§ Mr. Hart Davis
rose for the purpose of moving an address of thanks to the Prince Regent, for the treaty of peace with the United States of America. He trusted the. House would do him the justice to believe, that it was with great diffidence he rose on the present occasion, when so many other gentlemen were so much better qualified for the task; but he should content himself with briefly stating the considerations which satisfied his mind that the treaty deserved the thanks and congratulation of the House. There were few men in this country, he believed, who did not agree that the war, as declared by America, was unprovoked on our part; and it was to him equally manifest that it was now brought to a close not inconsistent with our honour or our interests. That man must have singular views of the policy of Great Britain, who thought that it ought to have been continued by us for the purpose of territorial aggrandisement, from vindictive feelings, or from a wish to extend the triumphs of our arms in another hemisphere. Besides, it could not fail to be considered, that however unprovoked, it was a war carried on with a people of the same origin, the same language, and the same manners with ourselves,—a war, therefore, which must be naturally entered upon with reluctance, and terminated with satisfaction. Neither could it be overlooked, that the interests of America were closely connected with our own. She was essentially a great agricultural country, and could advantageously supply us with her raw produce, while she took our manufactures in return. The more she was driven from pursuing her natural policy, by war or a system of blockade, however necessary these might have been, in the same proportion was she forced to become a great maritime and manufacturing country. Peace with America, then, was the natural policy of this country; and indeed the 501 sole object of the war on our part was simply to resist aggression, and support our maritime rights. America had avowed as her objects in going to war, the conquest of Canada, the enforcement of the principle, that free ships make free goods, and the right of naturalizing our seamen,—principles which could not be surrendered, and on the maintenance of which depended our existence as a great nation. Accordingly they had not been surrendered; Canada had been gloriously defended even by a small body of troops, and peace had been made in the spirit of peace. A wide field was again opened for the commerce and manufactures of this country,—a circumstance peculiarly gratifying to him as the representative of a large commercial city, and which became still more important from the new aspect of affairs in Europe. The war, if lamentable in other respects, had at least taught both nations to appreciate their own strength, and the mischief they could do each other. America had shown that she was most formidable on her own territory; while, on the other hand, she must have felt, from the destruction of her trade, and the harassing of her coasts, the extent of the calamity which war with this country was capable of inflicting. He hoped that this would operate as a lesson to both countries; and that the peace would be followed up by a treaty of commerce mutually advantageous. We had retained in our hands the Newfoundland fisheries, and the trade with India, and a participation in them might be conceded for an adequate return of commercial advantages. The hon. gentleman concluded with moving, "That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, to return to his Royal Highness the most humble Thanks of this House, for having been graciously pleased to lay before us a copy of the Treaty of Peace and Amity concluded and ratified between his Majesty and the United States of America: To assure his Royal Highness that, having fully considered the same, we reflect, with the utmost gratitude and satisfaction, on the fresh proof that has been afforded, by the conclusion of this important arrangement, of his Royal Highness's anxious regard for the welfare of his Majesty's people; an arrangement which, we trust, will establish a perfect reconciliation and permanent friendship between the two countries, united by so many ties of common origin and reciprocal interests."
rose and said: I can assure you, Sir, that no man in this House rejoices more sincerely than I do, at the termination of the contest with America: but, in my opinion, it would be a disgrace to this House, to present the Address moved by the hon. member, as it now stands, to his royal highness the Prince Regent; because I think it is the duty of this House to inform his Royal Highness, of what I conceive to have been the gross misconduct, and entire mismanagement, of ministers, in the progress of the negociations, and in the execution of the Treaty, with the United States of America. The first thing that must strike every man who has read this Treaty is, that there is no one subject whatever, that existed in dispute between the two countries, before its signature, that does not, in fact, still exist; and that all the pretensions that were advanced by his Majesty's ministers, in the course of the negociations which ended in this Treaty, were, one by one, abandoned by them. I hope the hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Goulburn), as I judge by his manner that he denies this statement, will prove that it is erroneous. I shall be very happy to find that he can do so on good authority. As the noble lord (Castlereagh) refused, on the motion of an hon. friend of mine (Mr. Whitbread) to lay before the House, the papers connected with the negociation, I can have no recourse to documents, except those which the American Government has, by its own authority, and on the responsibility of its own character, published to the world.* I here speak of those papers which were laid before Congress by the American President, and which were received by Congress on his responsibility. Another thing to be remarked, in considering this Treaty, is, the time of its conclusion. It was not signed till the 24th of December last; and I think it will puzzle any gentleman who looks to it, to find out what it contains that could have occasioned a delay till that period. The Treaty of Fontainbleau was signed on the 11th of April—this day twelvemonth; the Act of Accession by the noble lord, was signed on the same day, and the notification of the execution of that Treaty was stated, in a dispatch from, the noble lord to earl Bathurst, on the 13th* For Copies of the Papers relative to the Negociations at Ghent, published by the American Government, see Vol. 29, p. 368.503 of the same month, two days after the conclusion of the Treaty of Fontainbleau. The Convention with France was signed on the 27th of April, and the final Treaty was signed at Paris, on the 30th of May. Now, surely, it is necessary for the House to know, what obstacles opposed themselves to the conclusion of a Definitive Treaty with America, immediately after the entering into a Treaty with France. The Treaty of Paris had established not only peace with France, but with all Europe; and it would appear, that no time was so favourable for this country to enter into negotiations with America as that very period. At no time could a proposition of a pacific nature have had so good an effect, as it respected the American government, the American people, and the general system of politics in Europe. This Government was then in a situation to have continued the contest with America, if it pleased, on the most extensive scale. And the more elevated it stood in the estimation of the world—the more powerful and imposing was the attitude of the country—the more was it incumbent on his Majesty's ministers to set on foot a Treaty of Peace, and thus to nave demonstrated the generosity and magnanimity of that people, who, while they had ample means of prosecuting war, influenced solely by a spirit of moderation, had preferred peace.
The peace of Paris was concluded on the 30th of May, and the first conference between the British, and American commissioners at Ghent, took place on the 8th of August. A mediation had been before proposed—and (speaking on the same sort of authority which, I have already observed, I am compel fed to do, since the noble lord will not allow me any farther information) that mediation was declined—a mere negociation between the ministers of the two countries was considered preferable. At this first conference, on the 8th of August, if I am rightly informed by the papers laid before the American Congress, the terms on which alone Great Britain would make peace with America, were substantially proposed. The most remarkable of these terms were—a pacification with, (as they were called) the Indian Allies of Great Britain, and a settlement of their boundaries—military possession of the lakes of Canada, and of certain islands said to belong to us, but occupied by the Americans since the Treaty of 1783; to this was added, a de- 504 sire of settling a new boundary for the American and British territories, between the Mississippi and the American lakes. But those points which appeared to be principally pressed by ministers were, the pacification of the Indians—the defining of the boundaries of their territories—the military occupation of the lakes of Canada—and the cession of those islands which the Americans had occupied since 1783. The papers from which I argue state, that the American commissioners were informed by those of Great Britain, that the concession of these points was the sine quâ non, without which peace would not be concluded.
