Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

relations on their property: but he wished that the bar which parliament had formerly thought proper to lay in the way of any future acquisition of landed property might not be removed; let them enjoy what they have, but let them not increase their possessions.

Mr. Turner detested the cruel policy that reduced men, by nature free, to a state of slavery. Religion, he said, had always been an engine in the hands of power to enslave mankind: he wished to see all his fellow subjects free, Catholics and dissenters alike; and an universal toleration established by law. The Catholics of this country were amiable, worthy citizens; they lived on their estates, improved them, spent the produce of them at home, and daily exercised the most voluntary and generous acts of charity among those who resided on or near their estates. Their charities knew no bounds; and by all their actions he declared they had manifested : a behaviour highly worthy both of good citizens and good Christians.

The Bill was read a second time; and afterwards passed the Commons without opposition.

Debate in the Lords on the Bill for the Relief of Roman Catholics.]. May 25. On the second reading of the Bill, The Bishop of Peterborough (Dr. John Hinchcliffe) said: As a friend to civil and religious liberty, I am free, my lords, to own that I think there ought to be neither §. nor restraint on the intercourse etween God and a man’s own conscience. I cannot therefore but disapprove of all laws which are calculated to oppress men for their religious persuasion; and to tempt any one with views of interest to trespass on his duty and natural affection, by deriving his father of his estate, or supplanting his brethren, is a policy, in my opinion, inconsistent with reason, justice and humanity. At the same time, my lords, permit me to say, I am not so ignorant of the genius of popery, as not to know it is a very difficult matter to consider its religious principles altogether distinct from that political superstructure which has been raised upon them: and to the support of which, I cannot but fear, that should occasion offer, they might still be made too subservient. Any alteration, therefore, in those laws which the wisdom of parliament has thought necessary, from time to time, for the preservation of our church and state, ought not to be made

without due deliberation; and although I profess myself to be a friend to the principle of this Bill, yet I wish it had been brought in sooner in the session, that it might not have appeared to be hurried through both Houses; and that we might not only have had time to consider it ourselves, but to know the general disposition of the nation ere it past into law, for I hold it to be worthy your lordships’ attention not only to look into the real security of the constitution, but to prevent alarms of imaginary danger, with which ignorance and malice have heretofore, and may again kindle such a flame, as the authority of law will find it difficult to extinguish. But as there may be particular circumstances which might make delay inconvenient; I beg leave to submit to your lordships' consideration a doubt concerning the operation of this Bill. As the law now stands a younger son may, by professing himself (a Protestant, deprive his elder brother of the estate. But after the Bill before us shall have passed, may not an estate be so limited, as to descend only to a Catholic; and an elder hrother be incapacitated by the limitation, if he professes himself a Protestant? Provision was made by the Act of king William for the maintenance and education of a child, being a Protestant, during his father's life, at the direction of the lord chancellor; this part of the Act is not repealed by the present Bill; but, my lords, what may be the condition of such child under the conditions of settlement, after his father's death? May he not be left destitute, because he is not a Roman Catholic : These doubts I submit to your lordships’ better judgment; and trust that, if necessary, some provision will be made in the committee, to prevent the inconveniences that may hereafter arise, if they are not in time attended to. The Marquis of Rockingham said a few words to shew that the repeal of these clauses would but relieve a very dutiful and loyal part of the King's subjects from hardships, which it was disgraceful for any government to inflict. The reverend prelate had mentioned a particular effect which would be produced by the Bill, as if, in some instances, it gave advantage to those people superior to what the rest of his Majesty's subjects enjoyed; but the Bill . in fact, no such purport; it only brought them back to a level with their fellow subjects at large, in a few certain points of religious toleration and security of possessions, whilst in a variety of other instances they remained in a situation much inferior to them with respect to privileges of religion, profit, power, and hoInours. The Earl of Shelburne followed the noble marquis upon the same grounds, wishing that restraints similar to those now about to be repealed, had not reduced threefourths of the people of Ireland to a state of wretchedness, tending equally to alienate their affections from this government, and to prevent an influx of wealth from that country to this. He wished that with a liberal toleration of religion there should be given to a people, who had demeaned themselves so well, a security and free disosal of their property. Further than this, e would not venture to hint at or approve; and as the present Bill did not go beyond that, or indeed so far, he wished it should neither meet with opposition or delay. He went a little into the history of the penal clauses, which the Act was intended to repeal; and observed, that when they were first proposed in parliament nobody approved of them, yet nobody had spirit enough to oppose them. He adverted to the case of a Mr. Molony, a priest of the Roman Catholic persuasion, who had been apprehended and brought to

trial by the lowest and most despicable of

mankind, a common informing constable of the city of London. He was convicted of being a Popish priest, and the court were reluctantly obliged to condemn him (shocking as the idea was) to perpetual imprisonment. His lordship was then in office, and though every method was taken by the privy council to give a legal discharge to the prisoner, neither the laws then in force would allow of it, nor dared the King himself to grant him a pardon. He however, with his colleagues in office, were so perfectly persuaded of the impolicy and inhumanity of the law, that they ventured to give him his liberty at every hazard. The Bill was read a second time, and afterwards passed without opposition.

