« ПредишнаНапред »
Finances.—Navy Estimates.—Debate on that Subject.—Debate on the Army Estimates.—Budget.—Army Ertraordinaries.—Debates on these Subjects in the House of Commons.—Debute on the Malt Bill in the House of
Lords. TH: house having resolved into
a committee of supply (Dec. lst.), Mr. Stephens moved, that 50,000 seamen, including 12,000 marines, be granted for the service of his majesty’s navy, for the year 1803. On the consideration of the report of the committee the following day, Mr. T. Grenville rose, and expressed his astonishment at the mode of proceeding which was now proposed; a mode which placed the house of commons in quite a new situation. The minister, he said, demanded an extraordinary supply of seamen, without condescending to give the least explanation of the reasons which induced He necessity, or the purposes to which he meant to apply them. He could not hesitate to observe, that the conduct of the ministers whose duty it was to give this explanation, was novel, unprecedent
ed, and unconstitutional; was disrespectful to that house; and that house would subscribe to its own disgrace, if it should assent to that proposition until the necessary explanation should be given. He asked, had this vote reference to a peace or war establishment? If to the former, parliament and the country might think it excessive; if to the latter, such force might be At present, that house was incompetent to judge; and before they submitted to the obloquy of assenting to the
roposition then under discussion, i. trusted the minister would be compelled to present such materials for . consideration, as mightfully qualify them to decide that question. The question upon which they were to determine was this— what was the danger that threatened us; and was the state of our resources and preparations equal to
- C 3 resist
resist it? Among the dangers that threatened us, should be considered the maritime state of Europe. He then adverted to the partiality of Russia, at least for some time back, towards the views of France; though from the moderate character of the present emneror, and some late circumstances, there might be a little reason to hope that our former relations of cordial friendship with that cabinet would be reestablished. In Holland, no one could be ignorant that great and unparalleled exertions were making to restore their navy; and still greater efforts were making to recruit the fleets of France. It cught to be considered too, that when we spoke of the navy of France, we
oke of the navy of Europe. In
e event of a war, the influence she had established on the continent, would be sufficient utterly to exclude us: for what assistance could be hoped from Portugal? The subserviency of Spain also to France was indubitable; as likewise, the endeavours of France to exclude us from every port in the Mediterranean. She had deprived
us of all except Malta. He desired
to know of ministers, why that was retained ; and if it were designed to be given up, upon what conditions: indeed, he had no hesitation in saying, that it was incumbent upon ministers to retain all the places covenanted by treaty to be given up, which were still in our rossession. In the present circumstances of Europe, and from the conduct of France since the peace, he maintained, that such a proceeding would be consistent with justice and cquity, and it was evidently called for by every principle of policy. He then adverted to the state of the West and East
Indies. There was danger to be apprehended to our colonies, particularly Jamaica, from the force in St. Domingo; which danger was agvated from a consideration of the force at Louisiana, and the recent cession of Martinique. He understood that France was immediately to take possession of Cochin in the East Indies; a place of comsequence, not for its commerce, but because it was a strong place, and would afford opportunities of negotiating with the native powers. In such a state of our affairs in every quarter of the world, he would ask, could the house confirm the resolution of the committee of supply, without explanation from ministers whetherwe weret beatwaror peace? The chancellor of the exchequer replied.—After the expectations of providing for our security which his majesty’s speech was calculated to excite, Mr. Addington asked—was not the proposition of a considera
ble force naturally to be expected? Such, he said, was the object of the speech, such its legitimate o: and such, according to the right hon. gentleman's own statement, the country looked for. He appealed to the house whether ministers had, upon any cocasion, indicated the least wish to evade the investigation of any measure they proposed, or to give the most satisfactory explanation. Did gentlemen mean to support their proposition, that ministers lost sight of their duty because they declined to enter into an explanation of a necessity which all nico admitted, and which they themselves were particularly anxiouts to dilate upon, and too often forward to exaggerate? Could it be necessary, to trespass on the house of commons by a dissertation on the state of Europe, in order
der to prove that we should provide for our own defence 2 If the righthon. gentleman and his friends believed in their own descriptions, the force he (Mr. Addington) proposed required no justification, to them at least. With regard to the manner in which this number of seamen was to be engaged, he begged to remark, that our fleet in the West Indies, which must be occasionally relieved, and which could not prudently for some time be reduced, would require a great proportion of this force; but he wished to rest the justification of this vote on a broader principle, the opinion of expediency—the propriety of adopting defensive measures on such a scale as to be prepared for every emergency, and to afford the country the fairest pros
t of the continuance of peace.
