Imágenes de páginas

the many important objects which arise out of the communication of His Majesty's message, and out of the present situation of this country. And in proceeding to the consideration of that message, the attention of the House should, in the first instance, be strongly directed to that calamitous event *, to that dreadful outrage against every principle of religion, of justice, and of humanity, which has created one general sentiment of indignation and abhorrence in every part of this island, and most undoubtedly has produced the same effect in every civilised country.

At the same time I am aware, that I should better consult not only my own feelings, but those of the House, if considerations of duty would permit me to draw a veil over the whole of this transaction, because it is, in fact, in itself, in all those circumstances which led to it, in all that attended it, and in all which have followed, or which are likely to follow it hereafter, so full of every subject of grief and horror, that it is painful for the mind to dwell upon it. It is a subject which, for the honour of human nature, it would be better, if possible, to dismiss from our memories, to expunge from the page of history, and to conceal it, both now and hereafter, from the observation of the world.

Excidat ille dies ævo, neu postera credant
Secula ; nos certe taceamus, et obruta multa

Nocte tegi nostræ patiamur crimina gentis. These, Sir, are the words of a great historian + of France in a former period, and were applied to an occasion which had always been considered as an eternal reproach to the French nation; and the atrocious acts lately perpetrated at Paris are, perhaps, the only instances that furnish any match to that dreadful and complicated scene of proscription and blood. But whatever may

* The murder of the King of France.

+ De Thou, who applies these words to the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and wishes that day could be blotted out of the history of France.

be our feelings on this subject, since, alas ! it is not possible that the present age should not be contaminated with its guilt; since it is not possible that the knowledge of it should not be conveyed by the breath of tradition to posterity, there is a duty which we are called upon to perform- to enter our solemn protestation, that, on every principle by which men of justice and honour are actuated, it is the foulest and most atrocious deed which the history of the world has yet had occasion to attest.

There is another duty immediately relating to the interest of this and of every other country. Painful as it is to dwell upon this deed, since we cannot conceal what has happened, either from the view of the present age or of posterity, let us not deprive this nation of the benefit that may be derived from reflecting on some of the dreadful effects of those principles which are entertained and propagated with so much care and industry by a neighbouring country. Wo see in this one instance concentrated together, the effect of principles, which originally rest upon grounds that dissolve whatever has hitherto received the best sanctions of human legislation, which are contrary to every principle of law, human and divine. Presumptuously relying on their deceitful and destructive theories, they have rejected every benefit which the world has hitherto received from the effect either of reason, experience, or even of Revelation itself. The consequences of these principles have been illustrated by having been carried into effect in the single person of one, whom every human being commiserates. Their consequences equally tend to shake the security of commerce, to rob the meanest individual in every country of whatever is most dear and valuable to him.

They strike directly against the authority of all regular go. vernment, and the inviolable personal situation of every law. ful sovereign. I do feel it, therefore, not merely a tribute due to humanity, not merely an effusion of those feelings which I pos. sess in common with every man in this country, but I hold it to be a proper subject of reflection to fix our minds on the effect of those principles which have been thus dreadfully attested, before we proceed to consider of the measures which it becomes this country to adopt, in order to avert their contagion, and to prevent their growth and progress in Europe.

