Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

between France and this country, this declaration on the part of France:

“She 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. France will find' her recompense in her felicity."

I ask whether this can mean anything else, than that they hope to add the Netherlands, as an 84th or 85th department, to the French republic; whether it does not mean a subjugation of the Netherlands to the absolute power of France, to a total and unequalled dependence on her! If any man entertains doubts upon the subject, let him look at the allegations of Dumourier, enforced by martial law. What was the conduct of this general, when he arrived at Brussels ? Did he not assemble the inhabi. tants in the most public part of their city to elect the primary assemblies? How agreeable must have been his arrival in the Netherlands, by his employing threats to procure a general illumination on his entrance into Brussels! A hollow square of the French troops was drawn round the tree of liberty, to prevent the natives from pulling down the emblem of French freedom. . This shews how well disposed the people were to receive the French system of liberty! This is the manner in which their principles are carried into effect in the different countries of · Europe. I may here mention the conduct of the Convention, on the occasion of an address from the people of Mons, in which they desire that the province of Hainault might be added as an 851h department of France. The convention referred the address to a committee, to report the form in which countries, wishing to unite with France, were to be admitted into the union. The Convention could not decide upon it, and therefore they sent it to a committee to point out the manner in which they were to make their application for that purpose, so that the receiving of them was to be a fixed and standing principle, which in its consequences, if not timely prevented, must destroy the liberties and independence of England, as well as of all Europe. · I would next proceed to their confirmed pledge, not to interfere in the government of other neutral countries. What they have done here is in countries which, under some pretence or other, they have made their enemies. I need not remind the House of the decree of the 19th of November, which is a direct attack on every government in Europe, by encouraging the seditious of all nations to rise up against their lawful rulers, and by promising them their support and assistance. By this decree, they hold out an encouragement to insurrection and rebellion in every country in the world. They shew you they mean no exception, by ordering this decree to be printed in all languages. And therefore I might ask any man of common sense, whether any nation upon earth could be out of their contemplation at the time they passed it? And whether it was not meant to extend to England, whatever might be their pretences to the contrary? It is most manifest they mean to carry their principles into every nation without exception, subvert and destroy every government, and to plant on their ruins their sacred tree of liberty.

Some observations, to which they have affected to give the name of explanations, have been applied to this decree, and are these : “ Now to come to the three points which can alone make an object of difficulty at the court of London, the executive council observe respecting the first, which is the decree of the 19th of November, that we have not been properly understood by the ministry of His Britannic Majesty, when they accuse us of having given an explanation which announces to the seditious of all nations, what are the cases in which they may previously count on the support and assistance of France. Nothing could be more foreign than this reproach to the sentiments of the National Convention, and to the explanation we have given of them; and we did not think it was possible we should be charged with the open design of favouring the seditious, at the very moment, when we declare that it would be wronging the National Convention, if they were charged with the project of protecting insurrections, and with the commotions that may break out in any corner of a state, of joining the ringleaders, and of thus making the cause of a few private individuals that of the French nation.

[graphic]

“ We have said, and we desire to repeat it, that the decree of the 19th of November could not have any application, unless to the single case in which the GENERAL WILL of a nation clearly and unequivocally expressed, should call the French nation to its assistance and fraternity. Sedition can certainly never be construed into the GENERAL WILL. These two ideas mutually repel each other, since a sedition is not and cannot be any other than the movement of a small number against the nation at large. And this movement would cease to be seditious, provided all the members of a society should at once rise, either to reform its government, or to change its form in toto, or for any other object.

“ The Dutch were assuredly not seditious, when they formed the generous resolution of shaking off the yoke of Spain ; and when the general will of that nation called for the assistance of France, it was not reputed a crime in Henry IV., or in Elizabeth of England, to have listened to them. The knowledge of the general will is the only basis of the transactions of nations with each other; and we can only treat with any government whatever on this principle, that such a government is deemed the organ of the general will of the nation governed.