e proceeded. The right hon. gentleman was in error, when he stated, that the navy of France and the navy of Europe were synonimous terms. He certainly was not justified in connecting the navies of Russia, Sweden, and 1)enmark, with that of France. The right honourable gentleman had taken a view of our external dangers and internal strength: he should follow him; but would be more minute, and he hoped more satisfactory to the house, in his detail. The fleets of France, Spain, and Holland, stood thus at the beginning of the war; France 105 sail of the line, Spain 79, and Holland 27: What was the result of the war which covered this country with so much glory : Why, that those fleets which consisted of 200 sail of the line at the beginning of the war, were reduced to 123, and a comparatively greater reduction took place among their frigates
and small craft. Their actual state
at the conclusion of the war, was what he had stated: France 39, Spain 68, and Holland 16. What addition could there have been made by building new ships to such a force, to excite the slightest alarm. in the breast of an #. when he stated, that we had at resent 192 sail of the line, 209 rigates, 129 sloops, and 243 smaller craft; in all, 773 ships of war? What apprehension could be felt for our safety, when it was known, that by the prudent and wise conduct of the first lord of the admiralty, such arrangements were made, that in case of the renewal of hostilities, fifty sail of the line could be prepared for sea within a month, and even a larger number should the exigency be pressing? Whether this state of preparation proved inertness, inactivity, and lethargic torpor—proved that want of vigour and energy on the part of administration, which the right hon. gentleman and his friends would attribute to them—he should leave to the house and the country to determine; and whether they deserved the foul opprobrious epithets, and the false accusations, which were frequently pointed at them. Lest the hon. gentlemanand his friends should suppose that the force proposed was with any view to a war establishment, he begged to undeceive them; for their (ministers’) only object was to be enabled, on any sudden emergency, to put forth such a fleet as inight be sufficient to avert all danger; to show our power and might, if necessary, and to keep that power on such a solid foundation as should never be shaken. Sir Sydney Smith, in his maidei. speech, expressed his cordial approbation of the proposition then before the house. Si 1.
