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Selected Speeches on British Foreign Policy 1738-1914

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which I have maintained. The all-searching eye of the French
revolution looks to every part of Europe, and every quarter of the
world, in which can be found an object either of acquisition or
plunder. Nothing is too great for the temerity of its ambition,
nothing too small or insignificant for the grasp of its rapacity. From
hence Buonaparte and his army proceeded to Egypt. The attack was made,
pretences were held out to the natives of that country in the name of
the French King, whom they had murdered; they pretended to have
the approbation of the grand seignior, whose territories they were
violating; their project was carried on under the profession of a zeal
for Mahometanism; it was carried on by proclaiming that France
had been reconciled to the Mussulman faith, had abjured that of
Christianity, or, as he in his impious language termed it, of '_the
sect of the Messiah_.'

The only plea which they have since held out to colour this atrocious
invasion of a neutral and friendly territory, is, that it was the road
to attack the English power in India. It is most unquestionably true,
that this was one and a principal cause of this unparalleled outrage;
but another, and an equally substantial cause (as appears by their own
statements), was the division and partition of the territories of what
they thought a falling Power. It is impossible to dismiss this subject
without observing that this attack against Egypt was accompanied by
an attack upon the British possessions in India, made on true
revolutionary principles. In Europe, the propagation of the principles
of France had uniformly prepared the way for the progress of its arms.
To India, the lovers of peace had sent the messengers of Jacobinism,
for the purpose of inculcating war in those distant regions, on
Jacobin principles, and of forming Jacobin clubs, which they actually
succeeded in establishing, and which in most respects resembled the
European model, but which were distinguished by this peculiarity, that
they were required to swear in one breath, _hatred to tyranny,
the love of liberty, and the destruction of all kings and
sovereigns--except the good and faithful ally of the French Republic_,

What, then, was the nature of this system? Was it anything but what
I have stated it to be--an insatiable love of aggrandizement, an
implacable spirit of destruction directed against all the civil and
religious institutions of every country? This is the first moving
and acting spirit of the French revolution; this is the spirit which
animated it at its birth, and this is the spirit which will not desert
it till the moment of its dissolution, 'which grew with its growth,
which strengthened with its strength,' but which has not abated under
its misfortunes nor declined in its decay; it has been invariably the
same in every period, operating more or less, according as accident
or circumstances might assist it; but it has been inherent in the
revolution in all its stages, it has equally belonged to Brissot, to
Robespierre, to Tallien, to Reubel, to Barras, and to every one of the
leaders of the Directory, but to none more than to Buonaparte, in whom
now all their powers are united. What are its characters? Can it be
accident that produced them? No, it is only from the alliance of the
most horrid principles with the most horrid means, that such miseries
could have been brought upon Europe. It is this paradox, which we must
always keep in mind when we are discussing any question relative to
the effects of the French revolution. Groaning under every degree of
misery, the victim of its own crimes, and, as I once before expressed
it in this House, asking pardon of God and of man for the miseries
which it has brought upon itself and others, France still retains
(while it has neither left means of comfort nor almost of subsistence
to its own inhabitants) new and unexampled means of annoyance and
destruction against all the other Powers of Europe.

Its first fundamental principle was to bribe the poor against the
rich, by proposing to transfer into new hands, on the delusive notion
of equality, and in breach of every principle of justice, the whole
property of the country; the practical application of this principle
was to devote the whole of that property to indiscriminate plunder,
and to make it the foundation of a revolutionary system of finance,
productive in proportion to the misery and desolation which
it created. It has been accompanied by an unwearied spirit of
proselytism, diffusing itself over all the nations of the earth; a
spirit which can apply itself to all circumstances and all situations,
which can furnish a list of grievances, and hold out a promise of
redress equally to all nations, which inspired the teachers of French
liberty with the hope of alike recommending themselves to those who
live under the feudal code of the German Empire; to the various
states of Italy, under all their different institutions; to the old
republicans of Holland, and to the new republicans of America; to
the Catholic of Ireland, whom it was to deliver from Protestant
usurpation; to the Protestant of Switzerland, whom it was to deliver
from popish superstition; and to the Mussulman of Egypt, whom it was
to deliver from Christian persecution; to the remote Indian, blindly
bigoted to his ancient institutions; and to the natives of Great
Britain, enjoying the perfection of practical freedom, and justly
attached to their constitution, from the joint result of habit, of
reason, and of experience. The last and distinguishing feature is a
perfidy which nothing can bind, which no tie of treaty, no sense of
the principles generally received among nations, no obligation, human
or divine, can restrain. Thus qualified, thus armed for destruction,
the genius of the French revolution marched forth, the terror and
dismay of the world. Every nation has in its turn been the witness,
many have been the victims, of its principles, and it is left for us
to decide whether we will compromise with such a danger, while we have
yet resources to supply the sinews of war, while the heart and spirit
of the country is yet unbroken, and while we have the means of calling
forth and supporting a powerful co-operation in Europe.

Much more might be said on this part of the subject; but if what I
have said already is a faithful, though only an imperfect, sketch of
those excesses and outrages, which even history itself will hereafter
be unable fully to record, and a just representation of the principle
and source from which they originated, will any man say that we ought
to accept a precarious security against so tremendous a danger? Much
more will he pretend, after the experience of all that has passed, in
the different stages of the French revolution, that we ought to be
deterred from probing this great question to the bottom, and from
examining, without ceremony or disguise, whether the change which has
recently taken place in France is sufficient now to give security, not
against a common danger, but against such a danger as that which I
have described?

In examining this part of the subject, let it be remembered that there
is one other characteristic of the French revolution, as striking as
its dreadful and destructive principles; I mean the instability of
its Government, which has been of itself sufficient to destroy all
reliance, if any such reliance could, at any time, have been placed
on the good faith of any of its rulers. Such has been the incredible
rapidity with which the revolutions in France have succeeded each
other, that I believe the names of those who have successively
exercised absolute power, under the pretence of liberty, are to
be numbered by the years of the revolution; and each of the new
constitutions, which, under the same pretence, has, in its turn, been
imposed by force on France, every one of which alike was founded upon
principles which professed to be universal, and was intended to be
established and perpetuated among all the nations of the earth--each
of these will be found, upon an average, to have had about two years
as the period of its duration.

Under this revolutionary system, accompanied with this perpetual
fluctuation and change, both in the form of the Government and in
the persons of the rulers, what is the security which has hitherto
existed, and what new security is now offered? Before an answer
is given to this question, let me sum up the history of all the
revolutionary Governments of France, and of their characters in
relation to other Powers, in words more emphatical than any which I
could use--the memorable words pronounced, on the eve of this last
constitution, by the orator[6] who was selected to report to an
assembly, surrounded by a file of grenadiers, the new form of
liberty which it was destined to enjoy under the auspices of General
Buonaparte. From this reporter, the mouth and organ of the new
Government, we learn this important lesson: 'It is easy to conceive
why peace was not concluded before the establishment of the
constitutional Government. The only Government which then existed
described itself as revolutionary; it was, in fact, only the tyranny
of a few men who were soon overthrown by others, and it consequently
presented no stability of principles or of views, no security either
with respect to men, or with respect to things. It should seem that
that stability and that security ought to have existed from the
establishment, and as the effect, of the constitutional system; and
yet they did not exist more, perhaps even less, than they had done
before. In truth, we did make some partial treaties, we signed a
continental peace, and a general congress was held to confirm it; but
these treaties, these diplomatic conferences, appear to have been the
source of a new war, more inveterate and more bloody then before.
Before the 18th Fructidor (September 4) of the 5th year, the French
Government exhibited to foreign nations so uncertain an existence that
they refused to treat with it. After this great event the whole power
was absorbed in the Directory; the legislative body can hardly be
said to have existed; treaties of peace were broken, and war carried
everywhere, without that body having any share in those measures. The
same Directory, after having intimidated all Europe, and destroyed, at
its pleasure, several Governments, neither knowing how to make peace
or war, or how even to establish itself, was overturned by a
breath, on the 13th Prairial (June 18), to make room for other men,
influenced, perhaps, by different views, or who might be governed by
different principles. Judging, then, only from notorious facts, the
French Government must be considered as exhibiting nothing fixed,
neither in respect to men or to things.'

Here, then, is the picture, down to the period of the last revolution,
of the state of France under all its successive Governments!

Having taken a view of what it was, let us now examine what it is. In
the first place, we see, as has been truly stated, a change in the
description and form of the sovereign authority; a supreme power is
placed at the head of this nominal republic, with a more open avowal
of military despotism than at any former period; with a more open and
undisguised abandonment of the names and pretences under which
that despotism long attempted to conceal itself. The different
institutions, republican in their form and appearance, which were
before the instruments of that despotism, are now annihilated; they
have given way to the absolute power of one man, concentrating in
himself all the authority of the State, and differing from other
monarchs only in this, that, as my honourable friend[7] truly stated
it, he wields a sword instead of a sceptre. What, then, is the
confidence we are to derive either from the frame of the Government
or from the character and past conduct of the person who is now
the absolute ruler of France? Had we seen a man, of whom we had no
previous knowledge, suddenly invested with the sovereign authority of
the country; invested with the power of taxation, with the power
of the sword, the power of war and peace, the unlimited power of
commanding the resources, of disposing of the lives and fortunes of
every man in France; if we had seen, at the same moment, all the
inferior machinery of the revolution, which, under the variety of
successive shocks, had kept the system in motion, still remaining
entire, all that, by requisition and plunder, had given activity to
the revolutionary system of finance, and had furnished the means of
creating an army, by converting every man, who was of age to bear
arms, into a soldier, not for the defence of his own country, but for
the sake of carrying unprovoked war into surrounding countries; if we
had seen all the subordinate instruments of Jacobin power subsisting
in their full force, and retaining (to use the French phrase) all
their original organization; and had then observed this single change
in the conduct of their affairs, that there was now one man, with no
rival to thwart his measures, no colleague to divide his powers, no
council to control his operations, no liberty of speaking or writing,
no expression of public opinion to check or influence his conduct;
under such circumstances, should we be wrong to pause, or wait for the
evidence of facts and experience, before we consented to trust our
safety to the forbearance of a single man, in such a situation, and to
relinquish those means of defence which have hitherto carried us safe
through all the storms of the revolution? if we were to ask what are
the principles and character of this stranger, to whom Fortune has
suddenly committed the concerns of a great and powerful nation?

But is this the actual state of the present question? Are we talking
of a stranger of whom we have heard nothing? No, Sir; we have heard
of him; we, and Europe, and the world, have heard both of him and the
satellites by whom he is surrounded; and it is impossible to discuss
fairly the propriety of any answer which could be returned to his
overtures of negotiation, without taking into consideration the
inferences to be drawn from his personal character and conduct. I know
it is the fashion with some gentlemen to represent any reference to
topics of this nature as invidious and irritating; but the truth is,
that they rise unavoidably out of the very nature of the question.
Would it have been possible for Ministers to discharge their duty,
in offering their advice to their Sovereign, either for accepting or
declining negotiation, without taking into their account the reliance
to be placed on the disposition and the principles of the person on
whose disposition and principles the security to be obtained by treaty
must, in the present circumstances, principally depend? or would they
act honestly or candidly towards Parliament and towards the country,
if, having been guided by these considerations, they forbore to state
publicly and distinctly the real grounds which have influenced their
decision; and if, from a false delicacy and groundless timidity, they
purposely declined an examination of a point, the most essential
towards enabling Parliament to form a just determination on so
important a subject?