Debate on the Duke of Richmond’s Motion respecting the Equipment and Sailing of the French Fleet from Toulon—And on the State of the British Navy.] May 25. The order of the day being read for taking into consideration the Papers relating to the Equipment of the Toulon Fleet,

The Duke of Richmond said, that in *pite of every difficulty which had been,

thrown in the way to obtain information, and open the eyes of the people to the so. situation in which they stood, he ad persevered in his duty. Convinced of the inevitable ruin which must have ensued, had the same mad career of politics been pursued, he endeavoured to rouse the nation to a proper sense of its real state ; and in the whole of what had been urged against this line of conduct, he was glad to see it this day refuted in the fullest manner, and that by an evidence no less authentic and decisive than the very papers now read. The only semblance of argument resorted to by the noble lords in administration against agreeing to the Resolutions, moved in the committee on the state of the nation, was shortly this : “We,” said the noble lords, “agree with you, that the propositions now made are incontrovertible, are truisms; but we do not wish to give them a parliamentary sanction, lest it should expose our internal weakness, and thereby invite our rivals to break with, or attack us.” What do the present papers prove 2 That ministers had in general a full and correct account of what was going forward in the French ports. Is there one of your lordships, who can entertain a doubt, that France was not only well acquainted with the mutilated, imperfect information which came before this House, but was thoroughly informed of what was then held back. His grace observed, that early in January, and regularly thenceforward to the last date, accounts had been transmitted to the office of the noble viscount (Weymouth) and latterly to the Admiralty, of the armaments going on in December at the port of Toulon. This information was full, uniform, and frequent, till the last ten days; and yet no step was taken to defeat the intentions of the French court. It had been regularly the mode adopted on the approach of a war with France and Spain, more particularly since Gibraltar and Minorca formed a part of the dominions of the British crown, to dispatch a fleet into the Mediterranean, and the reason was obvious; because the strength of either one, or both of those owers was divided by nature. The Gut of Gibraltar formed this natural barrier. In the event of a war, therefore, it was always the policy of this country to avail itself of the possession of the fortress of Gibraltar, by stationing a squadron there, to prevent a junction of the naval force of France in the Mediterranean, in the first instance, with its fleet in the Western sea. The same conduct applied when France and Spain were united, or were expected to unite. efore he proceeded, he would be glad to know what was the reason that the information of the state of the Toulon fleet, which was so full, and in general correct, should have stopped short for the last ten days, previous to the account of its sailing, which appeared by the papers not to be known here till the 29th of April 2 He would assure their lordships, that it was publicly mentioned in the streets of Paris, on the 17th of April, that the Toulon fleet had sailed on the 13th; how, then, came it to pass, that administration had no certain account to the 29th ; at soonest till the 27th a space of full ten days, in which time a man might have hopped from Paris to London . His grace allowed, that the fact might be well known to admimistration; but that they might not have thought it prudent to detach; if the latter was the case, then the situation of this country was truly deplorable. Our navy, when upon the former occasions an attack from France on these islands was said to be possible, if not probable, was affirmed to be our national bulwark; it was added emphatically by the noble earl at the head of the Admiralty, that it was the duty, and that no man was fit to preside at that board, who was not able at all times to have fleets superior to any that France and Spain united should be able to bring against us. Taking this public declaration on one hand, and opposing it with the inability to detach from our home defence, would reduce the person who made this confident assertion to the dilemma of being accountable to the nation by his head, of assuring it that he would always have a superior fleet to any thing which France and Spain could bring against us: or that, having a fleet in our ports strong enough to spare a detachment, he had neglected to send one, after so many repeated informations of the equipment, and at length the sailing of the Toulon fleet. From the papers on the table, there were 16 men of war of the line at Toulon, or had sailed from thence; 25 at Brest, and 23 at Cadiz. Without, therefore, taking into account what might be in the French and Spanish West Indies, or at home in other ports, he was fairly justified in affirming, that the naval force at sea, or fit for it, belonging to France and Spain, consisted of 64 or 65