“ Thus when by this natural interpretation, the decree of the 19th of November is reduced to what it truly implies, it will be found, that it announces nothing more than an act of the general will, and that beyond any doubt so effectually founded in right, that it was scarcely worth the trouble to express it. On this account, the executive council thinks that the evidence of this right might, perhaps, have been dispensed with, by the National Convention, and did not deserve to be made the object of a particular decree; but with the interpretation that precedes it, it cannot give uneasiness to any nation whatever."

To all this I shall only observe, that in the whole context of their language, on every occasion, they shew the clearest inten

tion to propagate their principles all over the world. Their explanations contain only an avowal and repetition of the offence. They have proscribed royalty as a crime, and will not be satisfied but with its total destruction. The dreadful sentence which they have executed on their own unfortunate monarch, applies to every sovereign now existing. And lest you should not be satisfied that they mean to extend their system to this country, the conduct of the National Convention has applied itself, by repeated acts, to yourselves by name, which makes any explanation on their part unsatisfactory and unavailing. There is no society in England, however contemptible in their numbers, however desperate in their principles, and questionable in their existence, who possessed treason and disloyalty, who were not cherished, justified, and applauded, and treated even with a degree of theatrical extravagance at the bar of the National Convention. You have also a list of the answers given to them at that bar. And, after all this, am I to ask you, whether England is one of the countries into which they wish to introduce a spirit of próselytism ? which, exercised in the dominions of friendly powers, they themselves admit, would be a violation of the law of nations.

On the third point it is unnecessary for me to expatiate, I mean on the violation of the rights of His Majesty, or of his allies.

To insist upon the opening of the river Scheldt, is an act of itself, in which the French nation had no right to interfere at all, unless she was the sovereign of the Low-Countries, or boldly professed herself the general arbitress of Europe. This singular circumstance was an aggravation of their case, because they were bound by the faith of solemn and recent treaties to secure to the Dutch the exclusive navigation of the Scheldt, and to have opposed the opening of that river, if any other power had attempted it. If France were the sovereign of the Low-Countries, she would only succeed to the rights which were enjoyed by the house of Austria : and if she possessed the sovereignty, with all its advantages, she must also take it with

all its incumbrances, of which the shutting up of the Scheldt was one. France can have no right to annul the stipulations relative to the Scheldt, unless she has also the right to set aside, equally, all the other treaties between all the powers of Europe, and all the other rights of England, or of her allies. England will never consent that France shall arrogate the power of annulling at her pleasure, and under the pretence of a natural right of which she makes herself the only judge, the political system of Europe, established by solemn treaties, and guaranteed by the consent of all the powers. Such a violation of rights as France has been guilty of, it would be difficult to find in the history of the world. The conduct of that nation is in the highest degree arbitrary, capricious, and founded upon no one principle of reason and justice. They declare this treaty. was antiquated, and extorted by despotism, or procured by corruption. But what happened recently in the last year? This new and enlightened nation renewed her assurances of respecting all the rights of all His Majesty's allies, without any exception, without any reservation, so that the advancement of this claim is directly contrary to their recent professions. From the treaty of Munster, down to the year 1785, the exclusive navigation of the Scheldt has been one of the established rights of Holland. We are told it is to be said, no formal requisition has been made by Holland for the support of this country. I beg gentlemen to consider, whether ships going up the Scheldt, after a protest of the Statės-general, was not such an act as to have justified them in calling upon this country for a contingent of men. If this House means substantial good faith to its engagements, if it retains a just sense of the solemn faith of treaties, it must shew a determination to support them. Without entering too far upon this subject, let me call to their attention, for a moment, one circumstance, - I mean the sudden effect and progress of French ambition, and of French arms. If from that circumstance, Holland had just reason to be afraid to make a formal requisition; if she had seen just reason not to do what she might have been well justified in doing, that was no reason

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »