§ The Speaker acquainted the House, that he had been at the House of Peers, at the desire of the Lords Commissioners, appointed under the great seal, for holding this present parliament; and that the Lord High Chancellor, being one of the said Commissioners, made a Speech to both houses of parliament; of which, to prevent mistakes, he had obtained a copy; which he read to the House, (see p. l.) After the Speaker had finished the Speech,
said, he rose, relying upon that indulgence which the House usually afforded to persons placed in his situation, an indulgence which he hoped would not be refused to a first effort in debate. He trusted that the House would give credit to the principles by which his majesty had been guided in his conduct towards the fallen state of Austria; they were those upon which he had uniformly acted, whenever he had been called upon for protection and support. He was persuaded that the House would feel the exertions in the Austrian cause not unworthy of the character of the nation. Austria had entered into the contest, hurried on by the imperious pressure of the time. His majesty had extended a generous aid to her, without exposing the permanent interests of his people. It was satisfactory, too, to know, that, whilst his majesty regretted, in common with all his subjects, the disadvantageous peace, in which the war on the continent had terminated, his majesty had employed no means whatever to induce Austria to embark in it. The House would learn, and he trusted with interest and satisfaction, that the papers relative to the Expedition to the Scheldt were to be laid before them. On the subject of that Expedition, he observed, that the particular merits of the armament were not at present the subject of discussion; but though he lamented that the whole of its objects had not been accomplished, thus much he would say of it, that the advantages the country would derive from what had been effected, if not now generally acknowledged, would soon be generally experienced. The sentiments the king had thought fit to express to his parliament in this instance, were worthy of those he had upon all occasions entertained; he was beloved by his allies and dreaded by his enemies. While empires were sink- 39 ing, either by their own weight, or were hurled down by the rude hand of power, this country had defied, the insults of ambition, and had remained uninjured amidst the calamitous desolation of the continent. His majesty's sentiments on the Spanish war were suited to his dignity. While that brave and martial people fought with the spirit and perseverance of freemen, he did not stand aloof; he offered his aid to their first exertions. In the day of their difficulties, he would not withdraw that aid which he had offered to their early cause.—It must be satisfactory to the House to know, that the temporary interruption of amity with America was not likely to embroil the two countries; the disagreement had been that of individuals; the nations had not been committed; and his majesty was still willing to take all fair and honourable means of upholding the spirit of friendship which ought to prevail between this great country and her allies. He concluded by moving an Address, which was, as usual, an echo of the Speech.
in seconding the motion, said, that he would not have obtruded himself upon the attention of the House, had he not been convinced that they would extend to him the candour, indulgence and patience granted on former occasions. In the course of his majesty's Speech, wherein he had taken a review of the events by which the interests of this and of other countries had been affected, his majesty had had the painful duty to lament, that the issue of the struggle of some of his allies, for liberty and independence, had but little corresponded with the hopes he had indulged; but it was some consolation to reflect, that the misfortunes could in no degree be attributed to the line of conduct his majesty had deemed it right to pursue. Austria, goaded by injury, and provoked by insult, had entered into a war without the advice of his majesty, where she had to fight, not merely for her national honour, but for her existence as an independent State. When she was called upon to acknowledge the right of a man to the crown of Spain, whose only title was usurpation, she found herself compelled to employ for her protection those troops that, in imminent expectation of hostility, she had collected round her throne.—No share of the disasters which occurred was to be imputed to her thirst of hostilities. It had been authoritatively intimated to her by France, that she must at once reduce her 40 forces; and the reduction was to be brought to a standard that would have made her powerless before the first enemy that willed to attack her. This was not to be done, while a sword remained in her hands, while she still retained a remnant of her vigour, while she could appeal to her people, and call on their loyalty and their feeling to aid her in the battle for their common security and glory. A new crisis appeared to be approaching. There were evidences before her eye of the vigour which might be displayed by a people in defence of their privileges. Spain was immediately within her view. She saw that great and unfortunate country rising against the treachery of France. She saw her suffering as she was, under all the visitations of a desperate and sudden violence, nobly rise and repel its ravage, prefer a glorious and uncertain struggle to a silent and dastardly dependence, and drive the invader before her rude heroism. Was it to be imputed as a folly to Austria, that she admired so glorious an example? Or as a crime to the British ministers, that they were anxious to give her strength and support to emulate its renown? Buonaparté had declared, that the fate of Austria depended on a single battle. He might have, with still more truth, acknowledged that his own destinies were balanced on the same doubtful and unfixed decision. It was then the season for giving our effectual aid. Subsidy had been given: but the aid of a generous people was to be more active. It was then that the utmost exertions were made by his majesty to complete an armament, which would, as much as possible, forward the general cause, by rendering assistance to the emperor of Austria. The question arose to what point it should be directed; some asserting that, without injury to Spain, we should concentre all our disposable force, and land them on the coast of the Adriatic, whilst others insisted that the north of Germany was the point, where the scene of action should be laid. This was not a time for debating the merits or demerits of that expedition, and gentlemen would remember, that if they did enter into that question, they were not to make comparisons between what had actually been effected, and chimerical speculations of what might have been performed. They were to compare the design with the object attained, and not to stray towards plans that existed only in imagination, and which 41 never could be reduced to practice. They must contemplate also, the connection of events which it was not in the power of the wisest to controul. It was easy to feel the difficulties of what had been tried, and to imagine the facilities of what had been only projected: but wise men would judge according to another measure of reason—feel the essential difference between the solid impediments of an actual practice, and the smooth and fanciful progress of an untried theory. While the expedition was on the eve of sailing, intelligence arrived that damped the ardour of the warmest, and clouded the hopes of the most sanguine; but it still remained for his majesty to fulfil his part, and though one object might be lost, there remained one of importance to be attained. Austria suffered a defeat, but she was not undone: she had an armistice; she was still not unable to struggle, and struggle successfully for empire. The armament in the British ports might still protract the evil day. Even in the final defeat of Austria there was much to be done: it was not unsuited to a wise government to break a hostile force which was growing up on the opposite shores; there was no additional expence to be incurred; no further deduction from the strength of the British people. The force which had been assembled for the aid of Austria, was directed to the coasts and arsenals of the enemy; thus attracting the attention of the hostile forces, and at once operating an important diversion in favour of Austria, and an essential service to the security of Great Britain. After his majesty had turned his attention so unceasingly, to the interests of his Allies, it was natural that he should direct his views to an object that immediately affected the security of his own dominions. But the efforts made for the accomplishment of great objects in the north, had not withdrawn the vigilant attention of his majesty's government from the affairs of the Peninsula. There, too, every means had been resorted to for arresting the progress and defeating the objects of the enemy, and if entire success had not attended all the operations in Spain, it was solely attributable to the physical deficiencies of the country. He lamented the misfortunes of Spain. He felt a deep and painful regret at the evils which even the brave efforts of that devoted people had not been able to avert. There were evils in the constitution of that country which 42 might have made its energies feeble; but the British name had come pure out of the trial. The army of the empire supported the character of superiority, which they had always upheld in the battles of their country. On the 22d of April, lord Wellington took the command of the British army. In May he drove marshal Soult before him, and rescued Portugal. He advanced into Spain. His advance was met by the force of France, under the immediate command of the person who called himself the king of Spain. In a bloody and unequal contest, he established, by one more brilliant evidence, the comparative bravery of the British soldier, and earned for his troops the just and well merited praise which we had been accustomed to give to our armies when they meet the enemy! That army retreated from the scene of its triumphs: but there was no shame in a retreat like theirs. We were still a civilized people; we had not learnt to discard our humanity; we had not yet reconciled ourselves to throwing off the burden of human feelings, that we might go on light and dexterous to the work of human misery. We could not adopt the summary-expedients of modern war; we could not involve the wretched peasant in the calamities from which our own privation may spare him. We could not bring ourselves to force its bread from the lip of poverty; we could not feed upon requisition, and calculate our revenue upon plunder. Our army will not subsist where the troops of the enemy will riot. A British force could not glut on the wretchedness of a suffering people; a British army could not, on entering a plundered town, strip the miserable inhabitants of the scanty remnant which rapacity itself had left them. Whatever might be said of the British army in Spain, or of its commanders, it had afforded to that people a glorious example, which he hoped, in future days would be equalled, but could never be excelled.—To the affairs of America it might be indecorous for him in their present situation to advert, nor should he, after the observations in his majesty's Speech, enter into any inquiry as to the conduct of the Ministers. If the honour of the nation were at stake, however we might regret the revival of hostilities, or the injury to our trade, it could not be a matter of hesitation. But of the effects a war with America might produce upon the commerce of this country, we might be able to 43 form some judgment from former experience. During the embargo, the amount of the exports to and imports from the United States was unquestionably decreased, but this loss was amply counterbalanced by the direct trade carried on by our merchants to Spain and her dependencies. England desired neither peace nor war, but she would suffer no indignity, and make no unbecoming concessions. With every engine of power and perfidy against us, the situation of this country had proved to Buonaparté, that it was invulnerable in the very point to which all his efforts were directed. The accounts of the exports of British manufactures would be found to exceed, by several millions, those of any former period. With regard to our internal condition, while France had been stripped of the flower of her youth, England had continued flourishing, and the only alteration had been the substitution of machinery for manual labour.—The hon. member begged to be allowed to say a few words upon the nature of the Address he rose to second. In his opinion, it contained nothing which could prevent its unanimous adoption. It had been prepared to obviate all objection; it called for no pledge to approve of what had passed, and opposed no impediment in the way of inquiry; but he feared that some objection would, notwithstanding, be raised to it, for the aggression, usurpation, and tyranny of Buonaparté was the only subject upon which all parties united. But to resist him in his encroachments effectually, unanimity was absolutely necessary, and the nature of the contest in which we were engaged, required that every heart and hand should be joined to give strength to the common cause. He hoped, we should still be able, as we had hitherto been, to ride in safety through the storm that had destroyed the rest of Europe, and that we should still stretch forth a hand to succour those who were yet struggling for life against the angry waves. To be successful in that generous course he felt that they must be unanimous; he felt that there could be but one sentiment among the men to whom he addressed himself, and that that sentiment must do honour to themselves and to their country.
said, that in rising to move an Amendment to the Address which had been just read, he should state very shortly the reasons which prevented him from giving that Address his concurrence. 44 At the close of the last session of parliament, the public mind was led to expect that some great and Well-timed efforts would be made for supporting Austria in the arduous but decisive struggle in which she was then engaged. How far it was politic in England to interfere with the continent, was a question for future discussion; but certainly, it could be no question, that when we did resolve to give assistance, we should give that assistance in a manner the most likely to prove effectual. At the same time, considering how much the country was loaded with taxes, the object to be attained should have been manifest, and the probability of success great. Whatever efforts were to have been made, should have been prepared with the most rigid attention to public economy, which the nature of the service would admit, or a due regard to the object to be attained, render practicable. Instead of such attention to economy, however, the most extravagantly expensive plans were formed, and the most extensive armaments fitted out, without one solid reason for supposing that they were such as could eventually tend to the relief of our allies: or to the promotion of the honour or the maintenance of the security of Great Britain. The point to which our assistance should have been directed, was another subject of the highest moment and deserving of the most mature consideration. Discontents had, about the close of last session, shewn themselves in many places, in the north of Germany and elsewhere. But in the mean time, the attention of ministers at home was directed to very different objects, to cabinet cabals and official intrigues, which brought disgrace and contempt on the character of the government. To take advantage of the demonstrations of a rising spirit of resistance to France, ought to have been our object; but, instead of that, we delayed our expeditions till the hopes of Austria were destroyed, and then sent them on destinations where our resources were squandered, our brave troops sacrificed, and all our enterprises attended with complete failure. Continued disgraces betel the country, and accumulated disasters marked the measures of its government; but of all our calamities, the unfortunate expeditions to Spain and Walcheren claimed a lamentable pre-eminence. The failure of the campaign of 1808, in Spain, seemed to have no other consequence than to induce 33 ministers to risk a repetition of its fatal issue by a renewal of the same blind confidence in the co-operation of the Spanish government and armies, and a recurrence to the same destructive policy. At that period, though we had brave troops, and good generals, still a superior force opposed to us, and a government aiding us by decrees which it was too weak to enforce, should have shewn us the impolicy of our operations. During the whole of the antecedent campaign, sir John Moore was never succoured by a single Spanish army: indeed, every day gave us more occasion to admire the vadour and regret the fate of that lamented officer. All the skill and perseverance which he evinced were only sufficient to facilitate and secure the retreat of our ill-fated army. What was the result of this experience? Only to confirm our ministers in their infatuation; only to induce them to send fresh forces to a country where we had failed before, and to a government with which no previous arrangement had been made. We had not after that any evidence which could fairly induce us to suppose that any alteration had taken place in the conduct of the Spanish government. Even the pompous embassy of lord Wellesley proved abortive; that embassy which promised so much, and performed so little, returned, after a battle which was followed by a retreat; a victory which was marked with all the calamitous consequences of a defeat! (Hear, hear!) What a plan of campaign, he would ask, must that have been, when even victory led to an inevitable and disastrous retreat, in which our army was obliged to leave near 2,000 of its sick and wounded to the mercy of the foe, over whom we were said to have obtained a decisive victory.—He next came to the consideration of the expedition to the Scheldt: and certainly every thing had been done to make it one of the most formidable which ever left the shores of England. Its professed object was to create a diversion in favour of Austria, and yet, though for that great purpose, so much depended on expedition of equipment, it had not left our shores till the fate of Austria was decided. The objects that remained for it to accomplish were purely British, and tended neither to promote the common cause of the independence of Europe, nor to conciliate the respect and attachment of our remaining allies. But the inglorious result of that expedition had proved, that without meeting with any 34 other obstacles than such as might have been expected, it had returned crippled and diminished to our shores, without having effected any one object, but the miserable advantage of destroying the fortress and arsenals of Flushing; a result the most inglorious, the most inadequate of any this country ever witnessed, the most disgraceful when compared with such mighty preparations. In the dispatches of lord Chatham, we were told in almost as many words, that the plan was radically erroneous. He told us, that Antwerp, instead of being a weak defenceless town, was absolutely impregnable; that the ships had been moved out of the reach of attack, and that our force, great as it was, was insufficient for the attempt, and was daily diminishing by the diseases of that pestilential climate. This was the real state of things, very different from those notions on which the plans of ministers were formed; and accordingly his lordship prudently abandoned all further operations. But when this expedition was considered in the details of its consequences, we should find matter enough to fill every mind with horror and indignation. Its history would form one of the blackest, and most disastrous pages in the annals of England. When its objects, however, were confessedly unattainable, it was supposed by ministers that its immediate return would too strongly mark to the country the complete failure of their plans; and therefore they determined that our troops should remain, doomed to lingering destruction, in a climate notoriously pestilential and proverbially fatal. On this head they could not plead ignorance. There were two facts upon record, which if they had attended to their duty in the same degree that they had listened to the dictates of a vain and foolish ambition, must have opened their eyes to the frightful consequences of sending an Expedition, at that season of the year, to such a pestiferous climate. The late sir J. Pringle, a man who was remarkably eminent in the medical profession, had long ago published an account of the endemic diseases of Walcheren, which were most destructive to our arms in 1747, at which time the proportion of sick to the healthy was as four to one. What the proportion of sick was in the late Expedition remained yet to be ascertained. It was quite impossible that ministers could be ignorant of the fact, which had been thus stated, and he trusted that the country would hold them 35 answerable for the lives of those brave men that had been thus unprofitably wasted, after all hopes of ulterior success had entirely disappeared. He would only mention another proof of the known un-healthiness of Walcheren, and that was, that the Swiss troops formerly in the pay of the States General, always made it a stipulation that they should not be obliged to serve in Walcheren, at that very season when his Majesty's ministers determined to keep British soldiers in that country. He mentioned these things to shew, that had ministers possessed the most common information, they must have foreseen the calamities which pestilence and disease would bring upon our troops, if retained at Walcheren at that season of the year.—The noble lord then concluded a speech of very considerable force and strength of argument, by observing that he had confined himself to those two points of the policy of ministers, not from any want of other subjects of crimination, but from a conviction that these would fall into much abler hands. His only reason for occupying so much of the time of the House, and for which he had now to beg their excuse, was, that he might be able to assign his reasons for refusing to concur in the present Address, and in justification of the Amendment he had now to propose. The noble lord then proceeded to read the Amendment, and moved, That all the words of the paragraph relating to the Expedition to Walcheren after the word "that" be left out, for the purpose of inserting the following words: "We have seen with the utmost sorrow and indignation the accumulated failures and disasters of the last campaign, the unavailing waste of our national resources, and the loss of so many thousands of our brave troops, whose distinguished and heroic valour has been unprofitably sacrificed in enter-prizes, productive not of advantage, but of lasting injury to their country; enter-prizes marked only by a repetition of former errors, tardy and uncombined, incapable in their success of aiding our ally in the critical moment of his fate, but exposing in their failure his majesty's councils to the scorn and derision of the enemy.—That we therefore feel ourselves bound to institute, without delay, such rigorous and effectual inquiries and proceedings as duty impels us to adopt, in a case where our country has been subjected to unexampled calamity and disgrace."
The Hon. J. W. Ward
said that he was the more anxious to trouble the House with a few words upon the question that was now before them, because it appeared to him that it was not only of great consequence in itself, but that the fate which it should experience, would, in a great measure, enable the country to judge as to the fate of all future questions, relating to the mismanagement of public affairs, and lead to some very important conclusions as to the temper and composition of parliament itself. For, if this House, agreeing in the proposition of the two gentlemen, who spoke first in the debate, should determine, after all the calamities that we have experienced, to present to the throne an Address, which is the mere echo of the words, which the authors of these calamities have thought fit to place in the mouth of their sovereign; if we express neither resentment at the past, nor anxiety for the future fate of the country committed to such hands; if we omit all those things that ought to form the main topics of an Address of the House of Commons, under circumstances of great public distress, and acknowledged weakness in the national councils, it will be a vain and hopeless task for me, or any man even to address you upon any similar occasion hereafter. If we do not act now we must be considered as having determined not to act at all; as having resigned ourselves implicitly to the guidance of any persons that may happen to be placed at the helm, and as having completely renounced that salutary controul, which we were once accustomed to exercise over the servants of the Crown.