What opinion, then, are we led to form of the pretensions of the
Consul to those particular qualities which, in the official note, are
represented as affording us, from his personal character, the surest
pledge of peace? We are told this is his _second attempt_ at general
pacification. Let us see, for a moment, how this _second attempt_ has
been conducted. There is, indeed, as the learned gentleman has said, a
word in the first declaration which refers to general peace, and which
states this to be the second time in which the Consul has endeavoured
to accomplish that object. We thought fit, for the reasons which have
been assigned, to decline altogether the proposal of treating, under
the present circumstances; but we, at the same time, expressly stated
that, whenever the moment for treaty should arrive, we would in no
case treat but in conjunction with our allies. Our general refusal
to negotiate at the present moment did not prevent the Consul from
renewing his overtures; but were they renewed for the purpose of
general pacification? Though he had hinted at general peace in the
terms of his first note; though we had shown, by our answer, that
we deemed negotiation, even for general peace, at this moment,
inadmissible; though we added that, even at any future period, we
would treat only in conjunction with our allies; what was the proposal
contained in his last note?--To treat, not for _general peace_, but
for a _separate peace_ between Great Britain and France.

Such was the second attempt to effect _general_ _pacification_: a
proposal for a _separate_ treaty with Great Britain. What had been the
first?--The conclusion of a _separate_ treaty with Austria: and, in
addition to this fact, there are two anecdotes connected with the
conclusion of this treaty which are sufficient to illustrate the
disposition of this pacificator of Europe. This very treaty of Campo
Formio was ostentatiously professed to be concluded with the Emperor,
for the purpose of enabling Buonaparte to take the command of the army
of England, and to dictate a separate peace with this country on
the banks of the Thames. But there is this additional circumstance,
singular beyond all conception, considering that we are now referred
to the Treaty of Campo Formio as a proof of the personal disposition
of the Consul to general peace; he sent his two confidential and
chosen friends, _Berthier_ and _Monge_, charged to communicate to the
Directory this Treaty of Campo Formio; to announce to them that one
enemy was humbled, that the war with Austria was terminated, and,
therefore, that now was the moment to prosecute their operations
against this country; they used, on this occasion, the memorable
words, '_the Kingdom of Great Britain and the French Republic cannot
exist together_.' This, I say, was the solemn declaration of the
deputies and ambassadors of Buonaparte himself, offering to the
Directory the first-fruits of this first attempt at general

So much for his disposition towards general pacification: let us look
next at the part he has taken in the different stages of the French
revolution, and let us then judge whether we are to look to him as
the security against revolutionary principles; let us determine what
reliance we can place on his engagements with other countries, when
we see how he has served his engagements to his own. When the
constitution of the third year was established under Barras, that
constitution was imposed by the arms of Buonaparte, then commanding
the army of the Triumvirate in Paris. To that constitution he then
swore fidelity. How often he has repeated the same oath I know not;
but twice, at least, we know that he has not only repeated it himself,
but tendered it to others, under circumstances too striking not to be

Sir, the House cannot have forgotten the revolution of September 4,
which produced the dismissal of Lord Malmesbury from Lisle. How was
that revolution procured? It was procured chiefly by the promise
of Buonaparte (in the name of his army) decidedly to support the
Directory in those measures which led to the infringement and
violation of everything that the authors of the constitution of 1795,
or its adherents, could consider as fundamental, and which established
a system of despotism inferior only to that now realized in his own
person. Immediately before this event, in the midst of the desolation
and bloodshed of Italy, he had received the sacred present of new
banners from the Directory; he delivered them to his army with this
exhortation: 'Let us swear, fellow soldiers, by the manes of the
patriots who have died by our side, eternal hatred to the enemies of
the constitution of the third year'--that very constitution which he
soon after enabled the Directory to violate, and which, at the head of
his grenadiers, he has now finally destroyed. Sir, that oath was
again renewed, in the midst of that very scene to which I have last
referred; the oath of fidelity to the constitution of the third year
was administered to all the members of the assembly then sitting
(under the terror of the bayonet), as the solemn preparation for the
business of the day; and the morning was ushered in with swearing
attachment to the constitution, that the evening might close with its

If we carry our views out of France, and look at the dreadful
catalogue of all the breaches of treaty, all the acts of perfidy at
which I have only glanced, and which are precisely commensurate with
the number of treaties which the Republic have made (for I have sought
in vain for any one which it has made and which it has not broken); if
we trace the history of them all from the beginning of the revolution
to the present time, or if we select those which have been accompanied
by the most atrocious cruelty, and marked the most strongly with the
characteristic features of the revolution, the name of Buonaparte will
be found allied to more of them than that of any other that can be
handed down in the history of the crimes and miseries of the last ten
years. His name will be recorded with the horrors committed in Italy,
in the memorable campaign of 1796 and 1797, in the Milanese, in Genoa,
in Modena, in Tuscany, in Rome, and in Venice.

His entrance into Lombardy was announced by a solemn proclamation,
issued on April 27, 1796, which terminated with these words: 'Nations
of Italy! the French army is come to break your chains; the French
are the friends of the people in every country; your religion, your
property, your customs, shall be respected.' This was followed by
a second proclamation, dated from Milan, May 20, and signed
'Buonaparte', in these terms: 'Respect for property and personal
security, respect for the religion of countries: these are the
sentiments of the Government of the French Republic, and of the army
of Italy. The French, victorious, consider the nations of Lombardy as
their brothers.' In testimony of this fraternity, and to fulfil the
solemn pledge of respecting property, this very proclamation imposed
on the Milanese a provisional contribution to the amount of twenty
millions of livres, or near one million sterling; and successive
exactions were afterwards levied on that single state to the amount,
in the whole, of near six millions sterling. The regard to religion
and to the customs of the country was manifested with the same
scrupulous fidelity. The churches were given up to indiscriminate
plunder. Every religious and charitable fund, every public treasure,
was confiscated. The country was made the scene of every species of
disorder and rapine. The priests, the established form of worship, all
the objects of religious reverence, were openly insulted by the French
troops; at Pavia, particularly, the tomb of St. Augustine, which the
inhabitants were accustomed to view with peculiar veneration, was
mutilated and defaced. This last provocation having roused the
resentment of the people, they flew to arms, surrounded the French
garrison, and took them prisoners, but carefully abstained from
offering any violence to a single soldier. In revenge for this
conduct, Buonaparte, then on his march to the Mincio, suddenly
returned, collected his troops, and carried the extremity of military
execution over the country: he burnt the town of Benasco, and
massacred eight hundred of its inhabitants; he marched to Pavia, took
it by storm, and delivered it over to general plunder, and published,
at the same moment, a proclamation, of May 26, ordering his troops to
shoot all those who had not laid down their arms and taken an oath
of obedience, and to burn every village where the _tocsin_ should be
sounded, and to put its inhabitants to death.

The transactions with Modena were on a smaller scale, but in the same
character. Buonaparte began by signing a treaty, by which the Duke
of Modena was to pay twelve millions of livres, and neutrality was
promised him in return; this was soon followed by the personal arrest
of the Duke, and by a fresh extortion of two hundred thousand sequins;
after this he was permitted, on the payment of a further sum, to sign
another treaty, called a _Convention de Suerete_, which of course was
only the prelude to the repetition of similar exactions. Nearly at
the same period, in violation of the rights of neutrality, and of the
treaty which had been concluded between the French Republic and the
Grand Duke of Tuscany in the preceding year, and in breach of a
positive promise given only a few days before, the French army
forcibly took possession of Leghorn, for the purpose of seizing the
British property which was deposited there, and confiscating it as
prize; and shortly after, when Buonaparte agreed to evacuate Leghorn
in return for the evacuation of the island of Elba, which was in the
possession of the British troops, he insisted upon a separate
article, by which, in addition to the plunder before obtained, by the
infraction of the law of nations, it was stipulated that the Grand
Duke should pay to the French the expense which they had incurred by
this invasion of his territory.

In the proceedings towards Genoa we shall find not only a continuation
of the same system of extortion and plunder (in violation of the
solemn pledge contained in the proclamations already referred to),
but a striking instance of the revolutionary means employed for the
destruction of independent governments. A French Minister was at that
time resident at Genoa, which was acknowledged by France to be in a
state of neutrality and friendship: in breach of this neutrality,
Buonaparte began, in the year 1796, with the demand of a loan; he
afterwards, from the month of September, required and enforced the
payment of a monthly subsidy, to the amount which he thought proper to
stipulate: these exactions were accompanied by repeated assurances and
protestations of friendship; they were followed, in May, 1797, by a
conspiracy against the Government, fomented by the emissaries of the
French Embassy, and conducted by the partisans of France, encouraged
and afterwards protected by the French Minister. The conspirators
failed in their first attempt; overpowered by the courage and
voluntary exertions of the inhabitants, their force was dispersed, and
many of their number were arrested. Buonaparte instantly considered
the defeat of the conspirators as an act of aggression against the
French Republic; he dispatched an aide-de-camp with an order to the
Senate of this independent state; first, to release all the French
who were detained; secondly, to punish those who had arrested them;
thirdly, to declare that they had had no share in the insurrection;
and fourthly, to disarm the people. Several French prisoners were
immediately released, and a proclamation was preparing to disarm the
inhabitants, when, by a second note, Buonaparte required the arrest
of the three Inquisitors of State, and immediate alterations in the
constitution; he accompanied this with an order to the French Minister
to quit Genoa if his commands were not immediately carried into
execution; at the same moment his troops entered the territory of the
republic, and shortly after the councils, intimidated and overpowered,
abdicated their functions. Three deputies were then sent to Buonaparte
to receive from him a new constitution; on June 6, after the
conferences at Montebello, he signed a convention, or rather issued a
decree, by which he fixed the new form of their Government; he himself
named provisionally all the members who were to compose it, and he
required the payment of seven millions of livres, as the price of
the subversion of their constitution and their independence. These
transactions require but one short comment; it is to be found in the
official account given of them at Paris, which is in these memorable
words: 'General Buonaparte has pursued the only line of conduct which
could be allowed in the representative of a nation which has supported
the war only to procure the solemn acknowledgement of the right of
nations to change the form of their Government. He contributed nothing
towards the revolution of Genoa, but he seized the first moment to
acknowledge the new Government, as soon as he saw that it was the
result of the wishes of the people.'[8]

It is unnecessary to dwell on the wanton attacks against Rome, under
the direction of Buonaparte himself, in the year 1796, and in the
beginning of 1797, which led first to the Treaty of Tolentino,
concluded by Buonaparte, in which, by enormous sacrifices, the Pope
was allowed to purchase the acknowledgement of his authority as a
sovereign prince; and secondly, to the violation of that very treaty,
and to the subversion of the papal authority by Joseph Buonaparte, the
brother and the agent of the general, and the Minister of the French
Republic to the Holy See: a transaction accompanied by outrages and
insults towards the pious and venerable Pontiff (in spite of the
sanctity of his age and the unsullied purity of his character), which
even to a Protestant seemed hardly short of the guilt of sacrilege.

But of all the disgusting and tragical scenes which took place in
Italy, in the course of the period I am describing, those which passed
at Venice are perhaps the most striking and the most characteristic:
in May, 1796, the French army, under Buonaparte, in the full tide of
its success against the Austrians, first approached the territories of
this Republic, which, from the commencement of the war, had observed
a rigid neutrality. Their entrance on these territories was as usual
accompanied by a solemn proclamation in the name of their general.
'Buonaparte to the Republic of Venice.' 'It is to deliver the finest
country in Europe from the iron yoke of the proud House of Austria
that the French army has braved obstacles the most difficult to
surmount. Victory in union with justice has crowned its efforts. The
wreck of the enemy's army has retired behind the Mincio. The
French army, in order to follow them, passes over the territory
of the Republic of Venice; but it will never forget, that ancient
friendship unites the two republics. Religion, government, customs,
and property, shall be respected. That the people may be without
apprehension, the most severe discipline shall be maintained. All that
may be provided for the army shall be faithfully paid for in money.
The general-in-chief engages the officers of the Republic of Venice,
the magistrates, and the priests, to make known these sentiments to
the people, in order that confidence may cement that friendship which
has so long united the two nations, faithful in the path of honour, as
in that of victory. The French soldier is terrible only to the enemies
of his liberty and his Government. Buonaparte.'

