§ The Fourth Session of the Fourth Parliament of the United Kingdom was this day opened by Commission: the Commissioners were the archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, earl Camden, the earl of Aylesford, and the earl of Dartmouth. At three o'clock the Lords Commissioners took their seats upon the woolsack; and the Commons pursuant to message, having attended, with their Speaker, at the bar, the Lord Chancellor informed them, that his Majesty had been pleased to direct his Commission to certain lords, therein named, to open the session; which Commission they should hear read, and afterwards his majesty's most gracious Speech. The Commission was then read by the clerk at the table, after which the Lord Chancellor read the Speech as it here follows:
§ "My Lords and Gentlemen; His majesty commands us to express to you his deep regret that the exertions of the emperor of Austria against the ambition and violence of France have proved unavailing, and that his imperial majesty has been compelled to abandon the contest, and to conclude a disadvantageous peace. Although the war was undertaken by that monarch without encouragement on the part of his Majesty, every effort was made for the assistance of Austria which his majesty deemed consistent with the due 2 support of his allies, and with the welfare and interest of his own dominions.—An attack upon the naval armaments and establishments in the Scheldt afforded at once the prospect of destroying a growing force, which was daily becoming more formidable to the security of this country, and of diverting the exertions of France from the important objects of reinforcing her armies on the Danube, and of controuling the spirit of resistance in the north of Germany. These considerations determined his majesty to employ his forces in an expedition to the Scheldt.—Although the principal ends of this expedition have not been attained, his Majesty confidently hopes that advantages, materially affecting the security of his Majesty's dominions in the further prosecution of the war, will be found to result from the demolition of the docks and arsenals at Flushing.—This important object his Majesty was enabled to accomplish, in consequence of the reduction of the island of Walcheren by the valour of his fleets and armies.—His Majesty has given directions that such documents and papers should be laid before you as he trusts will afford satisfactory information upon the subject of this expedition.—We have it in command to state to you that his Majesty had uniformly notified to Sweden his Majesty's decided wish, that in determining upon the question of peace or war with France, and other continental powers, she should be guided by considerations resulting from her own situation and interests, while his 3 Majesty therefore laments that Sweden should have found it necessary to purchase peace by considerable sacrifices, his Majesty cannot complain that she has concluded, it without his Majesty's participation. It is his Majesty's earnest wish that no event may occur to occasion the interruption of those relations of amity which it is the desire of his Majesty and the interests of both countries to preserve.—We have it further in command to communicate to you, that the efforts of his majesty for the protection of Portugal have been powerfully aided by the confidence which the prince regent has reposed in his Majesty, and by the cooperation of the local government, and of the people of that country. The expulsion of the French from Portugal, by his Majesty's forces under lieut.-general lord viscount Wellington, and the glorious victory obtained by him at Talavera, contributed to cheek the progress of the French aims in the Peninsula during the late campaign.—His majesty directs us to state that the Spanish government, in the name, and by the authority of king Ferdinand the seventh, has determined to assemble the general and extraordinary Cortes of the nation. His Majesty trusts that this measure will give fresh animation and vigour to the councils and the arms of Spain, and successfully direct the energies and spirit of the Spanish people to the maintenance of the legitimate monarchy, and to the ultimate deliverance of their country.—The most important considerations of policy and of good faith require, that as long as this great cause can be maintained with a prospect of success, it should be supported, according to the nature and circumstances of the contest, by the strenuous and continued assistance of the power and resources of his majesty's dominions; and his Majesty relies on the aid of his Parliament in his anxious endeavours to frustrate the attempts of France against the independence of Spain and Portugal, and against the happiness and freedom of those loyal and resolute nations.—His Majesty commands us to acquaint you, that the intercourse between his Majesty's minister in America and the government of the United States, has been suddenly and unexpectedly interrupted. His Majesty sincerely regrets this event; he has, however, received the strongest assurances from the American minister resident at this court, that the United States are desirous of maintaining friendly 4 relations between the two countries. This desire will be met by a corresponding disposition on the part of his Majesty.
§ "Gentlemen of the House of Commons; His Majesty has directed us to inform you, that he has ordered the Estimates for the current year to be laid before you: his Majesty has directed them to be formed with all the attention to economy which, the support of his allies and the security of his dominions will permit. And his Majesty relies upon your zeal and loyalty to afford him such supplies as may be necessary for those essential objects.—He commands us to express how deeply he regrets the pressure upon his subjects, which the protracted continuance of the war renders inevitable.
§ "My Lords and Gentlemen; We are commanded by his Majesty to express his hope that you will resume the consideration of the state of the inferior clergy, and adopt such further measures upon this interesting subject as may appear to you to be proper.—We have it further in command to state to you that the accounts which will be laid before you, of the trade and revenue of the country, will be found highly satisfactory.—Whatever temporary and partial inconvenience may have resulted from the measures which were directed by France against those great sources of our prosperity and strength, those measures have wholly failed of producing any permanent or general effect.—The inveterate hostility of our enemy continues to be directed against this country with unabated animosity and violence. To guard the security of his Majesty's dominions, and to defeat the designs which are meditated against us and our Allies, will require the utmost efforts of vigilance, fortitude, and perseverance.—In every difficulty and danger his Majesty confidently trusts that he shall derive the most effectual support, under the continued blessing of Divine Providence, from the wisdom of his Parliament, the valour of his forces, and the spirit and determination of his people."
§ After the Commons had withdrawn, the earl of Harrowby was introduced by the earls of Dartmouth and Liverpool. His patent of creation having been read at the table, his lordship took the oaths and his seat; as did also the marquis of Lansdowne, and several other lords. The House adjourned during pleasure, and assembled again for business soon after five. The Speech was then again read to their 5 lordships by the Lord Chancellor, and afterwards by the clerk; upon which,
The Earl of Glasgow
rose to move an Address to his Majesty; but spoke in so low a tone as not to be clearly audible below the bar. After briefly touching upon the leading topics in his Majesty's most gracious Speech, his lordship observed, that eventful as the present crisis was, and gloomy as the picture presented by the existing situation of Europe must be allowed to be, yet the means and resources of this empire were equal to the successful prosecution of the arduous contest we had to sustain, unless marred by internal divisions, paralised by the want of that unanimity, at all times so desirable, but in the present perilous times so indispensably necessary. His lordship extolled the magnanimity of the emperor of Austria, and lamented the adverse fortune of the war, during which so much valuable blood and treasure had been sacrificed on the continent. The noble earl then took a brief review of the measures of his Majesty's ministers with regard to their foreign policy and various expeditions, and contended, that, whatever might have been the result, they were not only undeserving of censure, but entitled to the thanks of their country. His lordship concluded, by moving an Address to his Majesty, which he read, and which was, as usual, an echo of the Speech.
The Lord Chancellor, under the influence of indisposition, now withdrew from the House, and his seat on the woolsack was taken,pro tempore, by the Chief Justice, lord Ellenborough.
in seconding the address, solicited their Lordships attention to the few observations which presented themselves to his mind, when he contemplated the state of this country and of Europe in general. Whatever difference of opinion might exist in regard to the different measures of government, their lordships would generally concur in the propriety of making every exertion to divert the attention of the enemy, while he was endeavouring to crush the power of Austria. That Austria had been compelled to make a disadvantageous peace, was one of those disasters which we ought to lament in common with the other calamities of Europe. The expedition to Walcheren had been projected to assist our allies. His Majesty had graciously been pleased to say, he would cause satisfactory documents to be laid before the House re- 6 lating to that expedition; therefore the noble lord thought it was unnecessary to discuss the question until the documents appeared. Although the expedition to the Scheldt had not succeeded in its main object, considerable advantages were derived, and our own security was strengthened, by the demolition of the arsenal and docks of Flushing. Amidst all the evils with which the hand of Providence had surrounded this country, it was satisfactory to find, that, after the enemy had exerted to the utmost his hatred and hit malice against the commerce of England, and had shut the ports under his control against our trade, still he was unable to make any serious impression upon our commercial prosperity and resources. His lordship observed, with pleasure, that Spain and Portugal were yet able to hold out against the common enemy. Notwithstanding the calamities which those countries had laboured under, the spirit which had so gloriously animated them remained unbroken. France might gain battles, but the force of the conqueror could never subjugate them, while their sole occupation was arms, and their principles attachment to a legitimate sovereign.—On the subject of America, it was his lordship's wish that the government of that country might prove as amicable in its disposition, as the British government. With repect to our trade, every effort had been made by the enemy to effect its destruction. Buonaparté had done all that his power could contrive but he had found that British commerce, like British valour, would make a firm stand. We had lately witnessed a scene of joy and exultation which could not be equalled in the annals of the world. Could the Ruler of the French nation have received such gratification as the Jubilee afforded our venerable sovereign and his subjects? Providence had placed us above the malice of our enemies, and he hoped no man in the country would be so mad as to neglect the means with which we had been blessed for our defence. His lordship concluded by repeating, that if we were true to ourselves, we might defy the world.