The main point, Sir, to which the attention of the House will naturally be directed, is, the conduct of the war. Every person that now hears me must remember with grief that during the few months that have elapsed since the last session of Parliament, this country has been engaged in various military operation upon a most extensive scale, and that these operations have been attended by failure more complete, by loss more deplorable, and by disgrace more signal, than any that we find recorded, within an equal space of time, in the history of this or any former war, in which the country was ever engaged. This is the plain statement of the fact, which gentlemen may endeavour to extenuate, but which they cannot substantially contradict; and it is therefore for us to consider, how far 37 these things affect the character and pretensions of those persons who then were, and who for the greater part still are, entrusted with the management of affairs. And if upon a review of these transactions, it should appear to us, that we have reason to impute our misfortunes to the misconduct of our rulers, it will become us, not only to institute an immediate, vigilant and severe enquiry, but at once to carry our suspicions to the foot of the throne, and humbly to represent to his Majesty, that we no longer feel ourselves able to rely on those persons, whom he has chosen to be his advisers.
But before we proceed, as we must proceed hereafter, to look at these questions in detail, I must in the first place remark, that the very magnitude and number of those failures which have disgraced their administration, do alone form a strong prima facie case against his Majesty's ministers, even independently of all consideration of the particular circumstances by which they were attended. For though it is unjust and absurd to say, that failure necessarily implies blame, and though enterprises the most wisely planned, and the most skilfully executed may fail, from causes which human wisdom can neither foresee nor controul; yet constant repeated invariable failures do create a fair presumption of misconduct, and if that presumption is coupled with any thing suspicious or unfavourable in the history and composition of the administration itself, it becomes almost irresistible. It would be an insult to the understandings whom I have the honor to address, if I were to spend a moment in endeavouring to elucidate a principle which is so evidently consonant to reason and experience, and a thousand of which, must at once present themselves to the mind of any person who gives himself the trouble to think at all upon the subject. How then, does it apply to the case of his Majesty's ministers? Why, Sir, it appears that during the last seven or eight months they have failed in no less than three great and deliberate designs; that, if we extend our view a little further, we shall conclude the campaign which terminated in the death of sir John Moore, which again was preceded at no long interval by the Convention of Cintra. So that, on the whole the result is this; that during the time they have conducted his government, his Majesty's ministers have attempted every thing, every where, on the largest pos- 38 sible scale, and that in every thing they have failed; except indeed in that instance in which they directed his arms not against his enemies but against his allies. Entrusted with the largest means and with the most unbounded confidence, thanks to the liberality and to the folly of the people of England, they have proceeded to engage in the mightiest enterprises, and these enterprizes have all had either a ludicrous, or a disastrous termination. Now, Sir, I say that to maintain, that accident has been every thing, and misconduct nothing, in these transactions, is to maintain, that a species of miracle has been worked against us.—Accident may account for some detached failures in the course of a long administration; but a man must have a high opinion indeed of the King's servants, and must moreover have an understanding most singularly constituted, who can persuade himself that the Convention of Cintra, the miserable expulsion of our army under sir John Moore, the ludicrous capture of Ischia and Procida, the second useless, expensive and destructive campaign in Spain, and to crown all, the expedition to Walcheren; that all these things following each other with the utmost rapidity, not a single success intervening to break the chain of calamity, happened by pure ill luck, and without the smallest of blame to the wisest and best, but most unfortunate of administrations.
And then, Sir, in whose favour is it that we are required to believe this paradox? Is it in favour of a firm united government, guided by some person of acknowledged abilities, and directing an undivided attention towards objects of great public concern? No, Sir, we are required to believe in favour of a government of departments, at the head of which till lately, stood a nobleman of no very distinguished talents, enfeebled by age and suffering, and labouring ineffectually during the latter days of his life, to keep together the discordant parts of a precarious administration; we are required to believe it in favour of a cabinet, the members of which, entertained for each other the most profound contempt, or the most deadly antipathy; we are required to believe that an unremitting attention was paid to the interests of the state by ministers, whose time, (as we have since learnt by documents which are in every man's hands, and ought to be imprinted on every man's recollection,) was spent 39 in dark machiavelian intrigues, in personal discussions, and in devising schemes for parcelling out the great offices of state, which they seem to have considered as a private inheritance to be divided for their common benefit, not as a solemn trust to be administered for the public good. We are required to believe in the fitness of those who had pronounced upon each other's incapacity; and it is from discord at home and disgrace abroad, that we are to infer wisdom and good conduct.
For my own part, Sir, I am content to direct ray view of the case by those plain concurring rules, that guide men in their judgments upon the ordinary affairs of life, who wherever they see disunion, are apt to suspect weakness; who where they observe constant failures and mistakes, always presume ignorance, incapacity or neglect. Therefore, when I call to mind the ignominious history of their internal dissensions, when I see that their whole administration has been one uniform tissue of calamities, a foul and detestable blot in the annals of the country, to which Englishmen in future days will look back with humiliation and grief, I do not hesitate to declare my unalterable conviction, that such a government was unworthy to possess the confidence of Parliament; and that a government which differs from it chiefly by the loss of those talents for business and debate, which formed its great ornament, and which is a little more united, at the price of being a great deal weaker in all other respects, is unfit to carry on the affairs of state at any time and particularly at this, and that it is the duty of every member of this House, and the interest of every man who is concerned in the preservation of the country, to contribute by all lawful means to its subversion.
This, Sir, is the opinion which I think it is natural to form upon a first view of the subject; and sure I am, that the more closely we look, into it, the more it is sifted and examined, the more reason we 6hall have to condemn the late administration, to distrust the present, and to refuse our assent to an address of confidence, such as that which was originally proposed.
The first thing which presents itself for examination, both in point of time, and in point of importance, is the campaign of Spain and Portugal, This subject has the advantage of being plain in itself, and the circumstances of it are already before 40 the public, so that the House is, even now, in a situation to form a competent judgment upon the merit of its authors. The only difficulty consists in accounting for the conduct of the government upon any tolerable theory whatever. For, Sir, I must fairly confess that I am not unable to see any good reasons, but that I am equally unable to see any reasons at all, that could have induced his Majesty's ministers to engage in this second campaign. It seems to have been undertaken in singular defiance of all those principles, that ought to enter into the conduct of affairs. Before men determine upon any important step, they commonly look to experience, and to authority, where they have had the benefit of experience, and where good authority can be obtained. His Majesty's ministers had both, and of the most perfect kind, and they chose to act in direct contradiction to both. They had the complete and melancholy experience of the first campaign in Spain, in which we lost so many thousand men, in which our councils, though not our arms, sustained such deep disgrace, and which afflicted and dismayed the country beyond almost any other event of this calamitous war. We had seen how in the course of that campaign, our army suffered more than it could have suffered in a country decidedly hostile, that it was received with jealousy and unwillingness, and that its presence, instead of rousing the Spaniards to greater efforts by an increased prospect of success, seemed only to chill whatever enthusiasm might have been supposed to exist among them before. In every stage of the transaction we were treated, not like zealous and sincere allies, guided by a liberal, though perhaps mistaken policy, but like dangerous interested intruders, against whose designs it was as much their duty to guard, as against the ambition of France itself. Every thing seemed to forbid a second experiment; the characteristic qualities good and bad of our own army, the nature of the country, and above all the disposition of the inhabitants. If, indeed, that splendid but ideal picture, which at the beginning of the Spanish revolution, some persons in this country had formed to themselves, of a whole nation rising up as one man in defence of its liberty, had been realized, if in the first instance we had met with a zealous and efficient aid, proportioned to their utmost means; if we had been welcomed by a cordial disposition towards 41 the only people in the world that had stretched out its arm to assist them in the hour of their need: if we had found them animated by an an ardent and unextin-guishable desire of national independence and prepared to make all those sacrifices which were necessary, in order to afford the slightest chance of success, in so vast and so unequal a struggle, why then, Sir, it would have perhaps been right, and certainly the best feelings of our nature, compassion and the love of freedom would have prompted us, in spite of failures, and in spite of misfortunes, to make one more effort in behalf of a generous, a grateful, and a suffering nation. One should have felt some consolation for the blood that had been already spilt, and one might without a crime to the country, have consented that yet more should be shed, in what might then fairly have been deemed a sacred cause. But the conduct of the Spaniards soon dissipated this illusion, and made it our right and our duty, to guide ourselves by the principles of a colder and more deliberate policy. Instead of gratitude or enthusiasm, all we met with was a bare preference of England to France, in a choice of evils, a mere inclination to expel their invaders, if it could be done without the expence and trouble of adopting the necessary means; all we obtained from them was the gracious, though somewhat tardy permission of the Supreme Junta, to waste as many lives mid as much treasure as we pleased in their defence. Sir John Moore was ordered to advance, and make common cause with the Spanish nation. He did advance, but the Spanish nation seemed to dwindle away as he approached, and on all those innumerable armies of Patriots on which he was taught to rely, not one ever appeared, except, indeed that name is to be bestowed upon a few miserable bands of fugitive peasants, who crossed his way, interrupted his march, and encumbered him with fresh difficulties. Help and co-operation were out of the question, but we did not even command the sympathy and good will of those whom we were sent to assist. And this was the flattering result, and these the encouraging circumstances which induced his Majesty's ministers to send another army to be expelled from Spain. So much for experience. As to authority, that too, as far as we have the means of knowing, was equally against them. In the first place they had the authority of 42 one of the best officers, and one of the ablest men this country ever produced, the Commander in that Expedition, who in all he said, in all he did, in all he wrote, in his life, and by his death, bore uniform testimony against the whole system of depending upon the Spaniards, and of assisting Spain by means of an army to be marched into the interior of the country. One would have imagined that the opinion of such a man, upon such a question, would have been decisive, when opposed by nothing of equal might. But if any person is inclined to except against his testimony, I am almost willing to forego any advantage that I might have derived in arguing this question from the known and recorded sentiments of Sir John Moore. Be it, that he was over-cautious, desponding, guided by a pedantic attachment to regular troops, and regular warfare; be it that he admired the military genius of Buonaparté, while he was slow to discern that of the marquis Roman a; be it that with unpardonable coldness and scepticism, he doubted the zeal of the inhabitants of Madrid, and the unshaken patriotism of Don Thomas Morla. Let all the foolish objections, let all the foul calumnies avail, that have been invented in order to blacken the memory of this illustrious man, who fell a victim to the folly and impracticability of the design in which he was engaged. But setting him aside, what were the opinion of all the other officers who served upon that Expedition? They surely were not all incapable of forming a judgment; they did not all labour from beginning to end under the influence of invincible prejudices and incurable despondency. And did any one of them, if they were consulted, advise a second experiment? I do not speak from certain information, but I believe not one. The opinions of some among them are recorded along with those of Sir John Moore, and, as far as they go, they perfectly coincide with the sentiments he had expressed. Nay I am persuaded one might go yet farther, and defy his Majesty's ministers to produce the name of a single officer of rank or character in his service, who either advised the second campaign, or who would be willing to stake any part of his reputation, upon the merit of that advice. I know not what there is to put into the opposite scale. Perhaps indeed one may form some idea of the nature of the informa- 43 tion upon which his Majesty's ministers proceeded, from that of the agents whom they spread over the face of the peninsula, and who were understood to maintain a correspondence with the government at home. These missionaries were for the most part military men, not very high in the profession, and who were of course delighted, with the honours they received, and the consequence they derived, from their situation as the agents of the British government. It was natural enough that persons of this description, and that too without imputing to them any criminal or deliberate dereliction of their duty, should represent only the fair side of things, that they should give a little colouring to whatever was good, and extenuate all that was discouraging. Indeed one could not expect, (so long as it was possible to put a favourable construction upon events, or to distinguish a single ray of hope) that they should transmit home accounts which would not only be disagreeable to their employers, but fatal to their own prospects, and the effect of which they might reasonably apprehend would be, to put an end to all their activity and importance, and recall them at once from the dignified occupation of composing proclamations and dispatches, to the humble routine of regimental duty. I do not wish to speak harshly of persons who acted to the best of their very moderate abilities, and who ought not to incur any share of that blame which is exclusively due to the government that employed them. They even deserve praise for their activity and spirit, but I really believe that out of the whole number there was scarce a cool-headed sound-judging man, scarce one whose opinion was much hotter having, than that of the famous col. Charmilly himself. Yet it appears that the authority of these gentlemen weighed more with his Majesty's ministers (supposing them to have paid any regard to authority at all) than that of all those persons whose deliberate disinterested opinion as to the chance of success, and the nature of the aid to be expected from the Spaniards, was formed upon actual service, and the actual trial of that experiment which they were about to repeat. The opinion of col. Carrol stood on one side, the opinion of Sir John Moore stood on the other, and they preferred col. Carrol.
The only way in which they could justify themselves for undertaking this second 44 Expedition, would be by shewing, that some such change had taken place in the situation of Spain, or in the disposition of its inhabitants, as might fairly entitle them to expect a different result. If there was any such change, it is for them to explain it. On the contrary, everything that happened in the interval appears to me to corroborate the lessons we might have learnt from the first melancholy transaction. It was no longer possible to mistake the character of a revolution, the disgraceful peculiarity of which was, that it had not produced a single individual eminent, either as a soldier or a statesman. The Spanish armies were every where defeated, and often out-numbered, for it is worthy of remark, that the "universal Spanish nation" out of a population of twelve millions, and in a cause in which we were told that every heart was engaged, and every hand would be raked, was never able to bring much above a hundred and twenty thousand men into the field. The flight of the Junta to Seville, had not cured them of the inactivity they had displayed at Aranjuez. Of all their enemies the press was the only one they had been able to subdue; they had done nothing for the people, and nothing to enlighten the people; the councils of Charles 4th, were never disgraced by weakness more contemptible, or by tyranny more odious. Was it the healthy climate of Estremadura, then, encouraged them to send an army there in the height of summer? Was it the success of the battle of Medellin that induced them to rely on the discipline of the Spanish troops, and the skill of their generals? Had it not become every day more evident, that the Spanish government, choked up by the lumber of its ancient institutions and forms, had sunk into a lethargy from which it was vain to think of rousing it? Had we not reason to expect that these errors were not mere errors of weakness and ignorance, but that a base intriguing spirit had mixed itself, in the councils of these self-called patriots, and completed their incapacity for all useful and generous exertion? And that our ministers were not the only ministers in the world that were thinking of their own interests and feelings, when they ought to have been thinking how to save a fallen state? No change could be expected in such a government, except from some great effect of the people itself. And what symptom was there, 45 that a people divided into provinces differing from each other so much in manners and feelings, and unaccustomed to communication for a general object; that a people bowed for whole ages under the yoke of superstition and tyranny, would be able to accomplish that of which the most united and the most enlightened nations are hardly capable; that they would be able at once to perform the double task of establishing a vigorous executive government, and of expelling an enemy from the heart of their country? And yet without such a change, how was it possible to hope for success? I had almost said, how was it possible to wish for success? What could be expected from men, who at a moment when their capital and their strong places were in the hands of the French, and half their provinces overrun by the armies of Buonaparté, were rummaging their archives with all the curiousness of antiquarian research, in order to find precedents relative to the meeting of a representative assembly, which was not to be held till long after the time when, at their rate of proceeding, the representatives, the places they were to represent, the place where they were to meet, the antiquarians, the archives and all, would be involved in one common destruction. Whilst Victor was upon his march to fight the battle of Medellin, they were speculating at leisure upon what form of government would suit them best, when England, or chance, or a miracle, or any thing but their own exertions, should have driven the French across the Pyrenees. And this, Sir, instead of instant remedies for present evils, instead of war and finance, instead of seeking how to draw a revenue from the provinces that still remained, with the least possible pressure upon the people; how to raise and discipline their armies, how to support their allies; and above all, how to give to every man what no man now has, a direct and palpable interest in the result of the struggle. And yet, Sir, it was with all these circumstances full in their view, that his Majesty's ministers determined to send an Expedition to Spain, the success of which, supposing that it could succeed at all, depended wholly upon the zealous aid, and the friendly disposition both of the people and government of Spain.
Perhaps it may be said that the renewal of the war in Germany, gave a new turn to affairs and called upon us to try at least, 46 whether, by sending another army to the peninsula, we could not either rescue Spain from the grasp of the conqueror, or compel Buonaparté to dispatch some part of that force with which he was preparing to overwhelm Austria. If so, why was the force we sent so small? Why was it upon a scale so ridiculously disproportioned to that upon which the operations of war are now carried on in Europe? If the ministers really thought any thing was to be done in that quarter, why were not those armies which at the same time we were idly wasting upon visionary and exploded projects, concentered in Spain and Portugal, in order by one great effort to drive the French across the Ebro? No, Sir, we preferred sending ten thousand men to view the Italian shore, and thirty thousand men to wage war with the fever in Holland, while with five and twenty thousand men, that is, with about half the smallest number Buonaparté ever maintained in that country, we undertook to reconquer Spain. If they say that the country was not capable of maintaining so large a number of troops, why then, I answer that though that may be an excellent reason for sending no army at all, it is no reason for sending an army which was quite inadequate to any useful purpose. The choice was not between the measure itself and half the measure, but between the measure itself, and some other measure of a different nature.
The fundamental error which, as I conceive, pervaded the whole of our operations with respect to Spain, consisted in supposing that the Spanish troops were capable of acting in conjunction with ours. Now, Sir, I apprehend, that if there is any point more clearly established than another, both by the events of sir John Moore's campaign, and by every other species of evidence, it is this, that the Spaniards neither had a regular army, nor any thing that was capable of co-operating with a regular army, and that whenever the French chose to concentrate their force, at the risque of rising in that part of the country which such a movement would compel them to abandon, and which they might easily re-occupy when they had obliged us to retire; they would meet with very little opposition from our allies, and that we should virtually have to contend with them single-handed. In fact the very nature of the two descriptions of force rendered it impossible that 47 they should act in conjunction. Their troops newly raised and quite undisciplined, but acquainted with the country, inured to the climate, and patient of fatigue, were best calculated to act in small detachments, which might be frequently defeated without affecting materially the fortune of the war. Our troops, steady and intrepid, but unused to scarcity, privation, excessive hardships, and the viciscitudes of the climate, could only act with effect in large masses, where a great event might be decided at once by superior valour and skill. The object of the Spaniards was delay, both in order to discipline their own troops, and to give the French time to feel the effects of the climate; our object was to bring on an immediate and decisive action, before we felt the effects of it ourselves. If the Spaniards could do any thing, it was in a war of detail, that is to say a war in which regular troops, acting in a foreign country, can do absolutely nothing. In a general engagement it was utterly impossible to depend upon our allies. And indeed it is but just to remark, that we had no reason to be surprised that the Spaniards had no troops fit to co-operate with ours, and to meet the French in the open field. The execrable government which had so long prevailed, had ruined and degraded the whole military establishment, just as it had ruined and degraded every thing else that was necessary for the honour and security of the country. Now we all know that a regular army is not a thing to be created upon the spur of the occasion. Time, labour, practice, system, and above all a long-continued vigorous executive government, are necessary in order to bring this vast and complicated machine to any tolerable degree of perfection. And though the Junta was no doubt highly culpable in not adopting vigorous measures with a view of that object, yet the fact is, that even if they had been adopted, they would have been too recent to produce much effect; and the folly of the Spanish government in neglecting to improve their means of defence, is hardly greater than that of the English ministry, who acted as if a regular army was existing at a time, and under circumstances, in which reason and experience might have told them no regular army could exist.
The House will observe that the few remarks I have taken the liberty to address to them have been directed exclusively 48 to the plan of sending another army into Spain, that is to say, to that part of the question with which his Majesty's ministers are more immediately concerned. I shall say nothing as to the conduct of the campaign, though I am aware it is liable to many and serious objections, but I wish to leave the discussion of a military question in fitter bauds than my own. I shall only beg the House to recollect, that up to the battle of Talavera the ministers have made themselves sharers in the responsibility for every thing, by the honours they advised his Majesty to confer on sir Arthur Wellesley. By this they expressed in the strongest possible manner their approbation of his advance into Spain, and by the merits or demerits of that step they must be content to stand or fall along with their general.
I cannot however quit this part of the subject without also observing, that the events of the campaign have been in a remarkable manner calculated to shew the erroneous views upon which the authors of it proceeded. If sir Arthur Wellesley had been defeated they might excuse themselves by saying; "this is the fortune of war, which it is impossible td controul. All a government can do is to entrust the execution of wise plans to skilful generals and brave troops. This is what we did, and if our success in the field had answered to our reasonable expectations, the happiest and most glorious result would have ensued." But how does the case actually stand? Why that in a very short time, we defeated the French at Oporto, and afterwards at Talavera, in those battles for which sir Arthur Wellesley was raised to the peerage; that the valour of Englishmen never shone more conspicuous than upon both those occasions, and that more was atchieved by our troops than would have been achieved under similar disadvantages by an equal number of any other nation in the world. And yet such was the original absurdity of the whole plan, that these successes, upon which the highest honours and the highest panegyrics have been bestowed, were attended with no permanent advantages whatever, that they left the cause of Spain and of Europe joist as desperate as they found it, and that in their consequences they resembled not victories but defeats. For by what more disastrous consequences could defeat have been followed, than by a precipitate retreat; by the loss of two 49 thousand men left to the mercy of the enemy, upon that spot upon which they had just fought and conquered, but fought and conquered in vain, that spot which as it were in mockery to them we have endeavoured to perpetuate in the name of their general? By what worse could it have been followed than by the loss of all footing in Spain, the ruin of another army and the virtual renunciation of all the objects of the war? As the species of glory encreases, our real power and resources diminish, and by the time we have gained a few more battles, and elevated a few more generals to the peerage, our army will be fairly worn out, and not a spot will be left on the continent of Europe on which an Englishman can set his foot. If the battles which our ancestors fought a century ago, and by which they vindicated the liberties of Europe, had been attended with consequences like these, and if such had been the nature of success in their days, France, instead of being humbled, would have become the mistress of the world, and England instead of dictating the terms of peace, would have sunk under the weight of her own victories. But they were far other men, and guided by far other maxims, in foreign and in domestic affairs; in peace and in war. We are told of one of the most eminent persons of that age, (and I mention it because it forms a curious contrast to what we have just seen) we are told of that great general, and politician King William III, that such was the skill with which he planned his campaigns, that even when he lost a battle it was not attended by any fatal consequences to him, and that he was soon able to appear again upon an equal footing with his enemies. Our plans are of a different kind. We so contrive a campaign that the loss of a battle would be attended with utter destruction, we do not advance one single step nearer to our object by gaining one. Give to us success, in the held, give to the British troops all that glory which is to be derived from the heroic valour, and unparalleled exertions of every individual of whom they are composed, and still our situation, instead of becoming better, is infinitely worse than it was before, and with the honours of a victorious, we experience the fate of a beaten army. It was the art of the great man whom I have mentioned, to render defeat harmless, it is the art of ministers and generals of these days, to make, victory itself unavailing.
50 If we had possessed a wise government, skilful in procuring the best information, and firm enough to act upon it, instead of calculating its measures upon the vulgar ignorant cry of the moment, we probably never should have heard even of the first campaign in Spain. But supposing that another opinion might have been reasonably entertained upon that subject, and that it was necessary both for their own satisfaction, and for the satisfaction of the country, to try at least whether a British army might not have been employed with effect in aid of the Spaniards; still, when the history and result of that campaign were known, and when the novelty of the case and ignorance of the real state of the country could no longer be pleaded as an excuse, how any man should have advised a second is almost unintelligible. If, indeed, the plan had proceeded from some of those romantic persons, for such these were, whose imaginations heated upon this subject had completely extinguished all the other faculties of their minds, one should not have been surprised. But, that, to do them justice, was neither the character nor the feeling of his Majesty's ministers, least of all for instance of the noble lord, who then presided over the war department; a man of a calm mind, not liable so far as I know to be infected with the contagion of popular enthusiasm, not a person whom the mere name of patriotism was likely to transport into any acts of imprudent zeal, or who might be expected to make immoderate sacrifices in the cause of national independence. We must, therefore, look for some other explanation of the conduct of the noble lord and his colleagues, and the explanation of it, I believe, is to be found, and to be found only in that vague determination to do something, no matter what, and to keep the public force employed, no matter how, which formed one of the main principles, and let me add, one of the most mischievous principles of their administration; that principle too upon which they were most directly and most ostentatiously committed against their opponents. It is this which has been to them instead of prejudice, instead of enthusiasm, instead of folly, and which has precipitated them into all those acts which more resemble the desperation of a losing gamester, than the deliberate plans of a government.
To that principle we owe that other great event of the last year, the Expedi- 51 tion to Walcheren. Upon that subject, Sir, I shall not trouble the House at any considerable length, both because I am unwilling to take up your time, and because it is really difficult to speak upon such a question, with that command of temper and that moderation of language, which become any person that has the honour to address you. For, whether we consider the plan, the object, the person to whom the execution of it was entrusted, our history does not afford an example of any thing so disgraceful or so absurd. The object of this memorable enterprize is understood to have been two-fold: first, and principally to seize the ships and destroy the arsenal at Antwerp; and in the next place, and collaterally, to make a diversion in favour of Austria; Austria to which in her last struggle we have not been able to afford the smallest aid, but which still forms a convenient excuse for all the blunders of the year.
Now, Sir, considering the Expedition with a view to its primary object, the whole argument appears to me to lie within a very narrow compass. It failed with every possible circumstance of disgrace, and therefore the question for us to consider is, whether the failure was owing to the plan or the execution. Now, in the first place, we may assume that no blame is to be imputed to the individual upon whom the execution of it principally depended, that is, to Lord Chatham. At any rate, whatever opinion may be entertained by others, the ministers can only argue the case upon the supposition of his being quite blameless. For if he is not, why is he allowed to continue a member of the cabinet, and in a situation which entitles him to be considered as the King's principal military adviser; in which he may advise him to send out more such Expeditions, and to give him the command of them. We have also pretty good reason to think, that no misconduct can be imputed to any of the other officers, who were entrusted with the conduct of the Expedition. If they were to blame, why has not a court of enquiry been instituted, or why have they not been brought to a court martial, according to the usual practice upon such occasions, and as common sense and common justice required. It is not to be supposed that if government had seen a chance of shifting the blame upon the army or navy, they would have been restrained by delicacy towards either branch of the ser- 52 vice, from freeing themselves of a charge which must prove so fatal to their character. There is no way in which their conduct can be accounted for, except by a consciousness that the failure of the enterprize was a necessary consequence of its intrinsic absurdity, and that an enquiry could only serve to fix the whole blame more clearly upon themselves, and to deprive them of the benefit of that ambiguity which still hangs over the transaction. No man can be credulous enough to believe that, if, in their opinion, the result of an enquiry would have been to shew the reasonableness and practicability of the original plan at the expence of Lord Chatham or Sir Richard Strachan or any other individual, they would have rejected that mode of proceeding, and preferred presenting themselves before parliament in the situation in which they now stand. This circumstance alone forms a strong presumption in favour of the Army and Navy, and against the plan, a presumption which becomes infinitely stronger when we come to consider the history of the transaction.
I take for granted that the Expedition could have been undertaken only upon the supposition that the French were not prepared for an attack. Now, Sir, one has only to look at Lord Chatham's own dispatches, to be convinced that our government proceeded either upon no information at all, or upon the very worst information that ever imposed upon reasonable men. Lord Chatham had hardly set foot on shore before accounts came, pouring in upon him from all quarters, that the French were not unprepared, but that they had a vast force within a few days march; and he tells you that though he was unwilling to lend an ear to such intelligence, yet it was soon confirmed to him by such unquestionable authority that he was compelled to give up all thoughts of proceeding further with the Expedition. The only question therefore is, whether his Majesty's ministers ought to have foreseen the resistance or not. Now, Sir, I would ask, whether any body seriously believes, that, if they had used due diligence to satisfy themselves upon so important a point, they could have been so grossly deceived? I do not deny that it is just possible, but how far it is probable is a question of a very different nature. For it must be recollected, that ministers do not stand in the condition of persons, who have lent too easy a faith to a state- 53 ment which was in itself, likely, though it turned out to be untrue; but that they acted upon a supposition that was intrinsically contrary to all the rules of probability, and which it, therefore, required a mass of the best evidence to establish;—namely, that the French were unprepared to defend the city of Antwerp. Therefore, in order to make out a case in their defence, it is necessary to prove, that a large number of competent witnesses concurred in a completely false representation of a most material fact. If they have any such case, it is for them to prove it bye and bye, and that is a point to which, in the course of that enquiry to which I contend parliament ought to pledge itself, our attention will naturally be directed. But, I trust that, in the mean time, I shall not be thought remarkably deficient in candour, if I profess that I utterly disbelieve in the existence of any such ground of justification.
Now, Sir, with respect to the relief of Austria, which is understood to have been one of the objects originally in view, though it happens unluckily that the battle of Wagram was fought, and the armistice signed before the expedition sailed. One could have thought that when his Majesty's ministers had decided the preliminary point, whether Austria could be effectually succoured or not, in the affirmative, the first object would have been, to occupy some part of those troops which Buonaparté was preparing to lead against her, and to encrease her chance of successful resistance by diminishing the number of her enemies. One would have also presumed that the most eligible point of attack was one, as near as possible to the seat of war; a place where we might fight at least upon equal terms with our enemies, and if possible, by having the population of the country in our favour, to some advantage; above all a place where we should have to deal with some of his best troops, some of those who might otherwise be employed in that great contest upon which everything else was to depend. Instead of that we industriously secure to ourselves every possible disadvantage. We make choice of a place as far as possible removed from the real seat of war; a place surrounded by some of the strongest fortresses in Europe; a place which could be only taken by surprise, and which, such was the accuracy of our intelligence, happened to be in a state of complete preparation when we arrived; a place where the dis- 54 position of the inhabitants was not favourable, and where, if it had been favourable, it would have been unavailing. Even if we had succeeded, I know not what effect that could have had on the affairs in Germany. We must have retired again immediately. Before the news of our success could reach Buonaparté's ears our retreat must have already begun. He must have known that we could not remain, and that as soon as we had seized the ships and destroyed the arsenal, we had nothing for it but to return home with all possible expedition. But putting the case differently: suppose we could have remained, or that it would have been worth our while to remain till he could send a large force to drive us out. Still did they imagine that he would detach a single man, from his main body, in order to expel us a few weeks the sooner from a place where our army was perishing faster by disease, than he could hope to destroy it by the sword. Did his Majesty's ministers think, or did any body think, that this consummate warrior and statesman, engaged as he was in a last struggle with the yet formidable power of the House of Austria, and about to do that which was to crown all his former successes and glories, by rendering him uncontrouled master of the continent; that such a man, at such a moment, would be guilty of an error which scarce a subaltern officer in his army could not point out, and of which, to state it as strongly as possible, they themselves would hardly nave been capable in a similar situation? He well knew, how great that prize was for which he was to contend on the banks of the Danube. He knew that it was there, and there alone, he was to fight, not only for Germany, but for Spain, for Italy, for Holland, for France itself, for all his conquests and all his glories. He knew that it was there a final decree was to be passed upon the fate of Europe, a decree not to be reversed by the capture of a few Dutch towns, or the destruction of any logs that might be floating in the Scheldt. And did they so far measure his mind by their own poor and inadequate conception of affairs, as ever to dream that he could be arrested in his career, that he could be prevented from striking the last fatal blow, through the fear of losing Flushing, or Middleburgh, or Antwerp itself. Did they imagine that for the sake of such comparatively paltry objects he would sacrifice the thousandth part of his chance of gaining such a battle as that of Wa- 55 gram, which, if he lost these things, would form but a slight aggravation to the calamity, which if he gained, the re-taking of a few towns, and the re-building of a few ships would be an easy task to a man who would then wield, at pleasure, the whole moral and physical force of Europe.
But if they really entertained any hopes of saving Austria, did it never occur to them that there was a point to which a force might be sent with a greater chance of success than to the coast of Holland? Did it never occur to them, that in the north of Germany, we should have been nearer the seat of war, and that our appearance would have told more directly upon the operations of Buonaparté? Did they not know that we should have found a people, (of whose dispositions, indeed, we have since had such convincing proofs during the singular and well conducted retreat of the Duke of Brunswick), a people eager in the cause, and anxious for our aid; and by directing our efforts to that quarter we should have shewn, what it was most important to shew, a disposition to attend to the main objects of the war, singly, and without any mixture of views exclusively our own, and resulting from a more contracted system of policy. One should not have been surprised, indeed, if a different view of this subject had been taken by a government differently composed, but it is really singular that the persons then in power should have acted upon any other. We all remember, how, upon a former occasion, when out of power, what they termed, the neglect of administration to send assistance to a much more remote point, and under circumstances certainly far less favourable, formed the never failing topic of their invectives for two whole sessions. To that neglect they constantly attributed the loss of the battle of Eylau, the peace of Tilsit, the alienation of Russia and the final submission of Europe. Those persons who then gave credit to them have now an opportunity to judge of their sincerity by their conduct under somewhat similar circumstances. Austria resolves to make a last effort; the people of the North of Germany only wait for our arrival as the signal of insurrection and what is the conduct of his Majesty's ministers? They consult some persons who actually are smugglers, and some others who have at one time been engaged in that honourable profession, and guided by their advice and authority, they send half our army and 56 half our navy to the swamps and sandbanks of Holland, and in the meantime Austria perishes, without a single Englishman having appeared in arms on any spot where he could render her the smallest aid. And these are the gentlemen from whom we heard so much about the loss of character we sustained by our selfish conduct upon a former occasion; and what is the way they took to re-establish our character? They avail themselves of the absence of the French armies in Germany to undertake an Expedition, which, be the merits of it in other respects what they may, was a plan of mere British insular policy, in the success or failure of which no continental nation had the smallest interest. The only object of these magnanimous and enlightened statesmen is, instead of making common cause with Austria, to extract some trifling advantage to ourselves from the final destruction of the only other power in Europe that still preserved even the shadow of independence. The consolation that they prepared for Austria in her fate was, that by her last efforts she had purchased some ships for England, that she had saved England the expence of a blockading squadron, and perhaps even enabled England to establish an advantageous depot for the sale of her contraband goods.
Let me, however, be clearly understood upon this point. I by no means agree with the opposition of that day, in thinking that an army ought to have been sent to Prussia just before the battle of Eylau, nor am I, by any means, persuaded that a single man ought to have been sent to the north of Germany last spring. I am rather inclined to believe that the case was desperate from the beginning, that no efforts we could have made would have saved Austria from destruction, and that a campaign in Germany would have ended like a campaign in Spain. But what I contend is, that if an army was to be sent any where, every consideration both of prudence and of magnanimity pointed oat Germany and not Holland as its destination, and that his Majesty's ministers were more particularly bound to that line of conduct, both by their own system and their own professions.
But suppose there existed no other ground of complaint; suppose the expedition to Walcheren had been wisely planned in all other respects; suppose the execution of it had been entrusted to some officer, whom long experience, tried abili- 57 ties, and distinguished success more particularly pointed out for the situation. Still there remains behind a completely fatal objection, upon which I have not yet touched, but which ought alone to draw down upon the ministers the severest indignation of the House. Gentlemen, I am sure, have anticipated me; I mean that singular perverseness, with which they pitched upon the most unhealthy season of the year, to send an Expedition to the most unhealthy place in Europe; Badajos, perhaps, excepted, where our other array was stationed. I do not wish to appeal to the feelings of the House by drawing a picture of all that our army suffered upon that fatal spot. I merely wish to direct their attention to a dry statement of the case. Five thousand men dead, and about as many more ruined in their health and rendered completely incapable of service; and all this owing to the most profound ignorance of the most obvious and most material facts. It is really a thing so unaccountable, and so unlike the conduct of any moderately intelligent men, that if it had not happened in our own time, and within the immediate scope of our own observation, we should hardly have thought it credible. Did then a British Ministry, deliberating upon an expedition, on which forty thousand men were to be employed, wholly omit to enquire whether the spot to which they were to be sent was healthy or not? Did it never occur to them that a low marshy spot might be unfavourable to the human frame, particularly in the summer or autumn months? Did none of the persons, whom they must have consulted upon other points, even drop a hint as to this? Did none of the thirteen members of the cabinet even open the commonest book upon the subject? Or were they possessed of complete information? Did they foresee and calculate upon the loss, and determine to incur it for a certain glory and advantage that was to ensue? Was this their scheme of policy? Did they deliberately resolve to expose a whole British army, the finest the country ever sent out, to the effects of a pestilential disease, and that for the sake of seizing a few ships and destroying an arsenal? They are in a dilemma from which it is impossible for them to extricate themselves. Either they were wholly ignorant of the nature of the country which was to be the scene of their exploits or they were not; if they were, how scandalous their neglect; if they were not, how wanton their cruelty.
58 And this, Sir, naturally leads one to consider the last act of this tragedy, that deplorable instance of utter incapacity for the management of affairs—the manner in which this expedition was abandoned. This is an error which is not to be imputed to either of those persons who have since, retired from office. It was the act of the government nearly as it is now composed, and may therefore be considered as no unfair specimen of their administration. For two months those persons, to whose care and wisdom England is now confided, were utterly unable to determine whether they should evacuate the Island of Walcheren or not; two months during which, the British Army was daily perishing by disease. Whether this interval was spent in consulting naval and military authorities, or in settling disputes among themselves, I know not, nor is it material to enquire, but this much is clear, from the orders and counter-orders they issued, (one day sending workmen to build fortifications, another day sending transports to take away the troops), that it was spent in a state of vacillation and uncertainty, which would be ridiculous in any ordinary transaction of life. Nor was it till the change of the season had somewhat abated the malignity of the climate; until we had, as it were, taken the benefit of the fever from beginning to end, until the powers of destruction had worn themselves out, and nature had ceased to make war against us, that they, at last, consented to relieve the British Army from that charnel house to which it had been condemned. One would have thought that even if they were blind to all considerations of policy, even if they had no regard to the country suffering under the consequences of their rashness and precipitation, still the common feelings of humanity would have compelled them to come at once to that determination which every reasonable man foresaw they must ultimately adopt. One would have thought that some compassion would have touched them, for thousands of their countrymen, whose fate depended upon their will; one would have thought that the minister, who was also general upon that expedition, would have instantly, and earnestly asked for his army, that release which had been so early granted to himself, from the further prosecution of a desperate and fatal design; one would have thought that some one among them, would have been found to represent to a compassionate and benevolent sovereign the real magnitude of this evil, 59 to implore him to put an end to this period of disaster, and to remind him how unseemly and ill-omened a thing it would be, if of that day, for instance, on which his people were preparing to celebrate the prolongation of his life and reign, every moment might be told of the death of some of those gallant men, who might have lived to defend his empire, and to promote the honour of his crown.
Sir, we have heard much of that relentless disregard to human life, which the Emperor Napoleon has displayed, in prosecuting the schemes of his ambition. But, at least, he has something to put into the opposite scale. In return for their sufferings, he is enabled to tell the people of France of battles won, of provinces conquered, and of empires founded. As to us, our population is wasted upon enterprises which fail from their own intrinsic absurdity. All our sacrifices are repaid—by disgrace. A useless dear-bought victory is the utmost advantage we ever obtain; but our troops are, for the greater part, destroyed in a way, compared with which the fate of those who fall by the sword, may be considered as fortunate, and the death of a British soldier is embittered by the reflection, that it can contribute neither to the advantage nor to the honour of his country; that it is at once useless and inglorious. Sir, the Expedition to the coast of Italy, which, at any other time, would have excited so much indignation and surprise, is hardly worth mentioning now, that the public mind is occupied by far greater evils. Such, indeed, have been the transactions of the last year that the account of a mere failure will form one of the least melancholy chapters of its history. It is the light of that picture of which Spain and Holland are the shades; and we must be content to consider that enterprize as a matter of congratulation which was unattended, at least, by any great calamity, which has not filled our houses with mourning, nor wrung our hearts with affection, which has only wasted the strength and lowered the name of England, and which has done this great country no other harm than that of making its councils the laughing stock of all Europe.
Sir, it is impossible to consider these things without fee ling some compassion for the people of England, doomed to suffer under such great complicated evils; and yet I must fairly own, that this sentiment is very much weakened in my mind, when I recollect how much their own per- 60 verseness has contributed towards their ruin. I cannot forget, that the authors of these calamities, are the men after their; own heart, whom they rejoiced to see call to play their last stake, whose return to power, and the revival of whose foreign, policy they hailed as the certain omens of glory and success. They were tired of a languid war, they were disgusted with a system of economy which would have enabled them to continue the contest, till the time should arrive when it might be terminated with honour and security. The yoke was not galling enough; their burthens did not encrease sufficiently fast. They were anxious for new men and for new measures. They wished for an active stirring administration; a government that would do something, that would not let the force of the country lie unemployed, that would fill the gazettes and create titles; people who, if they could find no objects, would make some; who, if there were no points of attack, would waste whole armies and navies upon those that were unattackable; who would send all over Europe canvassing treacherous or unwilling allies to receive our men and money; and who would exhaust our best means of defending ourselves at home, in fostering an imaginary spirit of resistance abroad. Their desire has been fulfilled; their favourite system has been followed; and its effects are now visible. We have sown in folly, and we have reaped in misfortune; we have seen all the faults and misfortunes of a seventeen years war, copied and repeated in the course of as many months. The disgrace at the Helder, the carnage at Quiberon, the waste by the pestilence in St. Domingo, the ridiculous inefficiency of the Expedition to Ferrol; all these things happening at considerable intervals, were but the types of what the last year has exhibited in Spain, Italy and Holland, with circumstances of more palpable mismanagement, and of aggravated distress.
Sir, I would put it to the conscience of any gentleman whether he thinks that such a government as this is worthy of confidence. If he does, let him vote for the original address; but if he does not, he must, I think, support the amendment of the noble Lord. Let him consider its history and its composition; let him recollect how it arose out of the dissensions of the last, how it was born, as it were, in disgrace, and a cripple from its infancy; let him consider how the great offices of state are filled, and, above all, let him 61 compare the government with the state of the country. There have been times, indeed, before the new order of things began, and before that system which had prevailed in Europe for so many centuries, yielded to the enormous influence of one state, times of security and repose, when even these, or any other persons of moderate understanding and attainments, might have governed the country, though not with credit, at least, without much danger. But now that the whole power of Europe is concentrated in France, and the whole power of France concentrated in one man, and that man the greatest general and statesman the world ever produced, and the bitterest enemy England ever knew; it is an absolute infatuation not to have recourse to our best means of defence moral as well as physical, to the wisdom and union of our councils as well as to the strength of our fleets and armies. Sir, I do not appear here as the blind admirer, as the indiscriminate partizan of the gentlemen on the bench below me, and their political adherents. I am bound to them by no ties of hope, or personal interest. It is not for their own sakes, but for the sake of the country that I wish to see them return to office. Indeed I know not whether in the present situation of things, office, which under more favourable circumstances, is no doubt, a natural object of ambition, is to be wished for, as a benefit, to any set of men. This, at least, is not a bed of roses. They might escape blame, but they could not possibly acquire any reputation. They would succeed to shattered finances, to unsuccessful arms, to disgraced councils, and to a war, the close or the continuation of which it is alike impossible to contemplate without alarm; they would succeed to difficulties that might confound the wisest, and to dangers that might appal the boldest statesman; difficulties and dangers for which the emoluments of office, and the pride of party victory, would but poorly compensate to men who looked, as I hope they look, not only to themselves but to the country; to future fame as well as to present power.
Perhaps ft may be already too late, and we may shortly be destined, partly owing to our own follies, and partly owing to those awful events which we could not controul, and which have made our times the beginning of a new æra in the world, to share the fate of the other nations of Europe. Perhaps we are already in a situation which defies the efforts of the 62 wisest and best men among us, and which would have defied the efforts of these wiser and greater men whom we have lost. But if the country, shorn of its honours, and humbled as it must be, can still be preserved, sure I am, that its preservation cannot be the work of those by whom it has been brought into its present situation, or of persons who proceed upon the same system with inferior ability. It cannot be preserved by the wreck and remnant of a ministry, by something weaker than that which was already supposed to have attained the utmost possible point of debility; persons whose defects are notorious, and whose very apology is shameful; who offer us their intolerance and court favour, as substitutes for all the qualities that ought to belong to an English administration. If we are not willing to bear every thing, this is not to be borne. It is time to try some other remedy before the last agony comes on. If this empire is to be destroyed let it not be under the reign of these Augustuli. Let its end be worthy of a state which has achieved great actions and produced great men. If we fall let us fall with dignity.
§ Sir Thomas Turton
said, that he could not sit down and give a silent vote upon subjects which had excited so much regret and indignation among all classes of the community. As the representatives of the people, they ought to tell their constituents that they did not overlook the conduct of ministers, and that they would not pass by their misconduct without punishment. He was really astonished at the conduct of the noble lord who moved the Address, as well as that of the gentleman who seconded it, in having expressed a hope that it would be carried with unanimity, when it was a mere echo of the speech; composed by his Majesty's ministers. At present they wanted information to enable the House to judge whether public affairs had been well or ill managed, and without delay they ought to pledge themselves to the country to call for such information, and demand a rigid enquiry after the supposed delinquents. If the House considered the armaments that were still going forward, it ought not to lose an instant in the investigation of those which had already terminated in disaster and disgrace. He would appeal to any gentleman opposite him, whether 63 it was not the sense of the people in all quarters that our arms had lately been disgraced, and that they were unanimous for the discovery and punishment of the author? He was astonished to hear of a fresh army having been sent to Spain, after the disasters which had befallen the former, which had a much fairer prospect of success. But the most infallible mode of securing miscarriage had been resorted to by ministers, when they divided their strength between Spain and Walcheren. The circumstances of the transactions had been so extraordinary, both in the plan and in the execution, that in justice to themselves, ministers ought to demand the most rigid enquiry into their own conduct. Thinking as he did that such an enquiry was necessary he should vote for the Amendment.
did not mean either to support the Address or the Amendment, but he wished the House to adopt some course which would produce unanimity. Not being in possession of the necessary documents, he could not know to whom the country ought to impute the dishonour and calamities which had lately attached to his Majesty's arms. He sincerely lamented the unfortunate expedition to the Scheldt, and thought it absolutely necessary that that disgraceful enterprize should be accounted for by his majesty's ministers, by the noble lord whose department it then was to superintend it, or by the naval and military commanders who conducted the execution of it. Our situation in this country was certainly a subject of consolation to the people, when they compared their state with that of others; but when he saw the present abject state of our allies, whose territories had been nearly swallowed up in the French empire, he did not see that even we had much reason for exultation. He wished the House to present a dutiful Address to the throne, desiring an enquiry into the conduct of ministers, but carefully avoiding all expressions which might appear to prejudge one or all of them. He was sorry to perceive one very essential subject had been omitted in the Speech, but which he would wish to introduce into the Address; he meant the situation of the people of Ireland, who were our most faithful as well as most useful allies. He had opportunities of being informed, and knew it to be true, that they were now suffering under very great hardships, but which he did not impute to the noble 64 duke who then represented our most gracious Sovereign in that country. Ministers ought to extend much more attention to Ireland, than they had hitherto done, to preserve it sure to our empire, and unassailable by the enemy. Portugal he also thought might be defended with 30,000 men against any invading army, at least such was the opinion of the late sir Charles Stewart, whose opinions were much respected by the officers, and he trusted ministers would take the proper measures for its defence.
§ Mr. Brand
saw no good likely to arise to the country from an enquiry, as he was well aware of the manner in which it would most likely be carried on. He therefore liked that part of the Amendment, which at once condemned the expeditions to Walcheren and Spain, better than that which merely proposed an inquiry into them. The measures of ministers, even as mentioned by themselves deserved censure and condemnation. The tardiness with which they executed what measures they had devised, where promptitude was particularly necessary, excited the surprise and indignation of every man. For argument's sake he would suppose their projects to be the best concerted; still would the tardiness of their execution be sufficient to establish the criminality of ministers. Buonaparté left Spain before the end of January: it was then plain that a war with Austria would inevitably ensue; he left Paris on the 16th of April: fought the battle of Ratisbon on the 22d, and in a few days after reached Vienna. If ministers were determined to assist Austria they ought to have done it in time, and not alter her army was defeated, and an armistice conceded to the conqueror. (Hear, hear!) Buonaparté was able to draw his forces from Spain and bring the war with Austria to a termination before our expedition could reach Walcheren. Could not the same armament have been sent to Walcheren before these events happened? but ministers acted similarly awards Spain. The marquis of Wellesley had been appointed ambassador from this country to the Supreme Junta on the 29th of May last, but he did not depart from England until the end of July. Were the affairs of any country likely to be attended with success, when planned and executed by such ministers? He insisted upon it that it was a want of policy to send troops to Spain, where they must 65 conform to new habits of living, and where there was not the least hope of ultimate success. Whenever we succeeded by land against the French, they were in an isolated situation, where their chief had no means of reinforcing them, but into Spain he could at his pleasure pour his legions, and compel us to retreat.
§ Mr. Lushington
had no objection to an enquiry, but he presumed that the documents which his majesty had ordered to be laid before the House would prove satisfactory; as all classes of people had been once zealous for the success of Spain against her invaders, and encouraged ministers to assist her to such an extent; he did not like to see them abandoned, or public confidence withdrawn from them.
said that no one felt the necessity of supporting his majesty or the government more than he did. The question now only was what sort of inquiry they were to hold out to the public. Feeling as he did, in common with many others, that there were several subjects of disgrace and calamity which had lately occurred and which called much for parliamentary inquiry, he came down with the hope that ministers would have put into the Speech not only a declaration of their readiness to afford every information that could be required, but that the mover and seconder of the Address would have introduced into the Address a pledge on the part of parliament to take these calamities and disasters into immediate consideration. He had hoped that ministers would not have put expressions into his majesty's mouth so coldly alluding to those disasters; but, that being the case, he surely thought that with such a strong prima facie ground of misconduct, parliament not only should inquire, but should pledge itself to do so. The Amendment, however, he thought went too far and rather precluded inquiry, by prejudging the case that was to be inquired into. The term indignation ought not to precede, but to follow conviction. To that expression therefore he could not agree; neither could he allow that the crisis had been "marked only by a repetition of former error." The battle of Talavera had, to his mind, placed the valour of our troops on a height on which it never formerly stood. The latter part of the Amendment, he thought went rather farther in the way of prejudgment than was necessary. It seemed to go beyond what, to his conception, was necessary, and to 66 infer something criminal. He also thought that a necessary part of the Address was omitted, and that after thanking his majesty for his communication of the necessary documents, it would be sufficient, as a pledge to the country, to state that they should immediately proceed to institute a parliamentary inquiry into the failures of the late campaign.
said that the hon. member who spoke last had much misunderstood the Amendment of his noble friend. It was not the intention of his noble friend by that Amendment to criminate in the first instance, any particular person in any particular transaction. Its only object was to tell his majesty that that House felt deeply for the calamities of the last campaign, and that they were resolved to institute such inquiries as should lead to a discovery of the causes which had led to the calamity and disgrace which had thus been brought on the country. Did the hon. member now deny that the country had been exposed to calamity and disgrace? Did he believe that this country had ever, at any former period, been exposed to so great calamity and disgrace? Could the hon. gentleman deny that ministers had exposed our councils to scorn and derision? Could he deny that they had afforded an opportunity to our enemy to scoff at our folly, and in his publications to scorn and deride us? And still farther, could he deny that Europe did not sympathize in this feeling, and agree that the observations were just? Did the hon. gent, then think, that all these instances of national disgrace were to be endured by the country, and notwithstanding that the ministers must be held to be men of the most perfect wisdom and propriety of conduct? If so, was he also prepared to say that the officers employed in the service were not to blame? That all had failed, but that neither they who planned, nor they who executed had done wrong? To determine this, it would be well to consider what was the state of the country and of Europe at the end of the last campaign. That general who had been much and most unjustly traduced (sir John Moore), fell in the month of January in the battle of Corunna, which at the moment of victory he sealed with his blood. A battle, notwithstanding all that the hon. gent, had said, at least as brilliant and glorious as the battle of Talavera. A battle fought when the commander was carrying a retreating army out of the country; not one 67 where the rashness and presumption of the general induced him to risk an engagement, which there was no call on him to hazard, where not even one good consequence was to be effected by the result. Buonaparté then quitted Spain, and it was known to ministers that Austria was to attempt once more to stem the torrent of his ambition. It was for them then, therefore, to consider where they could make the most effectual stand, and well to weigh how they could hest apply the force committed to their charge. He had left Spain, and that must have shewn the ministers of this country that he considered Austria as the most formidable enemy, for it was his rule never to trust his generals, however experienced, with the most important service, but to undertake that himself. This, therefore, was plain, when he quitted Spain and returned to his capital. They had not only general means of information, but they must have had what amounted almost to perfect knowledge on the subject—and thus were they enabled to chuse the best point for diversion which presented itself, either in favour of Spain or of Austria, though the conduct of Buonaparté himself must have convinced them, that the cause and support of Austria was infinitely the more important. No step, however, was taken on this important point till the month of April, by which time Austria had begun the war; and on the 20th of that month the battle of Ebersdorff was fought. In that same month one of the cabinet ministers desired the removal of the minister, whose peculiar province it was to prepare and arrange any expedition to be fitted out by this country, because he deemed him net equal to the duty which he had to perform. Instead of that concert among themselves, which, it must be apparent to every one, was so indispensable at so critical a period—a cabinet minister was requiring the dismissal of the very minister whose peculiar duty it was to direct the preparation of the expedition. From the battle of Ebersdorff to that of Esling, Buonaparté had gone on gaining victory after victory. Then, indeed, he received a check, and might be truly said to have experienced a defeat; but the battle of Esling, in which he was so unsuccessful, led to a suspension of hostilities. It new became a question, how and in what quarter was the force of Great Britain employed all this timer Lord Wellington was in Portugal with bout 38,000 men. Afterwards an expe- 68 dition was sent to the Scheldt under the earl of Chatham, consisting of 40,000; and sir John Stuart had gone to Calabria with 15,000. These several bodies amounted to about 95,000, and there might have been sent from this country 5 or 6,000 more, making a total of 100,000 men. Austria, in the battle of Esling, in which she beat Buonaparté, had, according to her own account 75,000, and according even to the French account 90,000 men. If, instead of dividing the British fence, as was the never-ceasing practice of weak minds, this force had been concentred into one, and employed in support of Austria, we should there have had a greater, and he need hardly add a better army, (for no troops were to be compared with our own,) than the army by which the French had been defeated at the battle of Esling. But how was this great British force employed? He did not say that it would have been right to employ them in continental operations; but ministers had determined that this was a wise measure, for they actually were employed in such a service. If they had been confined to any one object, they might have effected some great operation; but divided as they were, and formed into separate and distant corps, they could be, and in fact had proved, good for no one purpose. Did or could the hon. member say, that these circumstances inferred nothing criminal against the ministers or against the commanders? The Amendment said nothing more. It charged general disgrace and calamity, not attaching any particular instance of either to any particular party.—There was a very material difference between an Amendment calling for inquiry, upon the broad ground of acknowledged public disasters, and any proceeding prejudging the result of that inquiry. They were two very different propositions, though certainly the arguments of the hon. gent. (Mr. Bathurst) had a tendency to confound them. But did that hon. gent, mean to say, that any motion that went to pledge that house to inquiry, pledged them not only to inflict punishment upon the guilty, but even to presume those to be guilty who had not yet been put upon their trial? He asked him fairly, if he thought that Amendment to which he had objected, pledged the House to pass sentence upon ministers previous to inquiry? Did the hon. gent, mean to say, that the Amendment under conside- 69 ration, was calculated to impede inquiry? or did not that hon. gent, believe that it was intended solely to promote it? Did that hon. gent. mean to say, that from the shape of that Amendment it might be reasonably conjectured that it was the design of the framers of it to entrap the House into some premature pledge against further inquiry? It was impossible that the hon. gent. could seriously think so. The object of that Amendment was, to pledge the House, and solemnly to pledge it, to institute the most rigorous inquiry into the causes of the disasters of the country, and to follow up the result of that inquiry with the most rigorous proceedings against the authors of our national disgraces. This was the object of the Amendment; and if it was, it would be vain to ask upon what shadow of pretence men could be found, in the present perilous state of things, to oppose it. And first, with respect to the campaign in Spain and Portugal. Indeed, in detailing the disasters of this most calamitous campaign, it was impossible to avoid recounting again and again the same, charges; for the errors of the last campaign were but a repetition of the errors of the first. His majesty's ministers industriously retraced the beaten track of their former blunders; every subsequent attempt stood in the very footsteps of the failure that preceded it; the later errors were only the more recent repetitions of errors recently committed. Every one knew this, at least out of doors was convinced of it; there might be found gentlemen in that House, however, who would affirm otherwise, but there could not be found outside its walls one single man who thought otherwise.—Sir John Moore was sent into Spain at the head of an army to co-operate with armies that were no where to be found to co-operate with him. At a subsequent period, however, when the Spanish armies were in considerably less force, and all hope of effectual resistance to the progress of the French arms less sanguine, ministers were found repeating their former error in an aggravated degree, by sending out an army not larger than the former, to contend against tenfold more arduous obstacles than those by which the valour of that former army had been rendered wholly unavailing. The disasters attending the blunders of his majesty's ministers could not redeem them from a daring and hasty repetition of those blunders; they would not be taught by the calamity that 70 was the fruit of their own errors; they were unable to derive from all that mischief of which they had been the authors, the little comparative good that other men could learn from misfortune; and what could be expected to teach those men wisdom who proved themselves incapable of being enlightened by experience?—It was wearisome to enter upon a painful and disgusting detail that promised to be almost endless. But he would, before be sat down, advert in one or two words to the more flagrant disgraces, that within the last six months had crowned the good works of the present administration. In the first place, then, with respect to the great failure of the Expedition to Walcheren. He would ask the hon. gent, who spoke last, if he had any doubt in his own mind, that with respect to that Expedition there had not been gross misconduct somewhere? Did the hon. gent. mean to say, that there was not? Or if he could not seriously entertain so monstrous an opinion, and if he did think that there had been misconduct in some quarter, could he say that it ought not to be inquired into, and traced to its true source? They had been told in the Speech, that it had been the object of that Expedition to make a diversion in favour of Austria. But would any man in that House believe, that, if we had sent a much greater force than even the large one employed in that Expedition, it would have had the smallest influence upon the emperor of France? Did any man in or out of that House believe, that it would have tempted Buonaparté to direct any portion of his army from the accomplishment of the great object then before him. That it would have induced him to have recalled a single regiment from beyond the Pyrenees? If there was an individual who thought it would, he had not acquired that opinion of Buonaparté's military genius which seventeen years of war might have taught him; so that, had the Expedition even succeeded, he was not aware of what material advantage could be expected from it operating as a diversion. And did all this furnish no ground for the allegations contained in the Amendment? But still it was contended, that they should first inquire, that all definitive judgment should be suspended, till the result of deliberate inquiry was fairly before them; what was intended by all this? was it meant that they were to begin by taking these things as problematical, which were 71 universally known, established and acknowledged? Was it meant that they were gravely to proceed, to inquire whether the climate of Walcheren was, or was not unhealthy? Whether the season at which the British army made its descent upon that island was, or was not unfavourable? Was it meant that they ought now to stop, to inquire whether ministers were, or were not wholly ignorant of the climate and circumstances of an island within twenty hours sail of England? And was that House to pause scrupulously balancing the comparative extent of that ignorance; whether they did not know what they should have fully known, or whether they were not as ignorant of the nature of the place as of the interior parts of Africa, or those of China. Was that what was meant? And were they thus to amuse one another, and insult an injured country by calling for inquiry into the truth of facts, as notorious as they are scandalous? Were they to inquire who was selected to take the command of the greatest Expedition that ever left the shores of England? Was that another of the notorieties of which it is so necessary to ascertain the truth? But who was this commander? A general wise from long experience, and illustrious from the splendour of many victories? Covered with well-earned laurels, the military pride of his country; exciting her most sanguine hopes, and commanding her most implicit confidence? Was this the man appointed to lead her armies into battle? No; but the flower of her forces was committed in an evil hour to the guidance of that inauspicious and ill-omened officer, of whom we know nothing more, than that he was once at the head of the Admiralty. And such was his lazy discharge of the duties of that department, that though his near relative was die minister, he had not the courage to suffer the functions of the state to sleep beneath the indolence of even his own brother. Was there a man in England who did not know this? But, no matter, we must inquire nevertheless.—One of the avowed objects of this ill-fated expedition was to make a diversion in favour of Austria. Was there a man in that House who did not know that the armistice between France and Austria had taken place before even the first part of our expedition sailed; ministers were themselves aware of it; they hesitated it is said, perhaps so; but still the expedition was permitted to sail. All serious 72 hopes of any effectual diversion must, at least, at that period, have been given up. But how had this or any other object been followed up? Flushing fell the 15th of August; on the 16th of September lord Chatham returned, and on the 18th, two days after, his lordship issued a proclamation; for what purpose? requiring all officers forthwith to join their respective regiments in the island he himself had quitted, and to resume their military duties in that grave of British valour, that burial ground of British soldiers. How long afterwards was the island retained? and what was our army doing all the time that it was retained? what were the glorious services in which they were engaged? in a listless resistance to the inglorious destruction of contagion, pestilence and disease! Is this, said Mr. Ponsonby, is this the way you have chosen to reward the brave men who upheld the name of England in the battle of Corunna? Is this the reward for all their gallant services? Is this the temptation you would hold out to others, to tight as gloriously in Spain, that they might perish as ignominiously in Walcheren? Why sacrifice the best and bravest of our armies, rather than acknowledge you have made a conquest that was not worth the keeping? (Hear, hear!) Is it then too much to say, that we will inquire? whatever gentlemen may think, I hesitate not to affirm, that there is not a man out of this House who does not think we ought to go at least as far as you are now called upon to go. The country is labouring under the irritating sense of abuses, gross and long continued: it looks to the constitutional organ for redress and justice, and it expects that, in a crisis of such awful moment, the House of Commons will not be wanting in its duty. We all know, that suspicions, however unworthy, have gone abroad, and we know too, that there are men who are but too vigilant in seizing every opportunity to strengthen and to propagate a general distrust of the purity of parliament. Let the House then, weigh well the mischievous consequences of being at such a time at variance with the unanimous opinion of the country.—The same fatuity that marked the conduct of ministers with respect to Walcheren, was equally observable in their conduct of the operations of the campaign in Spain. Lord Wellesley, in the month of April, was gazetted as ambassador. Indeed, it was remarkable that it was this month 73 that had been chosen by ministers for planning all their various operations in favour of our allies, and as well against the enemy as against one another. Lord Wellesley, notwithstanding his appointment in April, and all that was expected from his vigorous exertions in Spain, did not sail ill the 24th of July following. What occasioned this delay he left it to ministers to explain.—With respect to the operations of lord Wellington, he knew not whether they originated with that noble lord himself or from the cabinet; but it did appear that on the 15th of July, he being then at Placenzia, was unable to follow the enemy for want of means of transport or conveyance; and on the 8th of August following, in his dispatches from Deleytosa, he complains of want of provisions. Whatever was the cause of the then position of the army under lord Wellington, it yet, he thought, called for inquiry. Why had he not means of transporting his troops from Placenzia? Why without provisions at Deleytosa? And why was the noble lord, the ambassador, who was in England at the time of the battle of Talavera, detained so long from rendering those services to the Spanish cause which it was fondly expected would have resulted from his exertions? These facts, taken from their own gazette, called upon the House to say, that culpability there was somewhere; let severe inquiry discover where. They were not now called upon to inquire whether there had been errors, and disasters, and disgraces, but to whom they were to be traced, and whose punishment ought to atone (as far as it could do) for their calamitous consequences.—After inforcing with great strength of argument and much emphatical reasoning, the absolute necessity of an immediate, rigorous, and complete inquiry, the right hon. gent, concluded with the following observations: The situation of the country is extremely awful; and if they, whose ignorance and obstinacy have placed it in that situation, are now to be exempted from the responsibility of having done so, its danger will not, on that account, be less alarming.—After a repetition of the same errors have produced a repetition of the same disasters, this House cannot content itself with doing merely that which it has thought sufficient in periods less critical, and in exigencies less pressing. This is no time for half measures. I do think that it is a crisis that calls upon the House of 74 Commons to put forth its penal powers; it is no time for civility; it is no time for ceremoniously waving the best interests of the State in courteous compliance to the feelings of those who have either betrayed or endangered them; the present is not a time for shaping Amendments to the imaginary niceties of those gentlemen who revolt at all idea of punishment—it is the time to speak out and pursue with unwearied zeal public defaulters of every description. Had I a choice between punishment and pardon, I would prefer the former, because I think the circumstances of the country imperiously demand some solemn examples. It fell to my lot, last sessions, to call the attention of the Mouse to what I thought I plainly proved to have amounted to gross misconduct on the part of ministers in the Spanish campaign. The House thought otherwise, but what have they done.since? Have they since exhibited in the Peninsula any monument of recovered vigour and awakened wisdom; and if they have not, what will the House do now? I then invoked them by the manes of the heroes who fell in the battle of Corunna—by their as heroic survivors—to do justice to the valour that so unavailingly bled, and so fruitlessly triumphed. The House have in their remembrance what their decision was then, and should not forget what has been the conduct of the same ministers since. Once more then I ask, what will the House do now? If they will act again in the same way—if they can again be guilty of such indifference to the zeal and sufferings of such brave and gallant men—I will not venture to predict what may be the consequence; but I will say, that if this House can come to such a decision, they are unworthy to be called the countrymen of the heroes to whose services they will then have awarded so iniquitous a recompence. It maybe said, that the present ministers are not answerable for the errors of the late administration, but I doubt if such a plea, as trifling as it is false, will this night be resorted to. Or the eleven ministers in the former cabinet, seven are in the present, and, of course, the same majority in both. The Lord Privy Seal, the President of the Council, the First Finance Minister, &c. &c. are still in the cabinet. But upon a plea so trifling he should no longer dwell, and would conclude with entreating the House, keeping once for all the campaign of 1809 in their eye, to vindicate their own character, and do an insulted country justice.
observed in explanation, that from their number it was impossible for him to answer all the questions put to him by the right hon. gent. He would only say that the substance of what he had meant to state was, that in a motion for enquiry, it was unfair to anticipate the result, which the Amendment in the present instance certainly did, and for that reason and on that ground only he had opposed it.
