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with the baseit ingratitude. He had conversed with the high, the rich, and the poor; and he only spoke the sense of the country, when he stated, that the continuance of these men was inimical to its interests, and dangerous at the present crisis. With this conviction on his mind, he should consider himself a traitor to his country if he suppressed those sentiments, thus sanctioned by the public voice; and, therefore, he wilhed to know if it was the intention of his Majesty's Ministers to dilmiss them all indiscriminately from the kingdom, or if, in case any distinction should be made, they would be answerable for the conduct of such as they might think proper to retain.
Mr. Dundas said, an idea had gone abroad that danger might be justly apprehended from the French emigrants resident in the kingdom, that their number was formidable, and their sentiments hostile to its welfare. In consequence of such a sensation, which he had admitted was generally felt, an in. quiry was instituted, the result of which thewed that the num. bers were by no means so great as was imagined. That the . sentiment expressed by the Honourable Gentleman was prevalent in the public mind, he was ready to concede ; but it was , a subject on which his Majesty's Ministers could not come to such a general resolution as that suggested. They had watched over the conduct of these men with care and circumspection, and such as were found unworthy of the treatment they had received were sent out of the ki, gdom ; so far then as suspicion attached to any of them, the most vigorous measures had been taken. Many unworthy individuals might, no doubt, elude the most rigorous investigation; and if any such remained, if only the shadow of suspicion rested upon them, the Honour. able Gentleman might institute an inquiry, and if the event justified the sentiments entertained refpecting their conduct, they too should be no longer harboured. But to come to such a general resolution as that suggested, would be to sacrifice the lives, perhaps, of many worthy men ; it would be to confound the innocent with the guilty in one general mass, and to violate every principle of humanity. As to the latter part of the Hon. Gentleman's suggestion, that his Majesty's Ministers should be responsible for the conduct of these men, he conecived it would be hard to impose such a burden upon them; as one he would wish to exonerate his shoulders from it ; at the same time, he did not mean to be understood as declining any measure to prevent our humanity from being turned to our disadvantage. He, therefore, repeated it, distinctly and positively, that whenever any suggeftion shall be made against them, either indivi. dually or collcctively; whether true or falfe, the strictest in4G 2,
quiry shall take place, and the most vigorous measures shall be adopted.
Mr. Johns explained. He admitted many of them were men of strict honour and integrity ; prudence, however, required that they mould be narrowly watched, as from their numbers they might be able to make a diversion in favour of the enemy.
FRENCH PRISONERS. Mr. Baker said, he rose to state to the House a circumstance of the greatest importance; a circumstance which not only affected us as men, but materially concerned the honour and character of the nation. The House would probably anticipate him, when he said, he alluded to the gross and scandalous milrepresentations made regarding the treatment of French prisoners in this country, misrepresentations, in which we were stated as men loft to every sense of humanity, and capable of cruelties that would disgrace the most barbarous ages. For refutation of these charges, however, we ought not merely to rest upon our general character. In one particular case, he knew a very active part had been taken to rescue the country from so base a calumny. The Mayor of Liverpool had instituted an inquiry; and, upon the clearest evidence, and the strictest investigation, it appeared, that those soul misrepresentations, countenanced by the Directory of France, and those who wished to inflame and exasperate the enemy against this country, were without the fightest foundation. That such would be the result of irquiry in every other part of the kingdom where French prisoners were detained, he had not the smallest doubt. It was therefore his intention to move, that such papers as might be necessary to ascertain the treatment of French prisoners in this country, thould be laid before the House, that we might not only stand justified in our conscience, that such treatment was humane and liberal ; but, that all Europe might sce how we had conducted ourselves towards a nation, that had loaded us with such foul abuse and calumny; and concluded with moving, “ that there be laid before the House, an account of the proceedings of the Transport Office, and of the Board of Admiralty, relative to the treatment of the French prisoners in the different parts of the kingdom.”
Mr. Rofe feconded the motion, as being the most effectual means of filencing those injurious aspersions that had been so industriously diffufed ; but to render it ftith more efficacious, he thought it might be expedient to move, “ that an account of the expence incurred by Government, in maintaining the prisoners of war, distinguishing the daily and weekly allow ance for each prisoner, be also laid before the House.”