men of war of the line, with a proportionable number of frigates. What had Great Britain to this 2 Twenty men of war of the line under admiral Keppel, eleven of which he saw leave St. Helen’s, under admiral Parker; one of which sailed under admiral Montague for Newfoundland, and another for the West Indies; in all 33. He could not help observing, however, the very humiliating appearance it had, to see a vice-admiral of the red-squadron unaccompanied to his station, at the very eve of a war; and another admiral obliged to go in the same manner; nor at the same time of lamenting the fate of this country, which was reduced to running the hazard of trusting its flags aboard single ships; and of course, in the event of hostilities, subjected to the probability of capture. Taking this account to be as he had stated it, his grace observed, in case of an union of the naval force of France and Spain, it would appear, that the whole of our fleet fit for service would be found to amount to 33 ships; while it was acknowledged, that the navy of France and Spain amounted to 64, or 65. The noble earl would probably say, though we were able and willing to detach, that it was impracticable on account of contrary winds. He could assert, however, that at the time it was said the fleet was detained by contrary winds, that the Victory came round from Chatham, and that two men of war of the line had separately sailed from Portsmouth

harbour for Plymouth. Why not, then,

send the eleven 2 The fact, he believed, was, that no part of the fleet had its stores on board, to proceed upon any distant service, which was totally inexcusable, as the ministers must have known some weeks before, if any such detachment could be spared, that the papers on the table pointed out the necessity of being every way prepared either for a short or long voyage. His grace said he must advert to the vauntings and boastings of the noble earl (Sandwich) early in the present session, when a noble earl (of Chatham) now no more, and whose loss must be deservedly regretted by every lover of his country, told him, that we had not 20 ships of the line, fit for actual service; the noble earl at the head of the Admiralty answered, that we had 35 ready to proceed to sea at a day’s notice, and seven at a fortnight; yet it had now come out, that the whole number, allowing for odd ships, at the end of six months, did not exceed that number; and that those in any state of forwardness did not exceed the other seven ; so that the whole of the noble earl’s assertions amounted exactly in May to what they were meant to import in the preceding November; from which he drew this inference, that considering the different means used within the six months now alluded to, the deceased noble earl was fully justified in his assertion. The noble earl had but one answer, and that one he had once already given, to defend his breach of promise to the nation; that was, that seamen could not be procured on account of the loss of the supply we always procured in time of war from America. The noble earl should have foreseen this eventual defalcation, or he was not worthy of the high post he occupied. He should have allowed for this loss, have provided against it, or shaped his measures accordingly. He knew, long before his late boastings, that that supply would be cut off; consequently he had no right to count on it, or took credit for the present, though he knew it was a false one. His grace concluded with moving, “That it appears to this House, that his Majesty’s ministers did receive intelligence at different times, in the months of January, February, March, and April last, of the equipment of the Toulon fleet, which sailed under the command of the count d’Estaing on the 13th of the said last month of April.” * The Earl of Sandwich begged to remind their lordships, that the question of detaching or not detaching was not now before the House: because, to enable the House to decide upon so important and delicate a question, the force, intentions, and disposition of our enemies should be known; which would be subjects extremely improper to be discussed in that assembly. As to the general censure thrown upon the conduct of naval affairs, and pointed personally to him, he begged leave to differ from the noble duke in the application. He was no more answerable than any other individual in administration; if the measures were wisely planned, he was entitled to share the credit; if otherwise, to share the blame. If, on the other hand, the measures committed to his charge had been faithfully executed, as far as lay in his power, he must stand fully justified to the ublic. The noble duke had lamented, that the advice of him and his friends was

not attended to ; the truth was, that France had been, for the two or three last years, acting a most insidious part; and had done us more mischief than if she had actually declared against us. As to the assertion made by the noble duke, of what had fallen from him on a former occasion, the words imputed to him were, that he said, “that the person who held the office of first commissioner of the Admiralty ought no longer to hold it than while he had a fleet, on every occasion, equal to any that France and Spain could bring against us.” The noble duke had misstated his words. What he said was, “that he thought administration ought, at all times, to have a fleet at home superior to France and Spain.” If we had not such a fleet, which he by no means agreed to, he certainly would be liable to his share of the blame, as an individual composing that administration; but not in the character of first lord of the Admiralty. The noble duke had made another charge, which he thought himself bound to reply to, which was by implication, supposing that what had fallen from him in a former debate, in answer to a noble statesman, now no more, who insisted in November last, that we had not 20 ships of the line ready for actual service, could not be true; that we had 35 ready for sea, and seven more in great forwardness, the crews being more than half formed; and the proof on which the noble duke rests his charge is, that we have not now more than that number. If the noble duke's proof fails him, his argument is at an end. His lordship said, there were 21 under admiral Keppel; 15 gone to Plymouth; the Mars, since that time, was condemned ; another was burnt to the water’s edge; two were at Plymouth; two more had part of their crews shipped on board of the grand fleet; the Terrible had 240 sick a-board, and was therefore unfit for sea; two others were cruising: one paid off; one sailed to the East Indies, and two came into dock, in order to undergo a slight repair: so that the whole number fit for sea was 49 ; of course the Admiralty was not quite idle, from November till May : nor was it any proof now, that because we had 49 ships of the line, most of them fit for actual service, that we had not more than 20 in November. It might be said, that although we had 49, it was not equal to the combined fleets of France and Spain; on this he could only observe, that it was not certain that Spain would join France; or