felt it to be his duty to justify the line of conduct that had been pursued, respecting the expeditions, upon which so much of that day's discussion turned, and he assured the right hon. gent. who spoke last, that there was no part of his conduct which he should not have an opportunity of knowing. Conscious of the wise policy upon which these expeditions were framed, and confident that he could most fully and satisfactorily justify the principles upon which they had been undertaken, and the manner in which they had been directed, to the attainment of their objects, he had more reason to court than to shrink from inquiry. But as the share he had had in these transactions, had been frequently adverted to, in the course of the debate, he could not bring himself to allow the present question to come to a vote, without offering some observations to the House upon the subjects and arguments that had been introduced into the discussion. He did not think it necessary, however, to enter very minutely into the subject on the present occasion, as it would come frequently under the consideration of the House in a more detailed form, when the necessary documents were before them. He trusted that he never, in any part of his political conduct, discovered any disposition to evadé enquiry; and though, differing; as he did, from the right hon. gent. who had I now sat down, on many other points, he had always agreed with him in that. On the former occasion, to which the right hon. member had alluded, he had not opposed the motion for enquiry; but the majority of the House thought differently from him, and negatived the motion for inquiry. The same inclination he had always discovered for enquiry, he felt in an equal degree on the present occasion. He was sensible, however, at the same time, of the difficulties to military, as well as public men, in attending such enquiries, and the almost utter impracticability, in some cases, of making their views fully 76 understood, when not seconded by favourable results; but the constitution required that the House should be satisfied; and regarding, so highly as he did, the privileges of that. House, he would be the last man to attempt to deprive them of so salutary and constitutional a chock en public men, and public measures. He, for his own part, would not shrink from enquiry, and did not fear the exercise of that penal justice with which the right hon. gent, had threatened him. He claimed no mercy from him, but most sincerely requested that the House would examine into the merits or demerits of his conduct, and do him justice. The summary mode which the right hon. gent. had taken, in passing judgment before he had the information and evidence, was ill suited to the ends of justice, and the dignity of that House. He did not, however, complain of the right hon. gents severity in this respect, but trusted that the House would not, like him, think it necessary to recur to the whole course of the administration in which he had lately a share, to furnish the grounds of charge, or subjects of this enquiry. The House, he trusted, would confine itself to the late campaign, and discard all such subjects as had already come under their review. Such an enquiry as the right hon. gent. had opened would be an enquiry only of jealousy; but they would not attempt, he trusted, to bestow censure, or attach disgrace beyond the transactions of last year. It was not his intention to make any invidious comparisons, but in the military and naval strength of the country much improvement, it would be allowed, had lately taken place. The Baltic was at this moment in our possession. The Brest fleet had been nearly annihilated, and the fleet of the Tagus had been brought into our ports; and he would ask if Spain would have discovered that spirit of resistance and enthusiasm against the common enemy, had she not been conscious of acting in conjunction with this country? Amid the great political misfortunes, which presented themselves around us, was not this country in a state not only of safety, but of unexampled prosperity? With all our power and prosperity, however, this was not, comparatively speaking, a military country. We could not go to the continent as we did to sea. Our military efforts being directed towards the continent, must depend in a great measure on the results of the efforts and engagements of 77 other powers, to whom we could only be auxiliary; but whatever might be the result of the campaign in Spain, or whatever might have been the issue of the struggle maintained by Austria, the military glory of this country, it must be admitted, had been much promoted. The principles on which the campaign in Spain, as the right hon. gent. called it, but which should more properly be called the campaign of Portugal, had been conducted, were far different from those on which the antecedent Spanish campaign had been undertaken. The operations of the late campaign were particularly connected with the security of Portugal. Lord Wellington had certainly intrusted to him a discretionary power, and that power he contended his lordship had most judiciously exercised. Had he not advanced to Talavera he must have inevitably disgraced himself and the British arms. Lord Wellington, it had been said, had 38,000 men, but the truth was that he had not more than 24,000. In tact in the battle at Talavera lord Wellington had but 20,000 British troops. He regretted that the military character of the country should be thus sacrificed to party politics, and pointed out the pernicious tendency of such mistaken statements. He contended that never had a greater victory been achieved than that at Talavera, though the army was afterwards obliged to retire before a greatly superior force.—The delay in fitting out the expedition to Walcheren had been complained of, but the means were, wanting to move it sooner, the transports not having arrived from Portugal till the 5th of July. It was said the expedition had not been directed to the most favourable object; but great as the resources of this country were, there was a limit abroad beyond which we could not go. It was impossible to send it to the North of Spain without having the means of maintaining it there. Gentlemen had asked, why the army of sir John Moore was not employed immediately on its return on that service? It had been said, too, that the different regiments were ready, and could have been embarked immediately; but by the time the regiments had been recruited and were reported fit for service, the Expedition to Portugal had reached its destination, as it was not till the 10th of June that they were reported to be fit for service. The delay complained of in transporting the cavalry it was impossible 78 to avoid, as, though the transports were ordered from Portugal in May, they did not arrive till the 12th of July, after the infantry were embarked. Here a new position was assumed, that the force thus collected could be employed in continental operations, or in a coup de main. But there was a limit beyond which our means could not be strained. It was impossible to transport them to the North of Germany, and had it been possible, still would it have been, in a military point of view, improper, from the situation and disposition of the neighbouring powers. Had government even had the means of sending the Expedition to the North of Europe, with the immense expence attending such a measure, it would not have been prudent, he contended, to have united a military force of 40,000 men in that quarter, with Prussia, and the whole weight of France against us, while Russia, at the same time, was our enemy. The Scheldt appeared the most eligible point of attack, as more nearly connected with the commercial views of this country, and in the event of success there, wounding the enemy in that part where he was likely to feel most sore. Antwerp was an object of great political importance to France, and a descent on it was more likely to call forth Buonaparté's attention than an attack on another place. It is his practice to slight any distant diversions that may be made, and Stedfastly pursue his main object; but when he should be thus attacked in a vital point, it was reasonable to expect that it would operate powerfully in favour of our allies. He was ready to state why he thought success probable, and likely to be attended with little risk. He was not ignorant of the nature of the climate at that season of the year, but it was not intended that the army should be locked up there for such a length of time. It was a coup de main against the naval power of the enemy that was intended, and not the capture of Walcheren alone; it was therefore expected that the army would be employed in a dry country between Walcheren and Bergen-op-Zoom.—The melancholy accounts that had been circulated of the stale of the troops were greatly exaggerated, and though our loss appeared great to us, yet compared with the losses of France in all her wars, it was but trifling. No object of magnitude was expected to oppose cur retaining Walcheren. It had never been considered as an axiom, that the risk attending the keeping pos- 79 session of that Island, should deter us from taking it. We held it 31 years during the Barrier Treaty, and had since had it in our possession. He was not furnished with materials at present to speak on the whole of the question. He, however, if the officers employed should appear to have done their duty, would ever be ready to hold them above that vulgar calumny by which they would probably be assailed. With respect to the evacuation of the island, he had had no share in the measures of government. Before the return of the Commander in Chief, he found himself to have been in a situation that he had been unconscious of, (hear! hear!) and having retired from office, had had no intercourse with the officers employed, except such as was absolutely necessary, and could not take upon himself, therefore, either to justify or condemn what had followed. He could not, for the same reason, say any thing respecting the failure with regard to Antwerp. The subject divided itself into two parts; so far as he was concerned, and that part for what he was not responsible; but not being in possession of the necessary materials to enable him to judge of the whole, he must, for the present, suspend his judgment, pledging himself, at the same time, that he was anxious to have his conduct subjected to the most rigid scrutiny.
in explanation, said, he did not mean to state, that lord Wellington had 38,000 men at the battle of Talavera, but that 38,000 men were employed in the peninsula.
§ General Tarleton
differed entirely from the opinion pronounced by a noble lord (Kensington) that Portugal could be defended. The authority of sir Charles Stewart, did not bear upon the point, as he only gave his opinion of Portugal as it was in the year 1797. He thought a most peculiar degree of responsibility lay upon lord Chatham, who was at the same time a minister, and the commander in chief of the Expedition. The Expedition which he commanded was attended with greater expence of treasure, and a greater sacrifice of human life, than almost any other in our history, and it had most completely failed in its objects. The Expedition to Spain was equally a subject which deserved inquiry. He first heard of Soult's army being completely defeated and dispersed, with the loss of all its artillery; and yet this same army, so beaten as was described, appeared afterwards in the field, and 80 made lord Wellington retreat from Talavera. The march to Talavera was most imprudent. When the gallant sir John Moore was entering Spam, he was informed that a body of 10,000 men would completely exhaust that part of the country of its provisions.—He then at considerable length staled the superior advantages which he conceived would have resulted from employing 30,000 British troops in a diversion in Italy, under the command of sir John Stuart. This might not have been agreeable to the Wellesleys, but might have effected a much more important diversion by preventing the army of Eugene Napoleon from joining Buonaparté, which would have been, in his opinion, the most important service that it was in our power to have rendered to Austria.
said, that he perceived the House wished to come to a decision on the question, and it would not be necessary for him to detain them long in explaining the reasons for the vote he should give this night against the Amendment, and in favour of the original Address. When the right hon. gent. (Mr. Ponsonby) however spoke of the great responsibility which attached to his majesty's ministers for the measures which they advised, in which responsibility he must participate, as far as he was concerned, it appeared to him that the right hon. gent, should have gone a little farther, and, on the part of himself and the other gentlemen in opposition to the present administration, have stated, that they also laid claim to, and courted the full responsibility which was due to their measures while they were in the administration. The right hon. gent. might there find ample occasion for that penal justice, of which he spoke—He was as anxious as any man for the fullest inquiry on every point, where an open inquiry could not be prejudicial to the interests of the country. But he could not agree to the Amendment, because he considered it would go to pledge the House to an inquiry, and he wished to suspend this opinion whether a further inquiry was necessary or not, until the documents were laid on the table, which his majesty's Speech promised to lay before Parliament.—The precise period when his own knowledge and responsibility on this subject ceased, was when it had been intimated to government, that the objects of the Expedition had not been, and could not be accomplished. He did not know but that sufficient reasons might be produced to ac- 81 count for this failure; but at the same time he could not agree with some of those gentlemen who fad spoken and who seemed to consider, that the calamitous failure of the main objects of the Expedition was in some degree alleviated by the partial success it had met with. This was a doctrine to which he could never agree.—He never would have consented to the Expedition, if he had supposed that nothing greater would have been accomplished. He never supposed that the possession of Flushing, or Walcheren, were objects adequate to such great preparation and such expence; but he did consider that the possession of the naval arsenal at Antwerp would have been an object of the fast importance as a British object, and that no other point could have been selected in which the force which it was in the power of the country to send, could render more service to the common cause. If the Expedition had succeeded in this object, it would have set free such a considerable portion of our naval force, that it would have made our resources for the future more easily applicable to any other assistance which could be given to the continent. If it were true, as some gentlemen stated, that Buonaparté was never to be diverted from the grand objects of his policy, by any Expedition which this country could send out, such an objection would not go particularly to the Expedition to the isle of Walcheren, but to any Expedition which ministers could send out. From that principle, it must be obvious that it would have been equally useless to have sent the Expedition to the north of Germany or to Spain, and in that case it would appear, that the best diversion it was possible to make, was (as a great man once observed), to keep your armies at home, that the enemy may be in constant apprehension, from not knowing where the danger was likely to approach. The only doctrine which could grow out of such a principle would be, that no expedition should be sent out, and that the disposeable force of the country should never be made use of. If it were, however, true that no expeditions of ours could in any manner divert Buonaparté from his other projects, it would at least be allowed, that it would be a subject of consideration, whether we could not give some material annoyance to an enemy. If the Expedition had fully succeeded, it would have produced a great political and moral effect. It would have shewn to Europe, 82 that Buonaparté could not with impunity abstract the whole of his military force to foreign objects, but that he must keep a certain portion of it to defend his own coasts, and protect his naval arsenals. Some gentlemen seemed to think that au expedition ought rather to have been sent to the north of Germany, in which there had been some partial symptoms of insurrection against France. Now, this was not a question altogether of policy, but of justice also. It appeared to him that the only circumstances in which justice and humanity would allow us to interfere In any continental insurrections, were, first, if the people of any country having well weighed their peculiar circumstances, should determine that it was better to run the extremest dangers of war, than submit to the degree of oppression under which they laboured. In this case, it would certainly be just, and becoming the dignity of this country, to assist those who were previously determined on breaking their chains.—There was another case, in which also it would be just and allowable to interfere; if we could send large armies which were themselves nearly a match for the utmost strength of the enemy, and which we were willing to commit, as fully as the country itself was to be committed which we came to assist. We had, however, no right, to stimulate other people to struggle, unless we were previously determined to support them with our utmost means, whether it might suit our convenience or not. Considering how very partial the insurrection in the north of Germany, was, it would have been most unjust to the people of that country to stimulate them to insurrection, without a determination to support them to the utmost; and it would have been most impolitic to have come to such a determination, in the present state of Europe. If we could send one of those great substantive armies, such as traversed Germany in the thirty years war, like a nation among nations, carrying its own magazines with it, then perhaps the North of Germany might have been the proper destination. The case was, however, now widely different. But if there was a country in which it would be perfectly just to interfere, Spain was that country. There the torch of insurrection was every where lighted and every where burning, and therefore we exposed the people of that country to no, additional danger by giving them our assistance. We did not however pretend 83 to commit ourselves to the same extent that the Spanish nation was committed. It was always understood that the British army was lent to them as a trust to be restored, not given as a loan to be expended. At present there was no question about this country raising any general confederacy against France. That, in the present situation of things, would be an idle speculation. But it any country was resolved to make an effort to break its chains, that country became our ally. We must not either attempt to raise a spirit when it was not previously to be found, nor to keep it alive longer than its natural term. An hon. gent. (Mr. Ward) who had seconded the Amendment with so much ability, had expressed most desponding feelings with respect to Spain. He had drawn partly from local knowledge, a sort of picture of Spain, from which it appeared that an indisposition existed on the part of the constituted authorities in Spain, to give the people an interest in the struggle. It had been said, why not endeavour to effect a change internally? Any condition almost might be coupled with assistance, with less danger than an attempt at internal amelioration. Before you confer a benefit, you cannot go with the Koran in one hand and a sword in the other, to change the habits and religion of those you would aid. Such attempt never failed to excite a jealousy-riot easily allayed. He was not nice in the means he made use of to thwart the views of Buonaparté. He would gladly press a combination of all nations, and of all religions, into a phalanx to oppose him. He would unite with the Turk without requiring him to lay aside the turban, and he would march to the field with the poor bigotted Spaniard, without first insisting on his divesting himself of superstition. He would let every man fight in his own way. Some were of opinion, that no aid should have been granted till the Cortes were convoked. But he should be very sorry to have to answer for such conduct, as it would have been a sure way of creating intestine divisions, as the clashing interests of the several provinces might have produced the most fatal consequences. Thus, had the Castilian Cortes been assembled, Buonaparté, by calling the Arragonese against them, might have divided Spain within herself more completely than she was divided by the Ebro. Spain, with all her faults, deserved assistance of England, and it was not for us to be particular 84 about the weapons with which our enemy was assailed. He could give no opinion for or against an enquiry into the affairs of Spain. If ministers thought it would be proper, he had no objection. He feared, however, that that part of the enquiry into the expedition to Spain, which might throw blame upon the Spaniards for want of co-operation, would not be of service to this country, but might injure its interests in its future connection with Spain. He did not mean to speak against lord Wellington when he said that the march to Talavera was his own act. He approved of it, and of the honours bestowed on that gallant officer. We ought not to undervalue the hero's laurels, even though they were barren. Had valour so long been admired and at last lost its value? Had we on a sudden become so enlightened that we could contemplate it with philosophical apathy? He knew the moralist might shudder at the shedding of human blood; he knewThat reason frowns at war's unequal game,Where thousands bleed to raise a single name.Yet still was lord Wellington entitled to the gratitude of his country, and the glories of Talavera he could not think purchased so dearly, as to be for ever deplored.—Before he sat down, he had one word to add on a subject which applied more particularly and personally to himself. He was opinion that the dignity and the decency of the House, and the respect that was due to the feelings of individual members, should prevent a subject, that had been touched on in the course of the debate, from being discussed in that House, but for himself he would say, that it was his fixed determination, that no provocation whatever should induce him to enter into any discussion on that particular topic. [Mr. C. alluded here to his dispute with lord Castlereagh.]