The Earl of St. Vincent
then rose and said: My lords, when I addressed a few observations at the commencement of the last session of parliament to your lordships, I thought my age and infirmities would preclude me from ever again presenting myself to your consideration. But, my lords, such have been the untoward and 7 calamitous events which have occurred since that period, that I am once more induced, if my strength will admit, to trouble your lordships with a few of my sentiments on the present occasion. Indeed, we have wonderful-extraordinary men in these days, who have ingenuity enough to blazon, with the finest colours, to sound with the trumpet and the drum; in fact, to varnish over the greatest calamities of the country, and endeavour to prove that our greatest misfortunes ought to be considered as our greatest blessings. Such was their course of proceeding after the disastrous convention of Cintra. And and now in his Majesty's Speech they have converted another disaster into a new triumph. They talk of the glorious victory of Talavera, a victory which led to no advantage, and had all the consequences of defeat. The enemy took prisoners, the sick and the wounded, and our own troops were finally obliged precipitately to retreat. I do not mean to condemn the conduct of the officers employed either in Spain or Walcheren; I believe they did their duty. There is no occasion to wonder at the awful events which have occurred:—they are caused by the weakness, infatuation and stupidity of ministers. I will maintain, my lords, that we owe all our disasters and disgrace to the ignorance and incapacity of his Majesty's present administration. But what could the nation expect from men who came into office under the mask of vile hypocrisy, and have maintained their places by imposture and delusion? Look at the whole of their conduct. The first instance of the pernicious influence of then principles was their treatment of a country at peace with us; in a stale of profound peace they attacked her unprepared and brought her into a state of inveterate and open hostility. This was a foul act; and the day may come when repentance will be too late. Their next achievement was to send one of the ablest men who ever commanded an army into the centre of Spain, unprovided with every requisite for such a dangerous march. If sir John Moore had not acted according to his own judgment in the perilous situation in which he had been wantonly exposed, every man of that army had been lost to the country. By his transcendent judgment, however, that army made one of the ablest retreats recorded in the page of history; and, while he saved the remnant of his valiant troops, his own life was sacrificed 8 in the cause of his country. And what tribute had his Majesty's ministers paid to his valued memory, what reward conferred for such eminent services? Why my lords, even in this place, insidious aspersions were cast upon his character. People were employed in all parts of the town to calumniate his conduct. But, in spite of all the runners and dependents of administration, the character of that general will always be revered as one of the ablest men this country ever saw. After this abortive enterprise, another, equally foolish, equally unsuccesful, and no less ruinous, was carried into execution; another general was sent with troops into the heart of the peninsula, under similar circumstances; and the glorious victory alluded to was purchased with the useless expenditure of our best blood and treasure. But what shall I say, my lords, when I come to mention the expedition to Walcheren. Why, I think it almost useless to say one word on the subject. It was ill advised; ill planned; even partial success in it was doubtful; and the ultimate object of it impracticable. It is high time that parliament should adopt strong measures, or else the voice of the country will resound like thunder in their ears. Any body may be a minister in these days. Ministers may flow from any corrupted source; they pop in, and they pop out like the man and woman in a peasant's barometer; they rise up like tadpoles; they may be compared to wasps, to hornets, to locusts; they send forth their pestilential breath over the whole country, and nip and destroy every fair flower in the land. The conduct of his majesty's government has led to the most frightful disasters, which are no were exceeded in the annals of history. The country is in that state which makes peace inevitable; it will be compelled to make peace, however disadvantageous, because it will be unable to maintain a war, so shamefully misconducted and so disasterous in its consequences.—The noble earl, after shewing the injuries which must eventually befal the shipping interest, in case of a peace, when almost every ship in the river would have a broom fixed on the top of the mast, concluded by submitting a question to the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether it was in contemplation to make a dock for the future reception of our ships at Northfleet, which he recommended as a judicious measure?
§ Lord Mulgrave
doubted how far it was re- 9 gular to answer a question asked under the circumstances of a pending discussion upon another subject, but had no objection to state that the object alluded to had not escaped the attention of the board of Admiralty; whether the plan would be carried into execution he could not at present with any certainty say, as a variety of considerations appertaining to the subject must necessarily come under previous consideration and discussion.
The Earl of Aberdeen
said a few words expressive of his intention to call the attention of the House at some future period to certain parts of the Reports of the Board of Naval Revision.
§ Lord Grenville
rose and said: My lords, I readily gave way to the noble earl (St. Vincent); for who could be better entitled to the attention of your lordships than one who has so largely contributed to the glory, and participated in the splendid triumphs of the country. My lords, I would readily also have given way to any noble lord younger and more active than myself, who would have taken upon him the task of pointing out the distressing and perilous state of the country, the errors of those, to whom the lamentable situation of our affairs is to be attributed, and those remedies which can alone be effectual for the evils by which we are now so sorely oppressed. I am, however, anxious to address your lordships thus early, for the purpose of moving such an amendment as I conceive necessary at the present crisis, that I may anticipate any casual and irrelevant observation, by which the discussion of this night might have been drawn out of that course which I think ought to be adhered to, upon the present occasion. We are now imperiously called upon to do our duty, and to institute those inquiries which the misconduct of ministers have rendered absolutely necessary—a misconduct, from which a series of unexampled disasters and calamities have resulted to the country. My lords, my heart is full, and I must give vent to my feelings. The day must come when ministers will have to render an account to parliament of the treasure which they have wasted, and the lives which they have sacrificed in useless and unprofitable expeditions. We owe it to the country, that the king's ministers should be called upon to render that account, and we shall fail in the discharge of our duty to the country, if we do not insist upon it. The day will come, when the mere fact of an 10 overflowing treasury, alluded to in the speech of the king's commissioners, will be utterly insufficient to satisfy this House, or the people of these realms; when we must inquire, not merely as to the fact, but as to the foundation of it, and the consequences which result from it. The day will come when the conduct of ministers, respecting America, must come under discussion, and be brought to the test of inquiry; when it must become a subject for deep and serious investigation, whether in a country that yet boasts of freedom; whether in a house of parliament that yet keeps up the forms of discussion; whether it is to be endured that garbled, mutilated, and misrepresented documents are to be laid before parliament, not merely concealing what it was not thought fit to communicate, but actually, upon the face of those garbled and mutilated documents, giving an interpretation directly opposite to the sense of them in their entire and original state. In the same manner, with respect to our expeditions, it is due to the memory of those who have fallen in the service of their country; it is due to the memory of those who have bravely but ingloriously fallen a sacrifice to the ignorance, the incapacity, and the misconduct of ministers; it is due to a deluded and a suffering people, who demand it at our hands, that we should institute a rigorous and an effectual inquiry into the conduct of those ministers to whom these disasters are to be attributed. Yet in spite of the disgraceful and calamitous expedition to Walcheren, where the treasure of the country was so lavishly wasted, and the lives of its gallant defenders so uselessly sacrifised, did his Majesty's ministers advise his Majesty to tell the city of London that he did not think it necessary to institute an inquiry; however, we find in the Speech of the king's commissioners, that ministers, from a sense of their guilty situation, from a consciousness of their own glaring misconduct, and from a fear of the consequences of that misconduct, have condescended to tell us, that they will lay before parliament, certain documents and papers relative to this subject. But let us not be deluded by this shew of a readiness for inquiry; the Speech merely says, such papers and documents as shall be deemed satisfactory by ministers themselves. It becomes us, my lords, to adopt a course of proceeding adequate to the exigency of the case and the difficulty of the times. The Address 11 moved by the noble earl does not contain any pledge to the country of an intention on the part of your