This proclamation was followed by exactions similar to those which
were practised against Genoa, by the renewal of similar professions of
friendship, and the use of similar means to excite insurrection. At
length, in the spring of 1797, occasion was taken from disturbances
thus excited, to forge, in the name of the Venetian Government, a
proclamation[9], hostile to France; and this proceeding was made the
ground for military execution against the country, and for
effecting by force the subversion of its ancient government and the
establishment of the democratic forms of the French revolution. This
revolution was sealed by a treaty, signed in May, 1797, between
Buonaparte and commissioners appointed on the part of the new and
revolutionary Government of Venice. By the second and third secret
articles of this treaty, Venice agreed to give as a ransom, to secure
itself against all farther exactions or demands, the sum of three
millions of livres in money, the value of three millions more in
articles of naval supply, and three ships of the line; and it received
in return the assurances of the friendship and support of the French
Republic. Immediately after the signature of this treaty, the arsenal,
the library, and the palace of St. Marc were ransacked and plundered,
and heavy additional contributions were imposed upon its inhabitants:
and, in not more than four months afterwards, this very Republic of
Venice, united by alliance to France, the creature of Buonaparte
himself, from whom it had received the present of French liberty, was
by the same Buonaparte transferred under the Treaty of Campo Formio,
to 'that iron yoke of the proud House of Austria', to deliver it from
which he had represented in his first proclamation to be the great
object of all his operations.

Sir, all this is followed by the memorable expedition into Egypt,
which I mention, not merely because it forms a principal article
in the catalogue of those acts of violence and perfidy in which
Buonaparte has been engaged; not merely because it was an enterprise
peculiarly his own, of which he was himself the planner, the executor,
and the betrayer; but chiefly because, when from thence he retires to
a different scene to take possession of a new throne, from which he is
to speak upon an equality with the kings and governors of Europe, he
leaves behind him, at the moment of his departure, a specimen, which
cannot be mistaken, of his principles of negotiation. The intercepted
correspondence, which has been alluded to in this debate, seems to
afford the strongest ground to believe that his offers to the Turkish
Government to evacuate Egypt were made solely with a view '_to gain
time_';[10] that the ratification of any treaty on this subject was to
be delayed with the view of finally eluding its performance, if any
change of circumstances favourable to the French should occur in the
interval. But whatever gentlemen may think of the intention with
which these offers were made, there will at least be no question with
respect to the credit due to those professions by which he endeavoured
to prove, in Egypt, his pacific dispositions. He expressly enjoins his
successor strongly and steadily to insist, in all his intercourse with
the Turks, that he came to Egypt with no hostile design, and that he
never meant to keep possession of the country; while, on the opposite
page of the same instructions, he states in the most unequivocal
manner his regret at the discomfiture of his favourite project of
colonizing Egypt, and of maintaining it as a territorial acquisition.
Now, Sir, if in any note addressed to the Grand Vizier, or the Sultan,
Buonaparte had claimed credit for the sincerity of his professions,
that he forcibly invaded Egypt with no view hostile to Turkey, and
solely for the purpose of molesting the British interests, is there
any one argument now used to induce us to believe his present
professions to us which might not have been equally urged on that
occasion to the Turkish Government? Would not those professions have
been equally supported by solemn asseverations, by the same reference
which is now made to personal character, with this single difference,
that they would then have been accompanied with one instance less
of that perfidy which we have had occasion to trace in this very

It is unnecessary to say more with respect to the credit due to his
professions, or the reliance to be placed on his general character:
but it will, perhaps, be argued that, whatever may be his character,
or whatever has been his past conduct, he has now an interest in
making and observing peace. That he has an interest in making peace
is at best but a doubtful proposition, and that he has an interest
in preserving it is still more uncertain. That it is his interest
to negotiate, I do not indeed deny; it is his interest above all to
engage this country in separate negotiation, in order to loosen and
dissolve the whole system of the confederacy on the Continent, to
palsy, at once, the arms of Russia or of Austria, or of any other
country that might look to you for support; and then either to break
off his separate treaty, or if he should have concluded it, to apply
the lesson which is taught in his school of policy in Egypt; and to
revive, at his pleasure, those claims of indemnification which _may
have been reserved to some happier period_.[11]

This is precisely the interest which he has in negotiation; but
on what grounds are we to be convinced that he has an interest in
concluding and observing a solid and permanent pacification? Under all
the circumstances of his personal character, and his newly acquired
power, what other security has he for retaining that power, but the
sword? His hold upon France is the sword, and he has no other. Is he
connected with the soil, or with the habits, the affections, or the
prejudices of the country? He is a stranger, a foreigner, and an
usurper; he unites in his own person everything that a pure Republican
must detest; everything that an enraged Jacobin has abjured;
everything that a sincere and faithful Royalist must feel as an
insult. If he is opposed at any time in his career, what is his
appeal? _He appeals to his fortune;_ in other words, to his army and
his sword. Placing, then, his whole reliance upon military support,
can he afford to let his military renown pass away, to let his laurels
wither, to let the memory of his achievements sink in obscurity? Is
it certain that, with his army confined within France, and restrained
from inroads upon her neighbours, he can maintain at his devotion a
force sufficiently numerous to support his power? Having no object but
the possession of absolute dominion, no passion but military glory,
is it certain that he can feel such an interest in permanent peace as
would justify us in laying down our arms, reducing our expense, and
relinquishing our means of security, on the faith of his engagements?
Do we believe that, after the conclusion of peace, he would not
still sigh over the lost trophies of Egypt, wrested from him by the
celebrated victory of Aboukir and the brilliant exertions of that
heroic band of British seamen whose influence and example rendered the
Turkish troops invincible at Acre? Can he forget that the effect of
these exploits enabled Austria and Russia, in one campaign, to recover
from France all which she had acquired by his victories, to dissolve
the charm which, for a time, fascinated Europe, and to show that their
generals, contending in a just cause, could efface, even by their
success and their military glory, the most dazzling triumphs of his
victories and desolating ambition?

Can we believe, with these impressions on his mind, that if, after a
year, eighteen months, or two years, of peace had elapsed, he should
be tempted by the appearance of a fresh insurrection in Ireland,
encouraged by renewed and unrestrained communication with France, and
fomented by the fresh infusion of Jacobin principles, if we were at
such a moment without a fleet to watch the ports of France, or to
guard the coasts of Ireland, without a disposable army, or an embodied
militia, capable of supplying a speedy and adequate reinforcement,
and that he had suddenly the means of transporting thither a body of
twenty or thirty thousand French troops: can we believe, that at such
a moment his ambition and vindictive spirit would be restrained by the
recollection of engagements, or the obligation of treaty? Or, if in
some new crisis of difficulty and danger to the Ottoman Empire, with
no British navy in the Mediterranean, no confederacy formed, no force
collected to support it, an opportunity should present itself for
resuming the abandoned expedition to Egypt, for renewing the avowed
and favourite project of conquering and colonizing that rich and
fertile country, and of opening the way to wound some of the vital
interests of England, and to plunder the treasures of the East, in
order to fill the bankrupt coffers of France, would it be the interest
of Buonaparte, under such circumstances, or his principles, his
moderation, his love of peace, his aversion to conquest, and his
regard for the independence of other nations--would it be all or any
of these that would secure us against an attempt, which would leave us
only the option of submitting, without a struggle, to certain loss
and disgrace, or of renewing the contest which we had prematurely
terminated, and renewing it without allies, without preparation, with
diminished means, and with increased difficulty and hazard?

Hitherto I have spoken only of the reliance which we can place on
the professions, the character, and the conduct of the present First
Consul; but it remains to consider the stability of his power. The
revolution has been marked throughout by a rapid succession of new
depositaries of public authority, each supplanting his predecessor;
what grounds have we as yet to believe that this new usurpation, more
odious and more undisguised than all that preceded it, will be more
durable? Is it that we rely on the particular provisions contained
in the code of the pretended constitution, which was proclaimed as
accepted by the French people, as soon as the garrison of Paris
declared their determination to exterminate all its enemies, and
before any of its articles could even be known to half the country,
whose consent was required for its establishment?

I will not pretend to inquire deeply into the nature and effects of
a constitution which can hardly be regarded but as a farce and a
mockery. If, however, it could be supposed that its provisions were
to have any effect, it seems equally adapted to two purposes; that
of giving to its founder for a time an absolute and uncontrolled
authority, and that of laying the certain foundation of future
disunion and discord, which, if they once prevail, must render the
exercise of all the authority under the constitution impossible, and
leave no appeal but to the sword.

Is, then, military despotism that which we are accustomed to consider
as a stable form of government? In all ages of the world it has been
attended with the least stability to the persons who exercised it,
and with the most rapid succession of changes and revolutions. The
advocates of the French revolution boasted in its outset, that by
their new system they had furnished a security for ever, not to France
only but to all countries in the world, against military despotism;
that the force of standing armies was vain and delusive; that no
artificial power could resist public opinion; and that it was upon the
foundation of public opinion alone that any government could stand. I
believe that in this instance, as in every other, the progress of the
French revolution has belied its professions; but so far from its
being a proof of the prevalence of public opinion against military
force, it is, instead of the proof, the strongest exception from that
doctrine which appears in the history of the world. Through all the
stages of the revolution military force has governed; public opinion
has scarcely been heard. But still I consider this as only an
exception from a general truth; I still believe that in every
civilized country (not enslaved by a Jacobin faction) public opinion
is the only sure support of any government: I believe this with the
more satisfaction, from a conviction that, if this contest is happily
terminated, the established Governments of Europe will stand upon
that rock firmer than ever; and whatever may be the defects of any
particular constitution, those who live under it will prefer its
continuance to the experiment of changes which may plunge them in the
unfathomable abyss of revolution, or extricate them from it only to
expose them to the terrors of military despotism. And to apply this to
France, I see no reason to believe that the present usurpation will
be more permanent than any other military despotism which has been
established by the same means, and with the same defiance of public

What, then, is the inference I draw from all that I have now stated?
Is it that we will in no case treat with Buonaparte? I say no such
thing. But I say, as has been said in the answer returned to the
French note, that we ought to wait for _experience, and the evidence
of facts_, before we are convinced that such a treaty is admissible.
The circumstances I have stated would well justify us if we should
be slow in being convinced; but on a question of peace and war,
everything depends upon degree, and upon comparison. If, on the one
hand, there should be an appearance that the policy of France is at
length guided by different maxims from those which have hitherto
prevailed; if we should hereafter see signs of stability in the
Government, which are not now to be traced; if the progress of the
allied army should not call forth such a spirit in France as to make
it probable that the act of the country itself will destroy the system
now prevailing; if the danger, the difficulty, the risk of continuing
the contest, should increase, while the hope of complete ultimate
success should be diminished; all these, in their due place, are
considerations which, with myself and (I can answer for it) with every
one of my colleagues, will have their just weight. But at present
these considerations all operate one way; at present there is nothing
from which we can presage a favourable disposition to change in the
French councils. There is the greatest reason to rely on powerful
co-operation from our allies; there are the strongest marks of a
disposition in the interior of France to active resistance against
this new tyranny; and there is every ground to believe, on reviewing
our situation, and that of the enemy, that if we are ultimately
disappointed of that complete success which we are at present entitled
to hope, the continuance of the contest, instead of making our
situation comparatively worse, will have made it comparatively better.

If, then, I am asked how long are we to persevere in the war, I can
only say, that no period can be accurately assigned beforehand.
Considering the importance of obtaining complete security for the
objects for which we contend, we ought not to be discouraged too soon:
but on the other hand, considering the importance of not impairing
and exhausting the radical strength of the country, there are limits
beyond which we ought not to persist, and which we can determine only
by estimating and comparing fairly, from time to time, the degree of
security to be obtained by treaty, and the risk and disadvantage of
continuing the contest.

