§ Lord Jocelyn appeared at the bar with the Report of the Committee on the Address. On the question that the Report be brought up,
§ Mr. Whitbread
said, that he should avail himself of that opportunity to declare those sentiments which a particular and unexpected occurrence of yesterday had prevented, and should state his reasons to the House for not agreeing to the Address. In the early part of it, which spoke of his Majesty's situation in a manner they must all feel to be applicable, he perfectly concurred; but there were other parts which, consistently with his duty as a member of parliament; he felt it incumbent on him to oppose. Indeed, the only exception he felt himself bound to make, in addition to the one already stated, was in favour of the congratulation on the conduct and bravery of his Majesty's troops, especially in the action under general Hill. He must also be disposed to acknowledge the merits of lord Wellington, who, if he had lately done nothing to advance, might at least be said to have done nothing that could derogate from a fame which might rank among the greatest of antient or of modern times. But knowing the disposition of the country towards the cause in which they were embarked; knowing that no effort which ministers could make, was left unmade; knowing that no voice, from one end of the kingdom to the other, 53 cryed out against supplying, and supplying in abundance, the means which were necessary for such a purpose; and seeing those means entrusted to one of the best officers of his nation, an officer capable of coping with the best generals of France—seeing this, and then looking to the present state of the peninsula, he could not agree to hold out to the Prince Regent and to the country, a language which his experience must tell him it was rash to use, and calculated to excite hopes which must in the end be defeated. It was impossible for any imagination to picture how greater efforts could be made, or put into hands more capable of turning them to the best advantage than those entrusted to lord Wellington for the defence of the peninsula. But, what was the consequence of all this? we were told that the danger of Spain was not increased; that her difficulties only inspired her to more connected efforts; we were led to believe by the Speech which was put into the mouth of the Prince Regent, that the cause was still prosperous after the French had obtained repeated successes, and were in military possession of Spain. This language was held forward when we knew that the cause had suffered, that Valencia was not likely to struggle long, that Saguntum was taken, that Badajos had fallen, and that the attempt on Ciudad Rodrigo had been abortive; when we saw that what was called the possession of Portugal by lord Wellington had ended in a retreat, that after having pursued Massena to the frontier, he was now obliged to fall back, and to confess that he had not numbers sufficient to justify the hazard of a battle. Under such circumstances was this language used, and under such circumstances he felt himself called upon to resist it. For his part, he did not see what hope could be entertained. The more he allowed the merits of the cause; the more he allowed the zeal of the invaded; the more he allowed that the whole heart of England went along with them in their resistance; the more he allowed the abilities of lord Wellington and the valour and discipline of British soldiers; the more was be inclined to despond, to despair of success, on looking to the result of all these favourable combinations. When he was called upon to say that he would give his support to this war, not only to the extent, but even beyond the extent to which it had heretofore been given, and that without inquiry or expla- 54 nation, he must hesitate and refuse. If, indeed, they were to pledge themselves to the maintenance of the present system, there were circumstances which should accompany the request in order to justify the pledge. He should like, for instance, to have stated to the House the opinions of those who were most qualified to decide upon the subject; he should be glad to know what lord Wellington himself thought as to the final issue of the contest: perhaps under the sanction of such an authority he might agree; but without that, without any thing, without even a sanguine tone in the Speech of the Prince Regent, he could not reconcile himself to such a vote.—He would also be glad to know what was the situation of Spain with respect to her colonies; he knew that through all the continent of America they were in a state of insurrection against the mother country. He was aware that our government had sent out persons to mediate between them, but he wished to know whether that mediation was accepted by the government of Cadiz, whether it had began to act, and what progress it had made? He should also be glad to know, as he was on the subject of our foreign relations, what had become of certain diplomatic persons—why Mr. Liston and Sir Robert Wilson were now in London? For what reason they had not proceeded to their destinations? and whether there was any hope that the objects of their appointment would be accomplished or attempted,—There was another question to which be would wish to have an answer. He desired to be informed upon the state of our army—our whole army on the peninsula; whether it was in a flourishing condition? whether the ranks were full? whether they would be kept up? and whether they were capable of making an effort?—Upon all these points he required information, and he thought the House should deliberate on them cautiously before they committed themselves to the full extent required by the Address.—There was another topic on which he could not agree, because it held out a delusion to the Prince Regent, by applying the expression conciliatory measures to our past negociations with America. He could not speak of the same conciliatory measures which were before adopted, when he did not believe that conciliatory measures were adopted before. He had stated in the course of last session; his opinion of the neglect with which the American minister was treated by a mi- 55 nister of this country, the marquis Wellesley. He had moved for papers calculated to throw a light upon that subject, but the minister and the House had refused them. Instead of a spirit of conciliation, the measures of our ministers towards America appeared to him to have been conceived in the spirit of commercial subjugation. When those measures were first proposed, they were denounced by many, as calculated to plunge us into a war, but no change was made in the system after four years experience of its mischiefs. On the contrary, resort was had to the basest subterfuge, and, up to this moment, it was pertinaciously persisted in, when America was about to put herself in a situation to ally with France and oppose our obstinacy by a war. If a minister at the head of the foreign department had observed a contumelious silence; if, when demands were complied with, no answer was returned; if, when a fact was stated, a flat denial was given to that fact; if a minister was sent out to make demands which America would not concede to, could he call that the spirit of conciliation? If so, a spirit of conciliation had certainly governed our councils! America had published the papers that had passed between Mr. Foster and Mr. Monroe. Did they disclose such a spirit? The fact was, that we had acted in a spirit, and upon principles, which any government that adopted must reckon upon never being at peace. It was said that the Berlin and Milan Decrees were not repealed, but America was satisfied that they were. (Hear, hear! from the ministerial benches). She, he would repeat, was satisfied that they were; but she, it seems, must borrow wisdom from the minister of Great Britain; she must call in the assistance of that minister who had brought such blessings on his own country, and such disaster upon its enemies; of that minister who had endeavoured to withhold bark from the French hospitals, and who had made a desart of the Exchange: she must borrow wisdom from him! Such was the confidence which ministers had in the system they had pursued with respect to that country, that he had no doubt, if a motion was this moment made for papers, they would be refused. It was certainly a matter of congratulation that the difference about the Chesapeake was adjusted; if that was the only difference, the circumstance had been happy indeed; but when he saw that, on the remaining subjects, 56 nothing less than war could be anticipated, he must withhold the compliment required to the past conduct of the government.—There was also in the Address a great want of an explicit declaration as to what was intended towards the East India company. It was impossible for him to conclude without noticing an observation which had fallen from the noble lord (lord Jocelyn) on the former night; he should at all times feel himself bound to notice, in order to express his abhorrence of such maxims. He understood the noble lord to have stated, that it was impossible to make peace with France in consequence of the personal character of her emperor. He (Mr. W.) did not recollect, in all the details of history, one instance in which the private character of the ruler was advanced as a reason for denying peace to the people of a country; he saw no reason for not making peace with him in whose hands the destinies of France were placed at present, any more than with the Bourbons when they presided: and the contrary opinion was always to be discountenanced, as it must lead to eternal war; or rather to a war which could only end in the extinction of either power. It might, he thought, be foreseen, which must fall, in a contest of that description, when it was considered that the greatness of one nation was artificial, while the greatness of the other, such as it was, was natural; but things need not come to that pass; they would not; and, as the present ruler of the destinies of France was likely to live long upon the earth, we must negociate with him whenever an opportunity presented itself. He should now conclude with saying, in answer to the declaration of the noble lord, that Buonaparté had been baffled in his maritime speculations, would to God that France had ships, and commerce, and colonies, for then we should have peace; but until then, the probabilities were against it.
§ Mr. Whitbread
said, he thought He had heard such an expression fall from him but as the noble lord must have recollected what he said better than he could, he was satisfied that he was mistaken in the opinion.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said he confessed that the concluding sentence of the hon. gentleman's speech had furnished him with a clue to his objections against 57 the system pursued by his majesty's government, for if, indeed, he was anxious that Buonaparté should have ships; if, indeed, he was anxious that he should have colonies and commerce, it could hardly be expected that he should approve of the system upon which his majesty's government had acted, or of those endeavours which were intended and calculated to deprive him of all. But as he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would rather follow the hon. gentleman's speech through the series of topics it contained with as much regularity as possible, he should leave the conclusion for the present, and commence with noticing the conceptions of the hon. gent. with regard to the affairs of Spain and Portugal, and the characters of hopelessness and desperation in which he had described the war. And here he would wish to bring back to the recollection of the House the state in which the war stood at the beginning of the last session: he would wish to bring back to their recollection the opinions and fears and prophecies of the hon. gent. and to entreat them to contrast the prospect he then drew with the reality of the present scene; they would find, on such a comparison, that his fears were unfounded, that his expectations were falsified, that his prophecies were erroneous; and yet the hon. gent, was prepared upon the same grounds of apprehension, namely, the boasts of Buonaparé, to repeat his prophecies—Destroy the web of prophecy in vain,The creature's at his dirty work again.(A laugh.) After such failures, one would rather have thought the hon. gent. would have hesitated in his course, and not have continued to hold, that every thing the enemy vaunted he would do, must be accomplished, or that it was impracticable to put any stop to the career of "this spoilt child of fortune." At the period alluded to, as at the present, the hon. gent. had only re-echoed the language held by the enemy; but there was no saying that they might not again be disappointed. At the commencement of last session, we were to be driven into the sea, and were not to have a foot of ground in Portugal; but, instead of these boasts being accomplished, or the gloomy apprehensions of the hon. gent. realized, we had not only rescued Portugal from the enemy, but maintained her in security against his utmost efforts. Since this had been achieved, indeed, a new light had been discovered, and it was found that it would not have been the right 58 coarse for the French to drive us into the sea, but that they should first conquer Spain, and leave us to be swallowed up at the last after we had beep permitted to waste our strength! Would any man believe this? Would any man believe, that if it had been in the power of the enemy, they would not have driven us from Portugal? Those who held the opinion, that Buonaparté was irresistible, and that it was in vain to oppose his designs, wondered that he did not at once crush this army, which not only acted in every point to the frustration of his design, but remained in opposition to him on the peninsula, to his disappointment, to his vexation, and to his confusion. Would he, if he could have prevented it, even by directing against it solely and entirely the whole of his force, have suffered this? No man could think it. He would have left every thing else to accomplish our expulsion; but his power was not equal to his desire: and the country he ruled, could not furnish him with the means necessary to effect his most anxious purpose. But though this was his opinion, he would not, therefore, with that presumption with which he charged the enemy, say, that though heretofore baffled and defeated, he might not at some future period accomplish that object, in attempting which he had been so severely foiled; but he thought it might fairly be argued from a retrospective view, that we might continue to maintain ourselves in the peninsula, not only to defeat his plans of ambition, but as a standing contrast to the basest villany ever exhibited in the world. (Shouts of hear, hear!) Yes, he maintained, that on all of these points there never was a more striking contrast than that which appeared in the conduct of the French and British Government upon the peninsula; and if the man who caused it had any view to character or ambition, it must be his most earnest care and business, by every method and invention, to keep it not only from the eye of the peninsula but of the world. Under these circumstances, he could by no means agree with the hon. gent. in his view of the subject. On the contrary, when they saw that Buonaparté had not gained, but lost Portugal since the beginning of the last session, they had reason to look forward cheerfully and sanguinely, and to indulge in the hope he had often expressed, and which he saw no reason to depart from, that the enemy had touched the point of his ambition, and would here find for it a 59 grave. But the hon. gent. opposite held other opinions. He deemed Buonaparté invincible; and that all his apparent disasters were only the result of design to conquer Spain, and reserve the British as it were for a bonne bouche. He imagined that Valencia must immediately fall. It might be so, but it had resisted a victorious army for a month since the battle of Murviedro. But even should that city be taken, was the consequence that which the hon. gent. had represented—namely, the military possession of the country? For his part, he might not be able to form an idea so correctly of the term, as those better skilled in military tactics; but that did not appear to him to be military possession of a country, where no convoy could proceed without a numerous escort, a little army to protect it. But it was not the mere conquest of towns that subdued a country; if after Tarragona was sacked—if after the patriots met defeat at Murviedro, the enemy found behind him a greater and more formidable force than that which opposed his progress, it could never be said that he had obtained military possession of the land. On the contrary, such an appearance warranted the language of the Speech, that the spirit of the people remained unsubdued, and that the increase of difficulty and danger had produced more connected efforts of general resistance. It was a remarkable fact, and what most pre-eminently claimed for the Spaniards engaged in resisting the slavery attempted to be imposed on them, the applause of the existing race of men, and the admiration of all posterity, not the manner in which they resisted attack, but that in which they survived defeat. It was this that afforded a source of hope of benefit increasing, and a happy result at last; for it was evident, that with all the successes of the armies of France, no impression had been made on the spirit of the people to resist Buonaparté, and the forces employed to carry his ambitious usurpation into effect. He was therefore bold to assert, that the state of affairs had materially improved since the beginning of last session, when the hon. gent. took a singularly gloomy view of futurity, and that there were at this moment fainter hopes for France, and greater hopes for Spain, than there were last year at this time.—After disposing of his prophecies with respect to the peninsula, the hon. gent. had gone on to put a string of questions. He had asked them, what they 60 had been able to do with all the force they had put in motion?—If they had done nothing more, they had shewn him that he was utterly mistaken in all his apprehensions of defeat and danger, as they had prevented all the mischief and evil results he anticipated. If, indeed, he would only take the trouble of putting himself into the same situation he was in last year, he would be able, at once, to see how much they had accomplished. The hon. gent. also wished to know what was lord Wellington's opinion on the subject of the war. If he had only considered for a moment, he would have been aware of the impossibility of indulging him in this respect, as, whether favourable or otherwise, there was no practicable way of laying the matter before the House. In truth, it would not only be the most impolitic, but the most unjust thing that could be done, to develope the opinions and views of a commander upon a war in which they were engaged; whether anticipating a successful result, or one of a contrary description.—Another of the hon. gentleman's inquiries regarded the situation of Spain and her colonies. On this point, all he could say was, that though the situation was not what could be wished, and there was too much of irritation on both sides, yet ministers had the consolation of knowing that they had endeavoured most ardently to instil a spirit of conciliation, and were employed in an attempt by mediation to bring the mother country and the South American provinces to unite in amity in support of the common cause.—With respect to the diplomatic appointments of Sir Robert Wilson and Mr. Liston, a full explanation would lead too much into detail; and he would therefore, on the present occasion, content himself with stating, that circumstances had arisen which rendered it advisable to postpone for a time missions which were originally expected to be productive of considerable effects.—The next question of the hon. gentleman was about the military force employed in the peninsula, and bit wished to be informed by what expedient ministers were prepared to replace the waste which he supposed to have taken place. On this point, he had the pleasure and satisfaction to inform the hon. gentleman, that our army in Spain was at this moment 10,000 men stronger than it was last year; and thus the waste, which had not been so great as the hon. gentleman and others imagined, had already been 61 fully supplied.—Another question referred to the state of our relations with America; but he hoped the House would be so indulgent as not to ascribe the indisposition of his Majesty's government to enter into particulars at the present moment, to an inability to make their cause good, and to justify all their actions. It never would be the duty of any government, even for the purpose of vindicating its own conduct, to state the conduct which they experienced. Nothing could be more calculated to widen and inflame those differences which it should be their object to allay. This was not the period for putting the government on its trial for discussing the conduct of England to America and that of France. If the hon. gentleman was, indeed, of opinion, that America adopted nothing but a fair neutrality between France and England, he would leave him in possession of that opinion, rather than endeavour to correct it by any improper disclosure. He would allow that a war with America would be an evil to Great Britain; but he also knew, that such a war would be a greater evil to America. As an evil to America, he was anxious to avert it; he looked upon America as accessary to the prosperity and welfare of Great Britain, and would be sorry to see her impoverished, crushed, or destroyed. (A laugh from the Opposition side.) He did not mean to say that America would be annihilated? but with regard to commerce, and all the advantages to be derived from it, he was confident, she might be deprived of them. A war with America would not be advantageous to England, but it would be ruinous to America. For his own part, he looked at the prosperity of America as accessary to that of this country. He should not wish to see America impoverished, much less reduced in power, or subdued. Sure he was, that no one could construe those truly conciliatory dispositions of England into fear; but, he was of opinion, that England, conscious of her own dignity, could bear more from America for peace's sake, than from any other power on earth. He might be wrong in the view he had taken of the subject, but it was fair to allow, by a parity of supposition, that the hon. gentleman might be wrong also.—As to the revocation of the Berlin and Milan Decrees, on which the hon. gentleman had laid such a stress, few people would go to the length of believing that they were actually revoked, solely on the ground 62 that it was so asserted by America. The hon. gentleman had said, that he would challenge ministers to produce a single instance of those Decrees having been enforced against America. Since their revocation, in his opinion, instances of that kind were most numerous; but without entering into details, he considered the very document which promised the revocation of those Decrees, as a re-enactment of them, and as a confirmation of the principles on which they were attempted to be established. For his own part, he never had believed that those Decrees had been revoked; he had never seen any official document to that effect, and if such had really existed, surely America would not have failed to produce it, considering that the whole of the negociation hung on that single point: in fact, no proof existed of those Decrees having been ever revoked. A promise indeed had been held out, that they would be revoked, as far as concerned America, by a given time, provided this country should, in the mean time, revoke her Orders in Council, and renounce her system of blockade. The other alternative proposed was, that America should assert and maintain the independence of her flag. How, then, could those Decrees be considered as revoked, when none of those requisite conditions had been fulfilled? Was England, in order to obtain that revocation, to abandon her system of blockading, in their ports, the fleets of the enemy? He did not mean that artificial blockade existing only on paper, but that real and substantial blockade, solemnly acknowledged by the laws of nations; system, on which the safety of this country and her maritime rights so essentially depended; a system, which had so effectually prevented the enemy from obtaining his favourite objects, "ships, colonies, and commerce." The right hon. gentleman would then examine how far America had been able to execute the other alternative left to her, namely, to assert and maintain the independence of her flag. As to what that independence was, there had been many versions, but one had been lately received from Hamburgh, by which an American vessel was said to be 'denationalized' if she had touched at a British port, had been visited by an English man of war, or even kept company with her. How was America, the right hon. gentleman would ask, to assert and maintain the independence of her flag so defined; and, in case 63 of her not complying with the necessary condition, how could the obnoxious Decrees be considered as revoked? Were America even able in that instance to comply with the wishes of France, was it likely England would consent to it, as it would, in fact, be giving up the right of searching merchant vessels for English seamen and contraband goods? The right hon. gentleman concluded that part of his speech by expressing a hope, that nothing had fallen from him which could be construed as militating against the conciliatory measures which it was the most sincere wish of ministers to follow towards America.—As to India, which had formed another topic of the hon. gentleman's speech, the case was simply this: the charter of the East India Company was very near expiring; vast acquisitions of territory had been obtained in that part of the world; and, under the existing circumstances, it had been thought advisable to take the sense of Parliament on any new system which might be adopted, to secure to this country the utmost advantage from the resources of our Eastern empire. This was a subject for future consideration, and any details on that head would have been ill placed in the Speech.—As to the abhorrence expressed by the hon. gentleman at the doctrine supposed to be held out by his noble friend (lord Jocelyn), that the personal character of a ruler might be a sufficient ground to refuse entering into negotiation with him, he was glad to find that his noble friend had disclaimed it, as he certainly did for his own part; but surely his noble friend, or any other gentleman, might, in the course of debate, allude to particularities in the character of such a ruler, which rendered peace with him rather improbable. The right hon. gentleman said he had meant merely to answer what had fallen from the last speaker, and having, as he trusted, refuted all the objections he had made, be would now sit down with the hopes that the House would not be prevented by the gloomy picture drawn by the hon. gentleman, from concurring in the Address to his royal highness the Prince Regent.
§ Mr. Whitbread
. I do not rise, Sir, to explain, but to demand of the right hon. gentleman to explain, whether he meant any personal allusion. in some words that fell from him that appeared to me to be of no very delicate description.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
. I could 64 have meant none. The lines are Pope's—the metaphor is that of a spider spinning a new web after one has been destroyed. I thought it applicable to the pertinacious manner in which the hon. gentleman appeared to me to have been reviving his prophecies over again; but I do assure him, that I would not have so applied it could I have imagined that he would have so construed it; and that were I even indifferent to his disapprobation, which I am not, I could not be so indifferent to my own, as to descend to the grossness of any such personal allusion.
§ Mr. Whitbread
. I am perfectly satisfied with the explanation given by the right hon. gent.; and I am sure that had the same words been so applied to him, he would have felt it necessary to call for an explanation.
§ General Tarleton
could not conceive in what respect our affairs in the peninsula had in the smallest degree been improved. If we viewed the efforts of our armies, in what had they succeeded? What attempt had lord Wellington made in which he had not been baffled? He made the most vigorous efforts to capture Badajos; had he succeeded? No; on the contrary, in addition to the immense loss of British soldiers, even 25,000 Spaniards had been destroyed, or had fallen into the hands of the French. But as Badajos was a place of the most vital importance to the occupiers of Portugal, these losses were not deemed too much to obtain possession of it; the battle of Albuera could have no-other object than its capture. Though victorious in the field, were we successful in our plan? No, certainly not: for immediately we find lord Wellington re-pass the Guadiana. As to Ciudad Rodrigo, the gallant general could not imagine we had been more successful: although lord Wellington's force consisted of 11 regiments of cavalry, 52 battalions of British infantry, besides 3 or 4,000 Germans, and numerous levies of Portuguese and Spaniards, yet life had failed in two attempts; the French force only three divisions, opposed to him, were inferior in numbers, yet he could not pre? vent their collecting supplies, advancing (though encumbered by 1,500 waggons) and throwing succour into the place. Could this be any addition to our military fame? Could these discomfitures entwine laurels round the brow of the British army? Lord Wellington was obliged to fly, to desert the level country, and to take refuge in ravines and mountains, which 65 sheltered him from the successful foe; and when all these circumstances had taken place since the last session of parliament, how could it be said our affairs were in a more prosperous state now than then? When he considered the differences subsisting between Spain and her colonies, in South America, and as it was well known that money (which she drew in great abundance from those colonies) was the source of power, the sinews of war, when he heard the Cortes declaring that their armies were in want of every thing, arms, ammunition, and accoutrements, could we hope, or could we expect, a favourable issue to the present contest? The so much boasted Guerilla system, he considered as the most expeditious plan for rendering a nation savage, vindictive, and cruel, and turning its soldiers into freebooters. Was it the part of a generous ally, when we had advanced twelve millions for her aid, and marshalled 40,000 of our men for her defence, to bring only 9,000 men into the field, for this was the number of Portuguese joined with the British. This did not seem to be the conduct of men engaged in a contest for every thing which rendered this life valuable. From the documents which we had received from lord Wellington, we could not draw the consolatory hope that their future exertions would compensate for their former dereliction of duty; in them we found even officers accused of deserting, and that the hospitals at Coimbra were filled with feigned invalids, while we were impoverishing our country, exporting our bullion, and circulating a base coin,—(some of which the hon. general himself had inadvertently taken; he meant the Bristol and Bath tokens, which were afterwards refused to be taken from him on the road to town, and this at a time when we paid 20,000l. a year for a mint)—while the peninsula had been draining us of our real money, and we had been lavishing the blood of our brave soldiers in her cause, these our illustrious allies had either deserted their colours, or loitered their hours ingloriously in an hospital.—When he turned his eyes towards the north of Europe, he saw no hopes of assistance arising in that quarter; he beheld Prussia reduced to the lowest state of national degradation, find observed, without any astonishment, an edict issue from the emperor of Austria, commanding a free and uninterrupted passage to the troops of his august cousin through any 66 part of his dominions: from these observations, it was impossible we could expect the resuscitation of any alliance inimical to the interest of the French emperor. These were times of difficulty and danger; we beheld 100,000 men raised by out powerful enemy; these men were not destined for Spain; no, but for the destruction of England, stripped of its natural defenders, burdened by excessive taxes, and dispirited at seeing fleets take out as fine battalions as the world produced, and one ship bringing home their wretched remains. Here the hon. general pathetically mentioned the death of general Colman, late serjeant-at-arms of the House. The cause which he supported, and which he would continue to support, was the cause of truth, and in which he found himself aided by the testimony of our best historians, Hume and Robertson, who always reprobated continental wars as injurious to the real interest of Great Britain. That celebrated statesman, the late Mr. Fox, had wished for the pencil of Cervantes, to depict in their true colours the alliances against the French Republic. How much the more would he desire it now, were he alive, to represent the futile contest in which we were engaged against a nation much more powerful than it was at that time, and whose resources were at the disposal of a ruler, in whom, from experience, it confided; and who, at the same time, knew that he enjoyed this confidence; for what but a knowledge of the good wishes of the French nation could have induced. Buonaparté to be absent from his capital for more than seven months. The hon. general concluded by lamenting that we had engaged in a war which had cost us 60,000 men, and in which we bad expended so many millions of money.
observed, that it had hitherto been usual, whenever the country was called on to make additional sacrifices, for the House to be told in the Speech from the throne, that the trade and commerce of the nation were on the in crease, and that the revenue was improving. Now, however, they had been told nothing of this, and it was known that the revenue of the country had experienced a rapid decline. The House ought, therefore, to be in possession of all the facts on this subject before they proceeded to pledge themselves to a continuance of the continental war; and it was his intention to submit a motion to that purport. 