if she did, could any one say what state the force thus united was in 2 Friendly assurances from the court of Madrid were received : but even supposing the worst; besides the 49 ships last mentioned, 10 more had been put in commission for a considerable time, and were completing their crews: several more ships were ready to take crews aboard; and if seamen could be procured, he had no dread of his being able to procure ships enough for their reception; add to this, that there were nine ships of the line more now in America, or on their respective stations in the West Indies. The noble duke seemed to lay great stress on our neglect in permitting France to collect so formidable a naval force: besides one reason alreadyassigned (their perfidiousness,) he wished the noble duke would recollect, that France, for the last three years, had, contrary to her constant policy heretofore, directed her chief attention to her marine; and had by that means, ut it on its present respectable footing. ut even still, if seamen could be had, there was very little to be dreaded from her naval power. The noble duke lived in an extensive maritime country, where it might be presumed, he had great influence. The most essential service he thought, at this conjuncture, when he had every reason to believe a war to be inevitable, would be, for his grace to exert himself, and support the naval officers in their endeavours to procure seamen. The noble duke was lord lieutenant of that county; and therefore required no aid from government, in order to strengthen his hands. The noble duke says, if we are able to detach a fleet, it should have been sent to Gibraltar to watch the Gut, and prevent a junction of the French and Spanish, or rench or Spanish fleets from the Mediterranean to the ocean: and the reason assigned by him is, that it was the constant practice, in former times. If his grace rests his argument there, he is most certainly mistaken; for it was not even so at the approach of the late successful war. We did not send a squadron there, though hostilities had commenced at sea for some months. The Duke of Richmond replied, that the noble earl took a responsibility on himself, when he assured the House, that it was the duty of the first commissioner of the Admiralty to have a fleet at all times superior to the combined force of France and Spain. The noble earl had contra

dicted that assertion. To preserve parliamentary decorum, all he could say was to appeal to their lordships, whether such an expression as that imputed to the noble lord, had not more than once come from him. But, in his lordship's defence, he perceived he had blended another matter, by way of justification, which to all substantial purposes confirmed what was imputed to |. as if he had acknowledged what he now so earnestly denied. Says the noble earl, I am not individually responsible: I have acted in concert with others, and am willing to share the blame, in common with the rest of his Majesty's confidential servants. Now, how does the case stand? The noble earl himself acknowledges, that administration ought at all times to have a superior naval force to that of France and Spain; he allows we have not such a force; he consequently confesses that administration are culpable; and being so, makes himself responsible for every consequence which may follow his neglect or ineapacity. But, independent of this circumstance, he has not been less industrious to convict himself in his official capacity. A superiority at sea, he grants, ought tobemaintained; that superiority has not been maintained; why, then, remain in an office to execute ministerially, when he must know that those who have acted with him have failed in their first duty, that of having a superior fleet to any that France and Spain can bring against us? As to his lordship's answer to the state of the navy, in November, by giving a list upon paper of 49 ships of the line, in his opinion it only served to confirm the assertion of the deceased noble earl ; for, with all his lordship's ingenuity, the total, after deducting the ships condemned, burnt, disabled, repairing, stripped of part of their crews to be put on board others, &c. did not amount, on the 20th instant, to more than about 35 ships of the line, ready to proceed to sea, at a day's notice, and seven in a fortnight. He defied the noble earl to contradict him. If so, then it was fair to say, that either the state of the fleet in November was fallacious, or the noble earl, with the aid of a six months press, during the two last of which it was carried on with all imaginable vigour, had done next to nothing; though, from the evidence now on the table, he was fully apprized for the greater part of the time, that France was arming, and

reparing to strike a blow against this !. or some of its dependencies.

« ElőzőTovább »