But, Sir, there are some gentlemen in the House who seem to consider
it already certain that the ultimate success to which I am looking is
unattainable: they suppose us contending only for the restoration of
the French monarchy, which they believe to be impracticable, and deny
to be desirable for this country. We have been asked in the course of
this debate, do you think you can impose monarchy upon France, against
the will of the nation? I never thought it, I never hoped it, I never
wished it: I have thought, I have hoped, I have wished, that the time
might come when the effect of the arms of the allies might so far
overpower the military force which keeps France in bondage as to give
vent and scope to the thoughts and actions of its inhabitants. We
have, indeed, already seen abundant proof of what is the disposition
of a large part of the country; we have seen almost through the whole
of the revolution the western provinces of France deluged with the
blood of its inhabitants, obstinately contending for their ancient
laws and religion. We have recently seen, in the revival of that war,
a fresh instance of the zeal which still animates those countries in
the same cause. These efforts (I state it distinctly, and there are
those near me who can bear witness to the truth of the assertion) were
not produced by any instigation from hence; they were the effects of a
rooted sentiment prevailing through all those provinces, forced into
action by the _Law of the Hostages_ and the other tyrannical measures
of the Directory, at the moment when we were endeavouring to
discourage so hazardous an enterprise. If, under such circumstances,
we find them giving proofs of their unalterable perseverance in
their principles; if there is every reason to believe that the same
disposition prevails in many other extensive provinces of France; if
every party appears at length equally wearied and disappointed with
all the successive changes which the revolution has produced; if the
question is no longer between monarchy, and even the pretence and name
of liberty, but between the ancient line of hereditary princes on the
one hand, and a military tyrant, a foreign usurper, on the other; if
the armies of that usurper are likely to find sufficient occupation on
the frontiers, and to be forced at length to leave the interior of the
country at liberty to manifest its real feeling and disposition; what
reason have we to anticipate that the restoration of monarchy, under
such circumstances, is impracticable?

The learned gentleman has, indeed, told us that almost every man now
possessed of property in France must necessarily be interested in
resisting such a change, and that therefore it never can be effected.
If that single consideration were conclusive against the possibility
of a change, for the same reason the revolution itself, by which the
whole property of the country was taken from its ancient possessors,
could never have taken place. But though I deny it to be an
insuperable obstacle, I admit it to be a point of considerable
delicacy and difficulty. It is not, indeed, for us to discuss minutely
what arrangement might be formed on this point to conciliate and unite
opposite interests; but whoever considers the precarious tenure and
depreciated value of lands held under the revolutionary title, and the
low price for which they have generally been obtained, will think it,
perhaps, not impossible that an ample compensation might be made to
the bulk of the present possessors, both for the purchase-money they
have paid and for the actual value of what they now enjoy; and that
the ancient proprietors might be reinstated in the possession of their
former rights, with only such a temporary sacrifice as reasonable men
would willingly make to obtain so essential an object.

The honourable and learned gentleman, however, has supported his
reasoning on this part of the subject by an argument which he
undoubtedly considers as unanswerable--a reference to what would be
his own conduct in similar circumstances; and he tells us that every
landed proprietor in France must support the present order of things
in that country from the same motive that he and every proprietor of
three per cent stock would join in the defence of the constitution of
Great Britain. I must do the learned gentleman the justice to believe
that the habits of his profession must supply him with better and
nobler motives for defending a constitution which he has had so much
occasion to study and examine, than any which he can derive from the
value of his proportion (however large) of three per cents, even
supposing them to continue to increase in price as rapidly as they
have done during the last three years, in which the security and
prosperity of the country has been established by following a system
directly opposed to the counsels of the learned gentleman and his

The learned gentleman's illustration, however, though it fails with
respect to himself, is happily and aptly applied to the state of
France; and let us see what inference it furnishes with respect to
the probable attachment of moneyed men to the continuance of the
revolutionary system, as well as with respect to the general state
of public credit in that country. I do not, indeed, know that there
exists precisely any fund of three per cents in France, to furnish
a test for the patriotism and public spirit of the lovers of French
liberty. But there is another fund which may equally answer our
purpose--the capital of three per cent stock which formerly existed
in France has undergone a whimsical operation, similar to many
other expedients of finance which we have seen in the course of the
revolution--this was performed by a decree which, as they termed it,
_republicanized_ their debt; that is, in other words, struck off, at
once, two-thirds of the capital, and left the proprietors to take
their chance for the payment of interest on the remainder. This
remnant was afterwards converted into the present five per cent stock.
I had the curiosity very lately to inquire what price it bore in
the market, and I was told that the price had somewhat risen from
confidence in the new Government, and was actually as high as
_seventeen_. I really at first supposed that my informer meant
seventeen years' purchase for every pound of interest, and I began to
be almost jealous of revolutionary credit; but I soon found that he
literally meant seventeen pounds for every hundred pounds capital
stock of five per cent, that is, a little more than three and a half
years' purchase. So much for the value of revolutionary property, and
for the attachment with which it must inspire its possessors towards
the system of government to which that value is to be ascribed!

On the question, Sir, how far the restoration of the French monarchy,
if practicable, is desirable, I shall not think it necessary to say
much. Can it be supposed to be indifferent to us or to the world,
whether the throne of France is to be filled by a prince of the House
of Bourbon, or by him whose principles and conduct I have endeavoured
to develop? Is it nothing, with a view to influence and example,
whether the fortune of this last adventurer in the lottery of
revolutions shall appear to be permanent? Is it nothing whether a
system shall be sanctioned which confirms by one of its fundamental
articles that general transfer of property from its ancient and lawful
possessors, which holds out one of the most terrible examples of
national injustice, and which has furnished the great source of
revolutionary finance and revolutionary strength against all the
Powers of Europe?

In the exhausted and impoverished state of France, it seems for a
time impossible that any system but that of robbery and confiscation,
anything but the continued torture, which can be applied only by the
engines of the revolution, can extort from its ruined inhabitants more
than the means of supporting, in peace, the yearly expenditure of its
Government. Suppose, then, the heir of the House of Bourbon reinstated
on the throne; he will have sufficient occupation in endeavouring, if
possible, to heal the wounds, and gradually to repair the losses, of
ten years of civil convulsion; to reanimate the drooping commerce,
to rekindle the industry, to replace the capital, and to revive the
manufactures of the country. Under such circumstances, there must
probably be a considerable interval before such a monarch, whatever
may be his views, can possess the power which can make him formidable
to Europe; but while the system of the revolution continues, the case
is quite different. It is true, indeed, that even the gigantic and
unnatural means by which that revolution has been supported are so far
impaired; the influence of its principles and the terror of its arms
so far weakened; and its power of action so much contracted and
circumscribed, that against the embodied force of Europe, prosecuting
a vigorous war, we may justly hope that the remnant and wreck of this
system cannot long oppose an effectual resistance. But, supposing the
confederacy of Europe prematurely dissolved: supposing our armies
disbanded, our fleets laid up in our harbours, our exertions relaxed,
and our means of precaution and defence relinquished; do we believe
that the revolutionary power, with this rest and breathing-time
given it to recover from the pressure under which it is now sinking,
possessing still the means of calling suddenly and violently into
action whatever is the remaining physical force of France, under the
guidance of military despotism; do we believe that this power, the
terror of which is now beginning to vanish, will not again prove
formidable to Europe? Can we forget that, in the ten years in which
that power has subsisted, it has brought more misery on surrounding
nations, and produced more acts of aggression, cruelty, perfidy, and
enormous ambition, than can be traced in the history of France for the
centuries which have elapsed since the foundation of its monarchy,
including all the wars which, in the course of that period, have been
waged by any of those sovereigns whose projects of aggrandizement,
and violations of treaty, afford a constant theme of general
reproach against the ancient government of France? And with these
considerations before us, can we hesitate whether we have the best
prospect of permanent peace, the best security for the independence
and safety of Europe, from the restoration of the lawful government,
or from the continuance of revolutionary power in the hands of

In compromise and treaty with such a power, placed in such hands as
now exercise it, and retaining the same means of annoyance which it
now possesses, I see little hope of permanent security. I see no
possibility at this moment of concluding such a peace as would justify
that liberal intercourse which is the essence of real amity; no chance
of terminating the expenses or the anxieties of war, or of restoring
to us any of the advantages of established tranquillity; and as
a sincere lover of peace, I cannot be content with its nominal
attainment; I must be desirous of pursuing that system which promises
to attain, in the end, the permanent enjoyment of its solid and
substantial blessings for this country, and for Europe. As a sincere
lover of peace, I will not sacrifice it by grasping at the shadow,
when the reality is not substantially within my reach--_Cur igitur
pacem nolo? Quid infida est, quia periculosa, quia esse non potest_.

If, Sir, in all that I have now offered to the House, I have succeeded
in establishing the proposition that the system of the French
revolution has been such as to afford to foreign Powers no adequate
ground for security in negotiation, and that the change which has
recently taken place has not yet afforded that security; if I have
laid before you a just statement of the nature and extent of the
danger with which we have been threatened; it would remain only
shortly to consider, whether there is anything in the circumstances
of the present moment to induce us to accept a security confessedly
inadequate against a danger of such a description.

It will be necessary here to say a few words on the subject on
which gentlemen have been so fond of dwelling; I mean our former
negotiations, and particularly that at Lisle in 1797. I am desirous of
stating frankly and openly the true motives which induced me to concur
in then recommending negotiation; and I will leave it to the House,
and to the country, to judge whether our conduct at that time was
inconsistent with the principles by which we are guided at present.
That revolutionary policy which I have endeavoured to describe, that
gigantic system of prodigality and bloodshed by which the efforts of
France were supported, and which counts for nothing the lives and the
property of a nation, had at that period driven us to exertions which
had, in a great measure, exhausted the ordinary means of defraying
our immense expenditure, and had led many of those who were the most
convinced of the original justice and necessity of the war, and of the
danger of Jacobin principles, to doubt the possibility of persisting
in it till complete and adequate security could be obtained. There
seemed, too, much reason to believe that, without some new measure to
check the rapid accumulation of debt, we could no longer trust to the
stability of that funding system by which the nation had been enabled
to support the expense of all the different wars in which we have
engaged in the course of the present century. In order to continue our
exertions with vigour, it became necessary that a new and solid system
of finance should be established, such as could not be rendered
effectual but by the general and decided concurrence of public
opinion. Such a concurrence in the strong and vigorous measures
necessary for the purpose could not then be expected but from
satisfying the country, by the strongest and most decided proofs, that
peace on terms in any degree admissible was unattainable.

Under this impression we thought it our duty to attempt negotiation,
not from the sanguine hope, even at that time, that its result could
afford us complete security, but from the persuasion that the danger
arising from peace under such circumstances was less than that of
continuing the war with precarious and inadequate means. The result
of those negotiations proved that the enemy would be satisfied with
nothing less than the sacrifice of the honour and independence of the
country. From this conviction a spirit and enthusiasm was excited in
the nation, which produced the efforts to which we are indebted for
the subsequent change in our situation. Having witnessed that happy
change, having observed the increasing prosperity and security of
the country from that period, seeing how much more satisfactory our
prospects now are than any which we could then have derived from the
successful result of negotiation, I have not scrupled to declare, that
I consider the rupture of the negotiation, on the part of the enemy,
as a fortunate circumstance for the country. But because these are my
sentiments at this time, after reviewing what has since passed, does
it follow that we were, at that time, insincere in endeavouring to
obtain peace? The learned gentleman, indeed, assumes that we were;
and he even makes a concession, of which I desire not to claim the
benefit; he is willing to admit that, on our principles, and our view
of the subject, insincerity would have been justifiable. I know, Sir,
no plea that would justify those who are entrusted with the conduct
of public affairs, in holding out to Parliament and to the nation one
object while they were, in fact, pursuing another. I did, in fact,
believe, at the moment, the conclusion of peace (if it could have been
obtained) to be preferable to the continuance of the war under its
increasing risks and difficulties. I therefore wished for peace; I
sincerely laboured for peace. Our endeavours were frustrated by the
act of the enemy. If, then, the circumstances are since changed, if
what passed at that period has afforded a proof that the object we
aimed at was unattainable, and if all that has passed since has proved
that, if peace had been then made, it could not have been durable, are
we bound to repeat the same experiment, when every reason against it
is strengthened by subsequent experience, and when the inducements,
which led to it at that time, have ceased to exist?