The other terms, although to a certain degree insisted on, were not of so much importance; but no hope was held out that peace could be restored between the two countries, unless the propositions respecting the pacification with the Indians—the definition of their boundaries—and the military possession of the lakes—were agreed to. These terms the American commissioners peremptorily refused. With regard to some of them, they had no instructions from their Government. They stated, that they were not authorized to cede any island, part of the territory of the United States of America—and that they would not take upon themselves to do it. They did not feel themselves justified in joining in any instrument that might be supposed to look to an alienation of any part of the American territory. Under these circumstances, the negociations at Ghent continued for two days longer, and were, then suspended, while the American commissioners sent to their Government for instructions on the subject of the terms that had been offered. When the representations of the American commissioners, accompanied by the documents which had been interchanged in the course of the negociations, came to the hands of the Government of the United States, they unanimously refused the terms stated to have been offered by this country. The American President laid the papers before Congress; and, according to the forms of the constitution of that country, they were published to the American people. On the information thus given to the world—and on this alone—am I now enabled to state to the House the course which appears to have been taken.
The President took the advice of Congress on the subject; and it does appear, not only that the American legislature, 505 but that the whole American people, were unanimous in refusing what was proposed by his Majesty's ministers; for it does not appear, that, even in those states which were least inclined to war—even in those states which were most unwilling to support the measures of the American Government—that the smallest disposition was manifested to agree to a Treaty founded on the terms proposed by his Majesty's ministers. And, Sir, it is somewhat remarkable, looking to the actual state of America at that time—marking those parts where an indisposition to war, as might be seen from their proceedings, appeared most strongly to prevail—it is, I say, remarkable, that his Majesty's ministers demanded one of the principal cessions of territory, in the state of Massachusetts—that very state, which was attached, less than any other, to the government of Mr. Madison—that very state which, above any other, had expressed opinions decidedly unfavourable to the war.—[Hear, hear!] Yes, Sir, the greatest cession of territory was asked from that state, which, I should have thought, above every other, it was the duty of this country and of ministers, to conciliate. They ought to have well considered, whether it was discreet or wise to make demands of such a nature, as must inevitably alienate its affections from this country—as must destroy the strong disposition which existed for cultivating the friendship of England—which, in fact, must place the people in that situation, in which they must either give up the honour of their country, or abandon those predilections in favour of Great Britain, which they had long cherished.
Sir, in debates on subjects of this sort formerly, and I have witnessed many of them in this House, I do not recollect a single instance, in which the Address to the Crown was moved by a gentleman not in any official or responsible situation. [Lord Castlereagh, across the table—'Yes, the Address on the Peace of Paris.'] The noble lord says, the Address on the Peace of Paris was thus moved. I hope he will not blame me, if I do not give much weight to his precedent. I am surprised that the Address should be moved by a gentleman not in any responsible or official situation—who, of course, cannot be accurately acquainted with the details of the subject—and cannot be able to give the House any of that authentic information which we have a right to expect, before we are called upon to come to a 506 vote, and to express our opinion, on matters of the utmost moment. The noble lord has not stated why he has not himself moved the Address. But I think, after he had denied all papers connected with the Treaty, it would have been more respectful to the House, and more satisfactory to the country, if he had stood forward himself to propose the Address, and had, in the course of his statement, given us some of that information, for which there is so much necessity.
Sir, after various movements in the negociation, on the 8th of October in the last year, his Majesty's commissioners drew up an article, which they proposed for the acceptance of the American plenipotentiaries. This article referred merely to the simple pacification with the Indians, in consequence of the cessation of hostilities about to take place between Great Britain and America. Not a syllable about a definition of territory—not a syllable about a boundary line was mentioned. Whoever reads the correspondence, will see that the American commissioners always resisted this demand of a boundary line for the Indians, on these grounds: that, in fact, the Indians had no territory, as sovereigns of the country—that the United States were the sovereigns of the soil—and that they gave the Indians leave to reside there, for specific purposes. They had the liberty of hunting—they had the liberty of fishing—they had, in fact, little more than the liberty of existing on those territories. A property in the soil, farther than this, was utterly denied; and the commissioners refused, therefore, to agree to any article which went to form a new boundary line between the Indians and the subjects of the United States. They were ready, however, they stated, and so was their government, when peace was concluded with the United States, to extend that peace to the Indian allies of Great Britain; but they should be placed exactly in the same situation as that in which they stood when the war broke out; no new privilege should be extended to them in consequence of the hostilities between Great Britain and America.
The commissioners also stated, when the Treaty was almost concluded with this country, that the American Government had entered into negociations for peace with the Indians themselves, and that they probably were, at that time, brought to a favourable conclusion. The 507 article drawn up on the 8th of August, was, after these statements had been made, agreed to on the 13th. The American commissioners expressed their acceptance of it, provided their government did not disapprove of it. They made no objection to it—the parts which they had before opposed, having been given up by his Majesty's ministers. By this article, the Indians were to be placed in a state of pacification, precisely as they were before the war—nothing else was stipulated for, and therefore the American commissioners agreed to it. They did not, however, completely conclude on this point, until the approbation of their government was notified to them. The American government did not hesitate to give their approval; and that article, thus drawn up by our commissioners, and approved by the other side, is the very article relating to the Indians, which now stands in the Treaty itself. There seems to me to be no difference in substance. I know not what the hon. member opposite (Mr. Goulburn) may say, as to the authenticity of the papers from which I draw my information. I only know that they were published in America; and there really seems to me to be no difference between the article drawn up on the 8th of August and agreed to on the 13th, and that which we now find in the Treaty.
The second demand was the military occupation of the Lakes. On this subject the British commissioners stated, that the occupation of the lakes in common, each power being allowed to navigate them with such vessels as they thought fit, and to erect such forts as they pleased, would give rise to disputes and disagreements, which might probably occasion frequent war. And then, to remedy this evil, it was proposed that Great Britain should be allowed to build whatever forts she liked, and might navigate, in any species of vessels she pleased; but that America should have no liberty to raise forts, even on her own side of the Lakes, where her right was certain, plain, and undisputed—and that she should also be debarred from navigating ships of war on them. These conditions were promptly and peremptorily refused by the American commissioners—and the Treaty is quite silent on this subject. It leaves the state of things, with reference to this point, exactly as it was before the war. Now, Sir, I ask, is it true that the English commissioners made these demands of the American commis- 508 sioners? Does the hon. gentleman opposite mean to deny that such a demand was made? If he should rise this evening, will he say that his proposition was not made—and that it was not immediately refused by the American commissioners? We know that the Treaty is altogether silent on this subject—we know that both parties are left in possession of the rights they before enjoyed—but, will the hon. gentleman deny, that, for the purpose of securing a safe passage from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to Quebec, the demand I have alluded to was made? Will he declare it is not fact that such a demand was made to the American commissioners—resisted by iliem—and refused by their government; and that, inconsequence of this opposition, the parties stand precisely as they were before? If what I advance be fact, Sir, and the hon. gentleman may disprove it if he can, then I say, that ministers have entirely deviated from the course which they first proposed. The definite boundary for the Indians, the alteration to be made with respect to the relations between them and the American government, the military occupation of the lakes by England, the prevention of a military occupation by America, and the portion of territory to be given up in the state of Massachusetts; all these points I say, are abandoned. If they are not, I hope the hon. gentleman will point out to me my error on this subject, and that he will show something in this Treaty to prove that we have gained every advantage contemplated. If, Sir, he cannot do this, I trust he will make it appear that the British commissioners did not ask for the concessions stated in the papers to which I have alluded. Above all, I hope he will show to the House, that one of the demands I have mentioned was not made as a sine quânon, without a compliance with which, it was declared, that no peace would be made with America, although it was afterwards abandoned.