lordships, to institute inquiry; it does not even declare, the necessity of having all the papers and documents laid before us, relative to this disastrous expedition; but merely consists of a complimentary expression of thanks, that certain papers are intended to be produced. My lords, we shall not this night do our duty, if we do not give a decided pledge to the country, that a rigorous and effectual inquiry shall be instituted, and the explicit declaration of this pledge is the object of the Amendment which it is my intention to move. I do not mean to condemn the conduct of the officers employed by ministers in their ill-planned expeditions; I am disposed to believe that the officers have done their duty, and that all the disastrous results are to be attributed to the want of information, the criminal improvidence, and the ill-digested plans of his Majesty's ministers. Let not our attention be drawn off from the misconduct of ministers by any unwarrantable attempt of theirs to throw blame from themselves upon the officers employed. Your lordships must all remember the manner in which the blame of our former failure in Spain was attempted to be thrown upon that gallant officer, sir John Moore. It was insinuated on that occasion, that he had an unlimited discretion, and therefore that whatever occurred must be attributed to the measures which he chose to adopt. But, my lords, how did the real state of the case turn out? It was discovered in the sequel that, so far from having an unlimited discretion, sir John Moore was fettered in the first instance by the plan of the Secretary of State; that that plan was essentially contrary to the dictates of his own better judgment; that he was sent to the north of Spain when in his own judgment he ought to have been sent to the south; and that when there he was to receive directions from a diplomatic character of whom I wish to say nothing now; but by these directions and instructions sir John Moore was completely fettered, and so far from having an unlimited discretion, he was prevented from exercising his discretion or his judgment under those very difficult circumstances where they might have been eminently useful. The work published by a near relation of that excellent officer, proves clearly and demonstrably the manner in which be was treated by ministers. Yet these very ministers are they, who 12 attempted to throw all that blame upon sir John Moore, which, upon the fullest investigation, was found entirely to rest with themselves. Your lordships ought not, therefore, to countenance any public outcry against the officers employed in those expeditions, of the disastrous results of which, loud and general complaints are so justly made; but to point public indignation where alone it ought to rest, upon the heads of those ministers who sent out expeditions, either to achieve objects impracticable in themselves, or without the means of achieving any object useful or honourable to the country. If any circumstance should arise out of the inquiry during its progress tending to impeach the conduct of any officer employed, that will be a subject for future investigation; but there are circumstances affecting the conduct of ministers, which are matters of publicity and notoriety, and which no inquiry can render plainer or clearer than they are at present. It is a notorious fact, a fact known to every one, to the whole country, and to all Europe, not that our expeditions have partially succeeded; but, that the expeditions in the prosecution of which so much of the treasure of the country and so many valuable lives have been sacrificed, have uniformly failed, that they present nothing but an unbroken series of disgraceful, irremediable, and irretrievable failures. Who, then, can doubt the necessity, the absolute, the imperious, the indispensible necessity of inquiry, when nothing but disgraceful and irretrievable failures have marked the conduct of ministers, and resulted from their ill advised and ill-digested plans; when nothing in the melancholy retrospect presents itself to our view, but national disgrace arising from their misconduct; an absurd and lamentable waste of the public treasure entrusted to them; and an useless and most melancholy sacrifice of the lives of our gallant countrymen?—Even admitting to them, contrary to all experience, and in defiance of all the presages for the future, which could be drawn from the experience of the past, that the system of sending out expeditions under the present circumstances of the country and in the actual state of the war, was right, still will their misconduct only appear the more glaring, in so grossly misapplying the resources of the country, and wasting its efforts in fruitless attempts, where success was either impossible, or if attained could not have altered the fate of 13 the campaign. We were told, my lords, last session, of the vast successes which were to flow from our efforts; of the impression we were to make upon the continent; nay, my lords, one noble lord went so far as to talk with an air of confidence of the deliverance of Europe. And how has Europe been delivered? By a series of unparalleled disasters, by expeditions which, in their conduct and results have exhausted our means without making any impression upon the enemy, and which have rendered us the derision of the whole continent. And yet, my lords, in the speech of the king's commissioners, ministers have the confidence, the unblushing confidence, to tell us of a victory gained to the country. Are we then arrived at that melancholy situation of our affairs, in which guilded disasters are to be called splendid victories, and the cypress that droops over the tombs of our gallant defenders, whose lives have been uselessly sacrificed, to be denominated blooming laurels? The noble lord who seconded the Address spoke of a system of policy, in opposition to which the Address gives a pledge of the continuance of the war, upon the system of continental assistance adopted by the present ministers. My Lords, I have often repeated, and must now repeat again, that the true policy of this country, under its present circumstances, is the principle of husbanding our resources, and acting upon a system of home defence. In the early period of the last war, the system of policy which then appeared to be the best, was essentially different. It was undoubtedly then of importance, to endeavour to raise up a determined spirit in Europe capable of meeting and counteracting the power of France. After, however, France had defeated and broken the confederacy against her, the scene of continental co-operation closed, and our force became no longer available to any useful purpose upon the continent. The same causes operated in the present war; and the late ministers, acting upon the system of policy which they thought the most adviseable, determined to concentrate all the means and resources of the country for the purpose of placing her in a position, in which we might say to France, "our situation is such, that we are completely defended against any domestic insult, whilst our naval superiority will effectually defeat the execution of your designs against our external interests." For this purpose apian was devised, adapted to our 14 financial system, under the operation of which we might have gone on to the end of time, still preserving our commanding attitude, and ever and invariably maintaining our ample means of defence. His Majesty's present ministers came into office, and then, my Lords, the sysetm was immediately changed. We were then told, in high sounding periods, in the true spirit of an imbecile confidence, of the disgrace sustained in the character of the country by not assisting our allies, and that the conduct of the preceding administration should only be looked to as a beacon and a land-mark to avoid the same course. Magnificent preparations were immediately made for expeditions upon a great scale. Ministers had the unlimited disposal of the treasure of the country, and, I lament to say, the unlimited disposal of the lives of its brave defenders. How they have wasted the one, and sacrificed the other, is too painfully apparent. They had, at the time of the commencement of the last campaign between France and Austria, a disposable force of 100,000 men; but, great as this force was, it was impossible they could, by its employment upon the continent, have altered the fate of the war, although I do not mean to dispute that they might have altered the fate of the campaign.—But I. will concede to them for the moment, for the sake of argument, what I absolutely deny upon principle, and in point of fact, namely, that it was desirable to adopt a system of continental co-operation, and endeavour to make a powerful diversion in favour of Austria. It surely, my Lords, is apparent, that if a diversion is to be made at all, it ought to be made early, with a sufficient force; and, lastly, it ought to bear upon the scene and pressure of the war. Now, my lords, in the late campaign with Austria, there was one, if not two opportunities of making a diversion of this nature. With our maritime superiority, and the means which were at that time open to us, we might have landed a large force at Trieste, or in its neighbourhood, which would have borne upon the great pressure of the war, and proved a powerful diversion. Austria was making a gallant struggle, and the army, by which she was finally overwhelmed, owed its success, in a great measure, to the reinforcements it derived from the French troops in the very neighbourhood of Trieste. How, then, would a diversion directed to that quarter have operated? 15 Our army would have kept in check the troops under Marmont and Macdonald, and would have effectually prevented them from marching to join the main French army on the Danube. I do not believe that this would ultimately have changed the fate of the war, but it would, very probably, have altered the fate of the campaign. I am aware, that it may be objected that an enormous expence would have been incurred; that a large number of transports must have been employed; and that there would have been a great difficulty in transporting a large army to that distance. There was, however my lords, another mode of making a powerful diversion; the North of Germany was open to us: how did his Majesty's ministers encourage the risings in the North of Germany? What hopes did they not hold out to the brave inhabitants of those provinces, and how cruelly did they disappoint those hopes, abandoning to destruction those brave men, even in the territories of our own sovereign, whom they had deluded with false hopes and delusive promises. A force landed in the North of Germany would have found ready to co-operate with them, not an armed peasantry, not an undisciplined rabble, but disciplined troops, disbanded soldiers; men who had been trained to the use of arms, and in habits of discipline and subordination. To meet such a force the National Guards of Paris could not have been sent, nor the armed Maréchaussée of the Frontiers, but regular troops must have been detached from Saxony and Bavaria, and a powerful diversion would thus have been made; not that I believe, my lords, that the fate of the war would even thus ultimately have been changed, although the event of the campaign very probably might. This, my lords, is what they might have done, and now comes "like a lean and blasted ear" what they have done.—Of the disposable force which they had of 100,000 men, about 15 or 16,000 were stationed in Sicily; for what purpose they were kept there may be the subject of a future enquiry, but is foreign to the present discussion. The remainder were divided into two armies, I will say for the sake of round numbers of 40,000 each, though I believe neither the troops sent to Portugal, nor those sent to Walcheren amounted to that number, yet they did not fall far short of it. With respect to the force sent to Spain, ministers seemed resolutely determined not to profit by expe- 16 rience; precisely the same errors and the same faults were committed as in the expedition sent there under sir John Moore. The want of concert with the Spanish government, which was so decidedly proved in the expedition under sir John Moore, was equally apparent in that under lord Wellington. We find in the latter precisely the same want of co-operation and concert which so decidedly marked every stage of the former. Another instance of similitude of error is still more glaring. One would scarcely believe it possible, that any set of men would send out an expedition without money to pay the troops, and yet we find by the public dispatches of sir David Baird, that this was the case with respect to the expedition under sir John Moore. So great and manifest an inconvenience would not, one would suppose, have been repeated, but, as if determined to persevere in every species of error, both the expedition to the Peninsula under lord Wellington, and the expediton to Walcheren under lord Chatham, were deficient in this most essential article of military supply. We find, my lords, precisely the same errors with respect to the expectation of an effectual co-operation from the armed peasantry of Spain. The dispatches of sir John Moore point out how cruelly he was disappointed in the expectation held out to him, of receiving an active and efficient assistance from the Spanish forces. Precisely the same errors formed a part of the plan of the expedition under lord Wellington, whose dispatches inform us that this Spanish officer had abandoned a post which he was expected to defend, and that another Spanish officer, instead of remaining in a position where he was expected to make an effectual stand, had suddenly abandoned it, and was precipitately following our army. Nothing can more clearly shew the perseverance in error of his Majesty's ministers, expecting in the first instance a co-operation from an armed peasantry, which it was idle and absurd to expect from men who had not yet learnt the necessary habits of discipline and subordination, and after the fallacy of this expectation had been proved, persevering in the same error, and persisting in expecting an effective assistance, and making that a part of the plan of a second expedition to the Peninsula, although the absurdity of it was manifest even before its fallacy was proved, and although all idea of that species of co-operation had been dis- 17 tinctly shewn by experience to be nugatory and absurd. This was the miserable delusion to which sir John Moore was sacrificed. These were the hopes which were held out to him; but which, to the moment of his expiring in the arms of victory, never were realised. Yet the lesson taught by that fatal catastrophe was lost upon ministers. Ministers ought to have known that history is pregnant with proof, that an armed population cannot be considered as a disciplined army: that it is not enough that men should be attached to the cause they are to defend, but disciplined, steady, and obedient to command, having skilful officers; able to execute the commands they receive, and capable of judging what commands to give, and at the same time fit to be trusted. Why send out expeditions to meet the same failures and suffer the same losses, leaving no monuments to their country but those which are calculated to excite a just indignation?—a deep and unavailing regret? We are told, my lords, in the Speech of the King's Commissioners, that the expedition to Walcheren was undertaken with the view of making a diversion in favour of Austria. The absurdity of attempting to make a diversion in Walcheren instead of the North of Germany, where the great pressure of the war existed, is too manifest to admit of a doubt or require an argument. An immense expence was incurred, no less than 38 ships of the line were employed, more than 100 frigates, and an immense number of transports. It was known to ministers, in September 1808, that a war was likely to take place between Austria and France; yet this immense armament to the Scheldt, which was to operate the so much-boasted diversion in favour of Austria, did not sail till the latter end of July. Before it sailed the Armistice was signed which led to the fatal Treaty that prostrated the Austrian monarchy; not only this event had taken place, but intelligence of the signature of that Armistice had actually arrived in this country. And thus, when all prospect of operating a diversion in favour of Austria had failed, the Expedition sailed from our shores, and the destruction of a few ships, and the plunder of the docks of the enemy, were to be substituted for the object so much boasted of—that of making a diversion in favour of Austria. Your ally, vanquished and subdued, had accepted the law from the conqueror, and then your tardy army left 18 your shores. Can this need a comment? Is it possible, knowing these facts, to refer to future inquiry the merits of his Majesty's ministers? Why, it would be a mockery of all justice; you would insult your country, you would degrade yourselves. Shall I be told that it was a great armament; that it was delayed by necessity; that, like every naval force, it depended on the winds, and the transports being in readiness? Why all this is not new to you. If you want to land 40,000 men in the neighbourhood of the Scheldt, it is necessary to have transports to convey them; but if, by events which you could not controul, it was impossible to send this armament sooner, w by send it at all? The Expedition sailed for this reason only—because his Majesty's ministers were afraid to avow, that after all the expence which had been incurred, it had not actually sailed till its object was defeated, and success was impossible. It was once said by the Dey of Algiers, when an English fleet threatened to bombard the town, that if they would give him half the cost of the bombs he would burn the town himself; and Buonaparté might have said, that if we would give him half the sum which our expedition had cost, he would give the ships we wished to destroy. But, my lords, besides incurring an immense expence to achieve an object of comparatively trifling value, a still more serious objection exists to this expedition. We have been charged upon the continent with sacrificing the interests of our allies to expeditions, the only objects of which were to burn a few ships, and destroy docks, with the mere view of some little interest of our own. Till the hour of the Copenhagen expedition, nothing had occurred in our conduct to give currency to this falsehood; now, however, a still greater and more just currency must be given to it from the nature and achievements of this expedition to Walcheren, which terminated in the mighty exploit of blowing up the basin and the docks of Flushing. The plan of this expedition displayed all those errors, that egregious want of information, and that extreme incapacity which have marked all the expeditions of his Majesty's ministers. At the first point of attack, where, according to the information of ministers, only 2,000 men were stationed, 14,000 were found; and the second point of attack, which, according to the same information, was slated to be completely open and accessi- 19 ble, was found to he strongly fortified, beyond the reach of our attack, secure from hostile approach, and inaccessible to our force. I am disposed to believe that the officers employed in this expedition have fully discharged their duty. The reason for the appointment of the noble lord who commanded that expedition I shall not now inquire. It was undoubtedly most unfortunate for him, the first time he held a command, to be placed at the head of an expedition which was attended by nothing bat difficulty and disappointment. I am disposed to believe, however, that in that situation he did all that could be reasonably expected or was possible to accomplish. The error was in the plan, and the want of all foresight or information on the part of his Majesty's ministers. The part the noble lord I have alluded to took in it as a minister is another question, but as a commander I believe he did as much as the difficulties of his situation would allow. The failure of the expedition, therefore, is to be attributed to the ministry, whose ill-judged plan and whose gross want of information form a prominent part of their errors and misconduct.—You have seen, my lords, that these different disastrous expeditions have been attended with a dreadful waste of life; that they were collected and dispatched at an immense expence; that the resources of the country, and the lives of its armies, were squandered upon vain and impracticable objects, under circumstances naturally to be foreseen, and which ought consequently to have been guarded against. I know there may be cases in which it may be necessary to expose your armies not only to the dangers of battle, but also to those of disease. Deeply to be regretted as such cases are undoubtedly; yet they may certainly exist. Why our armies were exposed in unhealthy situations in Spain—whether it was necessary they should be so exposed; will be matter for future inquiry. How has that happened as to Walcheren? the place, the situation, nay, the season of the year were chosen by his majesty's ministers. There is a season of the year when the air of that place is most pestilential and dangerous; yet to that place, and at that time, say his majesty's ministers, "we will send the flower of the British army. We will not send it at a time when its operations may be advantageous, but we will send it when, from 20 every information, it will be destroyed, more by disease than by the sword." What, my Lords, would Austria have said, for whom this expedition was, it seems, intended as a diversion? What would Austria have said had she been consulted on this subject? She would have said, "If you do send an expedition to that place at all, send them there when France shall be engaged in active war against me, and do not wait till the contest is decided; send them thither, too, at a season when the climate is not so pestilential as it occasionally is. To that pestilential climate if you will send your troops, let it not be when common information tells you they must waste away by sickness, without accomplishing any valuable object." Have ministers then been ignorant, have they not read of the nature of the climate of Walcheren, in that book to which one would think they would naturally resort under their circumstances—I mean sir John Pringle's work upon the Diseases of the Army? Have they not examined that work, where they would find the pestilential effects of the climate of that unhealthy island described, and proved by our own dearly-bought experience? Nay, so notorious have been the effects of that climate, that the Swiss Cantons, when they furnished mercenary troops as auxiliaries to the Dutch, thought it necessary to stipulate expressly that they should not be sent to Walcheren during the noxious season, it being well known that if they were sent there they must inevitably perish. This then, my lords, is not a case of unforeseen calamity. Ministers knew, or ought to have known, all these things before they sent an army into Walcheren; and they are of consequence most deeply responsible for the lives of those brave men, who perished there, without the chance of being able to confer any benefit upon their country, which might afford her some consolation under a loss so afflicting.—Great then, my lords, as were the deficiencies in the formation and execution of the plan of this expedition, it is marked by this further essential defect, that it was directed to an object, in which its exertions could be of no avail. Our armies had hardly been there a month, when the object appeared clearly impracticable to all, but to his Majesty's ministers. And the commander in chief even, though too late in coming to that resolution, determined to return. On the 27th of August, we were told by him, who had 21 advised the expedition, and who had been appointed to command it, that the object was not to be accomplished. If the exertions of the troops must have been confined to the blowing up of basins, and the destruction of docks, could not these things be accomplished without detaining the troops in the island? But after it was obvious, that the object of the expedition was not to be accomplished, the troops were suffered to remain in the island, for two or three months, a prey to the diseases of that pestilential climate! To whom then, my lords, are to be imputed the deaths that took place in consequence? To whom is to be imputed this wanton waste of the valuable lives of our brave defenders? What excuse can these ministers offer to the parents, the relations, the friends, of those brave men, who were suffered to perish thus uselessly and thus ingloriously? What excuse, my lords, can they offer to their country, for this most afflicting loss, which they who do not most bitterly lament, must be totally incapable of any generous or patriotic feeling? While letters were passing and repassing on this subject (when the ministers were attending to other things of comparatively trifling importance), hundreds of British soldiers were perishing, for no object whatever. What man is there, who under such circumstances, would not say, "If I have been so unfortunate as to send you to such a place, for a purpose which cannot be accomplished, at least I shall not suffer you to remain there, after it is determined that your remaining there can be of no use; this atonement, at least, I shall make to you and to my country?" Such, my lords, I should have thought,, would have been the feelings of ministers. What they actually were I know not.—With such a case then already established, my lords, do you mean to wait for enquiry, before you pronounce upon that which is now evident? Will garbled papers be a compensation for all this mass of calamity and disgrace, to an injured and outraged country? Will they be a compensation to yourselves; or will such conduct be consistent with your own dignity and duty? Separate yourselves, my lords, I beseech you, in this awful and perilous crisis of your fate, from this misconduct of ministers;—declare your severe reprobation of the conduct of ministers on that point, which is already completely before you, and which from its very nature 22 can admit of no defence. You will find them, my lords, I have no doubt, attempting as they have done on former occasions, to shift the blame from themselves to the officers commanding this expedition. But they will not stop there. As in the case of Sir John Moore's expedition, they will involve your lordships in the same charge. You, who after the experience you had of their mode of proceeding in the expedition under general Moore, encouraged them to go on in the same course. And how can you, my lords, entirely exculpate yourselves? How can yon, who saw what had taken place before in Spain and Portugal without expressing your disapprobation, excuse yourselves from a share in the disasters which have since happened in the same countries? In the constitution of this country, obligation does not, in these cases, rest solely with ministers.—You, too, my lords, have a duty to perform, which if you do not perform, you are justly chargeable with your share in the public calamities. In another view it is of the last importance that your lordships should diligently attend to those duties which are incumbent upon the parliament; for, unless you do, how can you possibly blame others for the neglect of theirs? Now, my lords, we must look to the virtues of parliament. These are not times for votes of confidence and implicit reliance upon ministers. Parliament must now exert itself in this most imminent crisis of the fate of our country. You cannot be ignorant, my lords, of the situation, the tremendous situation in which your country is placed. Its dangers are no longer to be enhanced by eloquence or aggravated by description. No description can come up to the feelings of those who are at all capable of judging upon the subject. If you cannot look to parliament for its deliverance, where can you look? Can you look for its deliverance to the government? See it, my lords, broken, distracted, incompetent, incapable of exerting any energy or of inspiring any confidence.—It is not from the government, then, that our deliverance is to be expected. It must, my lords, be found, if it is to be found at all, in your own energy and in your own patriotism. On these grounds I shall move an Amendment to this Address, not, indeed, such as comes up to my own feelings on the subject, but one which I trust will be satisfactory to the public, and afford those who may see reason to think their former confidence ill placed, an 23 opportunity of evincing their determination to give that confidence no longer. To the first paragraph of the Address, expressive of the regret which is felt at the fate of Austria, I certainly do not mean to object. On that point we must all be unanimous. I therefore move, that after the word "That" in the second paragraph, the following Amendment be introduced, expressing our sentiments to his Majesty in such terms as the nature of the case imperiously demands.—"That we have seen, with the utmost sorrow and indignation, the accumulated failures and disasters of the last campaign, the unavailing waste of our national resources, and the loss of so many thousands of our brave troops, whose distinguished and heroic valour has been unprofitably sacrificed in enterprizes productive not of advantage, but of lasting injury to the country. Enterprizes marked only by a repetition of former errors; lardy and uncombined; incapable in their success of aiding our ally, in the critical moment of his fate, but exposing in their failure his Majesty's councils to the scorn and derision of the enemy.—That we therefore feel ourselves bound, with a view to the only atonement that can now be made to an injured people, to institute, without delay, such rigorous and effectual inquiries and proceedings, as duty impels us to adopt in a case where our country has been subjected to unexampled calamity and disgrace."
§ Lord Harrowby
could not have supposed that his noble friend (lord Grenville) could have moved an Amendment such as that he had just proposed; it went not only to determine, that there should be an inquiry, but to induce their lordships now to come to a vote of indiscriminate censure, of absolute condemnation, previous to any inquiry. Such a mode of proceeding was surely unusual and unprecedented in the practice of parliament. It was unjust not to allow the proper time for producing the grounds and stating the reasons upon which rested the decision and conduct of his majesty's government in adopting the measures which his noble friend had so loudly arraigned and so severely condemned. His noble friend had laid down the line of policy to which he said he would himself have adhered, and by which he thought his majesty's ministers ought to have been directed. That policy, rested upon the principle of abstaining from continental expeditions; from making our selves parties 24 in a warfare which had long ceased to afford any hope of what was so often emphatically called the Deliverance of Europe. He had not the honour of being any length of time in his majesty's councils since a contrary line of conduct had been pursued; but he believed he might remind his noble friend that such a principle had not been exactly conformable to his sentiments on all occasions. He imagined that not very long since, even in the course of the last session, his noble friend had joined in the general enthusiasm in favour of the Spanish cause, and in the anxiety prompted by that enthusiasm to afford it every possible aid in our power. Government did not stimulate and give birth to these exertions on the part of the Spaniards; but they felt it their duty, and conceived it to be the interest of this country, to encourage and assist them. Neither had they incited other powers upon the continent to embark anew in hostilities with France. Austria was inclined to appeal to the chances of war, to the decision of the sword; but to the adoption of that hazardous step she had not been advised or impelled by the influence of the British government. On the contrary, she was warned by his Majesty's ministers of the perils of the attempt, and of the inability of this country to lend her any effectual support; she could not therefore have entered into a new war, from the hope of any powerful diversion to be effected in her favour by the military operations of a British army. But his noble friend would insist, that such a diversion might have been made in her favour by the force which had subsequently been collected here and employed on foreign service, had it been brought to operate at a proper point.—His noble friend had alluded to certain of these points where he conceived our military force might have operated advantageously in favour of Austria. He had chiefly, however, adverted to some points in the Mediterranean, and more decidedly still to the North of Germany. He had also supposed that this country might have brought 100,000 men into the field: where these 100,000 men were to be found, he could not pretend to say; but were it possible to provide and collect them, what must not have been, he would ask, the expence and difficulty of transporting them to the Mediterranean or Adriatic? The thing was actually impracticable. Not less impracticable and unpromising would have been the plan of sending them to the 25 North of Germany. It was said, they would there find a numerous band of experienced veterans ready to rise, in vindication of their independence, against the common oppressor of mankind. It was even more than insinuated by his noble friend, that the British government had encouraged them to rise, and promised them assistance, but that the promise had not been performed; that these brave patriotic men had been deserted by us and abandoned to their fate. These allegations, he would venture to say, were wholly unfounded; there might have been numbers of men in different districts of Germany who were anxious to rescue themselves from the oppression and tyranny of the French; but they had neither arms nor uniforms, nor were they instigated or encouraged by this country to take up arms against their oppressors. Even had they given a greater demonstration of their power and determination to resist, it still would have been impossible for the British government to send such a force, as had been mentioned, to their assistance. As he had already observed, where was a force of 100,000 men to be found; and even had they been at the disposal of government, how could government have provided the means of subsisting and paying them in the north of Germany? This would have been a thing altogether impracticable, and therefore it was useless to meditate such an enterprise. It surely was no easy matter to collect such a force as that which had been assembled, with all the means necessary for its equipment, especially when so much time was necessary to prepare so large an armament. After the armament had been prepared, intelligence was received of the armistice entered into between France and Austria: yet it was still uncertain whether that armistice would end in a definitive peace. The contrary, for a time, appeared the more probable. Wherever it should be employed, it might therefore contribute to produce a diversion in favour of Austria, and sustain her firmness in resisting, and restrain the enemy in proposing the terms of an unequal and ignominious peace. Looking at all the points within our reach, and where our means might have been effectually exerted, there was no one which promised so favourable a result as an attack upon Flushing and Antwerp. There the enemy had for years been expending immense labour and money in erecting a naval arsenal and depot, and in 26 rearing up a navy by which he would be enabled to menace the most vulnerable points of these realms. He boasted of having opened a river which had so long been shut, and of having made it as well the station of a naval power, as the source of commercial wealth. It enabled the ruler of France to cherish the fond hopes of gratifying his animosity against this country, and it was well known with what indefatigable zeal and unceasing activity he followed up every favourite design formed by his revenge, or dictated by his ambition. He had often loudly boasted of having brought his designs and his means at Antwerp to full maturity and perfection; and, indeed, when he had a main object to gain, he left nothing untried, and no practicable effort unexerted to accomplish it. Was not this, therefore, a proper object to engage the attention of a British government, and could any doubt be entertained of the policy, nay of the necessity of frustrating or endeavouring to frustrate so formidable a design. Accordingly, it was resolved to make a well directed effort to destroy the arsenal and navy, and to deprive our bitterest enemy of the mightiest means by which he was enabled to annoy us. The design, through various unexpected and unforeseen, because unascertainable difficulties, had not been wholly accomplished; though so far accomplished as to render abortive his schemes of hostility from that quarter; that end, the complete demolition of the harbour and arsenal of Flushing had secured. Whatever disastrous effects had arisen from the operations necessary to its attainment were indeed to be lamented; but they were not in the first instance to have been apprehended. The design promised to be executed in a short time, and before the season set in, whose pestilential influence was particularly to be dreaded and most essential to be guarded against. The Expedition was ready to sail about the middle of July; but was detained nine or ten days by contrary winds, and the other unforeseen and uncontroulable obstacles occurred afterwards to protract the operations till the unhealthy period of the year; but all these obstructions could not possibly have been foreseen or guarded against. This the information would shew which his Majesty had ordered to be laid before their lordships, and until that information was in the possession of their lordships, it would be impossible for them to decide upon the subject, or to institute a fair inquiry. These 27 reasons, he conceived, would be of themselves sufficient to induce the justice of the House not to accede to the Amendment proposed by his noble friend.—The other point so much insisted upon and reprobated by his noble friend, was the Expedition to Spain and Portugal. Here again his noble friend's strictures and censures were almost in every respect without foundation; great and important objects had been achieved by that Expedition; it had rescued Portugal from the French; it had covered the British arms and the character of the British army with glory, and by the position that army afterwards occupied and maintained, it rendered infinite service to the Spanish armies. It covered them in several points; it secured the defence of Estremadura, and in a great measure that of La Mancha. To this Expedition was also owing the deliverance of Gallicia, and the securing of the ships at Ferrol. Were not these important objects, and did not the attainment of them afford very just grounds of triumph and congratulation? Would it, therefore, be fair to condemn in the gross the conduct of his Majesty's ministers; to precipitate an inquiry into the measures they had pursued, or rather, to pronounce judgment and condemnation on them without instituting any inquiry at all? Such, he thought, would be the effect of adopting the Amendment moved by his noble friend, and he therefore felt himself imperiously called upon to resist it as a proceeding unprecedented and unjust.
The Earl of Moira
said, if he thought any power of speech or language necessary to excite the indignation of their lordships or of the country, at the scenes which the government had lately exhibited to the world, he would not have addressed the house. The noble earl who had just spoken had asked, whether without proofs they should go into inquiry, nay more pronounce judgment? But would he therefore contend, that without proofs the house should go into an expression of approval? For his part, he wanted no proofs, but those already before the House. The proofs demanding not only inquiry but condemnation stood confessed before them. They were plain and manifest. The whole conviction of his mind, and the conviction of every one who considered the subject, called for judgment. It was impossible to argue against the direful effects already experienced, and those still more terrible calamities which threatened us. Upon the 28 face of the case he would therefore go the full length of the Amendment, although it only pledged their lordships to inquiry at present. The noble earl had not fairly stated the case of Austria, as put by his noble friend. He would admit, as stated in the speech, that we had not encouraged Austria to go to war, but what was the real fact? Austria, having once of her own accord, by her own voluntary determination, drawn the sword against France, ministers would have neglected their duty if they did not immediately employ every means to assist her exertions. We were interested in her success, and it was their duty to encourage not only her, but every other power that was disposed to light her battles. As no specific promise of aid had been given, none was broken; but if that aid, which our interests required, was not granted, ministers had equally neglected their duty. His noble friend (lord Grenville) had not said that the succour to be employed in making a diversion in her favor should amount to so large a force as 100,000 men. He only contended that ministers, having determined to send out a certain force, it ought to have been directed to a different point from that to which it was actually sent. It would have threatened most formidable consequences to France, had the force sent out been landed on the south of Germany. Again, had it been sent to the north, what might not have been expected from it, acting in the rear of the French army, and combining and sustaining the scattered troops on that part of the continent?—With respect to Spain, he differed entirely from the noble earl. The case of Spain afforded the best opportunity of terminating the war with glory, and of shaking if not overturning the power of Buonaparté. The enthusiasm existing in that country could not be questioned, for nothing but enthusiam could have kept armies still together, after so many defeats and disasters. That enthusiasm made Spain a lever, by which the power of France might have been removed from its foundation, an engine that might be put in action with the greatest force and effect against her. It was, therefore, the interest of this country to have identified herself with Austria, and shared with her every danger. But although we were not pledged to Austria, it would not be contended that we were not pledged to Spain. The pledge to Spain was not only given by parliament, but it was confirmed by the universal and 29 enthusiastic voice of the country. And how had that pledge been fulfilled? ministers sent an army to Portugal, with instructions, if one may judge from those, which transpired upon the inquiry into the Convention of Cintra, to deliver that country, and consider Spain as merely a secondary object. Sir Arthur Wellesley's army, however, did advance into Spain, and gained a victory; but although the stronger, and victorious army, it immediately retreated. The instructions of that gallant general were either erroneous and defective, or he had not the means to carry forward his victorious army. And what was still worse, two great Spanish armies, left to themselves, had been since successively cut to pieces, while a British army remained idle and inactive in their vicinity. After such scenes of calamity, their lordships would disgrace themselves and fail in their duty, if they did not adopt the course recommended by his noble friend who moved the amendment. The country at large was looking to the result of that night, and the House ought not to disappoint its just expectations. After the experience of last year, they had nothing to expect in the present one, but increased disasters, if the administration of affairs remained in the same hands. To reject the Amendment would be only to make their lordships parties to the shifts and evasions by which ministers sought to get rid of the subject.
§ Viscount Sidmouth
could not but acknowledge, that there was much to regret, and perhaps much to reprehend, both in the expedition to Spain, and especially in that to Walcheren. He could not, however, bring himself to think, that the Amendment proposed by his noble friend was altogether unobjectionable. It appeared to him that it would condemn without inquiry. There was much of irritation, and much of despondency in the public mind at this moment, and the adopting such a proceeding would not tend to sooth the one, or to reanimate the other. He was a friend to moderation, and he trusted his conduct had shewn him to be a friend to justice on all occasions. In the present instance, a regard to justice and moderation would dissuade him from acceding to the Amendment as it now stood. The second paragraph of it was inadmissible at the present moment; it was for inquiry, but he did not see the necessity of coupling it with the Address to the crown in the manner proposed by the 30 Amendment. He wished an early day might be fixed for going into that inquiry, end he wished the inquiry to be full and rigorous; but he was not for prejudging the conduct of his majesty's government, which would be the case if the Amendment of his noble friend were adopted without any alteration.
§ Lord Mulgrave
pointed out the difference of opinion which prevailed among I the noble lords who were prepared to disapprove of the conduct of his Majesty's ministers, and was of opinion, that few of their lordships would be disposed to go the full length of the noble baron who had moved the Amendment. He never recollected any legislative measure resembling the proposition of condemnation previous to enquiry, which had been submitted to their lordships, except an act of parliament, which had once passed, by which it was enacted, that persons found poaching for game under certain circumstances, were to be flogged at a cart's tail; but a clause was added to this merciful act, that those who found themselves aggrieved thereby, might make an appeal to the next quarter sessions. In the same manner, it was now proposed first to punish by immediate condemnation his Majesty's ministers, and then to appeal to the House, to see whether they had deserved that punishment. The noble lord then proceeded to vindicate the operation of the campaign and the conduct of lord Wellington in Spain. He never was of opinion that the Spanish armies could stand against the veteran troops of France, but so long as Spain could persevere as a nation, so long the honour and the interest of this country rendered it our duty to support her. He contended that a great advantage had been obtained by this country in the destruction of the docks at Flushing, and that the expedition to the Scheldt was a preferable diversion to one sent to the north of Germany. With regard to the conduct of the war, he could safely declare, that no one was to blame, neither the ministers who planned the measures, nor the officers chosen to execute them. The failures had been the consequences of circumstances which no government could foresee, and which no commanders could controul or prevent. He hoped that before their lordships determined to call for any enquiry, they would wait to see what information the papers which were to be laid before the House would produce.
§ Earl Grey
had to apologise for rising to 31 trouble their lordships, after what had been so ably said by the noble lords near him, and alter such a defence, if defence it could be called, as that made by the noble lords on the other side. He never had been so much surprised in ids life as he was at the tone assumed in the Speech from the throne, in alluding to what were stated to be successes achieved at Flushing and in Spain. When he considered too, that for what was called success in Spain, similar honours had been conferred on lord Wellington, to those bestowed on the duke of Marlborough, he could not help feeling at such unfounded assertions, that indignation in which he was convinced every English heart would participate, it was true, however, that ministers had not ventured to speak so boldly themselves in their defence; and he was glad to find, from their humbled and chastened tone in speaking in that House, that they appeared to feel some remorse for the numerous miseries they had inflicted by their imbecility and misconduct on their country. Had it been otherwise, he should have supposed that Almighty vengeance was hanging over this nation, and that therefore the hearts of its rulers had been hardened in proportion as their understandings were darkened.—He was afraid, in going over the arguments used by his noble friends, that he should rather weaken them than add to their force.—The noble earl (Harrowby) who spoke first, on the other side, was pleased to amuse himself with sarcasms upon the former Administration; and, in answer to the objection made, that no effectual diversion was made in favour of Austria, it was said, that no such diversion, on a prior occasion, had been resorted to in the case of Russia. If it were necessary, in a discussion of this character on the conduct of the present ministers, to enter on such a subject, it might be sufficient to say, that such a measure, if attempted at all on that occasion, must have been undertaken in the depth of winter, when the Baltic was frozen up, and when, therefore, its purpose could not have been accomplished. He was not surprised, that ministers resorted to such a flimsy and miserable expedient, indulging the hope, that by directing the attention of the House to other topics, they would render it less necessary to occupy themselves in the difficult task of their own defence. He was fully satisfied, that the conduct of those, with whom he had had the honour 32 to act at the period alluded to, was best calculated to promote the interest and welfare of the country. What had it been? It was to husband the resources of the state; that at a time when they should be most wanted they might be adequately and advantageously employed for the public security. Had such a discreet and prudent system of policy been adopted by the present ministers, the nation would not now have to deplore her treasures expended, the blood of her brave armies poured forth, and her gallant defenders suffering under the ravages of pestilence and disease. Had he had the honour of assisting in his majesty's councils, it was most highly probable, that he should have persevered in the plan he had before judged to be prudent, and he had seen nothing within the last seventeen months to lead his mind to a different view of the subject. But this was not the question now before their lordships; it was no inquiry into the propriety or wisdom of offensive and defensive warfare: it was notorious, that ministers had determined on the former, and upon the propriety of making a great effort, upon the continent. The examination then was, whether, having adopted the offensive system, they pursued this scheme of their vigorous policy by the best means? Were the objects attainable, and, if attainable, were they material to the final result of the conflict, in which we were engaged? When he held the seals of the foreign department, the expedition to the Scheldt, which had been undertaken by the present ministers, had been frequently pressed upon him. He therefore turned his attention to it; and, after making every due enquiry, he was convinced that the object of destroying the arsenals at Antwerp and the shipping in the Scheldt, was not attainable. With regard to the Austrian war, he certainly would not have pledged himself against co-operation in it, though, as he said before, it was the duty of the government of this country to œconomise its means, in order to meet the probable demands of a protracted war, and the possible exigencies of home defence.