When we consider the resources and the spirit of the country, can
any man doubt that if adequate security is not now to be obtained by
treaty, we have the means of prosecuting the contest without material
difficulty or danger, and with a reasonable prospect of completely
attaining our object? I will not dwell on the improved state of
public credit, on the continually increasing amount (in spite of
extraordinary temporary burdens) of our permanent revenue, on the
yearly accession of wealth to a degree unprecedented even in the most
flourishing times of peace, which we are deriving, in the midst of
war, from our extended and flourishing commerce; on the progressive
improvement and growth of our manufactures; on the proofs which we see
on all sides of the uninterrupted accumulation of productive capital;
and on the active exertion of every branch of national industry, which
can tend to support and augment the population, the riches, and the
power of the country.

As little need I recall the attention of the House to the additional
means of action which we have derived from the great augmentation of
our disposable military force, the continued triumphs of our powerful
and victorious navy, and the events which, in the course of the last
two years, have raised the military ardour and military glory of the
country to a height unexampled in any period of our history.

In addition to these grounds of reliance on our own strength and
exertions, we have seen the consummate skill and valour of the arms
of our allies proved by that series of unexampled success which
distinguished the last campaign, and we have every reason to expect a
co-operation on the Continent, even to a greater extent, in the course
of the present year. If we compare this view of our own situation with
everything we can observe of the state and condition of our enemy; if
we can trace him labouring under equal difficulty in finding men to
recruit his army, or money to pay it; if we know that in the course of
the last year the most rigorous efforts of military conscription were
scarcely sufficient to replace to the French armies, at the end of the
campaign, the numbers which they had lost in the course of it; if
we have seen that the force of the enemy, then in possession of
advantages which it has since lost, was unable to contend with the
efforts of the combined armies; if we know that, even while supported
by the plunder of all the countries which they had overrun, the French
armies were reduced, by the confession of their commanders, to the
extremity of distress, and destitute not only of the principal
articles of military supply, but almost of the necessaries of life: if
we see them now driven back within their own frontiers, and confined
within a country whose own resources have long since been proclaimed
by their successive governments to be unequal either to paying or
maintaining them; if we observe that, since the last revolution, no
one substantial or effectual measure has been adopted to remedy the
intolerable disorder of their finances, and to supply the deficiency
of their credit and resources; if we see, through large and populous
districts of France, either open war levied against the present
usurpation, or evident marks of disunion and distraction, which the
first occasion may call forth into a flame; if, I say, Sir, this
comparison be just, I feel myself authorized to conclude from it,
not that we are entitled to consider ourselves certain of ultimate
success, not that we are to suppose ourselves exempted from the
unforeseen vicissitudes of war; but that, considering the value of
the object for which we are contending, the means for supporting
the contest, and the probable course of human events, we should be
inexcusable if at this moment we were to relinquish the struggle on
any grounds short of entire and complete security against the greatest
danger which has ever yet threatened the world; that from perseverance
in our efforts under such circumstances we have the fairest reason to
expect the full attainment of that object; but that at all events,
even if we are disappointed in our more sanguine hopes, we are more
likely to gain than to lose by the continuation of the contest; that
every month to which it is continued, even if it should not in its
effects lead to the final destruction of the Jacobin system, must
tend so far to weaken and exhaust it as to give us at least a greater
comparative security in any other termination of the war; that on all
these grounds this is not the moment at which it is consistent with
our interest or our duty to listen to any proposals of negotiation
with the present ruler of France; but that we are not therefore
pledged to any unalterable determination as to our future conduct;
that in this we must be regulated by the course of events; and that it
will be the duty of His Majesty's Ministers from time to time to adapt
their measures to any variation of circumstances, to consider how
far the effects of the military operations of the allies, or of
the internal disposition of France, correspond with our present
expectations; and, on a view of the whole, to compare the difficulties
or risks which may arise in the prosecution of the contest, with the
prospect of ultimate success, or of the degree of advantage which may
be derived from its farther continuance, and to be governed by the
result of all these considerations in the opinion and advice which
they may offer to their Sovereign.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Erskine.]

[Footnote 2: Mr. Dundas.]

[Footnote 3: Sweden and Denmark.]

[Footnote 4: Vide Decree of December 15, 1792.]

[Footnote 5: Vide Speeches at the Whig Club.]

[Footnote 6: Vide Speech of Boulay de la Meurthe, in the Council of
Five Hundred, at St. Cloud, 18th Brumaire (9th November), 1799.]

[Footnote 7: Mr. Canning.]

[Footnote 8: Redacteur Officiel, June 30, 1797.]

[Footnote 9: Vide account of this transaction in the Proclamation of
the Senate of Venice, April 12, 1798.]

[Footnote 10: Vide 'Intercepted Letters from Egypt'.]

[Footnote 11: Vide 'Intercepted Letters from Egypt'.]


APRIL 30, 1823


I am exceedingly sorry, Mr. Speaker, to stand in the way of any
honourable gentleman who wishes to address the House on this important
occasion. But, considering the length of time which the debate has
already occupied, considering the late hour to which we have now
arrived on the third night of discussion, I fear that my own strength,
as well as that of the House, would be exhausted, if I were longer to
delay the explanations which it is my duty to offer, of the conduct
which His Majesty's Government have pursued, and of the principles by
which they have been guided, through a course of negotiations as
full of difficulty as any that have ever occupied the attention of a
Ministry, or the consideration of Parliament.

If gratitude be the proper description of that sentiment which one
feels towards the unconscious bestower of an unintended benefit, I
acknowledge myself sincerely grateful to the honourable gentleman
(Mr. Macdonald) who has introduced the present motion. Although I
was previously aware that the conduct of the Government in the late
negotiations had met with the individual concurrence of many, perhaps
of a great majority, of the members of this House; although I had
received intimations not to be mistaken, of the general satisfaction
of the country; still, as from the manner in which the papers
have been laid before Parliament, it was not the intention of the
Government to call for any opinion upon them, I feel grateful to the
honourable gentleman who has, in so candid and manly a manner, brought
them under distinct discussion; and who, I hope, will become, however
unwillingly, the instrument of embodying the sentiments of individuals
and of the country into a vote of parliamentary approbation.

The Government stands in a singular situation with respect to these
negotiations. They have maintained peace: they have avoided war. Peace
or war--the one or the other--is usually the result of negotiations
between independent States. But all the gentlemen on the other side,
with one or two exceptions (exceptions which I mention with honour),
have set out with declaring, that whatever the question before the
House may be, it is _not_ a question of peace or war. Now this does
appear to me to be a most whimsical declaration; especially when I
recollect, that before this debate commenced, it was known--it was
not disguised, it was vaunted without scruple or reserve--that the
dispositions of those opposed to Ministers were most heroically
warlike. It was not denied that they considered hostilities with
France to be desirable as well as necessary. The cry 'to arms' was
raised, and caps were thrown up for war, from a crowd which, if not
numerous, was yet loud in their exclamations. But now, when we come
to inquire whence these manifestations of feeling proceeded, two
individuals only have acknowledged that they had joined in the cry;
and for the caps which have been picked up it is difficult to find a

But, Sir, whatever may be contended to be the question now before the
House, the question which the Government had to consider, and on which
they had to decide, was--peace or war? Disguise or overshadow it how
you will, that question was at the bottom of all our deliberations;
and I have a right to require that the negotiations should be
considered with reference to that question; and to the decision,
which, be it right or wrong, we early adopted upon that question--the
decision that war was to be avoided, and peace, if possible,

How can we discuss with fairness, I might say with common sense, any
transactions, unless in reference to the object which was in the view
of those who carried them on? I repeat it, whether gentlemen in this
House do or do not consider the question to be one of peace or war,
the Ministers could not take a single step in the late negotiations,
till they had well weighed that question; till they had determined
what direction ought to be given to those negotiations, so far as that
question was concerned. We determined that it was our duty, in the
first instance, to endeavour to preserve peace if possible for all the
world: next, to endeavour to preserve peace between the nations whose
pacific relations appeared most particularly exposed to hazard; and
failing in this, to preserve at all events peace for this country; but
a peace consistent with the good faith, the interests, and the honour
of the nation.

I am far from intending to assert that our decision in this respect
is not a fit subject of examination. Undoubtedly the conduct of the
Government is liable to a twofold trial. First, was the object of
Ministers a right object? Secondly, did they pursue it in a right way?
The first of these questions, whether Ministers did right in aiming
at the preservation of peace, I postpone. I will return to the
consideration of it hereafter. My first inquiry is as to the merits
or demerits of the negotiations: and, in order to enter into that
inquiry, I must set out with assuming, for the time, that peace is the
object which we ought to have pursued.

With this assumption, I proceed to examine, whether the papers on the
table show that the best means were employed for attaining the given
object? If the object was unfit, there is an end of any discussion
as to the negotiations;--they must necessarily be wrong from the
beginning to the end; it is only in reference to their fitness for
the end proposed, that the papers themselves can be matter worthy of

In reviewing, then, the course of these negotiations, as directed to
maintain, first, the peace of Europe; secondly, the peace between
France and Spain; and lastly, peace for this country, they divide
themselves naturally into three heads:--first, the negotiations at
Verona; secondly, those with France; and thirdly, those with Spain. Of
each of these in their order.

I say, emphatically, in their order; because there can be no greater
fallacy than that which has pervaded the arguments of many honourable
gentlemen, who have taken up expressions used in one stage of these
negotiations, and applied them to another. An honourable baronet
(Sir F. Burdett), for instance, who addressed the House last night,
employed--or, I should rather say, adopted--a fallacy of this sort,
with respect to an expression of mine in the extract of a dispatch to
the Duke of Wellington, which stands second in the first series of
papers. It is but just to the honourable baronet to admit that his
observation was adopted, not original; because, in a speech eminent
for its ability and for its fairness of reasoning (however I may
disagree both with its principles and its conclusions), this, which
he condescended to borrow, was in truth the only very weak and
ill-reasoned part. By my dispatch of the 27th of September the Duke
of Wellington was instructed to declare, that 'to any interference by
force or menace on the part of the allies against Spain, _come what
may_, His Majesty will not be party'. Upon this the honourable
baronet, borrowing, as I have said, the remark itself, and borrowing
also the air of astonishment, which, as I am informed, was assumed by
the noble proprietor of the remark, in another place, exclaimed '"Come
what may"! What is the meaning of this ambiguous menace, this mighty
phrase, "that thunders in the index"?--"Come what may!" Surely a
denunciation of war is to follow. But no--no such thing. Only--come
what may--"His Majesty will be no party to such proceedings." Was ever
such a _bathos_! Such a specimen of sinking in policy? "_Quid dignum
tanto feret hic promissor hiatu?_"'

Undoubtedly, Sir, if the honourable baronet could show that this
declaration was applicable to the whole course of the negotiations,
or to a more advanced stage of them, there would be something in the
remark, and in the inference which he wished to be drawn from it.
But, before the declaration is condemned as utterly feeble and
inconclusive, let us consider what was the question to which it was
intended as an answer. That question, Sir, was not as to what England
would do in a war between France and Spain, but as to what part she
would take if, in the Congress at Verona, a determination should be
avowed by _the allies_ to interfere forcibly in the affairs of Spain.
What then was the meaning of the answer to that proposition,--that,
'_come what might_, His Majesty would be no party to such a
project'? Why, plainly that His Majesty would not concur in such a
determination, even though a difference with his allies, even though
the dissolution of the alliance, should be the consequence of his
refusal. The answer, therefore, was exactly adapted to the question.
This specimen of the _bathos_, this instance of perfection in the art
of sinking, as it has been described to be, had its effect; and
the Congress separated without determining in favour of any joint
operation of a hostile character against Spain.

Sir, it is as true in politics as in mechanics, that the test of skill
and of success is to achieve the greatest purpose with the least
power. If, then, it be found that, by this little intimation, we
gained the object that we sought for, where was the necessity for
greater flourish or greater pomp of words? An idle waste of effort
would only have risked the loss of the object which by temperance we

But where is the testimony in favour of the effect which this
intimation produced? I have it, both written and oral. My first
witness is the Duke Mathieu de Montmorency, who states, in his
official note of the 26th of December, that the measures conceived and
proposed at Verona '_would, have been_ completely successful, _if_
England had thought herself at liberty to concur in them'. Such was
the opinion entertained, by the Plenipotentiary of France of the
failure at Verona, and of the cause of that failure. What was the
opinion of Spain? My voucher for that opinion is the dispatch from
Sir W. A'Court, of the 7th of January; in which he describes the
comfort and relief that were felt by the Spanish Government, when they
learnt that the Congress at Verona had broken up with no other result
than the _bruta fulmina_ of the three dispatches from the courts in
alliance with France. The third witness whom I produce, and not the
least important, because an unwilling and most unexpected, and in this
case surely a most unsuspected witness, is the honourable member for
Westminster (Mr. Hobhouse), who seems to have had particular sources
of information as to what was passing at the Congress. According to
the antechamber reports which were furnished to the honourable member
(and which, though not always the most authentic, were in this
instance tolerably correct), it appears that there was to be _no
joint_ declaration against Spain; and it was, it seems, generally
understood at Verona, that the instructions given to His Majesty's
Plenipotentiary, by the Liberal--I beg pardon, to be quite accurate I
am afraid I must say, the Radical--Foreign Minister of England, were
the cause. Now the essence of those instructions was comprised in that
little sentence, which has been so much criticized for meagreness and

In this case, then, the English Government is impeached, not for
failure, but for success; and the honourable baronet, with taste not
his own, has expressed himself dissatisfied with that success, only
because the machinery employed to produce it did not make noise enough
in its operation.

I contend, Sir, that whatever might grow out of a separate conflict
between Spain and France (though matter for grave consideration) was
less to be dreaded, than that all the Great Powers of the Continent
should have been arrayed together against Spain; and that although the
first object, in point of importance, indeed, was to keep the peace
altogether--to prevent _any_ war against Spain--the first, in point of
time, was to prevent a _general_ war; to change the question from a
question between the allies on one side and Spain on the other, to a
question between nation and nation. This, whatever the result might
be, would reduce the quarrel to the size of ordinary events, and bring
it within the scope of ordinary diplomacy. The immediate object of
England, therefore, was to hinder the impress of a joint character
from being affixed to the war--if war there must be--with Spain; to
take care that the war should not grow out of an assumed jurisdiction
of the Congress; to keep within reasonable bounds that predominating
_areopagitical_ spirit, which the memorandum of the British Cabinet of
May, 1820, describes as 'beyond the sphere of the original conception,
and understood principles of the alliance',--'an alliance never
intended as a union for the government of the world, or for the
superintendence of the internal affairs of other States.' And this, I
say, was accomplished.

With respect to Verona, then, what remains of accusation against the
Government? It has been charged, not so much that the object of the
Government was amiss, as that the negotiations were conducted in too
low a tone. But the case was obviously one in which a high tone might
have frustrated the object. I beg, then, of the House, before they
proceed to adopt an Address which exhibits more of the ingenuity of
philologists than of the policy of statesmen--before they found
a censure of the Government for its conduct in negotiations of
transcendent practical importance, upon refinements of grammatical
nicety--I beg that they will at least except from the proposed
censure, the transactions at Verona, where I think I have shown that a
tone of reproach and invective was unnecessary, and, therefore, would
have been misplaced.

Among those who have made unjust and unreasonable objections to the
tone of our representations at Verona, I should be grieved to include
the honourable member for Bramber (Mr. Wilberforce), with whose
mode of thinking I am too well acquainted not to be aware that his
observations are founded on other and higher motives than those of
political controversy. My honourable friend, through a long and
amiable life, has mixed in the business of the world without being
stained by its contaminations: and he, in consequence, is apt to
place--I will not say too high, but higher, I am afraid, than the ways
of the world will admit, the standard of political morality. I fear
my honourable friend is not aware how difficult it is to apply to
politics those pure, abstract principles which are indispensable to
the excellence of private ethics. Had we employed in the negotiations
that serious moral strain which he might have been more inclined to
approve, many of the gentlemen opposed to me would, I doubt not,
have complained, that we had taken a leaf from the book of the Holy
Alliance itself; that we had framed in their own language a canting
protest against their purposes, not in the spirit of sincere dissent,
but the better to cover our connivance. My honourable friend, I admit,
would not have been of the number of those who would so have accused
us: but he may be assured that he would have been wholly disappointed
in the practical result of our didactic reprehensions. In truth,
the principle of _non-interference_ is one on which we were already
irrecoverably at variance in opinion with the allies; it was no longer
debatable ground. On the one hand, the alliance upholds the doctrine
of an European police; this country, on the other hand, as appears
from the memorandum already quoted, protests against that doctrine.
The question is, in fact, settled, as many questions are, by each
party retaining its own opinions; and the points reserved for debate
are points only of practical application. To such a point it was that
we directed our efforts at Verona.

There are those, however, who think that with a view of conciliating
the Continental Powers, and of winning them away the more readily
from their purposes, we should have addressed them as tyrants and
despots--tramplers on the rights and liberties of mankind. This
experiment would, to say the least of it, be a very singular one in
diplomacy. It may be possible, though I think not very probable, that
the allies would have borne such an address with patience; that they
would have retorted only with the 'whispering humbleness' of Shylock
in the play, and said,--

Fair Sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
You spurn'd me such a day; another time
You called me--dog; and, for these courtesies,

'we are ready to comply with whatever you desire.' This, I say, may be
possible. But I confess I would rather make such an experiment, when
the issue of it was matter of more indifference. Till then, I shall
be loath to employ towards our allies a language, to which if they
yielded, we should ourselves despise them. I doubt whether it is wise,
even in this House, to indulge in such a strain of rhetoric; to call
'wretches' and 'barbarians', and a hundred other hard names, Powers
with whom, after all, if the map of Europe cannot be altogether
cancelled, we must, even according to the admission of the most
anti-continental politicians, maintain _some_ international
intercourse. I doubt whether these sallies of raillery--these flowers
of Billingsgate--are calculated to soothe, any more than to adorn;
whether, on some occasion or other, we may not find that those on whom
they are lavished have not been utterly unsusceptible of feelings of
irritation and resentment:

Medio de fonte leporum
Surget amari aliquid, quod in ipsis floribus angat.

But be the language of good sense or good taste in this House what it
may, clear I am that, in diplomatic correspondence, no Minister would
be justified in risking the friendship of foreign countries, and the
peace of his own, by coarse reproach and galling invective; and that
even while we are pleading for the independence of nations, it is
expedient to respect the independence of those with whom we plead. We
differ widely from our Continental allies on one great principle, it
is true: nor do we, nor ought we to disguise that difference; nor to
omit any occasion of practically upholding our own opinion. But every
consideration, whether of policy or of justice, combines with the
recollection of the counsels which we have shared, and of the deeds
which we have achieved in concert and companionship, to induce us to
argue our differences of opinion, however freely, with temper; and to
enforce them, however firmly, without insult.

Before I quit Verona, there are other detached objections which have
been urged against our connexion with the Congress, of which it may be
proper to take notice. It has been asked why we sent a Plenipotentiary
to the Congress at all. It may, perhaps, be right here to
observe, that it was not originally intended to send the British
Plenipotentiary to _Verona_. The Congress at Verona was originally
convened solely for the consideration of the affairs of Italy, with
which, the House is aware, England had declined to interfere two
years before. England was, therefore, not to participate in those
proceedings; and all that required her participation was to be
arranged in a previous Congress at _Vienna_. But circumstances had
delayed the Duke of Wellington's departure from England, so that he
did not reach Vienna till many weeks after the time appointed. The
Sovereigns had waited to the last hour consistent with their Italian
arrangements. The option was given to our Plenipotentiary to meet them
on their return to Vienna; but it was thought, upon the whole,
more convenient to avoid further delay; and the Duke of Wellington
therefore proceeded to Verona.

Foremost among the objects intended to be discussed at Vienna was the
impending danger of hostilities between Russia and the Porte. I have
no hesitation in saying that, when I accepted the seals of office,
_that_ was the object to which the anxiety of the British Government
was principally directed. The negotiations at Constantinople had been
carried on through the British Ambassador. So completely had this
business been placed in the hands of Lord Strangford, that it was
thought necessary to summon him to Vienna. Undoubtedly it might be
presumed, from facts which were of public notoriety, that the affairs
of Spain could not altogether escape the notice of the assembled
Sovereigns and Ministers; but the bulk of the instructions which had
been prepared for the Duke of Wellington related to the disputes
between Russia and the Porte: and how little the British Government
expected that so prominent a station would be assigned to the affairs
of Spain, may be inferred from the Duke of Wellington's finding it
necessary to write from Paris for specific instructions on that

But it is said that Spain ought to have been invited to send a
Plenipotentiary to the Congress.

So far as Great Britain is concerned, I answer--in the first place, as
we did not wish the affairs of Spain to be brought into discussion at
all, we could not take or suggest a preliminary step which would have
seemed to recognize the necessity of such a discussion. In the next
place, if Spain had been invited, the answer to that invitation might
have produced a contrary effect to that which we aimed at producing.
Spain must either have sent a Plenipotentiary, or have refused to do
so. The refusal would not have failed to be taken by the allies as a
proof of the _duresse_ of the King of Spain. The sending one, if sent
(as he must have been) jointly by the King of Spain and the Cortes,
would at once have raised the whole question of the _legitimacy_ of
the existing Government of Spain, and would, almost to a certainty,
have led to a joint declaration from the alliance, such as it was our
special object to avoid.

But was there anything in the general conduct of Great Britain at
Verona, which lowered, as has been asserted, the character of England?
Nothing like it. Our Ambassador at Constantinople returned from Verona
to his post, with full powers from Russia to treat on her behalf with
the Turkish Government; from which Government, on the other hand, he
enjoys as full confidence as perhaps any Power ever gave to one of
its own Ambassadors. Such is the manifest decay of our authority, so
fallen in the eyes of all mankind is the character of this country,
that two of the greatest States of the world are content to arrange
their differences through a British Minister, from reliance on British
influence, and from confidence in British equity and British wisdom!

Such then was the issue of the Congress, as to the question between
Russia and the Porte; the question (I beg it to be remembered) upon
which we expected to be principally if not entirely engaged at that
Congress, if it had been held (as was intended when the Duke of
Wellington left London) at Vienna.

As to Italy, I have already said, it was distinctly understood that
we had resolved to take no share in the discussions. But it is almost
needless to add that the evacuation of Naples and of Piedmont was a
measure with respect to which, though the Plenipotentiary of Great
Britain was not entitled to give or to withhold the concurrence of his
Government, he could not but signify its cordial approbation.