With respect to the possession of the Bay of Passamaquoddy and Moose Island, his Majesty's ministers replied to the representations made by the American negociators on this point, that it was not even a subject of discussion. "The property of that island," said they, "is a matter we cannot discuss. It is our own. It as much the property of the British Crown as Northamptonshire itself." This expression is to be found in the correspondence. Such a reply was evidently 509 given for this reason—because it would be a sort of waver of the right to this property, if discussion were permitted to take place relative to it. Now, Sir, in the Treaty which has been concluded, we find that the property in Moose Island, and the other islands in Passamaquoddy Bay, is to be decided hereafter according to the Treaty of 1783; and that the possession, by England, is not to deprive America of her right under that Treaty—nor, on the other hand, is the possession, by America, to destroy the right belonging to England; but each, according to the terms of the Treaty of 1783, are to have their respective rights secured to them; and, instead of this not being a matter that admitted of discussion, commissioners are to be appointed to examine into the claims of each country. The settlement of the boundary lines between the territories of the United States and those of Great Britain, as laid down in the Treaty of 1783, is to be left to the decision of some friendly European Power. Now, Sir, if we read the article of the Treaty of 1783, which calls for this settlement, I think there is no man in this House, however skilful, however acquainted with diplomatic subtleties, who will declare, that he ever saw a point of so much difficulty given to any Foreign Power whatever, for the purpose of having it clearly expounded and decided. It is really curious to read the article which is thus to be submitted to an independent foreign Sovereign, that it may be placed in a clear and proper point of view, so that no future disputes may arise. [Mr. Ponsonby here read the article in the Treaty of 1783, describing the boundaries of British North America, and the United States, the almost inconceivable perplexity of which occasioned much laughter.*]
These, Sir, continued Mr. Ponsonby, are the points which a foreign power is to be called on to determine. I believe, with the assistance of Mr. Arrowsmith to draw his maps, and aided by the ablest geographers in the world, there is not an independent sovereign in Europe who would not find it extremely hard to describe to us the course of a line "drawn due north down along the middle of Connecticut river to the 45th degree of north latitude; from thence by a line due west on said latitude until it strikes the river* For the Treaty, see New Parl. History, vol. 23, p. 1182.510 Iroquois,"—(a laugh)—this being one of the boundary lines specified in the Treaty of 1783. I am sure no independent European sovereign can be found who could follow this extraordinary line, and I doubt whether any man in the world would be able to strike it accurately: certain I am, he ought not to be sought for in Europe, but in America. The Emperor of Austria, or the King of Prussia, would, I believe, find it the most difficult problem they ever were requested to solve, if they were called upon to draw this famous line. The subject is, indeed, rather ludicrous than important. It would have been better if two commissioners had been appointed on each side, with the power of nominating an umpire; or a greater number of persons might have been appointed to settle the dispute, a majority of whom might have been empowered to decide. But to call an independent sovereign of Europe to settle so complicated a point is, I think, most ridiculous.
The Treaty, on all the subjects of dispute that existed before the war, is perfectly silent. No mention is made of what is called our right of impressment—no mention is made of our right of blockade—no mention is made of the principle of those measures which gave rise to the war; the Orders in Council. I do not blame the framers of the Treaty for these omissions: because, situated as Europe was when the Treaty was concluded, I think it was much better to make peace between England and America, than to prevent that peace, by discussing points which had lost much of their interest—no man being then competent to say, when the same degree of interest was likely to be attached to them. Be this as it may, the Treaty is signed, and the pretensions on both sides remain just as they were. The signature took place on the 24th of December. The Treaty of Paris was signed on the 30th of May—and I have found it quite impossible to assign any substantial reason for the long delay that took place between the conclusion of the Treaty of Paris and that of Ghent. It surely was desirable that a Treaty with America should have been concluded, the moment this country was freed from European war. At that time peace should have been offered to America. We should then, have appeared, in the eyes of America and of Europe, as acting with true generosity, as displaying real magnanimity. Such a proceeding would have disarmed the hos- 511 tile feelings of those who were most unfavourable to us. Such an exhibition of temper and moderation would not only have been useful at the time, but would have been serviceable in all succeeding ages. Why that glorious opportunity was lost—why the Treaty with America was delayed so long after peace was restored to Europe, I am at a loss to discover. That mystery remains to be explained by some gentleman on the other side of the House.
But, Sir, what consequences have resulted from this delay? What a useless waste of treasure—what an unfortunate and ever-to-be-lamented waste of the best blood of the country—of the most distinguished officers—of the bravest, the most heroic troops! All sacrificed, as I conceive, through the negligence or indolence of his Majesty's ministers! all sacrificed by their not concluding a treaty of peace with America, the moment the Treaty with France was signed; and by delaying that Treaty still farther in disputing points with America which they afterwards thought fit to abandon! Would these points, even if carried, have balanced the misery which has followed the delay occasioned in discussing them? In my opinion, Sir, they would not. The hon. mover of the Address has spoken of the great advantage which must be derived from the cultivation of a friendly intercourse between the two countries. No man feels the truth of this fact more than I do. But has the hon. gentleman contemplated the consequences of the delay which has taken place, with reference to the renewal of that intercourse? The war for the taxation of America, hastened by a century her separation from this country; and I will venture, to say, that the war for the Orders in Council, the attempt to govern the commerce of America, has hastened the progress of that country towards being a great manufacturing and a great naval power, by at least a century. A war of this description, big with important consequences like these, ought to have been terminated as soon as the honour and interest of the country would have permitted. It was a war, of all others, that should have been prevented, if possible. I have heard a number of thoughtless people say, "O! let America go to war with us—of what consequence is her power, when compared with that of Great Britain?" I look upon such a feeling as this to be most mistaken. I declare there 512 is no European power whatever, not even excepting France, a war with which I should think so ruinous to the permanent interests of this country. Those inconsiderate persons, from the consequences of the war with America, have probably found out their error. They now, I imagine, perceive, that she is not that contemptible power they were weak enough to think she was. Descended from the same ancestors, fired with the same spirit of independence, actuated by the same sense of honour as we are, a war with this people ought to be avoided above any other. I am sorry to say, Sir, that the history of mankind shows too frequently, that to make one nation treat another not only with liberality, but with justice, a certain degree of fear should enter into their mutual regard; and I am afraid, that the history of our species will prove, that no great country has, for any long period, treated its less powerful neighbour with respect, unless that respect has been produced by successful resistance. But, where a strong sense of superiority is felt on the one side, and decided and unresisting weakness is seen on the other, instead of receiving protection, the weaker