§ Mr. Whitbread
said, that it was rather strange that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not deigned to give them his idea of the state of the country, or to inform them upon what grounds he himself was the minister. He had given way to the right hon. gent, who had spoke last, because he conceived that he wished to make some explanations on what was certainly a very delicate subject. As far as this respected the individuals concerned, it certainly was not a subject which any gentleman would wish to bring into discussion in that House. The right hon. gent, had, however, now to answer, not to 85 that other individual, but to the country, why he suffered the noble lord to remain in office when he was convinced that he was not fit for the situation in which he was placed. He did hope that this would, on a future day, be made the subject of substantial inquiry, and that the right hon. gent, would be constrained to state to the House, and to the public, the reasons for his extraordinary conduct. The right hon. gent, had spoken on this subject with his accustomed fluency; but when it came to be considered what there was of argument in his speech, it would appear, that he meant to justify the Expedition which did take place, by comparing it to imaginary expeditions which did not take place. He also described the great advantages which would have taken place, if the Expedition had succeeded. Now it appeared, that so far from attracting the attention of Buonaparté to the most vital parts of his empire, he never deigned to look at our Expedition, or to turn his head that way. The mighty lion which we went to attack, brushed us off with one sweep of his tail. The right hon. gent. had then proceeded to argue that if that expedition could not have been useful, no other expedition could have been useful. His gallant friend (general Tarleton) had however pointed out another expedition, which would have promised a much better diversion to Austria. If he were to adopt the mother tongue of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of most of his associates in office, he would say, that although indictments had been presented, the various counts in them could not be proved. There was a vast variety of subjects, all of which demanded inquiry. He would wish to know, why, in a season of unexampled calamity, the meeting of Parliament was so long delayed? His Majesty had been advised to say, "that he would not institute any inquiry into the conduct of his military and naval commanders, but that he referred it to the wisdom of Parliament to take the matter into their serious consideration." Now although in common circumstances, Parliament had frequently not met sooner, yet, in the present extraordinary and perilous circumstances, of the country, and when such a serious subject was to be submitted to the wisdom of Parliament, it appeared to him that they ought to have met sooner.—With respect to America, he also thought that there were most serious grounds for inquiry. He understood 86 that there had been suppression of material documents, and that the minister who was disavowed by his Majesty's government (Mr. Erskine), had a full justification for his conduct in signing the Treaty. He believed, that if the gentleman, who was at that time Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Canning) had displayed common wisdom and prudence in the negociation, America would not only have been friendly at the present moment, but in alliance with us against France. Great expectations were, it seems, conceived from the resistance of Austria. It was thought she might effectually oppose the power of France; he confessed he was. not one of those who cherished such expectations; he had no idea that had even the battle of Wagram, so fatal to Austria, been directly the reverse in its effect, it could have been so ruinous, as some supposed, to the power of Buonaparté. The war however once undertaken, and the two emperors finally committed, since England was to become active in the contest it was manifestly her interest to make an experiment in favour of Austria. How was this to be done? The noble lord said by an attack on Flushing. Was this attack even, however unconnected it might seem with its alledged object, made in time? Oh no, answered the noble lord, it was not: but then delay was inseparable from all insular Expeditions, and ministers should not be punished for the casualties of nature. Did the noble lord extend this apology beyond himself? Was he not the very first to deny its validity, when his opponents were in power? The delay, however proceeded not from any natural impediment, except that arising from the characteristic vacillation of the government; for it appeared upon the trial of general Monnet, that he had information of the intended descent as far back as the 22d of April. The noble lord, indeed, had not laid such stress upon the execution of the project as the King's Speech seemed to do; a Speech, which by that one paragraph where this Expedition was mentioned, tended to reflect still greater ridicule on the country than it had already experienced. What! could any one in his senses believe that for the contemptible object of blowing up a basin at Flushing, so much money ought to be cheerfully squandered, and so much precious blood cruelly expended. The King's Speech, however, perfectly accorded with his Answer to the Corporation of London—an Answer which declared 87 that the Expedition had only succeeded in part. In what part, was the natural question of every man in the country? Now, however, the mystery was solved; the part in which it succeeded was, in the blowing up of a basin! This, say ministers, was one of the objects, and the King is satisfied with its accomplishment. So little satisfied was he, however, on this head, that this very ground he should conceive sufficient as a foundation for a criminatory resolution. Ministers, it seemed were aware even of the fatality of the climate; but this was one of the casualties of war, and therefore, in their opinion, ought to be cheerfully encountered. Certainly, if the object was worthy of the hazard; but here the object was contemptible, the means mighty, and the consequences ruinous. Even downright inactivity was preferable to such perilous and causeless exertion. The noble lord, however, reduced to his last shift, declared the object of the expedition to have been a coup de main!—What did he mean by a coup de main? Did he suppose that Antwerp and Lillo, and the fortified forts, and the well-secured fleet in the Scheldt, were all to be taken by this miraculous coup de main? The idea was surely too preposterous even to enter into the calculations of his lordship. To shew, indeed the perfect folly of such a supposition, the resistance of Flushing, the continuance of which was sufficient to frustrate all the ulterior objects of the Expedition, was, in the opinion of Buonaparté, so ill protracted, that he condemned the officer who conducted it to death! How did this mismanagement of the right hon. gent, and his colleagues take place? He begged pardon—he supposed it was at the time when the right hon. gent, did not know his own colleagues; when he was hawking about the offices of the government, with "who'll take this, and who will take that? In pity, will no one even accept my bounty to support me?" He supposed it was during this interregnum that the mismanagement took place. An opportunity of remedying it had, however, offered when lord Chatham made the communication that he could not proceed; then we should have evacuated the island; but instead of this we proceeded to build barracks there, and ships were actually arriving with stores for them, when the army was embarked to return.—Yet such had been the objects of the enormous but fruitless expence which the 88 country was to pay. Even then upon these grounds, as he had already stated, he should judge his Majesty's government deserving of punishment, But who were his Majesty's government? How did the right hon. head of it attain that elevation? Rumour said, it was by a successful competition with one of his own colleagues. Yet even this motley administration, this government of threads and patchwork, was to be screened; and the Amendment which proposed an inquiry into their conduct was to be rejected. Why—"Because it proposed condemnation without inquiry." It did no such thing: it proposed as the only atonement to an injured and insulted country for dreadful calamities, to institute an inquiry into their causes. No doubt, indeed, if this inquiry terminated in conviction, that punishment would follow; unless it did, the inquiry would be but a mockery of justice; unless it did, the House might just as well rest contented with the papers as a substitute for the inquiry. Let those who wished for justice vote for the Amendment: in his opinion they must do it; for, in the prima facie case, there was a decisive incontrovertible conclusion against ministers. He was not to be understood by this as condemning the naval or military commanders who were employed in its execution. No; an inquiry here was indeed necessary; it remained to be seen whether they had failed from any misconduct of their own, or whether in the very outset, all hopes of success were blighted by the imbecility of those who appointed them, and by the folly of the orders they received. How fatal were all the measures of government! how contrary to all natural expectations! did the Chancellor of the Exchequer recollect—would his bickerings with his colleagues allow him to recollect in what a proud situation he stood at the conclusion of last session? Spain protracting the contest, and Austria, after a few years peace, flourishing and zealous, entering into the war! ministers at least considered this a proud situation. He confessed he never looked with much hope to the exertions of Austria; he did not even think that she entered into the war upon just grounds. She was boundlessly increasing her force, France demanded its diminution, and with this demand Austria refused to comply. The very refusal authorised a war; for if two powers (as France and England) were 89 at war, and a third power (Austria) naturally connected with one of them, encreases her force, and refuses to diminish it at the desire of the other, the inference can only be that she was preparing for hostility; let it be recollected also that on this very ground, and with infinitely less reason, England herself broke the Treaty of Amiens. From such prospects he now turned to the Affairs of Spain. Even with all his respect for lord Wellington, he could not approve of the battle of Talavera—it had no good end, and only tended to establish what was never questioned, the superior valour of our soldiers. Our victories, indeed, were this night the particular theme of congratulation; and Maida, Corunna, Vimiera, and Talavera, were held up as monuments of our eternal glory; he beheld them only as so many gladiatorial exhibitions. None of them were happy in their consequences or beneficial in their results. Maida left the inhabitants in the same state in which ministers said, had we made a diversion in the north of Germany, we should have left the inhabitants of that country, at the mercy of a cruel enemy. At Corunna we lost general Moore, to prove the valour of our soldiers. What! was our population so redundant that we could spare men to prove what no one doubted? Was the valour of Britain so questionable, that a bloody experiment was necessary to prove it? Had we so many skilful generals, that they were become superfluous? Alas! how shall we dry up the tears of the orphan, or reimburse the exhausted means of the beggared citizen ! The battle of Vimiera, followed by the disgraceful Convention of Cintra, had better never have taken place; and Talavera was, at best, but an exhibition of rash confidence and victorious temerity. The right hon. gent, had said last session, that a battle ought never to be risked in Spain, until there was an efficient government in that country; yet he now recanted the principle, by conferring honours upon sir Arthur Wellesley—for whom, and for the country, it would have have been much more honourable, had he never changed his name. His conduct in Spain seemed the result of infatuation. After defeating Soult, he re-crossed the Douro, for the purpose of forming a junction with Cuesta; and yet when that was effected, he remained unaccountably inactive. Soult in the mean time recovered, recruited, and re-established his corps. He then fought the battle of Talavera; 90 and in four or five days afterwards retreated to an unhealthy province, at an unhealthy season, for the purpose, as he singularly termed it, of "refreshing his troops."—In the marshes of Estremadura, he remained some months, and then retreated to Portugal, for the purpose of defending it.—The excuse alledged for this was, that we would not take supplies as the French did. If the Spaniards were glad of our assistance, there would be no necessity for force; we should receive voluntary supplies. But the truth was, while we were starved, the French were fed, and this he considered as the strongest presumption of the jealousy of Spain towards us.—He could not help now alluding to the very extraordinary transactions which had taken place in our cabinet; but before he did so, he must notice some expressions of the right, hon. gent. (Mr. Canning) which had much delighted him. He had said, that in a good cause he would seek the assistance of men of all religions: the Turk and the Christian; the Jew and the Pagan, were to him, politically considered, equal. No doubt, then, now that he and the noble lord were emancipated from the shackles of bigotry, they would unite with the friends of toleration in support of unlimited religious freedom. He wished particularly to know, why lord Wellesley delayed so long in this country after his appointment to the Spanish embassy. He was particularly anxious to know this, on account of a paragraph which had appeared in a well known publication, stating that "had it not been for a fit of illness, the noble marquis would have been long since in Spain," Now it was well known, that the right hon. gent, wished to incorporate lord Wellesley in the government at home, and he had only to hope that this interested feeling did not occasion his lordship's protracted delay in England, when he should have been fulfilling the functions of his important mission. On this subject he should hereafter demand an explanation from the right hon. gent. To Spain, however, at last, the noble marquis went, and there, what were his services? Why, he went through the mummery of dancing on the French flag! He did more; he visited the Junta, went through all the routine of etiquette and politics, made a speech about reform, took his glass after dinner, and religiously toasted the Pope! It was surprising indeed, to see him so soon returning after 91 his flirtation with the whore of Babylon, at Cadiz! On his return, of course, when the places were going, he came in for his share, and made one of the administration; an administration, the members of which could not have been distinguished, had it not been for the motions that day, for the issuing of writs. It was made up indeed by a kind of political ballot—one gentleman (Mr. S. Dundas) had gone the entire circumnavigation of office, from the Board of Controul to the Irish Secretary-ship! On that day a writ had been moved tendering his seat vacant, in consequence of his receiving a situation which he believed was not yet in his possession! The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, however, at length compiled an administration; and, indeed he had fully shewn that, supported by the favour of the court, he felt little fear in stemming the authority of the people. But how did the right hon. gent, proceed to form even this administration? Why, the very first application he made was to a dear friend of his, a noble lord, with whose principles he had been at war all his political life. This tender was rejected by them in a manner worthy of their dignity, and the rebuff which they gave the right hon. gent. would have daunted any man of less temerity than himself. There was not a man in the country, from the Orkneys to the Land's End, who did not pronounce him and his administration weak, incapable, and inefficient. Even with the addition of the two colleagues who had deserted them, they were feeble, but they then stood on a principle, or rather in opposition to a principle; but now, rejected by all who were worthy, the weak, and old, and infirm, were collected from the hedges and high-roads, and consorted with for want of better. The motley combination was duly appreciated by the people—no one respected them—they might now exclaim "the church is in danger," but every one would know they meant "my place is in danger." Now the time was come when it would be manifested that the people had a voice as well as the crown, and would not be imposed on by a set of adventurers who had usurped the government, supported by nothing but the favour of the crown. Threats had been held out by the runners of the government, that, as on a former occasion, a dissolution of parliament would be now resorted to. He believed in his soul government dared 92 not realize the threat; but if they did, it would only leave them ten times as bad as they were before.—Pompous language as to the flourishing state of our revenue was however held out. But was it sound at bottom? Was there a legitimate trade? Was it not a system placing (by the requisition of licenses) the merchants under the controul of government? Was it not rather the chicane of smugglers and pirates, than the fair, liberal, open and honest commerce of merchants? But our Treasury was full. Aye, by the rigorous severity with which the taxes were collected. Under the system pursued, the collection of the Property-tax would soon be in the hands of government collectors. Indeed, the liberty of the subject was directly struck at by the method in which the taxes were collected. He gave it as his sincere advice: let an economical reform be instituted before the last ounce was exacted, and the country reduced to despair. Let a government be removed to which the people had refused their confidence. Let our relative situation with the enemy be well considered. Let the policy of succouring Spain be also weighed under the existing circumstances: Austria gone—the French force concentrated, and that country their only object. It was said, that we might defend Portugal with 30,000 men; but would not Buonaparté know our force even to a drummer, and where we had 30,000 he would have 60,000. Who would struggle against such fearful odds? Our remaining some time unmolested in that country should be no argument for our continuance there. We remained just at the will of the French Emperor, and at his option he could drive us out of it.—But what could be expected from such a ministry, or rather from a single man, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer was now alone—alone, after sounding his ineffectual war-whoop—alone, after fully exposing his weakness, and shewing it exceeded only by his rashness. The marquis Wellesley, of whom such account had been made, he considered completely insignificant.—Who was he? The governor of India—the man who had scarcely escaped the censure of that House for his cruel tyranny!—the man who had assailed the press, the sacred palladium of the people! the friend of despotism—the foe to liberty. Good God! could this man say to Buonaparté, in the noble indignation of insulted virtue, "I have not done as you have?" 93 Alas, if such a man had strength, he would indeed be a fearful acquisition to such a government; but he was known, and therefore weak and harmless. Peace should be the cry of the nation. Peace—particularly because the thraldom of millions of our fellow-subjects was the tenure by which this incapable Junta held their offices. "It has been said by our enemy, (said Mr. W.) that the genius of France guided our armies. Alas! it now presides in our cabinet; for surely, whether we consider their ignorance, their imbecility, their bigotry, or the fate with which Providence visits all their measures, our enemy, had he the nomination, could not select men more suitable to his ends, or more pernicious to our interests."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
then rose, and said, that the hon. gent., who had just sat down, had urged it, as a serious charge against him, that he had not taken an earlier part in the debate, and accused him of disrespect to the House, in having remained so long silent. But no sooner had the hon. gent, preferred that charge, than he put a variety of questions to him, to which he demanded a categorical answer. The best answer, that could be given to this charge, had been supplied by the hon. gent, himself, viz. that being," to use his mother tongue, "under many indictments, and each indictment consisting of many counts," it was not unnatural, it was not inconsistent with common justice, that he should be desirous to hear those indictments and the arguments and proofs, by which they were supported, before he should plead or enter upon his defence. When the House recollected that it was not until he heard the hon. gent., that he could be aware of many of the questions, which he had to answer, or of many of the indictments against which he had to defend himself, it would, he was sure, acquit him of any thing like intentional disrespect, for not having risen sooner. It was, in point of fact, because he expected to hear from the hon. gent., and some of those who sat near him, all those charges which he should have to answer, that he had not offered himself to the attention of the House at an earlier period of the debate. There was also another reason why he wished to hear the hon. gent, and others, on that side of the House, before he rose; he wished to know whether the Amendment which they had proposed was all the amendment which they meant to offer to the Address, or 94 whether they meant to propose any other alterations. The Amendment which had been proposed only applied to that part of the Address which related to the tender of papers respecting the expedition to Walcheren, and would of course leave untouched all the remaining parts of the Address. He was anxious to know, therefore, whether the gentlemen on the other side had made up their own minds as to what they wanted the House to do upon this occasion—whether they had any other Amendments to offer? If they had, they were bound in common candour, though not perhaps in strict form, to state at once what were their intentions. It appeared to him rather extraordinary, that, if they had any thing to suggest with regard to the other parts of the Address, they had not stated it in the Amendment, for certainly in their speeches they had alluded to the campaign in Spain and Portugal, as well as to the Expedition to the Scheldt, though no part of the Amendment applied to that campaign. But he really believed that the gentlemen on the other side who had spoken, were not aware of any intention to propose any further Amendment, if it really existed, for if they had they would in candour have aunounced that intention.—Amongst the many questions which had been put to him there was one to which, entering fully into the feeling which had been so eloquently expressed by his right hon. friend below him (Mr. Canning) he wished to say as little as possible now, or at any other time. Upon that subject, therefore, he should only state thus much, that with regard to the transactions to which the hon. gent, had alluded, he could assure him and the House, that he was entirely ignorant of their existence until the close of the sessions of parliament, and when he did know of them, he certainly did conceive, whatever might be the motive which induced his right hon. friend, to wish for the removal of his noble friend from the department confided to him, that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) could not be a party in them, more especially as an expedition of great importance was at that time in great forwardness, with which the noble lord (Castlereagh) was intimately connected. All that he had done on that occasion, arose from an anxious desire to preserve to the country the services of both the individuals alluded to. Feeling as he did the utmost admiration of the splendid talents and eloquence of his right 95 hon. friend (Mr. Canning,) and thinking most highly of the abilities of his noble friend (lord Castlereagh,) he certainly felt himself bound both by inclination and duty to do every thing that it was in his power to do to retain both of them in the service of their country. This was his only object, never having partaken in any opinion of the inability of his noble friend, but thinking that he was as able, as useful, and as efficient a minister as the office which he filled ever possessed. Having said thus much upon this delicate subject, he should not go any further into the question. The hon. gent, had next put to him some questions respecting the situation which he had the honour to hold in his Majesty's councils, to which questions he begged to answer in the most explicit and distinct manner: that situation was not in any manner an object of his own desire; on the contrary, if his wishes could have been realized, another person would now have held the office of First Lord of the Treasury. After the resignation of the noble duke lately at the head of the administration, his Majesty had directed him and a noble friend of his, to make an application to two noble lords, for the purpose of forming an extended administration.—This command his noble, friend and he obeyed, and, upon a foundation such as this, it was, that the hon. gent, had accused him of having hawked about the offices of government.