The result of the Congress as to Spain was simply the discontinuance
of diplomatic intercourse with that Power, on the part of Austria,
Russia, and Prussia; a step neither necessarily nor probably leading
to war; perhaps (in some views) rather diminishing the risk of it; a
step which had been taken by the same monarchies towards Portugal
two years before, without leading to any ulterior consequences. The
concluding expression of the Duke of Wellington's last note at Verona,
in which he states that all that Great Britain could do was to
'endeavour to allay irritation at Madrid', describes all that in
effect was necessary to be done there, after the Ministers of the
allied Powers should be withdrawn: and the House have seen in Sir W.
A'Court's dispatches how scrupulously the Duke of Wellington's promise
was fulfilled by the representations of our Minister at Madrid. They
have seen, too, how insignificant the result of the Congress of
Verona was considered at Madrid, in comparison with what had been

The result of the Congress as to France was a promise of countenance
and support from the allies in three specified hypothetical
cases:--(1) of an attack made by Spain on France; (2) of any outrage
on the person of the King or Royal Family of Spain; (3) of any attempt
to change the dynasty of that kingdom. Any unforeseen case, if any
such should arise, was to be the subject of new deliberation, either
between Court and Court, or in the conferences of their Ministers at

It is unnecessary now to argue, whether the cases specified are cases
which would justify interference. It is sufficient for the present
argument, that no one of these cases has occurred. France is therefore
not at war on a case foreseen and provided for at Verona: and so far
as I know, there has not occurred, since the Congress of Verona any
new case to which the assistance of the allies can be considered as
pledged; or which has, in fact, been made the subject of deliberation
among the Ministers of the several Courts who were members of the

We quitted Verona, therefore, with the satisfaction of having
prevented any _corporate_ act of force or menace, on the part of _the
alliance_, against Spain; with the knowledge of the three cases on
which alone France would be entitled to claim the support of her
Continental allies, in a conflict with Spain; and with the certainty
that in any other case we should have to deal with France alone,
in any interposition which we might offer for averting, or for
terminating, hostilities.

From Verona we now come, with our Plenipotentiary, to Paris.

I have admitted on a former occasion, and I am perfectly prepared to
repeat the admission, that, after the dissolution of the Congress
of Verona, we might, if we had so pleased, have withdrawn ourselves
altogether from any communication with France upon the subject of
her Spanish quarrel; that, having succeeded in preventing a joint
operation against Spain, we might have rested satisfied with that
success, and trusted, for the rest, to the reflections of France
herself on the hazards of the project in her contemplation. Nay, I
will own that we did hesitate, whether we should not adopt this more
selfish and cautious policy. But there were circumstances attending
the return of the Duke of Wellington to Paris, which directed our
decision another way. In the first place, we found, on the Duke of
Wellington's arrival in that capital, that M. de Vilelle had sent back
to Verona the drafts of the dispatches of the three Continental allies
to their Ministers at Madrid, which M. de Montmorency had brought
with him from the Congress;--had sent them back for reconsideration;
--whether with a view to obtain a change in their context, or to
prevent their being forwarded to their destination at all, did not
appear: but, be that as it might, the reference itself was a proof
of vacillation, if not of change, in the French counsels.

In the second place, it was notorious that a change was likely to take
place in the Cabinet of the Tuileries, which did in fact take place
shortly afterwards, by the retirement of M. de Montmorency: and M. de
Montmorency was as notoriously the adviser of war against Spain.

In the third place, it was precisely at the time of the Duke of
Wellington's return to Paris, that we received a direct and pressing
overture from the Spanish Government, which placed us in the
alternative of either affording our good offices to Spain, or of
refusing them.

This last consideration would perhaps alone have been decisive; but
when it was coupled with the others which I have stated, and with the
hopes of doing good which they inspired, I think it will be conceded
to me that we should have incurred a fearful responsibility, if we
had not consented to make the effort, which we did make, to effect an
adjustment between France and Spain, through our mediation.

Add to this, that the question which we had now to discuss with France
was a totally new question. It was no longer a question as to
that general right of interference, which we had disclaimed and
denied--disclaimed for ourselves, and denied for others,--in the
conferences at Verona. France knew that upon that question our opinion
was formed, and was unalterable. Our mediation therefore, if accepted
by France, set out with the plain and admitted implication, that the
discussion must turn, not on the general principle, but upon a case
of exception to be made out by France, showing, to our satisfaction,
wherein Spain had offended and aggrieved her.

It has been observed, as if it were an inconsistency, that at Verona a
discouraging answer had been given, by our Plenipotentiary to a hint
that it might, perhaps, be advisable for us to offer our mediation
with Spain; but that no sooner had the Duke of Wellington arrived at
Paris, than he was instructed to offer that mediation. Undoubtedly
this is true: and the difference is one which flows out of, and
verifies, the entire course of our policy at Verona. We declined
mediating between Spain and an alliance assuming to itself that
character of general superintendence of the concerns of nations. But
a negotiation between kingdom and kingdom, in the old, intelligible,
accustomed, European form, was precisely the issue to which we were
desirous of bringing the dispute between France and Spain. We eagerly
grasped at this chance of preserving peace; and the more eagerly
because, as I have before said, we received, at that precise moment,
the application from Spain for our good offices.

But France refused our offered mediation: and it has been represented
by some gentlemen, that the refusal of our mediation by France was an
affront which we ought to have resented. Sir, speaking not of this
particular instance only, but generally of the policy of nations,
I contend, without fear of contradiction, that the refusal of a
mediation is no affront; and that, after the refusal of mediation, to
accept or to tender good offices is no humiliation. I beg leave
to cite an authority on such points, which, I think, will not be
disputed. Martens, in the dissertation which is prefixed to his
collection of treaties, distinguishing between mediation and good
offices, lays it down expressly, that a nation may accept the good
offices of another after rejecting her mediation. The following is the
passage to which I refer:

'Amicable negotiations may take place, either between the Powers
themselves between whom a dispute has arisen, or jointly with a third
Power. The part to be taken by the latter, for the purpose of ending
the dispute, differs essentially according to one or other of two
cases; whether the Power, in the first place, merely interposes its
good offices to bring about an agreement; or, secondly, is chosen by
the two parties, to act as a mediator between them.' And he adds:
'mediation differs essentially from good offices; a State may accept
the latter, at the same time that it rejects mediation.'

If there were any affront indeed in this case, it was an affront
received equally from both parties; for Spain also declined our
mediation, after having solicited our good offices, and solicited
again our good offices, after declining our mediation. Nor is the
distinction, however apparently technical, so void of reason as it may
at first sight appear. There did not exist between France and Spain
that corporeal, that material, that _external_ ground of dispute, on
which a mediation could operate. The offence, on the side of each
party, was an offence rankling in the minds of each, from a long
course of irritating discussions; it was to be allayed rather by
appeal to the good sense of the parties, than by reference to any
tangible object. To illustrate this: suppose, for example, that France
had in time of peace possessed herself, by a _coup de main_, of
Minorca; or suppose any unsettled pecuniary claims, on one side or the
other, or any litigation with respect to territory; a mediator might
be called in. In the first case to recommend restitution, in the
others to estimate the amount of claim, or to adjust the terms of
compromise. There would, in either of these cases, be a tangible
object for mediation. But where the difference was not external; where
it arose from irritated feelings, from vague and perhaps exaggerated
apprehensions, from charges not proved, nor perhaps capable of proof,
on either side, in such cases each party felt that there was nothing
definite and precise which either could submit to the decision of a
judge, or to the discretion of an arbitrator; though each might at the
same time feel that the good offices of a third party, friendly to
both, would be well employed to soothe exasperation, to suggest
concession, and, without probing too deeply the merits of the dispute,
to exhort to mutual forbearance and oblivion. The difference
is perfectly intelligible; and, in fact, on the want of a due
appreciation of the nature of that difference, turns much of the
objection which has been raised against our having suggested
concession to Spain.

Our mediation then, as I have said, was refused by Spain as well as by
France; but before it was offered to France, our good offices had been
asked by Spain. They were asked in the dispatch of M. San Miguel,
which has been quoted with so much praise, a praise in which I have
no indisposition to concur. I agree in admiring that paper for its
candour, manliness, and simplicity. But the honourable member for
Westminster has misunderstood the early part of it. He has quoted
it, as if it complained of some want of kindness on the part of the
British Government towards Spain. The complaint was quite of another
sort. It complained of want of communication from this Government, of
what was passing at Verona. The substance of this complaint was true;
but in that want of communication there was no want of kindness. The
date of M. San Miguel's dispatch is the 15th of November; the Congress
did not close till the 29th. It is true that I declined making any
communication to Spain, of the transactions which were passing at
Verona, whilst the Congress was still sitting. I appeal to any man of
honour, whether it would not have been ungenerous to our allies to
make such a communication, so long as we entertained the smallest hope
that the result of the Congress might not be hostile to Spain; and
whether, considering the peculiar situation in which we were placed at
that time, by the negotiation which we were carrying on at Madrid
for the adjustment of our claims upon the Spanish Government, such a
communication would not have been liable to the suspicion that we were
courting favour with Spain, at the expense of our allies, for our
own separate objects? We might, to be sure, have said to her, 'You
complain of our reserve, but you don't know how stoutly we are
righting your battles at Verona.' But, Sir, I did hope that she never
would have occasion to know that such battles had been fought for her.
She never should have known it, if the negotiations had turned out
favourably. When the result proved unfavourable, I immediately made a
full disclosure of what had passed; and with that disclosure, it is
unnecessary to say, the Spanish Government were, so far as Great
Britain was concerned, entirely satisfied. The expressions of that
satisfaction are scattered through Sir W. A'Court's reports of M. San
Miguel's subsequent conversations; and are to be found particularly in
M. San Miguel's note to Sir William A'Court of the 12th of January.

In the subsequent part of the dispatch of M. San Miguel, of the 15th
of November (which we are now considering), that Minister defines the
course which he wishes Great Britain to pursue; and I desire to be
judged and justified in the eyes of the warmest advocate for Spain, by
no other rules than those laid down in that dispatch.

'The acts to winch I allude', says M. San Miguel, 'would in no wise
compromise the most strictly conceived system of neutrality. _Good
offices,_ counsels, the reflections of one friend in favour of
another, do not place a nation in concert of attack or defence with
another, do not expose it to the enmity of the opposite party,
even if they do not deserve its gratitude; they are not (in a word)
effective aid, troops, arms, subsidies, which augment the force of
one of the contending parties. It is of _reason_ only that we are
speaking; and it is with the _pen of conciliation_ that a Power,
situated like Great Britain, might support Spain, _without exposing
herself to take part in a war,_ which she may perhaps prevent, with
general utility.' Again: 'England might act in this manner: being
able, ought she so to act? and if she ought, has she acted so? In the
wise, just, and generous views of the Government of St. James's, no
other answer can exist than the affirmative. Why then does she not
notify to Spain what has been done, and what it is proposed to do _in
that mediatory sense (en aquel sentido_ _mediador_)? Are there weighty
inconveniences which enjoin discretion, which show the necessity of
secrecy? They do not appear to an ordinary penetration.'

I have already told the House why I had not made such a notification;
I have told them also that as soon as the restraint of honour was
removed, I did make it; and that the Spanish Government was perfectly
satisfied with it. And with respect to the part which I have just
quoted of the dispatch of M. San Miguel, that in which he solicits our
good offices, and points out the mode in which they are to be applied,
I am sure the House will see that we scrupulously followed _his_

Most true it is, and lamentable as true, that our representations to
France were not successful. The honourable member for Westminster
attributes our failure to the intrigues of Russia; and has told us of
a bet made by the Russian Ambassador in a coffee-house at Paris, that
he would force France into a war with Spain.

[Mr. Hobhouse disclaimed this version of his words. He had put it as a

I assure the honourable gentleman that I understood him to state it
as a fact: but if it was only conjecture, it is of a piece with, the
whole of the Address which he supports; every paragraph of which teems
with guesses and suppositions, equally groundless.

The honourable member for Bridgenorth (Mr. Whitmore) has given a more
correct opinion of the cause of the war. I believe, with him, that the
war was forced on the French Government by the violence of a political
party in France.