—He would have said to Austria, however, in the event of her embarking in the war, that, if she thought war unavoidable, she should have such assistance as the situation of this country would admit; but after 17 years experience of wars, of battles which had been lost, and monarchies destroyed, the interests of this country re- 33 quired much caution and wise management, in the employment of our means. He would not, as he had heard had in the first instance been done by ministers, give a flat refusal of all co-operation or intercourse with Austria, until she should commence with an humble apology for the exclusion of the British flag from her ports in the Adriatic. This was a conduct so very absurd, that he could with difficulty believe that it had been adopted even by the present administration. He perfectly coincided with the noble earl (Harrowby) in his observations on the character of the ruler of France. Active in the pursuit of his main object, he would not be diverted from it by inferior considerations. But this practice was not only familiar to every great mind; but it was the vulgar maxim of early tuition, to master one difficulty before you undertake another. Conscious of this, ministers ought to have acted on the expectation of the adherence of Buonaparté to his invariable practice, and for this reason, the time, the place, and the occasion, ought to have been attentively examined before any expedition should have been determined upon. Their operations ought to have been conducted at a moment when he was most weakened; directed to the situation where he was most vulnerable; and executed during that seasonable opportunity when these advantages of time and place would have so cooperated as to have rendered success probable, if not certain. These were the principles to which they ought to have adhered, and it was upon these principles that their conduct ought to be tried. How, then, did the fact stand? when the ministers had at last determined on a continental effort, they chose the object which was perfectly unattainable, and which, had it been attainable, could have had no effect whatever on the general result of the war. The force of the country had been frittered into divisions, whereas to effect any great purpose it ought to have been made to act in a body. To borrow a phrase from the French republic, it should be "one and indivisible." The noble lord contended that an expedition to the North of Germany, or to the shores of the Adriatic, when contrary to all expectation, the fate of the war was balanced on the Danube, might have been undertaken with some prospect of success. But this was not the only theatre of successful warfare. All the North of Germany was in a state of revolt, and the people wanted only a sup- 34 ply of arms, and the appearance of a regular force to render them formidable to the common enemy. But to this project of operations in the North it was replied, that it would have been attended with great expence and serious difficulties in the transport of the troops, that would have been required for the service. He admired the perfect organs of vision ministers could employ for the discovery of objections to all the plans of others, and their utter blindness to those which were notorious in their own. Was it to be endured after the prodigality the servants of the crown had been guilty of, that they should hesitate at the expence of such enterprizes? Then, as to the transport of our troops to Piedmont or Trieste, and from the Thames to the Weser: could the ruler of France send to Egypt a powerful army, and would Great Britain, the mistress of the ocean, with 100 ships of the line, 1,000 ships of war of different proportions, and an incalculable commercial marine, be disappointed in such a purpose? It had been asked, how 100,000 men could have been provided for such enterprizes? Were not 40,000 employed in Walcheren, 15,000 in Sicily, and 45,000 in Spain and Portugal; and how much was then the deficiency of 100,000 men? Whether engaged in one, two, or three divisions, the difficulty of raising and paying such a force was much the same. He would, before he left this part of the subject, say a few more words on the engagement of a force in the North of Germany. He said, that so far back as the month of September, 1808, ministers had received proposals from the North of Germany, which shewed that very considerable bodies might be expected to rise in that quarter, in support of any diversion made there. He further believed from what followed, that encouragement was given to such a scheme. In that country many important situations might have been secured where the army could not have been incommoded by the Danes, and where a small force left on the shores of the Weser, would have prevented the possibility of any molestation from that quarter. Under the circumstances that had been explained, the acquisition of such a station would not have merely operated as a diversion, but if it were neglected by the enemy, the entire destruction of his army must have been the consequence. In the month of May or June this enterprize might have been undertaken; but he admitted that with all this appearance of advantage, it might 35 have been unsuccessful, yet on this occasion the evil was not, that adverse events had frustrated the schemes of ministers; but that measures had been pursued without a chance in their favour, and in which success was impossible. The noble lord next took a review of the campaign in Spain. He disapproved of the residence of Mr. Frere, as minister at the Junta, so long after it had been announced that he was to be recalled. A great deal was to have been done by a noble marquis (Wellesley), whom he expected that night to have seen, not only countenancing his friends by his looks, but defending them by his eloquence. That noble marquis, however, whether from a negociation with his majesty's ministers, or some other cause, had, after his appointment, remained for months in London, instead of proceeding to his post at Seville. He saw much to blame in the conduct of lord Wellington, in a military point of view. With regard to the battle of Talavera, he condemned that un can did calculation, which represented it as a victory gained over an enemy double our force. When the Spanish army was taken into the account, the superiority was greatly on our side. The survey of the campaign in the Peninsula was followed by a luminous summary of the whole argument, and a pathetic appeal to the honour, wisdom, and humanity of the house, to relieve the country, if possible, by supporting the Amendment, from the accumulated disgrace and misery, which must inevitably be the consequence of the neglect of the high duties of parliament on this most serious occasion.
The Earl of Liverpool
rose in reply to lords Grey and Grenville, and, in an able speech, went through and answered the topics of these noble lords. He observed, that the Amendment was unprecedented in parliamentary history. It first went to condemn certain measures, and afterwards requested an inquiry into them. It was completely the judgment of Rhadamanthus, audit castigatque; by which the House might, if they adopted it, reduce themselves to this situation, that they might first condemn administration, and, upon investigation, it might turn out that there was no cause of blame. He next adverted to the operations of our army in Portugal and Spain, and insisted that they had been most beneficial for the interest of this country, and whenever the details came to be inquired into, he pledged himself to prove, that the conduct of our general and 36 army had been most wise and beneficial. He instanced as a proof, that the provinces of Estremadura, Galicia, and Asturias, had been completely cleared of the French forces, and although it was true that they had by surprize defeated two Spanish armies, yet they had not been able to gather any fruit from their victories, for they had not advanced one step.—With respect to the Expedition to Walcheren, his lordship admitted, that ministers knew of the Austrian armistice before it sailed, but he was ready to contend that it nevertheless operated as a favourable diversion for Austria. But it was not merely with that view that it had been undertaken. It had also other objects which were wholly British. It was known to be a favourite measure of our enemy to form a naval arsenal and dock at the mouth of the Scheldt, and it had been always admitted by professional men, that if an invasion of this country were ever to be attempted, it could never be effected but from the Scheldt. It was therefore an object of importance to defeat the views of our enemy, by destroying that port which he had with so much industry and at such great expence been preparing. And in this object we at least had succeeded; for, in the opinion of professional men, it would require much less time and expence to form a new harbour and arsenal than restore the one which we had destroyed at Flushing.—Nor was this the only object it had effected. It had been serviceable to Austria, for it had diverted to the Banks of the Scheldt, a large body of conscripts which were intended to have acted against her. And for that purpose he knew it was the desire of Austria that we should retain Walcheren until she made terms of peace, and bad and hard as those terms were for her, whoever compared the threats of Buonaparté with the terms which he afterwards granted, must admit, that some cause had reduced him to the necessity of relaxing from his threatened severity. His lordship declared, that in his opinion, it was occasioned by our holding Walcheren, and, in fact, that was the reason why we held it after the ulterior objects of the Expedition were known to be defeated, and expressly at the request of Austria. Some noble lords had said, that the destruction of Flushing was a conquest of no importance, and considered as such by the French Ruler. He would ask those noble lords, whether if the case could be reversed, and a French 37 fleet were to attack and destroy Sheerness, and afterwards make good their retreat, it would be considered by Buonaparté as a small triumph, or by us as a trifling defeat?
The question being loudly called for, the House divided on lord Grenville's Amendment: when the numbers were,
Contents 55 Proxies 37 For the Amendment — 92 Non-Contents 89 Proxies 55 For the Address — 144 Majority 52
|List of the Minority.|
|Dukes.||Say and Sele.|
|Devonshire.||Grey de Ruthyn|