—[Here Mr. Whitbread said, across the table, "No, no."]—The Chancellor of the Exchequer continued, and observed, that that was what he understood the hon. gent, to say, and the whole tenor of his argument proved, according to his conception of it, that that was what he meant. The situation of the country was obviously such as required as strong an administration as could be formed, and he did think that there existed circumstances at the time the application was made, which rendered it not improbable that that application would not have been unsuccessful. But if he was to be accused of arrogance, and of wishing to reign without a rival, as had been insinuated by the hon. gent, it was strange that he should have made this application to the two noble lords, and more especially when he informed the House that the first proposition which he should have made to them, if they had given him an opportunity of stating it, would have been that it should be left to themselves to determine who should be the First Lord of 96 the Treasury. With respect to himself he again repeated that it was a situation which he did not desire. That he had afterwards accepted the office was true, and his principal motive was, that he felt himself bound, by every consideration of duty and principle, not to suffer his sovereign to be dictated to, and not to leave his Majesty without a minister. He had already stated the proposition he meant to make with respect to the office of First Lord of the Treasury; with regard to the other offices of government, it was natural to conceive that they were to be at the disposal of those who contributed to the formation of the administration. If there was any thing in this statement that rested solely upon his assertion, the fault did not rest with him, for he had no opportunity afforded to him of conveying to the two noble lords the nature of the proposal he meant to make. But the hon. gent, seemed to think that there was something unaccountable, almost absurd in the offer which he had made to the two noble lords, and that it was highly honourable in them to have refused it.—Upon this point he begged to repeat what he had stated before, that it appeared to him, that there were then in existence circumstances which afforded a greater chance of the success of his application than at any other time. The first was, though this might appear a trifling consideration, the period of the year. Some time had elapsed since the prorogation of Parliament, when political animosities might naturally be supposed to be irritated and augmented by the contests in which the different parties were engaged in Parliament, and the lapse of time might naturally be supposed to have abated much of party animosity. This, however, he mentioned only as a slight circumstance; but there were others in his mind of much more importance. The hon. gent. had asked how he could expect that any union could take place among those who differed so radically? Most certainly very considerable differences had subsisted between the noble lords to whom he made the application, and the administration of which he was a member, but he thought that there was less chance that these difference would prevent an union at that time, because the grounds of many of those differences had been removed. With respect to Austria, the war had nearly terminated; certainly the relative situation of Austria and France appeared to be ripening to a 97 crisis which would unite all opinions; and therefore the question respecting the propriety of taking a part in the contests on the continent, which formed one of the points of difference, was on the eve of being removed. With respect to Spain and Portugal, he thought there could exist no difference of opinion as to the propriety of giving assistance to those injured nations, as long as they felt the inclination, or possessed the means of defending themselves. That question, however, was open for discussion. With regard to America, there certainly did appear to exist greater difficulties in reconciling the differences which had subsisted between them; but even upon this point, widely as they had disagreed, the obstacles to an union did not appear to be insuperable. One of the great leading points of difference respecting America arose upon the Orders in Council, which the two noble lords had represented as most impolitic in principle, and as being, in their operation, big with ruin to the commerce of this country. Fortunately the policy or impolicy of the Orders in Council then no longer remained a question of theory; it had been determined by the evidence of facts. So far from having ruined the commerce of the country, as had been confidently predicted, they had been productive of the most beneficial consequences. He was now happy to have it in his power to state, that the trade of this country in the last year, that is, to the quarter ending in October last, was, not only greater than it was the year before, but than it ever had been even in the most prosperous period. The exports for the year ending in Oct. 1809, were greater by seven millions than during the most prosperous years of trade in the most favourable time of peace; and, by ten millions, than during any preceding year of war. He did not mean to say that there were not other, circumstances which had operated with the Orders in Council to augment our commerce, but he had stated enough to shew that there was nothing so inconsistent with common sense; nothing so calculated to ruin the trade of this country, in the Orders of Council, as the noble lords had contended. He had therefore flattered himself that he should have been able to remove one great ground of difference between those noble lords and himself, by an appeal to the experience and the incontestible evidence of facts. Another essential point of difference cer- 98 tainly was the Catholic Question; but there again it appeared to him that the obstacles to an union had been, in a great degree, removed. After the noble lord and the right hon. gent., who had presented the Catholic Petitions to both Houses of Parliament, had been disavowed by the Catholics, with regard to the offer which they had made relative to the veto on the appointment of bishops, he did think that they would naturally have come to the determination of not again supporting that Petition, until the Catholics should agree to that proposition, which the noble lord and the right hon. gent, had deemed so essential. And as it did not appear probable that the Catholics of Ireland would agree to that proposition, there seemed to be reasonable ground to believe that there was a greater chance of a concurrence of opinion, to a certain extent at least, between those two noble lords and the administration, than had heretofore existed. Under all these circumstances, he certainly had felt and thought, that there was a great probability that his proposition would have been acceded to, and that those two noble lords would have concurred with him in thinking, that in the present state of the country, it ought to be the wish of all men, of all parties, that the strongest and most efficient government should be formed. These were the reasons which had induced him to make the offer upon which the hon. gent. had commented so strongly. He could assure the hon. gentleman that, if he had anticipated that the proposition could have been deemed dishonourable to the character of those noble lords, he should have felt it dishonourable to his own character to tender it. But then the hon. gent. asked, why, after this symptom of weakness, as it had been called, he had accepted his present office! He had accepted it because his offer having been, refused, no option was afforded him but either to take the official situation which he had then the honour to hold, or to leave his Majesty to be dictated to by those who differed from him in opinion. He had yet to learn, that under such circumstances, he ought to have deserted his sovereign. He believed that there was not a gentleman opposite who, if he felt the same conviction on the point to which he alluded as that which he entertained, would, under such circumstances, have abandoned the interests of his royal master. The hon. gent. declared, that he 99 wished to see the present administration removed, and another set of ministers appointed in their room. He did not mean to speak presumptuously, though the hon. gent, opposite (Mr. Whitbread) might think his language had that tendency; but, looking at the gentlemen opposite to him, and giving them full credit for the talents and eloquence which they possessed, he did not think that they would possess more of the good opinion of the House and of the country than he and his colleagues did. The hon. gent, had expressed his decided disapprobation of the whole conduct of administration, from the time the duke of Portland came into office; but in deciding upon the character of an administration, it was necessary to compare their claims with those of other administrations, and he should be glad to know what reason there was to suppose that the state of this country was worse, with regard either to its foreign or domestic relations, under their administration, than it would have been if the gentlemen opposite to him had remained in office? Russia indeed, when the duke of Portland's administration came into office, was at war with France, but peace soon followed, and Russia became the ally of France. Unquestionably, no blame could be attributed to the noble duke or his colleagues for the treaty of Tilsit; indeed, from the language of Russia (who constantly complained of the preceding administration, from their unwillingness to make any exertions in the common cause), it was obvious that the defection of Russia must be attributed to them. He knew it would be said, that the hostility arose from the armament which had been sent against Copenhagen; but could any man seriously believe that there was nothing in the treaty of Tilsit which would have induced Russia to take part with France, even if the armament to Copenhagen had not taken place? The only difference would hare been, that if that measure had not been adopted, we should have had all the Northern powers against us with much greater means of annoyance than they now possessed, and should have been shut out of the Baltic, instead of having the command of that sea. With respect to the affairs of the Peninsula, he could not tell how the hon. gentlemen opposite would have acted if they had remained in office, but he was inclined to think that upon every principle of policy and feeling they would have thought it expedient to give 100 every assistance in their power to Spain. Judging, however, as well as he could of the state of the world, he was firmly convinced that the state of Spain was much better now, as far as concerned this country, than it was when the duke of Portland's administration came into office. Even were France ultimately to subdue Spain, an event which he most sincerely deprecated, she might hold the country in subjection, but she would possess diminished means of annoyance to Great Britain. She would not derive any revenue from her conquest, hostile as the sentiments of the Spanish people were to her. She would not be able to withdraw a single soldier from the Spanish territory.—Having said thus much on that point, he should now advert to a subject which would certainly be much better discussed when the materials were before the House. He had been asked by the hon. gent, what was the meaning of that part of the Address relative to the expedition to Walcheren? It did not appear to him that it required any explanation. The Address certainly did not pledge the House to institute inquiry into that expedition; neither did it pledge the House not to inquire into that expedition; it left that point open to the decision of the House, when the documents were produced. Certain information, as stated in his Majesty's Speech, would be laid before the House, and then it would be for the House to decide whether it would call for more; whether it would institute an inquiry at the bar; whether it would order an inquiry in a committee; or whether it would institute any inquiry at all.—With respect to the expedition to the Scheldt, that subject had been so ably discussed by his noble friend (lord Castlereagh), and by his right hon. friend (Mr. Canning) that it was not necessary for him to say much about it. If the House would recollect the state of the French and Austrian armies on the Danube, the state of the Tyrol, and the state of the north of Germany at the time when the expedition to the Scheldt was concerted, he was persuaded that they would concur in thinking that some attempt at diversion was most advisable; and unquestionably that operation, which had been preferred, was beyond all comparison the one which promised most effectually to benefit the cause of our allies, and to secure our own interests. The right hon. gent. opposite (Mr. Ponsonby) supposed that the Speech contained an 101 estimate of the value of the operations at Flushing very different from that formed by his right hon. friend (Mr. Canning.) It was not so. If the object of the expedition had been solely the destruction of the basin of Flushing, no one would deny that the end was not equivalent to the means by which it was to be obtained. But did it follow that the destruction of the basin at Flushing was not a very desirable object, and one of no small importance? It had been said by a right hon. gent, opposite, that the damage sustained by the enemy would soon be repaired. Now, the fact was, that the basin at Flushing had been two or three years in constructing; and it had been so completely destroyed, that the most able engineers had given it as their opinion, that it would be much easier to build it anew than to repair it. Was not this an important advantage? Was it not beneficial to place a principal naval station of the enemy in such a situation that it could not be of use in furnishing the means of annoyance against us for two or three years? Still he was willing to allow, that this would not have been a sufficient object for such an expedition. But the expedition had a much greater object in view; namely, the destruction of the arsenal and shipping at Antwerp. Nine or ten sail of the line had lately been launched there, and as many more were in a considerable state of advancement. A great hazard might wisely be run for the prospect of destroying such a maritime establishment. His majesty's ministers knew what they risked, but the object was worth the attempt. Besides, it was the best mode that could be devised, not to withdraw French troops from the Danube, but to prevent reinforcements of 25,000 or 30,000 men from going thither. A circumstance, which, when the nice balance that existed between the contending armies was adverted to, must appear to be of great consequence; even during the armistice this was a material consideration, and, therefore although the advantages were unquestionably lessened by the armistice, the expedition was notwithstanding, useful to Austria. The moment that Austria knew that such an expedition was in agitation, she entreated us to persevere in its completion. But the hon. gent. had accused his Majesty's government of sending supplies to Walcheren after it was in contemplation to abandon it. Let it be recollected, however, that had the armistice 102 been broken off instead of being confirmed, the evacuation of Walcheren would not have taken place. The right hon. gent, opposite asked of what value the possession of Walcheren could be to Great Britain? Though he (Mr. Perceval) consented to surrender it under the circumstances to which he had just adverted, he was ready to avow that he thought it of great value. Whether it was worth the expence of a garrison, however, was another question; and on a comparative view of the subject, that question had been decided in the negative. But to shew still more strongly the sense which the Austrians entertained of the value of this possession to their interests, he would only observe, that within a day or two of the conclusion of the armistice, Austria requested this country not to abandon Walcheren.—The next subject to which he came, was the appointment of lord Chatham to the expedition. The gentlemen opposite had indulged in reflections on that noble lord, which, considering the situation in which he stood, might with great propriety have been omitted. Whenever it was probable that the conduct of an individual would be subjected to an inquiry, justice demanded that the public mind should not be prejudiced against him. Was it fair to any officer, because he differed from others in politics, to be treated as this noble lord had been treated by the right hon. gent., and by the hon. general opposite? He was sure that the latter would feel the injustice of such a proceeding in his own case, and would deprecate the dissemination of opinions condemning his conduct, when that conduct was to become the subject of any investigation. Upon this point he should only make one more observation, viz. that the result of the inquiry, if any inquiry should be thought necessary, would, in a great measure, decide the question relative to the propriety or the impropriety of the appointment of that noble lord to the command of the expedition.—He could not, also, upon this occasion, avoid expressing his regret at the manner in which another noble lord (Wellington) had been attacked in his absence; if this practice were persisted in, it would damp the ardour, and check the spirit of our officers for they would go out to fight the battles of their country with the melancholy conviction, that however great their exertions might be, their political adversaries would 103 in their absence eagerly seize upon every little event that could be construed into a disaster, for the purpose of wounding their feelings, depreciating their services, and attacking their characters.—The hon. gent., who had seconded the amendment, had also in his opinion, in a most unjustifiable manner, commented upon the conduct of several officers of a less elevated rank, who had been employed on most important services in Spain, whom he had chosen to term "military missionaries," and whose interest he had described it to be to misrepresent the state of Spain, and the feelings of the Spanish people. Surely, it could not be supposed that gentlemen of high private characters and great professional reputation could feel any thing like a personal interest in keeping up the delusion, as it was called, with respect to the real state of Spain. But in the whole of the speech of the hon. gent, to whom he was now alluding, there was no part which he more sincerely regretted than that part of it, in which he spoke of the affairs of Spain, and of the exertions of the Spanish people. That the defender? of Saragossa and Gerona should be represented as exhibiting no single trait of generosity or enthusiasm was surely not liberal. Well, too, might that hon. gent, censure what had been done by his majesty's government to aid the Spanish cause, when he said that that cause did not deserve success. For his part he was persuaded, that neither in ancient nor in modern history could such an example be found, of a country maintaining a contest like that which this "degraded" Spain and this "degraded" Spanish government had so long supported. Never, in recent times, had 250,000 Frenchmen been in a country for such a length of time without subduing it. Spain was not subdued; but what effect on the energies of Spain such language as had been used to night might produce, it was impossible to predict. It was much to be lamented that the struggle in Spain would probably be most severe; but the difficulties they encountered and the reverses they had sustained, had not yet had the effect of subjecting the determined resistance of the Spanish nation. At every defeat a new army sprang up; and the Spaniards, animated by their hostility to the usurper of their rights, would maintain a determined resistance to the last.—With respect to the late campaign, he could not agree with the hon. gentlemen 104 on the other side of the House; he could not agree that in any instance disgrace had followed our arms. As the movements of general sir John Moore in the year 1808, and the battle of Corunna, had saved the South of Spain that year, so he believed the expulsion of the French from Portugal and Galicia, the junction of lord Wellington with Cuesta, and the battle of Talavera, saved the South of Spain this year. What would have become of Spain if the British had not arrived at Portugal when Soult had taken Oporto? An hon. general opposite, had given a confident opinion that Portugal could not be defended with 30,000 men; but the hon. general seemed to forget that there was a native force of 40,000 Portuguese, trained and disciplined by British officers, and that it would require a vigorous effort on the part of the French to succeed against 30,000 British troops, and 40,000 native troops conducted by British officers.—There was only one point more to which he wished to advert. The hon. gent, who spoke last had asked his right hon. friend (Mr. Canning) when he had not an opportunity of answering, whether he had not kept from parliament last session a document which would have justified Mr. Erskine for signing the treaty with America? If there existed such a document it had escaped his recollection, and he was convinced that whoever had given the hon. gentleman his information had misled him. When this subject was under discussion last session his right hon. friend had stated his reasons for producing the document which was then produced, viz. to justify his Majesty's government for refusing to agree to the Treaty signed by Mr. Erskine. He produced the Instructions sent to that gentleman to shew that they did not warrant him in signing that Treaty. His right hon. friend also stated, at that time, that what he was then saying, was not intended as an attack upon Mr. Erskine, but that there were other documents which might be produced if that gentleman felt them necessary for his justification. Upon the whole, he was convinced that the House could not agree to the Amendment, even upon the grounds stated by a right hon. gent, opposite to him, and it would see that the Amendment did not pledge it either to enter into an inquiry, or to avoid one, nor did it pledge the House to any opinion, upon any one point, of the conduct of ministers.
§ Mr. Tierney
made some most pointed observations in reply to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He remarked, that even by the admission of the right hon. gent., the men whom he put into office, were only placed there because no better could be found. He also challenged any one to deny, that in whatever company he had been, high or low, the present administration was spoken of in terms of contempt.
§ The House then divided; when the numbers were:
|For the Amendment||167|
|Majority against the Amendment||—||96|
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, Hon. J.||Greenhill, R.|
|Adam, W.||Grenfell, P.|
|Agar, E. F.||Grosvenor, Gen.|
|Althorpe, Visc.||Grant, M.|
|Anstruther, Sir J.||Hall, Sir J.|
|Antonie, W. L.||Halsey, Jos.|
|Aubrey, Sir J.||Hamilton, Pitt|
|Baker, J.||Hammet, John|
|Baring, N.||Hibbert, G.|
|Baring, T.||Hippesley, Sir J.|
|Bernard, S.||Horner, F.|
|Biddulph, R. M.||Howard, H.|
|Bradshaw, Hon. A. C.||Howard, Hon. Wm.|
|Brogden, J.||Howorth, H.|
|Browne, N.||Hume, W. H.|
|Burdett, Sir F.||Hussey, W.|
|Byng, G.||Hutchinson, C. H.|
|Calcraft, J. (Teller)||Hurst, R.|
|Calvert, N.||Jackson, J.|
|Cavendish, Ld. G.||Jekyll, Joseph|
|Cavendish, Wm.||Kemp, T.|
|Cocks, J.||Knox, Hon. T.|
|Cochrane, Lord||Lamb, Hon. W.|
|Cowper, Hon. E. S.||Lambton, R. J.|
|Coke, T.||Langton, W. G.|
|Coke, Ed.||Leach, J.|
|Colborne, N. W. R.||Latouche, D.|
|Cooke, B.||Latouche, J.|
|Craig, J.||Lemon, Sir W.|
|Creevey, T.||Lemon, John|
|Cuthbert, J. R.||Lemon, Charles|
|Curtis, Sir Wm.||Lloyd, J. W.|
|Daly, Rt. Hon. D. B.||Lubbock, Sir J.|
|Dickinson, W.||Lyttleton, W. H.|
|Dundas, C.||Longman, G.|
|Dundas, Hon. L.||Lester, G.|
|Elliot. Rt. Hon. W.||Macdonald, J.|
|Euston, Earl||Mahon, Visc.|
|Ferguson, Gen.||Markham, J.|
|Fitzgerald. Lord H.||Milbanke, Sir R.|
|Fitzgerald. Rt. Hon. M.||Martin, H.|
|Fitzpatrick, Gen.||Mathew, General|
|Fitzroy, Lord Wm.||Maxwell, W.|
|Foley, Hon. N.||Mildmay, Sir H.|
|Foley, T.||Mills, W.|
|Folkestone, Visc.||Mills, C.|
|Foulkes, Sir M.||Milner, Sir W.|
|Frankland, W.||Mexborough, Earl|
|Fremantle, W. (Teller)||Milton, Viscount|
|Giles, D.||Moore, P.|
|Gower, Earl||Morpeth, Visc.|
|Grattan, H.||Morris, E.|
|Mosley, Sir O.||Smith, G.|
|Mostyn, Sir T.||Smith, W.|
|Neville, Hon. R.||Stanley, Lord|
|Newport, Sir J.||Stanley, J.|
|North, D.||Somerville, Sir M.|
|Nugent, Sir G.||Symonds, T. P.|
|Northey, W.||Talbot, Col.|
|O'Callaghan, J.||Tavistock, Marquis|
|O'Hara, C.||Tarleton, Gen.|
|Ord, W.||Taylor, M. A.|
|Ossulston, Lord||Taylor, C. W.|
|Parnell, H.||Temple, Earl|
|Peirse, H.||Templetown, Visc.|
|Pelham, Hon. C.||Thompson, T.|
|Percy, Earl||Tierney, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Piggott, Sir A.||Tighe, W.|
|Ponsonby, Rt. Hon. G.||Townsend, Lord J.|
|Ponsonby, Hon. G.||Turton, Sir T.|
|Porchester, Lord||Vansittart, G.|
|Power, R.||Vernon, G.|
|Prittie, Hon. F.||Walpole, Hon. G.|
|Pym, F.||Ward, Hon. J. W.|
|Pollington, Visc.||Warrender, Sir G.|
|Quin, Hon. W.||Western, C. C.|
|Romilly, Sir S.||Wharton, J.|
|Sheridan, R. B.||Whitbread, S.|
|Sebright, Sir J.||Williams, Sir R.|
|Scudamore, R. P.||Williams, O.|
|Sharp, R.||Windham, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Shelley, T.||Winnington, Sir E.|
|Shipley, W.||Wardle, Col.|
|Smith, S.||Wynn, C.|
|Smith, T.||Wynn, Sir W. W.|