I believe that at one time the French Government hoped to avert it;
and that, up to the latest period, some members of that Cabinet would
gladly have availed themselves of the smallest loophole through which
the Spanish Government would have enabled them to find their retreat.
But we, forsooth, are condemned as dupes, because our opponents
gratuitously ascribe to France one settled, systematic, and invariable
line of policy; because it is assumed that, from the beginning, France
had but one purpose in view; and that she merely amused the British
Cabinet from time to time with pretences, which we ought to have had
the sagacity to detect. If so, the French Government made singular
sacrifices to appearance. M. de Montmorency was sent to Verona; he
negotiated with the allies; he brought home a result so satisfactory
to France, that he was made a duke for his services. He had enjoyed
his new title but a few days when he quitted his office. On this
occasion I admit that I was a dupe--I believe all the world were dupes
with me, for all understood this change of Ministers to be indicative
of a change in the counsels of the French Cabinet, a change from
war to peace. For eight-and-forty hours I certainly was under that
delusion; but I soon found that it was only a change, not of the
question of war, but of the character of that question; a change--as
it was somewhat quaintly termed--from _European_ to _French_. The Duke
M. de Montmorency. finding himself unable to carry into effect the
system of policy which he had engaged, at the Congress, to support
in the Cabinet at Paris, in order to testify the sincerity of his
engagement, promptly and most honourably resigned. But this event,
honourable as it is to the Duke M. de Montmorency, completely
disproves the charge of dupery brought against us. That man is not a
dupe, who, not foreseeing the vacillations of others, is not prepared
to meet them; but he who is misled by false pretences, put forward for
the purpose of misleading him. Before a man can be said to be duped,
there must have been some settled purpose concealed from him, and
not discovered by him; but here there was a variation of purpose; a
variation, too, which, so far from considering it then, or now, as an
evil, we then hailed and still consider as a good. It was no dupery on
our part to acquiesce in a change of counsel on the part of the French
Cabinet, which proved the result of the Congress at Verona to be
such as I have described it, by giving to the quarrel with Spain the
character of a _French_ quarrel.

If gentlemen will read over the correspondence about our offer of
mediation, with this key, they will understand exactly the meaning of
the difference of tone between the Duke M. de Montmorency and M. de
Chateaubriand: they will observe that when I first described the
question respecting Spain as a _French_ question, the Duke de
Montmorency loudly maintained it to be a question _toute europeenne_;
but that M. de Chateaubriand, upon my repeating the same description
in the sequel of that correspondence, admitted it to be a question
at once and equally _toute francaise, et toute europeenne_: an
explanation the exact meaning of which I acknowledge I do not
precisely understand; but which, if it does not distinctly admit the
definition of a, question _francaise_, seems at least to negative M.
de Montmorency's definition of a question TOUTE _europeenne_.

In thus unavoidably introducing the names of the French Ministers, I
beg I may be understood to speak of them with respect and esteem.
Of M. de Montmorency I have already said that, in voluntarily
relinquishing his office, he made an honourable sacrifice to the
sincerity of his opinions, and to the force of obligations which he
had undertaken but could not fulfil. As to M. de Chateaubriand, with
whom I have the honour of a personal acquaintance, I admire, his
talents and his genius; I believe him to be a man of an upright mind,
of untainted honour, and most capable of discharging adequately the
high functions of the station which he fills. Whatever I may think of
the political conduct of the French Government in the present war, I
think this tribute justly due to the individual character of M. de
Chateaubriand. I think it further due to him in fairness to correct a
misrepresentation to which I have, however innocently, exposed him.
From a dispatch of Sir W. A'Court, which has been laid upon the table
of the House, it appears as if M. de Chateaubriand had spoken of the
failure of the mission of Lord F. Somerset as of an event which had
actually happened, at a time when that nobleman had not even reached
Madrid. I have recently received a corrected copy of that dispatch, in
which the tense employed in speaking of Lord F. Somerset's mission
is not _past_ but _future_; and the failure of that mission is only
anticipated, not announced as having occurred.

The dispatch was sent _in cipher_ to M. Lagarde (from whom Sir W.
A'Court received his copy of it), and nothing is more natural in such
cases than a mistake in the inflection of a verb.

It is also just to the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, to allude
(although it is rather out of place in this argument) to another
circumstance, of which I yesterday received an explanation. A strong
feeling has been excited in this country by the reported capture of a
rich Spanish prize in the West Indies by a French ship of war. If
the French captain had acted under orders, most unquestionably those
orders must have been given at a time when the French Government was
most warm in its professions of a desire to maintain peace. If this
had been the case, it might still perhaps be doubtful whether this
country ought to be the first to complain. Formal declarations of war,
anterior to warlike acts, have been for some time growing into disuse
in Europe. The war of 1756, and the Spanish war in 1804, both, it
must be admitted, commenced with premature capture and anticipated
hostilities on the part of Great Britain. But--be that as it may--I
wrote to Sir C. Stuart, as soon as the intelligence reached this
country, desiring him to require an explanation of the affair;
the reply, as I have said, arrived yesterday by a telegraphic
communication from Paris. It runs thus:--'Paris, April 28, 1823. We
have not received anything official as to the prize made by the _Jean
Bart_. This vessel had no instructions to make any such capture.
If this capture has really been made, there must have been some
particular circumstances which were the cause of it. In any case, the
French Government will see justice done.' I have thought it right to
clear up this transaction, and to show the promptitude of the French
Government in giving the required explanation, I now return to the
more immediate subject of discussion, and pass from France to Spain.

It has been maintained that it was an insult to the Spanish Government
to ask them, as we did, for assurances of the safety of the Royal
Family of Spain. Have I not already accounted for that suggestion? I
have shown that one of the causes of war, prospectively agreed upon at
Verona, was any act of personal violence to the King of Spain or his
family. I endeavoured, therefore, to obtain such assurances from Spain
as should remove the apprehension of any such outrage; not because the
British Cabinet thought those assurances necessary, but because it
might be of the greatest advantage to the cause of Spain, that we
should be able to proclaim _our_ conviction, that upon this point
there was nothing to apprehend; that we should thus possess the
means of proving to France that she had no case, arising out of the
conferences of Verona, to justify a war. Such assurances Spain might
have refused--she would have refused them--to France. To us she might,
she did give them, without lowering her dignity.

And here I cannot help referring, with some pain, to a speech
delivered by an honourable and learned friend of mine (Sir J.
Mackintosh), last night, in which he dwelt upon this subject in a
manner totally unlike himself. He pronounced a high-flown eulogy upon
M. Arguelles; he envied him, he said, for many things, but he envied
him most for the magnanimity which he had shown in sparing his

[Sir J. Mackintosh said that he had only used the word 'sparing', as
sparing the _delicacy_, not the _life_ of the King.]

I am glad to have occasioned this explanation. I have no doubt that
my honourable and learned friend must have intended so to express
himself, for I am sure that he must agree with me in thinking that
nothing could be more pernicious than to familiarize the world
with the contemplation of events so calamitous. I am sure that my
honourable and learned friend would not be forward to anticipate for
the people of Spain an outrage so alien to their character.

Great Britain asked these assurances, then, without offence; forasmuch
as she asked them--not for herself--not because she entertained the
slightest suspicion of the supposed danger, but because that danger
constituted one of those hypothetical cases on which alone France
could claim eventual support from the allies; and because she wished
to be able to satisfy France that she was not likely to have such a

In the same spirit, and with the like purpose, the British Cabinet
proposed to Spain to do that, without which not only the disposition
but perhaps the power was wanting on the part of the French
Government, to recede from the menacing position which it had somewhat
precipitately occupied.

And this brings me to the point on which the longest and fiercest
battle has been fought against us--the suggestion to Spain of the
expediency of modifying her Constitution. As to this point, I should
be perfectly contented, Sir, to rest the justification of Ministers
upon the argument stated the night before last by a noble young friend
of mine (Lord Francis Leveson Gower), in a speech which, both from
what it promised and what it performed, was heard with delight by the
House. 'If Ministers', my noble friend observed, 'had refused to offer
such suggestions, and if, being called to account for that refusal,
they had rested their defence on the ground of delicacy to Spain,
would they not have been taunted with something like these
observations? "What! had you not among you a member of your
Government, sitting at the same council board, a man whom you ought to
have considered as an instrument furnished by Providence, at once to
give efficacy to your advice, and to spare the delicacy of the Spanish
nation? Why did you not employ the Duke of Wellington for this
purpose? Did you forget the services which he had rendered to Spain,
or did you imagine that Spain had forgotten them? Might not any
advice, however unpalatable, have been offered by such a benefactor,
without liability to offence or misconstruction? Why did you neglect
so happy an opportunity, and leave unemployed so fit an agent? Oh!
blind to the interests of the Spanish people! Oh! insensible to
the feelings of human nature!"' Such an argument would have been
unanswerable; and, however the intervention of Great Britain has
failed, I would much rather have to defend myself against the charge
of having tendered advice officiously, than against that of having
stupidly neglected to employ the means which the possession of such a
man as the Duke of Wellington put into the hands of the Government,
for the salvation of a nation which he had already once rescued from

With respect to the memorandum of the noble duke, which has been
so much the subject of cavil, it is the offspring of a manly mind,
pouring out its honest opinions with an earnestness characteristic of
sincerity, and with a zeal too warm to stand upon nice and scrupulous
expression. I am sure that it contains nothing but what the noble duke
really thought. I am sure that what he thought at the time of writing
it, he would still maintain; and what he thinks and maintains
regarding Spain, must, I should imagine, be received with respect and
confidence by all who do not believe themselves to be better qualified
to judge of Spain than he is. Whatever may be thought of the Duke of
Wellington's suggestions here, confident I am that there is not an
individual in Spain, to whom this paper was communicated, who took it
as an offence, or who did not do full justice to the motives of the
adviser, whatever they might think of the immediate practicability
of his advice. Would to God that some part of it, at least, had been
accepted! I admit the point of honour, I respect those who have acted
upon it, I do not blame the Spaniards that they refused to make any
sacrifice to temporary necessity; but still--still I lament the result
of that refusal. Of this I am quite sure, that even if the Spaniards
were justified in objecting to concede, it would have been a most
romantic point of honour which should have induced Great Britain to
abstain from recommending concession.

It is said that everything was required of Spain. and nothing of
France. I utterly deny it. I have already described the relative
situation of the two countries. I will repeat, though the term
has been so much criticized, that they had no _external_ point of
difference. France said to Spain, 'Your revolution disquiets me:' and
Spain replied to France, 'Your army of observation disquiets
me.' There were but two remedies to this state of things--war or
concession: and why was England fastidiously, and (as I think) most
mistakenly, to say, 'Our notions of non-interference are so strict
that we cannot advise you even for your safety: though whatever
concession you may make may probably be met by corresponding
concession on the part of France'? Undoubtedly the withdrawing of the
army of observation would have been, if not purely, yet in a great
degree, an _internal_ measure on the part of France; and one which,
though I will not assert it to be precisely equivalent with the
alteration by Spain of any fault in her Constitution; yet, considering
its immediate practical advantage to Spain, would not, I think, have
been too dearly purchased by such an alteration. That France was
called upon to make the corresponding concession, appears as well from
the memorandum of the Duke of Wellington, as from the dispatches of
Sir Charles Stuart, and from mine; and this concession was admitted by
M. San Miguel to be the object which Spain most desired. England saw
that war must be the inevitable consequence of the existing state of
things between the two kingdoms; and, if something were yielded on the
one side, it would undoubtedly have been for England to insist upon a
countervailing sacrifice on the other.

The propriety of maintaining the army of observation depended wholly
upon the truth of the allegations on which France justified its
continuance. I do not at all mean to say that the truth of those
allegations was to be taken for granted. But what I do mean to say is,
that it was not the business of the British Government to go into

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