the future, it is not to the last moment precluded. But I should disguise my sentiments to the House, if I stated, that I thought it in any degree probable. This country has always been desirous of peace. We desire it still, but such as may be real and solid, and consistent with the interests and dignity of Britain, and with the general security of Europe. War, whenever it comes, will be preferable to peace without honour, without security, and which is incompatible either with the external safety, or the internal happiness of this country.
I have endeavoured to comprehend as much as possible, though I am sensible I have left a great deal untouched. If any topic should afterwards arise, I trust I shall meet with the indul. gence of the House in stating it. I shall now move, “ That an humble address be presented to His Majesty, to return His Majesty the thanks of this House for his most gracious message,
and the communication of the papers, which, by His Majesty's command, have been laid before us.
" To offer His Majesty our heartfelt condolence on the atrocious act lately perpetrated at Paris, which must be viewed by every nation in Europe as an outrage on religion, justice, and humanity, and as a striking and dreadful example of the effects of principles which lead to the violation of the most sacred duties, and are utterly subversive of the peace and order of all civil society.
** To represent to His Majesty, that it is impossible for us not to be sensible of the views of aggrandisement and ambition which, in violation of repeated and solemn professions, have been openly manifested on the part of France, and which are connected with the propagation of principles incompatible with the existence of all just and regular government; that under the present circumstances, we consider a vigorous and effectual opposition to those views, as essential to the security of every thing that is most dear and valuable to us as a nation, and to the future tranquillity and safety of all other countries.
“ That impressed with these sentiments, we shall, with the utmost zeal and alacrity, afford His Majesty the most effectual assistance, to enable His Majesty to make a further augmentation of his forces by sea and land, and to act as circumstances may require in the present important conjuncture, for maintaining the security and honour of his crown, for supporting the just rights of his allies, and for preserving to his people the undisturbed enjoyment of the blessings, which, under the Divine Providence, they receive from the British constitution !"