However, notwithstanding that I feel strongly on this subject, I would, if possible, entreat of the House to consider even that calamitous event rather as a subject of reason and reflection, than of sentiment and feeling. Sentiment is often unavailing, but reason and reflection will lead to that knowledge which is necessary to the salvation of this and of all other countries. I am persuaded the House will not feel this as a circumstance which they are to take upon themselves, but that they will feel it in the manner in which I state it, as a proof of the calamities arising out of the most abominable and detestable principles; as a proof of the absence of all morals, of all justice, of all humanity, and of every principle which does honour to human nature; and, that it furnishes the strongest demonstration of the dreadful outrage which the crimes and follies of a neighbouring nation have suggested to them. I am persuaded the House will be sensible that these principles, and the effects of them, are narrowly to be watched, that there can be no leading consideration more nearly connected with the prospect of all countries, and most of all, that there can be no consideration more deserving the attention of this House, than to crush and destroy principles which are so dangerous and destructive of every blessing this country enjoys under its free and excellent constitution. We owe our present happiness and prosperity, which has never been equalled in the annals of mankind, to a mixture of monarchical government. We feel and know we are happy under that form of government. We consider it as our first duty to maintain and reverence the British constitution, which, for wise and just reasons of lasting and internal policy, attaches inviolability to the sacred person of the Sovereign, though, at the same time, by the responsibility it has annexed to government, by the check of a wise system of laws, and by a mixture of aristocratic and democratical power in the frame of legislation, it has equally exempted itself from the danger arising from the exercise of abolute power

on the one hand, and the still more dangerous contagion of popular licentiousness on the other. The equity of our laws, and the freedom of our political system, have been the envy of every surrounding nation. In this country no man, in consequence of his riches or rank, is so high as to be above the reach of the laws, and no individual is so poor or inconsiderable as not to be within their protection. It is the boast of the law of England, that it affords equal security and protection to the high and the low, to the rich and the poor.

Such is the envied situation of England, which may be compared, if I may be allowed the expression, to the situation of the temperate zone on the surface of the globe, formed by the bounty of Providence for habitation and enjoyment, being equally removed from the polar frosts on the one hand, and the scorching heat of the torrid zone on the other ; where the vicissitude of the seasons, and the variety of the climate, contribute to the vigour and health of its inhabitants, and to the fertility of its soil; where pestilence and famine are unknown, as also earthquakes, hurricanes, &c. with all their dreadful consequences. Such is the situation, the fortunato situation of Britain: and what a splendid contrast does it form to the situation of that, country which is exposed to all the tremendous consequences of that ungovernable, that intolerable and destroying spirit, which carries ruin and desolation wherever it goes !

Sir, this infection can have no existence in this happy land, unless it is imported, unless it is studiously and industriously brought into this country. These principles are not the natural produce of Great Britain, and it ought to be our first duty, and principal concern, to take the most effectual measures in order to stop their growth and progress in this country, as well as in the other nations of Europe. ..

Under this impression, I wish to bring the House to the consideration of the situation in which we stand with respect to France, and with respect to the general state of the different powers of Europe. This subject was very much discussed on the first day of the present session, and I had the good fortune to


[ocr errors]

concur with a very large majority of the House in the address that was presented to His Majesty, for his most gracious speech to both Houses of parliament. Gentlemen then drew their inferences from those notorious facts which every man's observation presented to him: and those circumstances were supposed to excite every sentiment of jealousy and precaution. They induced the House to arm His Majesty, and the executive government, with those powers which were indispensably necessary for effectu. ally providing for the safety of the country. Many weeks have now elapsed since the beginning of the session, when the country appeared to be in a critical situation. Let us consider what are the circumstances now to attract our attention at the moment when the message of His Majesty calls on us for farther decision. · The papers which contain the communication between this country and France, consist of two different parts. The one comprehendsthecommunication between this country and France, prior to the period which attracted those sentiments of jealousy I have stated:- This part also contains those comments which have taken place since, and those explanations which have been entered into by His Majesty's permission, with a view, if possible, that our jealousy might be removed in consequence of some step that might be taken. The other part consists, either of what were notorious facts at the meeting of parliament, or of those notorious facts, which, though not officially communicated by His Majesty, were very generally known to the public. · The first part of these papers has never before been made public. The date of the first communication is May 12th, 1792. And the communication from that period till the 8th of July, contains the system on which His Majesty acted between France and the other European powers. From that period, down to the meeting of Parliament, His Majesty had most scrupulously observed the strictest neutrality with respect to France. He had taken no part whatever in the regulation of her internal government. He had given her no cause of complaint ; and therefore the least return he might expect, was, that France would be cau

« AnteriorContinuar »