« AnteriorContinuar »
gain no precise object, it is yet capable of doing much mischief. It means and says, that this House entertains sentiments different from those expressed by His Majesty in his speech. It holds out to our allies that they are no longer to consider us as eager in the cause, or acting upon the principles in which we embarked along with thein ; while it must impart encouragement and confidence to our enemies.
The honourable gentleman had said, that a treaty with the French government would afford us as good a security for the continuance of peace, as that which we derived from the treaty of Ryswick or Utrecht. He then, in his usual way, entered into a declamation against kings, and said that we might place equal dependence on the good faith of the present government of France, as on that of the court of Louis XIV. This I expressly deny; and I affirm, that had that king even succeeded in his ambitious projects to their full extent, what we should then have suffered might have been considered as a deliverance, compared with what must be the consequence of success attending the present French system. All the splendour of his court, all the abilities of his generals and discipline of his armies, all the great exertions which he was enabled to make, proceeded from a high sentiment of honour. The exercise of that power which he possessed, however directed to the purposes of his ambition, was regulated by certain principles, and limited within certain bounds. No such principles actuate the conduct of the present French rulers. They have contrived to banish all restraints, and, with an ambition more insatiable, they have at their disposal means of destruction much more formidable than that monarch ever possessed in the plenitude of his power.
The honourable gentleman has inaccurately stated, that I attach the same degree of importance to the restoration of monarchy in France, as to the destruction of the present system. This is by no means the case: I attach importance to the restoration of monarchy, from an opinion that, in the present state of France, some settled form should take place, in which the greater part of the people may be disposed to concur. The ancient government I consider as affording the best materials upon which they could work, in introducing any change into the fabric of their constitution. Besides, as I have thought it incumbent, in any interference which I proposed in the internal affairs of that country, to consult chiefly the happiness of the people, monarchy appeared to me the system most friendly to their true interests. In another respect, the honourable gentleman has misrepresented me, by stating the restitution of monarchy as an event which must necessarily be preceded by the conquest of France. I consider monarchy only as the standard under which the people of France might be united, the more especially as it is that form of government which my noble friend has proved to be most agreeable to the wishes of two-thirds of the inhabitants. But it has been said, that even the re-establisment of royalty would afford us no additional security for the permanence of peace, and that the French would still be equally formidable to this country. It is, however, surely a wild and extravagant assertion, that the monarchy of France, stripped as it would then be of much of its power, and diminished in its revenues, should be as formidable as a system which has proved itself to be more dangerous than monarchy ever was, in the plenitude of its power and the height of its greatness.
But there is one part of the argument of my noble friend to which I must particularly call your attention, and which, independently of every other consideration, precludes even the possibility of our treating with France in the present moment.
A decree has been passed by the convention, forbidding to treat with any enemy till they shall have evacuated the territories of the republic; and on the 11th of April it was again decreed, that those persons should be punished with death who should propose to treat with any power which should not have previously acknowledged the independence of the French nation, and the unity and indivisibility of the republic, founded upon liberty and equality. Thus, by any proposal to treat, we should not only incur the disgrace of the most abject humiliation, but absolutely put ourselves at their mercy, and subject ourselves to the necessity of receiving any terms which they might be disposed to dictate. Are you then to withdraw your armies, to deprive yourself of the co-operation of your allies, to forego all your acquisitions, to give up Condé, Quesnoi, Tobago, Fort Louis, all the factories in the East Indies? Are you to abandon all these acquisitions, the rewards of your past labours, and the pledges of your future success ? Should you consent to do all this, should you even hasten to sent an ambassador to treat with the convention, (and the right honourable gentleman * I believe on a former occasion volunteered himself for that service,) you not only must acknowledge the unity and indivisibility of the French republic, but you must do so in their own way. You must acknowledge it as founded on liberty and equality. You must subscribe to the whole of their code, and by this act sanction the deposition of their sovereign, and the annihilation of their legislature. It may be said that they would not insist upou all this to its full extent; but of this I can have but little eonfidence, when I compare their past declarations and their conduct. To whatever pitch of extravagance they may have reached in what they have said, they have always outstripped it by what they have done. The absurdity of their expressions has in every instance been surpassed by the outrages of their conduct; nor can we have any hopes of more moderation from any change of parties. In all revolutions that have hitherto taken place, the first recommendation to favour has been hostility to England. The most violent party have always predominated. The leading feature in their character at present is a spirit of military enterprise, exerted, not for the purposes of ambition, but every where spreading, in its progress, terror and desolation. We are called in the present age to wit. ness the political and moral phenomenon of a mighty and civilised people, formed into an artificial horde of banditti, throwing off all the restraints which have influenced men in social life, displaying a savage valour directed by a sanguinary spirit, forming rapine and destruction into a system, and perverting to their detestable purposes, all the talents and ingenuity which they derived from their advanced stage of civilisation, all the refinements of art, and the discoveries of science. We behold them uniting the utmost savageness and ferocity of design with consummate contrivance, and skill in execution, and seemingly engaged in no less than a conspiracy to exterminate from the face of the earth all honour, humanity, justice, and religion. In this state, can there be any question but to resist, where resistance alone can be effectual, till such time, as, by the blessing of Providence upon our endeavours, we shall have secured the independence of this country, and the general interests of Europe?
It cannot be doubted, that there are many other points brought forward by the honourable gentleman with respect to the 'conduct of the campaign, and the treatment of neutral powers, which I am extremely anxious to meet, but into which the lateness of the hour forbids me to enter. My own strength, as well as the patience of the House, is already exhausted; and I the more willingly postpone them on the present occasion, as they will, with more propriety, form future and separate subjects of discussion.
The amendment was negatived:
Ayes .......... 59
Noes ........... 277
May 16. 1794.
A message from His Majesty having been delivered to the House on the 12th instant, informing them, “ that seditious practices to an alarming extent had been carried on by certain societies in London, in corre. spondence with societies in different parts of the country, tending to subvert the laws and costitution of the kingdom, and introductory of the system of anarchy prevailing in France; and recommending to the House to adopt such mcasures as might appear necessary;" and the books and
papers of the said societies having been in consequence laid before the House, and referred by them to a committee of secrecy; - the report of this committee was this day brought up.
On its being read by the clerk at the table, Mr. Pitt rose:
He said, the committee of secrecy had formed their opinion on the papers submitted to their examination with the greatest expedition, and their report stated so fully and particularly those circumstances, which in the judgment of the committee required the immediate attention of parliament, that he felt it hardly necessary for him to do more than shortly to recapitulate the different objects to which that report applied, and the various particulars which came under their consideration. Gentlemen would perceive that that report, so expeditiously laid before the House, contained a general view of the transactions referred to the comınittee, without waiting for a more minute investigation, and was shortly this :-That it appeared to them that a plan had been digested and acted upon, and at that moment was in forwardness towards its execution, the object of which was nothing less than to assemble a pretended convention of the people, for the purposes of assuming to itself the character of a general representation of the nation ; superseding, in the first place, the representative capacity of that House, and arrogating, in the next place, the legislative power of the country at large. It would be for the House to consider whether the circumstances contained in the report, impressed their minds with the same conviction with which they had impressed the minds of the committee. If they did, he could not have a doubt but that they would lead to the same practical conclusion, namely, that, if such designs existed, if such designs had been acted upon and were in forwardness, there was not one moment to be lost in arming the executive power with those additional means, which might be sufficient effectually to stop the further progress of such a plan, and to prevent its being carried into final execution.
It was chiefly necessary for the House, in considering the report, to recollect, that a great part of it was merely intro