state is almost sure to be oppressed. I trust in God, another war may never arise between these two countries, to teach them the respect which they owe to each other. There are no two countries in the world whose interests are more blended together—and there are no two countries where it is more easy for those who govern in them to observe the relations of peace and amity towards each other. It is not very easy, in governments constituted as our are, to induce a quarrel between the two countries, if the true state of affairs be known to the people of each. Nothing but deception—nothing but misunderstanding—can produce such an effect. Both Governments depend, in a great degree, on the support of popular opinion. That of America depends on it altogether; and, I thank God, the Government of this country is very much influenced by the same principle. If, therefore, the people are not led astray, and if the two Governments look to their true interests, it will be a difficult thing to encourage a war between nations so nearly assimilated. Many persons affect to look on America with great jealousy as a growing and powerful rival: for my own part, Sir, far from looking at America as a mere rival, I never turn my eyes towards that great continent, without 513 feeling in my mind emotions of a much nobler description. For such a country as England to have been the parent of such a country as America—to have raised that which was once a wilderness to its present state of cultivation—to have established wealth and prosperity over an immense empire—to have given to the people that free system of government, which we alone possess amidstsurroundingnations—to see all this—to consider America as the child of England, growing up and flourishing under her fostering hand—this, Sir, is a situation of more true glory and of more real happiness, than any other nation on the face of the earth can boast of. [Hear, hear!] England has been made great herself by her own liberty. That liberty never was threatened by free states. Whenever it was menaced, it was by powers differently constituted. It is her duty, therefore, to set up as the patroness of freedom, throughout the world. The nations ought to be taught to look to her for all the blessings which mankind may derive from independence—they ought to receive from her example those benefits which no other power can confer. With these sentiments, Sir, not thinking the Address moved by the hon. member such as ought to be presented to the Throne, I shall propose the following amendment:
"To assure his Royal Highness that we contemplate with great satisfaction the restoration of a state of peace and amity between his Majesty and the United States of North America; but we should deem ourselves highly deficient in the discharge of our duty towards his Majesty and his people, were we not to express to his Royal Highness our deepest regret, that a measure so necessary to the welfare and prosperity of his Majesty's dominions was not sooner accomplished: That in reviewing the terms of the Treaty which his Royal Highness has been graciously pleased to lay before us, we are at a loss to discover what were the causes which so long retarded its conclusion: That, in our opinion, the honour of his Majesty's crown, and the interests of his people, both required that so soon as the peace of Europe had been established by the Treaty signed at Paris on the 30th of May, in the last year, the speediest and most effectual measures should have been adopted for the negociation of a Treaty of peace with the United States of North America: That the complete and entire cessation of hostilities in Europe had removed or suspended 514 the operation of the causes which had occasioned or accompanied the late war between his Majesty and the United States: That the elevated and commanding station which the United Kingdom then held amongst the nations of the world, would have rendered the manifestation of a sincere wish for the restoration of the blessings of peace with the United States, highly honourable to his Majesty's counsels; and would have afforded the Government and people of America the most unequivocal proofs of the generosity and magnanimity of the British nation; of a sincere desire to bury in lasting oblivion the recollection of that hostility which then unhappily subsisted, and of its anxious wishes for the re-establishment of peace upon terms honourable and advantageous to both countries, and likely to insure its own permanency by the justice and liberality of its conditions: That we are the more deeply afflicted by the long and (as we deem it) unnecessary delay in the conclusion of peace, when we reflect upon the great and irreparable injury his Majesty and his people have sustained, by the unnecessary and unprofitable waste of treasure, by the loss of so many distinguished and heroic officers, and of such numbers of brave, loyal, and experienced troops; and we most deeply lament, that these calamities should be aggravated by the mortifying reflection that the fame of the British arms may appear to be diminished by the failure of the latest military enterprizes of the war: That it affords us, however, consolation to find, that peace is at length re-established; and to assure his Royal Highness, that it is the earnest wish and desire of this House, to cultivate and maintain the most cordial and intimate union with the Government and people of the United States: That we rely upon his Royal Highness's wisdom and goodness to cherish and preserve the most friendly relations between them and his Majesty's subjects; and we confidently trust, that a corresponding disposition in the Government and the people of the United States will enable his Royal Highness to continue unimpaired and undisturbed the harmony now so happily restored between them and that the two freest nations in the world may exhibit to mankind the grateful spectacle of mutual confidence, and lasting peace."
The right hon. gentleman then said: It is with regret, Sir, that I make one more observation on this subject. It is hard to 515 forget the loss of those officers and troops, caused by the delay which look place in concluding the Treaty with America: it is hard enough to lament their fate, when we consider what is due to their high character: but it is still more hard to be obliged to lament their fall, at this moment, when perhaps England may stand more in need of the assistance of such officers and such troops, than she ever did before. Yet this loss has she sustained by the negligence or blameable indolence of his Majesty's ministers."
The Address and the Amendment having been read by the Speaker,
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, he could not remain silent after the animadversions which had been made by the right hon. gentleman upon the conduct of those who were parties to the Treaty. The line of argument, however, which the right hon. gentleman adopted, fortunately afforded him a full opportunity of refuting the misrepresentations which had been made, and of showing, he hoped satisfactorily, that no want of attention to the true interests of this country could be fairly substantiated against those to whom the arrangement of this Treaty had been confided by Government. With respect to the origin of the war, he greatly differed from the right hon. gentleman. So far from thinking that the Orders in Council had created it, he was of an opinion diametrically opposite; and he would also beg leave to recall to the right hon. gentleman's recollection, his (Mr. Ponsonby's) former observation, that from the moment when the Orders in Council were repealed, America had no longer any cause of complaint. She, however, thought otherwise—she declared war for principles that were not concealed; these were—what she termed the forcible seizure of her mariners; certain points relating to his Majesty's right of allegiance over his subjects; and certain principles relative to the right of blockade. Those points formed the real grounds of the war, and were wholly distinct from the Orders in Council. The pretensions with which America set out were those of resisting the rights of his Majesty over his own native subjects—rights acknowledged and sanctioned by public law. These, the right hon. gentleman said, were not stated in the Treaty; certainly not: it would have been abandoning them, to have them so recorded, or to admit their being called into discussion in a convention with any other power. 516 Had this mode been adopted, at a future time the precedent would be adduced for their subversion; it was, therefore, in his opinion, far better that they should have received no insertion whatever.
He now came to the second point of the right hon. gentleman's speech, namely, the delay which had occurred before the negociations were entered upon, and also the delay in the progress of the Treaty: but before he entered into this point, he begged to admit the authenticity of the papers which had been alluded to, and which had received publicity through, the American Government; some errors were attached to them, but they were substantially correct. He was glad that these papers had been referred to, as he could equally resort to them, in the course of his arguments. With respect to the negociations having been delayed until after the treaty with the Allies, he would only observe, that the earlier it commenced, so much the better; but the procrastination was quite unavoidable on the part of this country. The facts were these: the American commissioners were instructed to make no peace without our first relinquishing the right of impressment—without our admission that the American flag covered all who sailed under it. If these points were conceded, they were authorized to sign a peace with Great Britain, but not otherwise. Upon this branch of the subject, the President of the United States had not then altered his determination; it continued precisely the same when we entered into a direct negociation, as it did when the mediation of Russia existed. Those points formed the sine quâ non. In one of his dispatches the President declared, that this practice of impressment must cease, or America was no longer an independent state. Referring to dates, it would be found that the 25th of June was the first day when the American commissioners were authorized to allow those matters to remain over undecided, and to sign a Treaty exclusive of their consideration. It was on this day that the first conference w-as held at Ghent. What use could there be of holding it sooner? It would have been useless to canvass terms which were wholly inadmissible, and therefore the Treaty could not have been matured at an earlier period. The right hon. gentleman had said that the British plenipotentiaries shifted their ground, and altered the tone of their stipulations; in proof of this he alleged 517 two propositions as those which had been departed from—one was, that the Indians should be included in our pacification, and the other a line of boundary. Here Mr. Goulburn entered into an explanation of those propositions, and referred to the Treaty to show that they had not been overlooked. Stipulations for both those conditions were to be found in that document; not, indeed, in the one case of a boundary of that ludicrous character which the right hon. gentleman had described, but one recognised in 1811, and which America had now re-established. Whatever objections might have been urged against the Treaty or its conductors, he never could have anticipated that England would have been taunted with the crime of contending for the friendless and unprotected Indians, with whom she was in alliance; and he would plead guilty to the charge of having stipulated for them in the conditions of the peace. It had been said, that they had no right to make alliances with the Indians; but he trusted there would be but one opinion, that, when made, they should not be departed from. The American plenipotentiaries promised, that when our business was disposed of, the Indians should receive the conditions which were urged on their behalf; but however high the reliance which was due to those gentlemen, the country would not have been justified in allowing the matter to rest upon this footing.
In the progress of the negotiations, it was true, some points were abandoned—interests concerning this country were relinquished for the sake of contending for the Indians in alliance. The Canadian line was laid aside for the purpose of securing an indemnity for the Indiana, and a recognition of their territorial boundary, as it stood in 1810, a year or two before hostilities were commenced between them and the Americans. Those wretched persons were erroneously described as savages unentitled to our protection; but they were not of this description. Some of their nations were far advanced in civilization, and they were as sensible as any other people of the boon of independence, and as justly entitled to a fulfilment of all engagements contracted with them. The right hon. gentleman had said, that the delay in the negociation arose from the pretensions of the British commissioners. If the right hon. gentleman was in possession of the facts, he would soon 518 find reason to alter his opinion. He merely drew his arguments from the American statement, sent forth by that Government for a hostile purpose, at a moment when peace was unlikely to be attained, with the sole view of fanning the spirit of war throughout that continent. At this moment it was not the interest of the British Government, for the sake of petty triumph, to publish more ample details, which would show the subject in another light, and elucidate the matter by unfolding the mutual concessions of the parties then negociating. The appointment of commissioners for the adjustment of the islands in the Bay of Passamaquoddy had been described as ludicrous, from a garbled extract which had been made by the right hon. gentleman. The question was, whether these islands had ever, at any time, been within the jurisdiction of Nova Scotia, or the United States? This inquiry involved no deep diplomatic talents, which rendered its settlement essential in the first instance, neither did the issue depend upon any close geographical disquisition; it was only a duty which arose out of an examination of written and oral evidence, which any man of plain sense was capable of discharging—the public interest, therefore, sustained no injury by its having been thus consigned. The loss of lives which was consequent upon the prolongation of the contest was certainly a matter of melancholy regret; but it was one for which the commissioners were not responsible, as they were bound to proceed with caution and circumspection in their view of the interests of the country. For these reasons he could not concur in the amendment.
, in explanation of his former opinion, repeated that the war originally arose out of the Orders in Council, and the subsequent circumstances did not alter this fact.
condemned the mismanagement which marked the whole of the negociations on the part of this country. He said, that no answers appeared to have been given to notes from the American commissioners till instructions were received from hence; so that the blame or merit of the Treaty rested with ministers. We sent out a noble admiral of much experience, and conversant with the Admiralty business; a learned Civilian from Doctors-Commons, as a judge of the law of nations, and acquainted with 519 all necessary technicalities; and the hon. gentleman who spoke last, as more immediately connected with the Government. No mission had a character and composition more likely to make a proper settlement; but at last out came the most meagre Treaty ever framed by the most timid diplomatist, and one that could not have been imagined after all this great preparation. There were points he should give up as unwillingly as any body; yet he did not see why they might not be discussed, in order to find out whether such delicate subjects might not be reconciled to the interests of both parties, rather than be left with the apprehension of their revival in all future wars. The Americans seemed willing to enter into the question relating to the impressment of our seamen; but the British commissioners refused to listen to this proposition, and allowed the matter to remain on a footing decidedly worse than any other in which it could have been placed. The case was simply this:—two countries which had been separated, as if by a civil convulsion, were so placed that they could hardly distinguish each other's subjects. One of these happens to be involved in hostilities with the other, and is exposed to maritime impressment; the difficulty is, how can the mistake of the subjects of each be provided against? One says it cannot; the other replies, let us try if some arrangement can be made to protect us from the chance of having our subjects hurried by impressment into oppressive servitude. This matter was entitled to particular consideration, from the abuses to which it was liable. A point of such delicacy as the identity of subjects so nearly allied, was left as it now stood, to the discretion of young officers habituated to control, unaccustomed to any restraint, and from whose decision there was no appeal. The point was decidedly one of great difficulty; and for this reason it should be carefully examined into, instead of being left wholly unprovided for. For his part, he was quite convinced of the practicability of an arrangement: for instance, America might consent, for the protection of her own seamen, not to hide or receive those of this country. Such an arrangement would be reasonable and satisfactory. From motives of policy, Great Britain should seek this adjustment, seeing that, as things now stood, from one fourth to one third of the American crews were 520 British subjects. It was extraordinary that the plenipotentiaries should have separated without having concluded so important a branch of their respective interests; it was a proof of the most unaccountable indolence to see such an opportunity overlooked of deciding this momentous point. By no regulation that could be entered into would Great Britain lose the same number of men as she did by the present system. With reference to the origin of the war, although his own opinion decidedly was that it arose out of the Orders in Council, yet having been continued when these were repealed, he was free to admit, that it was prolonged by America beyond the period of its legitimate provocation. As to the instructions to the American commissioners, the hon. gentleman could not know them at the outset of the negociation. On the question of the Indian boundary, the hon. gentleman had not spoken with candour. He had treated the Indians as what he called the Allies of Great Britain. Upon that subject he (Mr. Baring) agreed, that the savage state of those people was no reason why they should be abandoned; but gentlemen must not suppose that they were people in the heart of America with whom we should have contracted any alliance. In the peace of 1783, the European Powers drew the line with reference to the Indians: in the time of lord Chatham, the strongest resistance was made against France, who wished to make some stipulations with respect to those within the Indian boundaries. He agreed that this country ought not to put an end to the war, and leave those Indians to the mercy of the American Government; but that a solemn pacification should be made for them, and that they should be left where they were before the war, was all that could be required from us. In the early part of the discussion the Americans resisted any interference with the Indians. They asked whether a pacification and a boundary for the Indians was made a sine quâ non; and the answer was in the affirmative. The question was then asked, whether the boundary was intended to preclude the Americans from purchasing lands without the consent of Great Britain, and whether the Indians would be restricted from selling them. The answer was, that they might not purchase, but that the Indians would not be restrained from selling to a third person. 521 The Americans said that peace with the Indians was so obvious as to require no comment. With regard to the extent of the Indian boundary, he would maintain, that, objectionable as that point must be to any country, it would not only not be to the advantage, but to the detriment of Great Britain, even if we could have enforced it. It would have been the most absurd policy that could be adopted. This Indian territory would have taken up more than one half of the United States, and this was to be put under savage tribes. Any one who knew what sort of a neighbour an Indian was, must be aware of the danger of setting up hordes of savages, who would rob and murder without the least restraint. The effect on America of establishing the independence of the Indians, would be this: instead of spreading out her people in agriculture, it would force her to become a manufacturing, and a great naval power. Even, therefore, if we could have our will, and could establish those savages in independence, it would be the worst thing for this country that could be devised. As to the lakes, he should say but little, as it was evident that this country forced the Americans to have an establishment on them. All that the Treaty provided for was, that we should be at peace, and that all decisions should be referred to a friendly Power. The whole of it was a mark of great neglect on the part of his Majesty's ministers, who left the negociators at Ghent in the greatest indecision. Looking at the delay of the Treaty, it was impossible not to be aware of the injury of not making peace with America when the Treaty of Paris was signed. If peace had been concluded at that time, the country would have had to boast that we had fought a defensive war with America in the most honourable manner; that with the most trifling force we had shown ourselves capable of defending our colonies against all the power of America; and that we had left an impression on that country which for half a century would not have been worn out. The Government, however, had thought otherwise; they thought that that was a moment for making an impression on America: they made that trial, and were foiled both in the north and in the south. Gentlemen might say it was not fair to argue from accidental circumstances, and what had been the result of the campaign; but none could say there was any chance of 522 making an impression on that country, either in the north or in the south. He should like to hear the hon. gentleman defend the policy of penetrating into America. He should like to ask him, what could be the object of the expedition to New Orleans? Supposing we had taken that city, what benefits would this country have derived? We should have plundered some warehouses of cotton, to our great and eternal disgrace. One half of that article was purchased by persons in this country on speculation: but the object of the expedition was plunder, and nothing else; for if we had taken possession of New Orleans, the very first warm day the men must have walked out, if they had any legs to walk on. It was a spot on which the Americans themselves lost two or three thousand men; and if ten thousand had been sent on that expedition, we could not have had 500 capable of performing their duty. It was his opinion, that the northern states of America would be the first formidable enemy we should have to meet at sea; and he only hoped, as peace had been concluded, that a little more attention would be paid by Government to the concerns of the two countries, and that means would be adopted to preserve friendship between them. From the circumstance of both countries having colonies, and the great commercial relations that subsisted between them, it was necessary that a treaty should be made to define those relations more distinctly, for, without it, it was impossible that peace could be maintained.
§ Mr. Marryatt
contended, that the concessions of Great Britain had failed to conciliate America, who, however, in the treaty of 1787, allowed France to reclaim her subjects, so that she stood condemned out of her own mouth. With regard to what the hon. gentleman had said concerning the Indians, it was incumbent on Great Britain to make some stipulation on the part of those who had bled in her service. That unhappy race had been treated by the Americans with the greatest cruelty: they were shot at with no more hesitation than if they were deer or hares, and their territories were constantly seized by their encroaching neighbours; but in this Treaty they had found a legitimate protector, such as they had never known before. The great object of peace, as Mr. Maddison had observed, was to prevent a recurrence of war and ministers had 523 done all they could in making peace with America, as soon as they could so do consistently with the honour of this country. The object of America was, to prevent Great Britain from reclaiming the allegiance of her own subjects; but in this America had completely failed, and Great Britain had been successful.
Mr. Charles Grant
jun. said, that the subject under the discussion of the House was strictly the Treaty, and the subject grafted on that was the conduct of his Majesty's ministers during the negociation. It had been observed, that several points remaining unsettled, the Treaty was not complete; but in spite of what he had heard, he really thought that an adjustment would be made. He would not enter into the subject of the origin of the war; but he reminded the House that Mr. Maddison had said, that if the repeal of the Orders in Council had been known, it would not have prevented war. The fact was, that there existed a hostile spirit in the American Government towards this country. The right hon. mover of the amendment had said, how advantageous it would have been, if, on the 30th of May we could have concluded peace; but it could not then be done, for the American President still insisted on the flag of the United States protecting all seamen under it, and no peace could be established while such a principle, subversive of all our national rights, was demanded. With respect to the character of this country, which it had been argued was lowered by her late military attempts, he contended that the Treaty itself, so favourable to her interests, showed the respect in which Great Britain was held by the inhabitants of the United States. The hon. gentleman observed, that no Treaty was perhaps ever known to have been concluded upon the terms originally proposed. Those terms generally underwent some modification. It was notorious, indeed, that a negociation with France was some time since broken off by this country, because the negociators on the part of that Government demanded an ultimatum at the outset. The delay which took place after the meeting of the commissioners was chiefly occasioned by the article relating to the Indians. Delay was not our object: we had nothing so mean or unworthy in view as to protract. He begged to express his regret, that the negociations had been laid before the world: it was a measure that was likely to renew all those irritations 524 and animosities which had existed between the two countries. He had heard it said, that the American Government was required to do this; but when Mr. Jay addressed Gen. Washington for an account of his negociations, he replied, that he conceived it unconstitutional, and that the precedent would be dangerous in the extreme. Mr. Grant contended, that this Government was bound in honour, policy, and justice, to give its protection to the Indians, whom they had drawn into the contest against the Americans; and he thought it a high honour to this Government that they had secured to the Indians the possession of those rights and privileges which, in his opinion, had been so shamefully sacrificed and given up in the treaties of 1763 and 1783.
§ Sir James Mackintosh
said, that he rose after his hon. relation, partly to express the pride as well as pleasure with which he had listened to his arguments, though he was obliged to controvert their justice. He would begin by avowing, however unfashionable such principles had now become, his partiality to America, because she was not only bound to us by the ties of common origin, but by the closer fellowship of civil and religious liberty. The spirit of liberty had given us an American empire: the spirit of domination had robbed us of it. Peace with America he considered as one of the greatest of national advantages; for of all separate objects of our foreign policy, he thought friendship with America was the second. The strength and security of Holland he allowed to be the first. He had at all times equally lamented and reprobated those vulgar prejudices, and that insolent language against the people of America, which had been of late so prevalent in this country, and which had reached so extravagant a height, that men, respectable in character as well as station, had spoken in this House of the deposition of Mr. Maddison as a justifiable object of war, and had treated a gentleman of English extraction and education with a scurrility which they must now be the first to regret, for no better reason than that we happened to be at war with the great republic over which he presides. He did not, therefore, object so much to the Treaty as to the Address. He objected to it because the Treaty was not concluded sooner, because the delay was unfavourable to its conditions, and above all, because the negociations were not conducted 525 in the spirit most likely to render the peace permanent. The question before the House was twofold:—Whether any unnecessary delay had occurred in the negociation; and whether that delay was culpably imputable to his Majesty's ministers?
He should venture to assume, that the negociation would have been better conducted if it had been commenced in April or May, and closed in July, than as it was from August to December. Every thing during the first period was favourable to Great Britain. That Government in France which America might consider as the check on British power, had just been overthrown. The Allies were closely united; they were in possession of the French territory. The renown of their success subdued and overawed the minds of all men. It was the moment for England to prove her sincerity in disclaiming views of American aggrandizement. The cause of war was removed. Peace was in substance, if not in form, made with France. No maritime war existed. All questions respecting the right of impressment, or any other right of a maritime belligerent, were become matters of pure speculation. The subject in dispute was vanished. Cadit questio. "Shall we continue at war for a theoretical principle of public law?" was the language openly held by the American negociators on their arrival in London in April. To go still further back, he could not discover why ministers had rejected the mediation of Russia. A mediator is a common friend, who counsels both parties with a weight proportioned to their belief in his integrity, and their respect for his power. But he is not an arbitrator to whose decision they submit their differences, and whose award is binding on them. Russia, at the moment of the proposal, was the most hearty ally of England. No two states were ever joined by stronger bands of common interest. Russia had, by the Convention of 1801, renounced the principles of the Armed Neutrality. She had, indeed, renewed them when she fell under the influence of Napoleon. But as soon as she was emancipated from that yoke, she must have disclaimed all the doctrines that she was then forced to profess. She must have supported our general maritime rights; and it would have required extraordinary disinterestedness for her, at that moment, to have been even impartial respecting the single right in dispute be- 526 tween America (from whom she had nothing to hope or to fear), and England, her most effective and indispensable ally. Ages might elapse before such an opportunity of pledging Russia in favour of our maritime rights would again occur. But at least, why was not the Congress opened in April? Will it be said, that the American ministers had not then received instructions adapted to the success of the Allies, and the new state of Europe? But enough must have been known in America in January to dispose that Government to terminate a war which had no longer any object, in which they could no longer hope for aid or diversion, and in which their enemy was the ally of all Europe. The battle of Leipzic, the passage of the Rhine, the occupation of a third of France, the Conqueror of Europe reduced to a doubtful and perilous defence of his capital, were surely motives enough for putting an end to a contest about the laws of naval war, at a moment when all war was about to close. And how could the English ministers then know the instructions given by the American Government? It is perfectly ridiculous to urge these instructions now, and to say, as his hon. friend (Mr. Grant) had in substance said, that the ministers had prophecied truly by chance, and were right, though they did not know it. Men cannot be justified by instructions, of which they did not know the existence at the moment of action. It was impossible to explain this delay from the Convention with Monsieur in April, or the Treaty of Paris in May, unless on the miserable policy of protracting war for the sake of striking a blow against America. The disgrace of the naval war, of balanced success between the British navy and the new-born marine of America, was to be redeemed by protracted warfare, and by pouring our victorious armies upon the American continent. That opportunity, fatally for us, arose. If the Congress had opened in June, it was impossible that we should have sent out orders for the attack on Washington. We should have been saved from that success, which he considered as a thousand times more disgraceful and disastrous than the worst defeat. This success he charged on the delay of the negociation. It was a success which made our naval power hateful and alarming to alt Europe. It was a success which gave the hearts of the American people to every enemy who might rise against Eng- 527 land. It was an enterprise which most exasperated a people, and least weakened a government of any recorded in the annals of war.
For every justifiable purpose of present warfare it was almost impotent. To every wise object of prospective policy it was hostile. It was an attack, not against the strength or the resources of a state, but against the national honour and public affections of a people. After 25 years of the fiercest warfare, in which every great capital of the European continent had been spared, he had almost said, respected by enemies, it was reserved for England to violate all that decent courtesy towards the seats of national dignity, which, in the midst of enmity, manifests the respect of nations for each other, by an expedition deliberately and principally directed against palaces of government, halls of legislation, tribunals of justice, repositories of the muniments of property, and of the records of history—objects among civilized nations exempted from the ravages of war, and secured, as far as possible, even from its accidental operation, because they contribute nothing to the means of hostility, but are consecrated to purposes of peace, and minister to the common and perpetual interest of all human society. It seemed to him an aggravation of this atrocious measure that ministers had attempted to justify the destruction of a distinguished capital, as a retaliation for some violences of inferior American officers, unauthorized and disavowed by their Government, against he knew not what village in Upper Canada. To make such retaliation just, there must always be clear proof of the outrage; in general also, sufficient evidence that the adverse government refused make due reparation for it, and at last some proportion of the punishment to the offence. Here there was very imperfect evidence of the outrage—no proof of refusal to repair—and demonstration of the excessive and monstrous iniquity of what was falsely called retaliation. The value of a capital is not to be estimated by its houses, and warehouses, and shops. It consisted chiefly in what could be neither numbered nor weighed. It was not even by the elegance or grandeur of its monuments, that it was most dear to a generous people. They looked upon it with affection and pride as the seat of legislation, as the sanctuary of public justice, often as linked with the memory of past times, 528 sometimes still more as., connected with their fondest and proudest hopes of greatness to come. To put all these respectable feelings of a great people, sanctified by the illustrious name of Washington, on a level with half a dozen wooden sheds in the temporary seat of a provincial government, was an act of intolerable insolence, and implied as much contempt for the feelings of America as for the common sense of mankind.—[Sir James enlarged on a variety of subjects in which we have not been able to follow him.]—On the right of searching foreign ships for English seamen, he mentioned a remarkable instance of its ancient and general acknowledgment, which he bad lately found in the Manuscript Memoirs of king James 2. That prince, being in Holland in 1657, was desirous of returning to France, and first proposed to go by sea, but renounced that intention from "the hazard his Royal Highness would run, in case they met with any English man of war, whose custom it was to search any strange ships to see if they had any English seamen on board, and, if they should find any such, to take them out."* Here was an instance of the exercise of this right a century and a half ago, the practice being then spoken of as familiar and acquiesced in by the ships of so great a nation as France. This passage, which had come to light thus accidentally, he considered as decisive evidence of the ancient and unresisted exertion of this important right.
The right of every state to the perpetual allegiance of its natural-born subjects, was an undisputed principle of public law. But it was one of those extreme rights which were peculiarly liable to degenerate into wrong, if the utmost caution and humanity did not regulate its exercise. Notwithstanding this right, Irish officers in the service of France, during all the war of the eighteenth century, had been treated as French subjects. Notwithstanding this right, Louis 15 treated his natural-born subject, marshal Ligonier, as a prisoner of war, and a conversation between them is supposed to have had some share in producing the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. But never yet did a case arise in which the application of the principle was so difficult as in the relation between Britain and America;*Manuscript Life of James II, in the Library of his royal highness the Prince Regent, p. 824.529 nations of the same language, of similar manners, of almost the same laws, the one being a country of overflowing population, and the other of a boundless extent of vacant land to receive it: the two first maritime states in the world, the one habitually belligerent, under the necessity of manning her prodigious navy by very rigorous means; the other disposed to commerce and neutrality, alluring seamen by every temptation of emolument into her growing mercantile marine. Never was there such a dangerous conflict between the rigorous principle of natural allegiance, and the moral duty of contributing to the defence of a protecting government. To reconcile these jarring claims by general reasoning, or by abstract principles, was a vain attempt. To effect a compromise between them, would be an arduous task for the utmost caution, and the most conciliatory spirit. Yet it must be tried, unless we were willing that in every future war America should necessarily become our enemy.