67 —He believed that the taxes of last year had experienced a diminution of no less a sum than 3½ millions, notwithstanding additional taxes had been imposed; and that those taxes which composed what went by the name of the Consolidated Fund, had also experienced a decrease of 1½ millions, making in all a diminution of 5 millions. Ought not the House, therefore, to be put in possession of these circumstances, before they gave a pledge to carry on the present system of warfare? Ought they not to be told how this deficiency was proposed to be Supplied? Was it to be by an imposition of new taxes? If this was intended, why were they not told so? Were they to be taxed anew, when the present taxes were not realized? The deficiency was reasonably a subject of great alarm. He would instance the case of the stockholder, who was secured on the consolidated fund. The funds for his payment were less during the last year by 1½ millions than in 1810. Suppose, then, that this fund should be found inadequate to pay the stockholder, what was to be done? If this fund was inadequate to pay the charge upon it, was the deficiency to be paid from the Sinking Fund? All these subjects must certainly come before parliament; and he intended to move, before he sat down, that the Address should be postponed to that day week, in order that the returns of taxes for the year 1811, and of the produce of the Consolidated Fund and charges should be laid on the table, when they would know what state the revenue of the country was actually in, before they guaranteed the prosecution of the war in the peninsula. If successful in this motion, he should next move for returns of the Consolidated Fund, and of the Annual and War Taxes, &c. This was certainly the only antient parliamentary practice; it was the practice of the best times of our history, of the reigns of king William and queen Anne; during which periods, when communications were made to parliament, it was usual either to return he answer, or to take six, seven, or eight days before giving it. It was the more necessary that the House should be instructed what the revenue was before pledging themselves, because it was impossible not to see, from what appeared in those newspapers under the direction of government, that there was an evident intention on the part of government to mislead the country with respect to the amount of the taxes. The amount for the 68 existing quarter was compared with the quarter corresponding ending in 1810, and that in 1809, and art advance was then stated to have taken plaice, whereas, if the revenue of the whole year had been compared with that of the preceding year, the diminution would be found to amount to what he had already stated. As to what had been said in the Speech respecting the affairs of the East India Company, he hoped that the subject would receive mature consideration, and that when it was brought forward, gentlemen would be ready to decide upon this question, whether, if we were at peace to morrow, all the world should be at liberty to trade freely with India except England herself? The hon. gent. concluded with moving that the word "now" be left out of the motion before the House, for the purpose of inserting" this day "se'nnight."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he had the satisfaction to state, that the hon. gent. had taken a very black and a very unfounded view of the revenue of the country; for though it was true that the revenue of the present year was not equal to that of the last year, it was much greater than that of any former year; and it was certainly wonderful that, with all the pressures on our commerce and manufactures, the revenue should still exceed what it had been on any year previous to the last. The diminution of trade during the three first quarters of the year had naturally produced a diminution of the customs; but it would be seen from the last quarter, that a stop had been put to the continuance of that diminution. What was of still greater consequence, however, was, that the Excise exceeded during the last year, the year ending in January 1811; for the excise was truly the great source of our revenue, being four times as great as the customs. The total revenue was indeed two millions short of the revenue of the preceding year; but then it was to be considered, that that year was the greatest which had ever been known, and was more than two millions beyond that of the former, year. The Excise, too, was riot what it would otherwise have been on account of the large distillation from sugar during the summer months, which operated against the new duty on spirits. But under all the circumstances, the excise was greater than that of the preceding year; and the revenue, though not the greatest, was next to the greatest ever known.
§ Mr. Vyse
rose for the purpose of correcting a misstatement which had been made by an hon. general as to what had fallen from him in seconding the Address on the precedinge evening. He had merely stated, that though Spain was not absolutely so secure as Portugal, still she must be considered as absolutely unconquerable.
§ Mr. Whitbread
observed, that, although the right hon. gent. had argued with. considerable address on the subject of the revenue, still he had not forced conviction on his mind. He had stated, that the revenue of the past year, though not perhaps so great as had been known, was considerably larger than that collected in the. receding year. Now, if the revenue was subject to such fluctuations, while the expences of the country were daily and certainly augmenting, he must be a bad financier, who, viewing such uncertainty of supply on the one hand, and such certainty of expence on the other, did not look about for some mode by which he might lessen the expenditure, so as to bring it on a level with those resources on which he could depend. The right hon. gent. had spoken of the Excise as being very productive; but to him (Mr. W.) the customs appeared to be of more importance. Now, it was an incontrovertible fact, that the Customs had very much decreased, which was a fair criterion of the general state of the trade and commerce of the country. Then the question was, if the customs were falling, would not the Excise also sink? Most assuredly it must; for, by the trade which supported the Customs, individuals were enabled to pay the Excise. Did the right hon. gent. believe that the expences of the country were likely to be kept within any definite bounds? Did he not think, on the contrary, that the expenditure would progressively increase? And, if he continued the finance minister, would he not be obliged to increase the burdens of the country in proportion? And here he would repeat what be had before said, that, beyond a certain point, no power could force the resources of a country; and, he would ask, was it not better to examine deliberately, and look to measures which they were confident could be pursued, than blindly to pledge themselves to that which, probably they would be unable to perform? The observations of his hon. friend appeared to him to be perfectly just; sand the postponement of the Address, which he thought a very proper; measure, met with his warmest approbation.