Sir Robert Laurie required an explicit answer from ministers relative to the real prospects of this country with respect to war or peace; and also an explanation in respect of Malta and Switzer. land. : Lord Hawkesbury replied to the objections urged, not against the reposition, but against ministers, or the mode in which it had been introduced to the house. It certainly was not usual, he contended, to introduce the votes for the service of the army and navy by any specific explanation of the circumstances which appeared to render such an establishment necessary. There was a passage in his majesty’s speech where a hope was expressed, that such an establishment would be kept up, as would be fully adequate to the security of the country. Most gentlemen, he was convinced, understood from the passage, that there was, on the part of his majesty's ministers, an intention to propose to the house the maintenance of a large naval and military establishment, as the best means of accomplishing the object which his majesty had graciously recommended to their attention. Ministers might fairly contend that in the present circumstances of Europe, such an increased establishment was necessary. They did not wish, however, to rest the proposition on such a foundation. Without saying any thing about private negotiations which might exist, without drawing any inferences from events which could not be explained, withouteven hinting at arrangements which could not be disclosed without material injury to the public service, he then put it to the house, whether there did not exist in Eurcpe, at this moment, uch known circumstances, as, in
dependent of any other consideration, fully justified ministers in proposing that large naval establishment which was then offered for the adoption of the house? Mr. Canning said, he had heard his noble friend that night with very great pleasure: and if the speech which he had delivered, had preceded that which gave rise to that debate, he believed the debate itself would have been rendered unnecessary: for it had given him, upon most of the topics it em. braced, perfect satisfaction. His noble friend had stated it was not usual, in moving for the navy and army estimates, to precede such motion by a speech from any of his majesty’s ministers. Undoubtedly, when the army or navy estimates were only of the usual size, such was the practice; but when a large augmentation was proposed, it must have been expected that some explanation should accompany the motion. He might venture to affirm, it was entirely without precedent to propose such an augmentation as the present, without any explanation whatever. He then proceeded to state, that the proposal for the augmentation was originally for 3 months—the vote of that night proposed it for the year. Now he should wish to ask, whereforeshould the vote be continued for the year? He admitted that the present moment was full of care and anxiety to this country, with respect to the affairs of Europe, and that parliament could not do better than assent to a large establishment. Yet, if any change had taken place since the time of the original proposal, it must have been since the discussion of the king's specch in that house. Mr. Canning then adverted to the affairs of Switzerland; with respect to which, the speech . . - - of of his noble friend had not given him any satisfaction whatever. He thought the house was entitled to expect some explanation upon that matter, which had hitherto been W. over with a studious silence. that he wished to know was, whether the credit and honour of the country were in any way committed upon that question; and if committed, how and in what Inamner had the pledge been redeemed? Upon that subject, he trusted that either then, or at some future period, an explanation would be ven.
The attorney-general observed, that the course which that debate had taken, was so extraordinary, that he felt great difficulty in of. fering himself to the house. A comF. was expressed by the right onourable gentleman who spoke last, to his majesty's ministers, for the vote which they proposed then to the house; and yet he censured them for observing a perfect silence and reserve, or rather concealment of the reason they had for proposing such vote, which reason when given was that which was perfectly notorious; so that ministers were censured for being silent on what had been already spoken, reserved on what had been already communicated, and for concealing that which was already motorious, namely, that they proposed this vote on the state of things as known already to every man in the country. This was certainly very curious. The complaint too came from those who agreed in the vote, and thought it came at the present time with peculiar propriety, Nay, truly, the measure now before the house was just what they themselves (Mr. Canning and friends) Would have proposed, if they had had an opportunity ; which proved to his mind, that, if they had an op
- portunity of proposing it; the house would not have heard of their opposition. It was not then to the proposal they objected, but to the man who proposed. The great ground of objection with those gentlemen was, that they had nothing to object to. Indeed, it had been stated with great candour that night, that if ministers were removed, every thing would go on very well; so that after that there was no mystery in gentlemen appearing to censure ministers, though in their consciences they were bound to applaud their measures. Ministers said, “we do not think it adviseable to commence hostilities at this time.” “So do I,” said the right hon, gentleman— Ministers said, “but it is proper we should be prepared for the alternative, if hostilities snould become unavoidable.” “ So do I,” said the right hon. gentleman—and yet by
his manner, one would suppose :
he held a contrary opinion. The
learned gentleman concluded with
expressing a wish, that while the votes of gentlemen were for admimistration, their manner should not appear to be hostile. Dr. Lawrence considered that it was grossly insulting the house, for any ministers to propose an increased military and naval establishment, without deigning to inform them why that measure was proposed. Perhaps the parliament, when informed of the situation of the country, might think it neces
sary to keep up a much larger.
establishment. Bonaparte had been in no hurry to disband or weaken his force. If, indeed, he
discharged 50,000 of the oldest
men in his army, he had raised by
a conscription 160,000 young men. As to his navy, had ministersheard that he had dismantled a single ship 2 No: on the contrary, he was