He proceeded to examine the causes of delay after the Congress was assembled at Ghent. These were all reducible to one,—a pretension set up by the British negociators, to guarantee what was called the independence of the savages whom we had armed, and to prohibit the Americans from purchases of land from them. The first remark on this pretension was, that it ought never to have been made, or never abandoned. If honour and humanity towards the Indians required it, our desertion of it is an indelible disgrace. It is abandoned. The general words of the Treaty are of no value, or amount to no more than the Americans were always ready to grant. Having been abandoned, it can have been made only as a philanthropic pretext for war.
But, in truth, it was utterly untenable, and it must have been foreseen that it was to be abandoned. It amounted to a demand for the cession of the larger part of the territory of the United States, of that territory which is theirs by positive treaty with Great Britain. Over the whole of the American territory, even to the Pacific Ocean, the Crown of Great Britain formerly claimed the rights of sovereignty. By the Treaty of 1783 the United States succeeded to the rights of the British Crown. The Indian tribes, who hunted in various parts of that vast territory, became vassals of the United States as they had been vassals of the King of Great Britain. Possessed 530 doubtless of the most perfect right to justice and humanity, entitled like all other men to resist oppression, undisturbed, in regulating their infernal concerns, or their ordinary quarrels with each other, rather to be considered as subjects of their own chiefs, than as directly amenable to the paramount authority of the territorial sovereign; they had still, in all treaties respecting America, been considered as vassals and dependents, bound by the stipulations of their superior state. However undefined this character might be, whatever doubt might be entertained of the original justice of such treaties, it was not now for Great Britain to deny the existence of rights which she had herself exercised, and which she had solemnly ceded to the United States; and once more, if the Indians were her independent allies, it was disgraceful in the highest degree to surrender them at last into the hands of the enemy. Never was a proposal in fact so inhuman made under pretence of philanthropy. The western frontier of North American cultivation is the part of the globe in which civilization is making the most rapid and extensive conquests on the wilderness. It is the point where the race of men is most progressive. To forbid the purchase of land from the savages, is to arrest the progress of mankind—it is to condemn one of the most favoured tracts of the earth to perpetual sterility, as the hunting-ground of a few thousand savages. More barbarous than the Norman tyrants, who afforested great tracts of arable land for their sport, we attempted to stipulate that a territory twice as great as the British Islands should be doomed to be an eternal desert! We laboured to prevent millions of millions of freemen, of Christians, of men of English race, from coming into existence. There never was such an attempt made by a state to secure its own dominion by desolation, to guard by deserts what they could not guard by strength. To perpetuate the English authority in two provinces, the larger part of North America was for ever to be a wilderness. The American ministers, by their resistance to so insolent and extravagant a demand, maintained the common cause of civilised men—and the English, who by advancing so monstrous a pretension protracted the miseries and the bloodshed of war, who had caused the sad defeat of New Orleans and the more disgraceful victory of Washington, had rendered themselves accountable to God and 531 their country for all the accumulation of evils which marked the last months of an unfortunate and unnatural war.—For these reasons he heartily concurred in the amendment of his right hon. friend.
said, he had purposely abstained from rising at an earlier period of the debate, from a wish to hear what objections could be made to the conduct of his Majesty's ministers, before he entered on their justification. They must all feel, that at the close of a transaction which Was happily wound up in peace, it would not be advisable to argue it in any feeling calculated to disturb the amicable relations that at present subsisted. But it was hard that ministers should have to defend themselves against a disclosure on the part of the American Government, made under circumstances which it would now be injudicious to argue. The right hon. member who had examined the discussion of the negociators, guided by the result, was such an economist in point of time as to take advantage of events which, having subsequently taken place, ought not to be applied to the negociations by which they were preceded. But would the right hon. member undertake to say that it was not right to send a force then disposable into America, in the month of May? If he would now do so, it should be recollected that he did not do so at the time. The concessions on the part of this country were all made at the period when our successes were most conspicuous; and such was the spirit of conciliation on our part, that we even agreed to an arrangement by which his Majesty's Government was bound, while it was left to the discretion of the American Government to agree or not. So far was the desire of peace exemplified on our part. As to the mediation of the emperor of Russia, it was declined, not from any doubt of the liberality of that monarch, but on the ground that England was the best and only competent judge of her own rights. With respect to the charge of delay, he could state, that down to the 9th of last August, the American commissioners had no instructions from their Government on the subject of the maritime rights; and he had no hesitation in admitting that it was his wish, and the wish of those with whom he acted, that the transactions which had taken place in Europe should be known in America. Another circumstance worthy of remark was, that his Majesty's negotiators had stated all their objects at once. From the 532 principle of the maritime rights they never could depart; but they had never refused to go into any question of modification. If the frontier could be established, it would have been a great object; but with all its importance, it never occurred to them to make it an object of war. The great end they had in view was one that affected the honour of the country, that of protecting those who had fought and bled with us. We owed to the Indians to replace them in a state of peace, and in the enjoyment of such possessions as they had before. This was done, and the result was at least so far advantageous to the Indians, as to make their interests an object of regulation to a country which was capable of protecting them. Besides, the negociation was almost exclusively occupied in discussing questions that originated with the Americans themselves. Nothing had been stated that could impeach the Treaty itself, or render the House and the country dissatisfied with its provisions. In the conduct of the negociation every thing was done by this country to facilitate those amicable regulations which it was the wish of Government to establish. Even our military exertions were made with a view to peace. Seeing that the war could be concluded at that period, we had concluded it; and he trusted that, from all these considerations, the House would be disposed to reject the Amendment, and agree to the Address.
§ Sir James Mackintosh
, having been accused of sacrificing justice and humanity to his sanguine views of progressive civilization, observed, in explanation, that if in the year 1600 any European Powers at war with England, under pretence of humanity for the Indians, and of the injustice which they always suffered from Europeans, had compelled us to promise by treaty that we should make no purchases of land from these Indians, the whole of North America would at this day have contained fifty thousand cannibals, instead of ten millions of British freemen, who may be numbered among the most intelligent, the most moral, the bravest, and the most happy of the human race. Sentence of desolation and barbarism would have been passed on a considerable portion of the globe. Our ministers in this proposal had tried to doom to the same fate all that yet remained to be reclaimed.
§ Mr. J. P. Grant
supported the Amendment, on the ground of the delay with which the negociators of this country were 533 chargeable. The mediation of the emperor of Russia might, he thought, have been accepted without the surrender of any right.
supported the Address, and contended that no unnecessary delay had been occasioned by the the British commissioners. With respect to the attack on Washington, as that event took place in the month of August, and the first meeting of the commissioners was on the 8th of that month, the event would have equally taken place, if they had concluded the treaty the first day of their meeting.
The House then divided:
The Address was then agreed to.
For the Amendment 37 Against it 128 Majority 91