said, that not with standing the thinness of the House, he could not allow himself to give a silent vote upon the present occasion. He certainly dissented most completely from the sentiments contained in the Address, believing, as he did, that the circumstances of the times called for language from the House very different from that of adulation. When the Address of last year was moved, he had thought fit to express his conviction that it was then the duty of the House to speak out their sentiments, and apprise the Prince Regent of the awful circumstances under which he assumed the government; that during the preceding reign a great part of the empire had been for ever lost, and the safety of the remaining parts endangered, and that he could neither with honour to himself or safety to the country, adopt the plans which had been already pursued with such ruinous effects. Every thing which had taken place since, that period served to confirm him in the opinion that such was the language with which. they ought to approach the Prince Regent, and he therefore wished to enter his decided protest on this occasion against the principles and proceedings of the present ministers. With respect to the proposed Address, it stated little, and that little incorrectly, and it kept back and concealed that which was most important. It was not true that our armies had effectually defended Portugal. He certainly did not wish to reflect on the conduct of the general to whom the command of the army in Portugal was entrusted, nor on the conduct of the troops; for he believed that every thing had been done by them which it was possible for them to do under the circumstances in which they had been placed. But he would ask, whether they really meant to state to the country and to Europe that the English army had effectually secured the defence of Portugal? That army was allowed to remain in Portugal, not because it could not be driven from it, but because it had never yet been the policy or interest of the emperor of the French to carry on the attack in that quarter. The right hon. gent. opposite had said, that he had afforded ah addition of 10,000 men to the forces in the peninsula during the last year; but could any man believe that this supply was in any wise effectual for the successful prosecution of the war? Such exertions as had hitherto been made were certainly most inadequate for the de- 71 fence of Portugal, and we must soon be under the necessity of withdrawing our forces from that country, if the commander was not furnished with better means of defence. It was a fact, which it was impossible to conceal or disguise, that the enemy had hitherto attempted nothing in which he had not completely succeeded. He would again repeat, that he had not the smallest wish to reflect oh the conduct of lord Wellington or his troops. With regard to Spain, it was certainly most undeniably true, notwithstanding all that had that night been urged on the subject by the right hon. gent: that the enemy were in reality in the military possession of Spain. Was it becoming then in the House to state in their Address to the Regent, that the affairs of Spain wore a better aspect than they did in the former year, or to tell him that the situation of Spain was In any way improved by our defence of Portugal? The situation of Spain was, indeed, now in a very different situation from what it had been in the former year. Since that time fortresses and armies bad been lost; and though many opportunities occurred when assistance on our part could have been given at various points where it would have been effectual, no such assistance was ever given, and the opportunities were uniformly allowed to pass by unimproved. But, what were the opinions of the Spaniards themselves, who certainly were the best judges of the assistance derived by them from the British arms? They had told us that the defence of Portugal was not the defence of Spain; and that that was the Spanish feeling on the subject, was evident from every thing that had come to our knowledge.—With regard to America, he rejoiced to see that at last there was some prospect opening of an accommodation with that country. Still however the question recurred—had ministers done every thing to conciliate that country; or had they not rather done every thing which it was possible for them to do, to provoke and exasperate the Americans? And with regard to that subject, it was certainly most becoming for the House to express the feelings which such a system of misconduct ought to excite, to the Prince Regent.—He would now proceed to consider what had been said with respect to the state and condition of Ireland; and after what had been done to provoke and exasperate the people of Ireland, he conceived that he should be disgraced in the opinion of every thinking man, con- 72 nected as he Was with that country, if he did not express his strong disapprobation of that part of the Address. After the measures which had been adopted, calculated only to disaffect and alienate the affections of the Irish people, it was indeed rather astonishing that any such word as satisfaction should be employed in reference to the situation of Ireland. By these measures, however, they had sufficiently proved that the Irish were united against them. They had hitherto been most disgracefully managed by their own disunion and disagreement; but the policy of ministers had at length shewn to Britain, that Irishmen of every description were united in holding it in detestation. So far, therefore, were they from having succeeded in their plans respecting Ireland, that there was not one part of Ireland, he believed, which had not expressed its strong disapprobation, and that was not beginning to perceive that a union of all could alone protect them from the grasp of an insatiable enemy, from the oppression and tyranny of false and wicked ministers.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
explained, that he had been misapprehended in the expression he had employed, that the British army in Portugal was stronger at this time by 10,000 men than it was at the same period last year. He did not intend to be understood, that reinforcements to the extent of 10,000 men, had been sent out, but that on a calculation of the whole force, the augmentation was to that amount.
§ The question was then put on Mr. Creevey's motion, and negatived. The Report was brought up and agreed to.