Mr. Dundas said, that, in his official situation, many things had fallen into his hands which excited the strongest indignation. That the most calumnious misrepresentations had been spread abroad, tending not only to cherish and inflame the hofrile spirit of the enemy, but to degrade us in our own eves, and in the estimation of all Europe. That the French Directory should do so did not surprise him ; but that they should be copied into the public prints ; that the public prints should adopt and repeat the Nander, he confessed had filled him with asto. nishment. Want of humanity, in general, never was a feature in the character of Englishmen; but want of humanity to the unfortunate, whom the fate of war had thrown into their hands, was a crime which he thought the greatest enemy would not attempt to lay to their charge ; it was strange, that it should not have been repelled with indignation, and that the liberty of the press should be made the vehicle by which fuch slanderous calumny was communicated through every part of the kingdom. To prevent its further diffusion, and to vindicate the character of the country, he had it, for some time, in contemplation, to bring forward the measure which he had now the pleasure to hear proposed, but coming as it did, he owned it was more satisfactory to him, than if it had originated with his Majesty's Ministers, and he anticipated the result with the fullest confidence ; for when all the proceedings should be laid on the table, every man would be able to appreciate our conduct towards our prisoners ; he would see, that if we had departed in any instance from established usage, the deviation had been involuntarily caused by the conduct of the enemy, who had violated and broken down all the rules and principles which hitherto governed nations in the treatment and exchange of prisoners, and that any act of severity on our part was only in retaliation, and with a view to extort from them that justice which they refused to our officers, and to which our prisoners in their hands were entitled by the law of nations. On this point also, as well as what concerned the prisoners at large, the fullest information should be laid before the House, and he was ready to stand or fall with the verdict they should pronounce, upon a full and deliberate investigation. The motion, therefore, met his entire approbation, particularly the latter part, which related to the heavy expences incurred by this country in displaying that humanity which had been so grossly calumniated and abused.
Lord Maldon spoke a few words in support of the motion : he stated that the French prisoners at Bristol were so abundantly supplied, that the soldiers of his regiment almost lived upon the superfluities which they purchased from them.
The two motions were then severally put and carried.
Mr. Hobhouse moved, that an account be laid before the House of the money advanced by the Bank to Government, and outstanding the ist of January, 1797.--Agreed to.
Mr. Huskin son moved, that an account of the rations issued daily by the French agent to their prisoners in this country since the first of February, be laid before the House. He also moved for a copy of the instructions given to Captain Coats, Thewing the weekly rations issued to the English prisoners in France. In support of these motions, he stated, that it would appear, that the allowance formerly granted to French prisoners is the same granted to our own.
Both motions were severally put and carried. Mr. Dundas brought up a petition from the merchants of Edinburgh. It was ordered to lie on the Table.
The correspondence between Sir John Wentworth, and the Duke of Portland, respecting the Maroons, was laid before the House.
The Bills for granting an annuity of 2000l. a year each, to Earl St. Vincent and Lord Viscount Duncan, were read a third time, paffed nem. con. and ordered to the Lords,
The Bill for allowing further time to carry into execution the Supplementary Militia Act, passed this Session, was read a third time, passed, and ordered to the Lords.
the Supplemefor allowing for and ordered uncan,
HOUSE OF LORDS.
Friday, Feb. 23. The Royal aflent was given by commission to the Bill to allow further time for carrying into execution the Supplementary Militia Act, and to Macklin's Lottery Bill. Adjourned.
HOUSE OF COMMONS.
Friday, Feb. 23. The Bill to allow further time for carrying into execution the Supplementary Militia Act, was received from the Lords, without any amendments.
Three petitions were presented by the Sheriff's from the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of the City of London. The first petition stated, that the price of bread was dearer than the price of grain would warrant; this dearness, it is supposed, arose from the want of mills, and the stoppage of the usual supply of four to the metropolis. The petitioners therefore prayed for leave to bring in a Bill to remedy this inconvenience by the erection of mills along the river Thames, near the metropolis. The second petition re
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lated to the collection of small debts in the city of London ; and the third, to the inconveniences arising to ships from the circuitous course round the Isle of Dogs. The petitioners therefore requested leave to bring in a Bill to cut a canal through the Ine.
All the three petitions were referred to Committees to examine and report thereon.
The Speaker went up to the House of Peers to hear the Royal Affene given by commission to one public and two private Bills.
FRENCH PRISONERS AND SIR SIDNEY SMITH. Mr. Huffifon, alluding to the motion that had been made Yesterday by Mr. Baker, said, that the papers moved for had been conceived to be insufficient to bring the whole matter before the House. As far, indeed, as it was necessary to overthrow the calumnies that had been circulated against the national character, they would be found to be perfectly adequate and satisfactory. But a more enlarged view of the subject was deemed to be necessary. Gentlemen knew that very extraordinary transactions had passed in France respecting English prifoners. Mr. Huskison here alluded to the active anxiety respecting the fate of M. de la Fayette. He then proceeded to the situation of Sir Sidney Smith, who was now doomed to folitary confinement in a dungeon of one of the common prisons of Paris, debarred from every comfort and convenience. Thinking it right, therefore, from all these circumstances, to institute a general inquiry into the treatment of the French prisoners here; feeling that the conduct of the British Government to those prisoners had been distinguished by the utmost humanity, while the treatment of the English prisoners in France had been marked by cruelty and severity; sensible too that every thing had been done by the French Government to aggravate the calamities of war; he should move, “ that there be laid before the House such extracts from ihe letters and correspondence as related to the detention and confinement of Sir Sidney Sinith, and the negotiation entered into between the (wo Governments, respecting the exchange of prisoners of war."
Captain Berkley seconded the motion. Some Gentlemen, he faid, had indulged themselves in lamentations upon the fate of La Fayette, and this it was that induced him to join in deploring the absence of certain Members of this House. Be. cause, if they had been present, the House would have seen their abilities displayed in support of the present motion, if, indeed, their humanity would have carried them as far in behalf of their own countrymen as it had done in behalf of an